YARDLEY BOROUGH >> Yardley Borough Council voted at its July 20 virtual meeting to create a voluntary auxiliary police unit in the borough.
The unit, which is permitted under the borough code, will be composed of up to 12 volunteers from the borough and surrounding communities who would assist police when needed.
The unit’s primary function will be to supplement crowd and traffic control at parades, police emergencies like traffic accidents and downed wires, and other special police details in the borough.
The volunteers will receive assignments through the chief and from his designees on an as needed basis.
According to Chief Joseph Kelly, such auxiliaries have been around since World War II, initially as a Civil Defense function and later, evolving through the generations into more of an emergency management function.
Kelly proposed the creation of the auxiliary as a way of supplementing the borough’s paid officers by providing increased manpower in non-emergency conditions.
According to Kelly, auxiliary members would not be sworn, would not carry weapons or handcuffs and would not be issued badges.
They would take an oath, be trained and be provided with safety vests to be worn while on duty. But they would not have the power to perform the duties and functions of a sworn officer
“They will be very distinguishable. Their shirts will have visibility with reflection. They’ll have their own patches so they will be clearly visible as auxiliary police officers. You will not mix them up with our uniforms,” said Kelly.
They also will be required to pass a background check before joining the unit, according to Chief Kelly.
“They will not be put in harm’s way because they are not armed. And they will not have handcuffs or anything like that. This is pretty much to assist with our parades, our large events such as Harvest Day. It’s more of a force multiplier. They will not be performing primary police functions.”
Kelly noted at an earlier meeting that the unit would also add a new level of transparency to the police department at a time where transparency has never been more important.
“This would allow us to bring some of our citizens in as volunteers and increase our transparency to the public,” he said.
Kelly said other communities have had to suspend their programs due to a lack of volunteer interest. “I know that won’t be the case here because we already have volunteers helping us,” said Kelly.
The motion passed 6 to 0 with council member Matt Ross abstaining. Ross said he’s considering applying as a member of the auxiliary force.
Under the engineer’s report, Council voted unanimously to spend up to $2500 to change the phasing of the new traffic signals to be installed this summer at Main and Afton.
The phasing adjustment will add a “lead pedestrian interval” to the signal allowing pedestrians crossing Main Street to enter the crosswalk before traffic is allowed to turn south onto Main Street from West Afton Avenue.
“It seems like a great solution to pedestrians being endangered while vehicles are turning,” said Councilman Uri Feiner, who has been lobbying hard to increase pedestrian safety at the intersection. “The lead pedestrian interval is proven to work in that it gets pedestrians into the crosswalk before the cars turn so they see them.”
The upgraded signals, being funded mostly through a $212,000 Green Light Go state grant, will also include new phasing to improve traffic flow, new technologies and audible cues for the blind and visually impaired.
Under the solicitor’s report, council voted to adopt a borrowing ordinance establishing a line of credit with the First National Bank of Newtown for up to $500,000 at an historically low interest rate of 1.7 percent.
The money would be available to potentially finance various capital projects, including renovations to borough hall; repairs to the annex building at Delaware and East Afton avenues; the Mary Yardley Footbridge replacement project; the North Main Street Phase Two sidewalk project that would extend the sidewalk to the Mary Yardley Footbridge access path; and the potential acquisition of the former PECO substation lot in Rivermawr.
“We have a lot of projects going on, one of which - the Mary Yardley Footbridge - we’re raising money for it in the community,” said Councilman John McCann. “Borough Hall is really in need of some vital repairs. It needs to get done. And the sidewalk project, which we’ve already invested a lot of money, is a necessity.”
Added Feiner, “This to me is about long term capital planning in a small borough with big projects and limited ability to raise money each year. We need to have a multi-year focus. And to me, this provides us the ability to move money around beyond year to year point as many of these projects span multiple years.”
The borough would be required to take out an initial draw of $50,000. After that, it would be up to Council to authorize additional draws for borough projects.
“We have no intentions of drawing down anywhere near $500,000. That’s just the cap of how much we can draw,” stressed Councilwoman Caroline Thompson.
Thompson also noted, “When our interest rates on our savings accounts rebound, which we hope will be in two years by the time we are repaying this, our savings interest rates will be higher than the interest rate on this line of credit. So we would be making more on our savings than on the loan.”
Council President David Bria said at an earlier meeting that the line of credit also gives the borough the flexibility to match any type of grant the borough might receive for a project, such as the North Main Street sidewalk project.