Springfield Township commissioners consider police – community relations, other township business

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At its September Workshop and Business meetings, the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners explored constructive ways to improve community police relations and transparency with the community, focusing specifically on issues residents raised at the Board’s August Business meeting.  It also dealt with the challenge of keeping recycling costs down, residents’ traffic control complaints, water drainage problems caused by tropical storm Isaias, and sediment buildup in certain parts of the township, among other things.

At the Business Meeting held on Wednesday, Sept. 9, Township residents, Dr. Craig Brown of the Cheltenham NAACP Political Action Committee and Chad Lassiter, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission, urged the board to act in solidarity to promote civil discourse on race issues and to support Commissioner Graham in light of very disturbing social media posts disparaging Graham for his work with police and juveniles of color.  Here are some highlights.

Springfield Township Police Community Relations

At Tuesday night’s Workshop Meeting, Board President Baird Standish proposed the formation of a township committee to focus on enhancing police relations with the community.  Commissioners Graham and Lee, both of whom have family in law enforcement, will be on the committee. Graham brings experience from his four-year term as an appointee on former Governor Rendell’s first Police Advisory Commission.  Graham and Lee will come up with an appropriate forum for engaging the community and the police in constructive dialogue that will complement what Commissioner Graham is doing with the Cheltenham Branch of the NAACP PAC and the Multi-Cultural Parents Association of Springfield Township (MCPAST). 

Commissioner Lee will be a panelist at the next virtual town hall sponsored by the Cheltenham NAACP PAC and the MCPAST on September 16, at 7 p.m. All township commissioners will get a formal invite to the town hall.  Registration is required.  Residents can contact Commissioners Graham or Lee for more information.

At both board meetings, Commissioner Harbison suggested that the Township’s Human Relations Committee ordinance, which was passed about 10 years ago to address discrimination in accommodation and employment for LGBT people, could be expanded to deal with racial discrimination issues. The board welcomed the PA Human Relations Commission’s offer of assistance in revamping the township’s HRC and in expanding the ordinance if the board decides to go that route.

The board approved posting the police social media policy and complaint forms on the township website, which will be done the week of September 14.

Residents who attended the business meeting reiterated their frustration with obtaining adequate responses to their requests for police records.  Township Solicitor Garrity explained that the PA Right to Know Law does not require the police to release records related to ongoing investigations and does not allow the names of minors to be disclosed.  When asked whether the police keep records of arrests sorted by race, Mr. Garrity was not aware of any federal or state law requiring the police to keep such records.

Supporting Police Chief Pitkow’s promise to conduct a community survey regarding the township police department, the board discussed at its workshop meeting hiring an outside consultant to assist with creating the survey and analyzing responses. Two township residents with experience in this area have volunteered their expertise.  According to Township Manager, Mike Taylor, once the framework for a survey is developed, it will be shared with the commissioners.

Township Recycling Costs Will Rise in the Near Future.

The board passed a resolution at its Business Meeting, authorizing a six-month extension to the current recycling services agreement.  November will be the first month that the Township will be paying more to recycle than to trash.  Township members of the Montco Recycling Consortium, including Springfield Township, are pursuing technical assistance grants to study and plan for reducing recycling costs in the future.  Springfield Township has already received a Technical Assistance grant that will focus on collection efficiencies.

Voting – General Election

The township will allow the use of its township buildings for voting purposes during the general election.  The township also offered its buildings as drop-off box locations for mail-in ballots.  Grace Church, the usual polling place for Ward 5-2, has been closed during the pandemic and has not yet responded to Montgomery County Voter Services regarding its availability as the Ward 5-2 polling place for the general election. 

2021 Budget Meeting Schedule

The board announced its schedule for devising the 2021 budget as follows:  September 15 at 7 p.m. (meeting with the Township agencies only); October 21 at 7 p.m. (Board Workshop budget meeting); November 11 at 7:30 PM (presentment of budget at the Business meeting); and December 9 (Budget Hearing and Adoption at the Business Meeting).

Written Examination for Entry Level Police Officers

Commissioner Maxwell announced the written examination for entry level Police Officers on Saturday, October 10.  Interested individuals must pre-register to take the test by September 30 at www.montcopolicetest.com. Maxwell encouraged women and minority candidates to consider applying.

Vacancy on the Parks and Recreation Committee

The Township is looking to fill one vacancy in the Parks and Recreation Committee.  Township residents may apply by sending a letter of interest to Michael Taylor, Township Manager, by email: mtaylor@springfieldmontco.org

Township residents can request an audio recording of the Workshop Meeting by contacting Michael Taylor, Township Manager, by email: mtaylor@springfieldmontco.org.  Residents may view the Recorded Business meetings and check all Public Meeting Agendas and Minutes here: https://www.springfieldmontco.org/government/meeting-agendas-minutes/.

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