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Security at Public Meetings in Focus Following Township Shooting

The head of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors says the shooting this week at a township’s public meeting in Monroe County will refocus officials on safety and security.
Dave Sanko said additional funding to boost municipal safety measures would be nice, but it’s unlikely to come from the state, and it shouldn’t necessarily be the first thing on every township official’s mind.

"Nobody has enough money or time to protect everyone against every threat, and at the end of the day you hope that decency and common sense and civility still has a place in our society so we’re not trading off, trading away all our freedoms," he said.

Sanko said the Ross Township will, like other tragedies before it, focus municipal officials on safety measures they might have considered frivolous before.

"I saw discussions yesterday with some of our townships," he said. "They were having a discussion about upgrading their township building a couple weeks ago. The architect had recommended bullet-proof glass. And you know the citizens of the community at the public meeting said, ‘We’re not paying for bullet-proof glass, nothing ever happens here, that’s a cost we don’t need.’ Probably a different answer than you would get today."

Authorities say Rockne Newell, 59, packed a rental car with guns and ammunition before opening fire at a township meeting Monday night and killing three men, including the zoning officer and two residents.

Newell was reportedly in a dispute with township officials over his property, and he has been charged with multiple homicide counts.

Sanko said it’s hard to tell how a shooter might have been deterred with additional training or the typical safety measures like security cameras and bullet-proof glass.

"Township officials are on the front line of interacting with the public probably more than anyone else in the country," he said. "And it’s a delicate balance between being accessible and providing that security."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.