MOUNT HOPE — After a recent meeting with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Mount Hope’s police chief says an annexation of the Summit by the town of Mount Hope would be a “win-win” situation for both entities.

Chief Thomas Peal says he wants to double the town’s police force in the next year to two years from five to 10 officers — but that the increase in size would come regardless of annexation.

The additional officers, he says, will be needed simply because of the Summit’s presence in the area.

“Let’s say they stay unincorporated — the people coming and going to the Summit are still going to go through my city limits,” says the chief. “It would be no big change.”

Peal says he has already noted an increase in both foot and vehicle traffic through the town.

Federal and state agencies will work in concert with the town’s police during big events like the 2013 National Jamboree, he says.

“The only big impact will be when they start having large functions, but then we’ll just be a part of a team built to handle it, just like during Bridge Day,” says Peal.

The Summit will hire its own security, says Peal, but Mount Hope police will handle day-to-day criminal complaints for the Scouts. Only two criminal acts on BSA property have been reported since the project’s inception — a tractor theft and a physical assault against a security guard patrolling the property.

No direct line of funding from the BSA has so far been offered up to the force, says Peal. He says the town is looking into increasing its B&O tax to pay for the expansion of the force. As a non-profit, the BSA is currently exempt from B&O tax under Mount Hope’s current policies.

Peal says he expects the increase in the town’s land mass will improve its chances for grant funding as well.

“If Mount Hope requests their roads to be paved (...) they’re going to look at it differently,” he says.

Like the town’s volunteer fire department, the police force has a mutual aid agreement with other towns in the Plateau district of Fayette County that requires them to aid other forces when requested. But Peal says the police are currently not utilized as much as fire personnel for such situations.

Peal says he has heard some concerned feedback about the possible annexation.

“Everybody is concerned — can Mount Hope handle this?”

But Peal is confident that the town is up to the challenge, and believes an annexation would give the town more of a voice in how the Summit develops.

“I think it’s a great move for the town. They’re in our backyard. Why would we not want a little bit of say-so in what goes on, from the police side to the fire side to the construction side?” he says.

Why would the annexation be of greater benefit to the town than simply remaining close neighbors? Peal believes it is in some ways a matter of perception rather than concrete benefits, since the town itself will be the destination of visitors.

“I think they’ll pay a lot of attention to Mount Hope,” he says. “Once [the Summit] becomes incorporated into Mount Hope, it’s part of Mount Hope. It’s not like it’s sitting on the outskirts of Mount Hope like Oak Hill or Fayetteville. Now it’s literally part of this town. I think they’ll be curious and want to know what Mount Hope is about.”

He says he trusts that the BSA will look out for the town’s best interests as it transitions into an international destination.

“This is their 100-year home, so they’re going to want to see Mount Hope excel,” he says.

“We’re going into a marriage with the Boy Scouts — what could be wrong?”

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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