SILVER CREEK - Silver Creek residents filled the Hanover Town Hall as they waited to hear the Chautauqua County Sheriff's proposal for police coverage in the village.
Mayor Nick Piccolo said the purpose of the presentation was to explore other options for coverage and to get the public's input.
Sheriff Joseph Gerace gave a presentation explaining how since the 1970s there has been a shift from town and village police departments to the sheriff's department for police coverage in Chautauqua County.
OBSERVER Photos by Nicole Gugino
Sheriff Joseph Gerace (right standing) answers Silver Creek resident Leo Morabito’s (left standing) question about the village potentially contracting with the sheriff’s office for police coverage.
He said potential advantages to choosing the sheriff's department for coverage include potential cost savings, New York state accreditation of officers, monthly reports to the village board, access to new technology like radio equipment and a dedicated investigator to the town/village.
He gave a proposal of $365,263 for 2013 and $377,625 for 2014, not including fuel, for 24/7 coverage and additional coverage for special events like the Festival of Grapes, the Laurel Run and holidays.
Gerace addressed common concerns like response time and the car leaving the village by saying they respond to all calls as quickly as possible, however when multiple calls come in, they prioritize the most important like in an emergency room. He also said the sheriff's department will report the number of times the dedicated car leaves the village and for what.
The floor was then opened up for questions from residents. Residents had questions like: "Can sheriff's write tickets for local law violations?"; and "what about quality of life issues?" Gerace said the sheriff deputy will be able to respond to those matters just like the village police department does now.
Some residents were happy the board was considering coverage through the police department.
"It is time to consolidate," resident Dennis Palmer said.
Others were opposed to the idea of giving up the village police department.
"I have had problems in the past with the sheriff's department not responding to incidents at my rental properties in Sunset Bay," Leo Morabito said.
He also answered questions, saying staff would be added as a part of the proposal, the dollar amount for Silver Creek is greater than what Hanover pays because the town board has opted not to staff the day shift for seven months out of the year, the cameras in the village park could be utilized by the department and the SRO program could continue depending on what the board decides.
Piccolo then opened up questions for the board saying this was also the board's first time seeing the proposal and no decision would be made at the meeting or overnight.
Piccolo explained the sheriff's department is one option which the board is exploring; the village is also looking to negotiate with the village police. He explained the PBA has an active contract until 2014; however, there are no longer any officers in the PBA union. He said the village board is looking for the best option for the taxpayers.
"We are going to try to get the taxpayers the best bang for their dollars and keep the same coverage," he said.
Piccolo was asked how much the police department salaries and benefits cost the village in 2012. He said $545,000. He said in the 2013 budget a fund was created so the village has flexibility if it decides to contract with the sheriff's department.
It was also asked if the village would have to have a referendum vote to go with the sheriff's. Piccolo said the way the board would do it, no referendum would be required. Sandra Lindstrom said she opposed this.
"I am in complete opposition to this. I think the residents should decide whether to stay with the village police or go with the sheriff's," she said.
Residents urged the board to look at what a decision on this will cost in the future.
"I am sick of 'saving money;' first we were going to 'save money' by getting water from Buffalo, then we were going to 'save money' by moving our DPW building out of the village," Morabito added.
Piccolo said the board is still looking to preserve the department but does not want to saddle the taxpayers with an overwhelming burden. He added some of the problems mentioned by residents "did not happen overnight and cannot be fixed overnight."
He thanked residents for their input.
"This is the reason we had this meeting. The people are our boss and we will take everything you said into mind while making decisions in the future," he said.
The board will meet today at 7 p.m. in the village hall to adopt the budget.