Bel Air commissioners approve municipal SWAT team agreement

Bel Air commissioners approve municipal SWAT team agreement
At a meeting Monday at Bel Air Town Hall, above, the town commissioners approved having officers join a SWAT Team with officers from Aberdeen and Havre de Grace. (DAVID ANDERSON | AEGIS STAFF)

The Bel Air town commissioners approved an agreement Monday to create a municipal police SWAT team with Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, along with contracts to purchase emergency equipment for three new police cars, build a pavilion in Plumtree Park as well as accept tax-exempt financing for the purchase of six vehicles.

The commissioners' votes on those four items, all unanimous, occurred during a short, yet productive meeting Monday evening.


The meeting lasted about 20 minutes, and included the appointments of new Board of Elections judges and reappointments to the Board of Elections and the town's Tree Committee.

Mayor Edward Hopkins also presented a proclamation in honor of National Preparedness Month, in September, to Rick Ayers, deputy director of the Harford County Department of Emergency Services and the county's emergency manager.

Ayers said he has "a great relationship with the Town of Bel Air."

"I can't do my job as the emergency manager without the support of all of you," he continued.

Ayers noted the regular occurrence of high-profile incidents such as Monday's deadly shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, and closer to home, a gas leak in Harford County Monday.

"I think, no matter how prepared we try to be, we're going to continue to be faced with these types of situations," he said.

One way in which municipal police officials in Harford County are preparing for the worst involves the creation of a "multi-jurisdictional" SWAT team, composed of officers from the Bel Air, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace police departments.

The Bel Air commissioners approved an Inter-Agency Police Services Agreement Monday.

Police Chief Leo Matrangola said the town relies on the Harford County Sheriff's Office SWAT team in case of situations requiring a tactical response, and mutual aid agreements have been approved between the town and Sheriff's Office in recent years.

"Knowing that we are very vulnerable when the county SWAT team is out on an extended or simultaneous mission in the county, we recommend that municipal police agencies develop a SWAT team consistent with national guidelines of command and control, to be readily available for tactical situations for the municipalities," the chief told the commissioners.

Matrangola said the team would be deployed at the request of one of the three municipal police chiefs.

Commissioner David Carey asked the chief if the Sheriff's Office SWAT team would be contacted if available, and the chief said it would, and confirmed Carey's comment that the municipal team serves as a "backup."

Continuing in the police vein, the commissioners also approved a contract with Brekford Corp. of Hanover, worth $17,594, to purchase emergency equipment and prisoner cages for the police department's three newest patrol cars, purchased in August.

The commissioners approved a $17,778 contract during their Sept. 3 meeting to purchase three mobile computers from Brekford to be placed in the cars.


Matrangola said the equipment approved for purchase Monday was designed "to ensure proper fit and durability over the life of the vehicle," which he explained was seven years or 100,000 miles.

The emergency equipment for the cars included items such as light bars, grille lights and electronic components.

The commissioners also approved a $22,746 contract with West Recreation to install a pavilion in Plumtree Park, along a paved path that is under construction.

Planning Director Kevin Small said the pavilion, which would be between the two playgrounds, "is the next step in the upgrades to the facilities in the park."

The funding comes from a state Community Parks & Playgrounds Program grant; Small said the cost is slightly higher than the $20,000 budgeted for the pavilion project.

He said the pavilion includes a security light powered by a solar array, and two benches.

Small said West Recreation workers have installed playground equipment in Plumtree in recent months and have "established a working relationship with the town."

Finally, the commissioners approved accepting $154,987 in tax-exempt financing from Sovereign Bank to finance the purchase of the three new police vehicles, along with a skid loader, sewer mechanic's truck and a sewer maintenance van.

Finance Director Lisa Moody said Sovereign was offering the financing over seven years at a 2.74 percent interest rate.

Moody said Sovereign was "determined to be the lowest responsive bidder" of the five banks which responded to the town's solicitation of bids.