State Sen. Andy Dinniman and fellow members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee will conduct a public hearing Wednesday in West Chester to search for ways to help college towns cope with the costs of dealing with out-of-control drinkers.

The goal of the hearing, Dinniman said last week, is to "hear some solutions" to how to pay for increased police protection in towns such as West Chester, State College and Bloomsburg where bar-goers, not all of them students, have been known to have one or two or three drinks too many.

The hearing is scheduled to run from 4 to 5:45 p.m. in Courtroom No. 1 of the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester.

Dinniman said that although the hearing was being conducted by an all-Democratic group, there was bipartisan support in the Senate for efforts to deal with the problem.

West Chester officials and police have long complained about the cost of dealing with late-night drunks, and say that more police are needed - police that the town says it can't afford.

Dinniman said that among the possible ways to help towns pay for increased police protection are letting them tax drinks in bars and restaurants, as Philadelphia does, or imposing a flat tax on bars and other places that serve alcohol.

Other possibilities, he said, would be requiring colleges to pay an impact fee to their towns. The state also could divert sales-tax funds from drink sales that currently go to the state police to enforce liquor laws, and giving the money to local police departments for the same purpose.

Among those expected to testify at the hearing, Dinniman said, are Madeleine Adler, president of West Chester University; H. Paul Fitzpatrick, president of the borough council; borough police chief Scott Bohn; and P.J. Stapleton of the state Liquor Control Board.

Also expected are representatives of local bars and restaurants and the university's student government.

The senator said that while someone not on the schedule might be able to show up and testify, that seemed a long shot given that the whole session is going to last only an hour and 45 minutes.

For more information about the hearing, call Dinniman's office at 610-692-2112 or e-mail andydinniman@pasenate.com.

- Bill Raftery