Sep 05, 2012 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The East Syracuse Village Board is one step closer to putting the future of the village police department up to a vote.
At tonight’s regular meeting, the board scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, when the board is expected to vote on whether to abolish the village police department. If the board votes yes, the decision will then go to the residents of East Syracuse during a referendum vote scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 16.
But first, village residents can learn about the proposal at an informational meeting slated for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the St. Matthew’s Church gymnasium on Kinne Street.
“The goal is to lay the facts out for people to make an educated decision,” said Mayor Danny Liedka. “That’s the bottom line.”
Liedka said dropping the village police department would save taxpayers an estimated 25 to 30 percent, “but I’ll have it to the penny by the time we have our public hearing.” The department’s operating costs, at about $1.2 million per year, are too high for the village’s tax base to sustain, he said. Those costs include pension, health insurance and wages for police officers, training, fleet, ammunition and fuel.
If residents vote to abolish the police force, all village police work would be absorbed by the DeWitt Police Department as required by New York State law.
“We’d pay the town of DeWitt $400,000 to increase the level of service in the village and we would net $800,000,” the mayor said.
The village of East Syracuse and the town of DeWitt are working on a shared services agreement that will take effect if the department is abolished. The agreement should be finalized and voted on at the DeWitt Town Board meeting on Monday, and its terms will be laid out at the informational meeting Sept. 19, Liedka said.
The village board of trustee voted 3-1 to schedule the public hearing for Oct. 1, with Trustees James Carr, Trustee Chad Tolhurst and Mayor Liedka voting in favor and Deputy Mayor Barbara Quonce voting against. On the vote to schedule an informational meeting for Sept. 19, three voted yes, with Quonce abstaining. Trustee Jodi Gehrke-Turner was not present.
The village stands to lose a police department that’s well known by the people it serves, said East Syracuse Police Chief Don Morris. The police department was established in 1885.
“I think that the biggest thing for the village is that we’re there in the community and the residents know us,” he said. “They get to know the officers, so they have that relationship. I think that’s a big thing.”
He said it’s “fine that the residents get to have the say” in the future of the department.
“I think that when all the information is out there that residents will be able to make an informed decision,” he said.
Morris recently began working part-time as police chief for the Liverpool Police Department through an informal shared-services agreement between Liverpool and East Syracuse. He’ll continue as police chief for East Syracuse, working 40 hours a week, but will also work four hours daily in Liverpool. Morris resigned from Liverpool Police Chief in 2007 to take the job in East Syracuse.
“[Mayor Gary White] reached out to me and asked if I’d be able to assist them, help them out, come over there as their chief in a part-time capacity,” Morris said. “My prior relations with the members of the department, with the village and with Gary, I had an obligation to go there and help them, and respond to their need.”
The arrangement will be effective through Dec. 31, during which time village attorneys for both villages will determine if a formal inter-municipal agreement is necessary. If made permanent, the move could save the village of Liverpool more than $45,000 annually.