As of Thursday, Dec. 1, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department will no longer staff the former Clay Police Department building on Route 31.
The town opted not to renew a contract for enhanced services with the sheriff’s department as part of its 2012 budget. According to Clay Supervisor Damian Ulatowski, there just isn’t room in the town’s $12,166,584 budget for the nearly $1.5 million annual expense. However, the sheriff’s department had the option to continue to lease the building for $1 a year.
Due to budget cuts, however, Sheriff Kevin Walsh said he didn’t have the staff to support the continued use of the building.
“We needed the space before we took over the enhanced patrols in Clay. At that time, we didn’t have the space available in our station,” Walsh said. “Right now, due to county budget cuts, we’re down 40 positions in the sheriff’s police department. We’ve reduced the size of our operations, and between the cuts and the town of Clay’s decision not to pursue the contract, we don’t need the space anymore.”
Staff have already stopped manning the building.
“We will no longer have personnel there,” Walsh said. “We’ll be spending the next couple of weeks cleaning up the computers and everything. We won’t be staffing the building anymore.”
Voters in the town of Clay resoundingly approved a referendum on June 23, 2008, voting by a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent to get rid of the existing Clay Police Department and merge with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department. Then-Supervisor James Rowley promised savings of around $1.3 million a year, a total of some $17 million over the next 10 years, a number hotly contested by the PBA at the time. The savings, Rowley said in 2008, came from the elimination of duplicated services, including administration and support staff, technology procurement and liability and workers’ compensation insurance. The merger also eliminated the position of commissioner and five part-time police positions.
Without the enhanced patrols, residents in the town will still have the services of the sheriff’s department that other county residents pay for out of their county taxes. Several towns in the county don’t have their own police departments; Salina, Onondaga, Tully and Fabius all have protection from the sheriff’s department.
In addition, the sheriff’s department maintains a substation elsewhere in the town.
“We will continue to maintain the existing North Station on Henry Clay Boulevard,” Walsh said. “But we can’t afford to staff the facility on Route 31. We’re too short on personnel.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.