Dan Hust | Democrat
Rock Hill resident David Paige presents a petition to Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson on Thursday at the Government Center. Paige’s petition contained more than 700 signatures calling for five more Sheriff’s road patrol deputies to be added to the county’s 2014 budget, in addition to the two new deputies for which funding is already allocated.
‘Give us more road deputies’
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO January 21, 2014 Rock Hill resident David Paige returned to the County Legislature meeting Thursday armed with a petition loaded with 718 signatures.
It was a followup to his attendance the prior month, where he felt “we got no place” with his call for more deputies for the Sheriff’s Office’s road patrol.
The petition specifically asks for five more deputies for regular patrol duties throughout the 1,000-square-mile county.
“We are concerned that the limited number of Sheriff’s patrols, coupled with the limited number of New York State Police patrols (also two during the night shift), is inadequate,” states the petition.
“Are we going to sit and wait till crime gets incredibly large?” asked Paige, worried that multiple incidents occurring all at once could prevent police officers from timely responding, endangering lives and properties.
“Give me a month, I’ll give you 5,000 [signatures],” he vowed. “That’s how concerned people are with public safety.”
Legislators argued that they are just as concerned.
“I think if we had the money, we’d give you 10 more deputies,” Legislator Gene Benson told Paige.
But money remained a sticking point, as each deputy roughly costs the county $100,000 a year in salary, training and benefits.
Provision was made in the 2014 county budget for two additional deputies, but on Thursday, in response to the petition, Legislator Alan Sorensen introduced a resolution to add two more deputies three shy of the five Paige and company desired.
“Due to the deconsolidation of E-911 and the Sheriff’s Dispatch,” read the resolution, “the Sheriff does not have the necessary manpower to place more deputies on the road.”
“It’s a critical need in this county,” affirmed Sorensen, who noted that the extra posts wouldn’t be filled till March, giving the county time to find additional funding.
But Legislator Kathy LaBuda would have none of it.
“If you had lifted the [two-percent property tax] cap ... you’d probably have had the money to do this,” she pointed out. “... You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”
She moved to table the resolution, which by Legislature rules means discussion immediately has to end. With the exception of Sorensen and Kitty Vetter, her colleagues agreed to table it for further consideration at an unspecified date.
School officers discussed
Also tabled that Thursday was another resolution introduced by Sorensen to create three school resource officer (SRO) positions in the Sheriff’s Office.
Citing the success of the Sheriff’s SRO at BOCES in Liberty and the willingness of three area school districts to bear the costs, the resolution would make room in the county’s 2014 budget for SROs to work in Livingston Manor, Monticello and Tri-Valley schools.
The agreement would last from this February to June of 2016, with the districts paying for the SROs’ costs during the school year (approximately 70 percent), and the county picking up the rest.
Sorensen felt quick action was needed, as the required police academy training is being offered this March and not again till September 2015.
“I feel there is a very strong need for these officers,” he explained.
“It’s a great idea ... but once again, we’re putting the cart before the horse,” replied Legislator Jonathan Rouis. “... This needs to be discussed in its totality to make sure we have the right people in the right place doing the right thing.”
Too, Legislator Cora Edwards wanted more specific figures than just a 70/30-percent splitting of costs.
Thus, the resolution was tabled by majority vote, with Sorensen, Vetter and Cindy Gieger opposed.
However, it is the topic of a Legislature meeting scheduled for today (Tuesday) at the Government Center, where it may indeed pass.
“We just need to have all the figures filled in,” explained Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson. “... We are in no way opposed to it.”
Finding money for new jail
A third resolution was also tabled Thursday, this one from Legislator Cindy Gieger.
She is calling for monies to be set aside for the construction of the new jail from the “host county” revenue the county would receive if a casino or casinos are sited locally.
Estimating interest on a construction bond for the jail could top $5 million a year, Gieger said services would have to be cut in such a scenario just to stay beneath the state-mandated two-percent property tax cap.
Legislator LaBuda felt it would be foolish to tie currently nonexistent monies (an area casino is likely but not yet a certainty) to a long-overdue project.
“That jail cannot wait three or four or five years [until a casino arrives],” she stated.
“I’m not saying we have to hold off on the jail construction until casino revenue comes in,” replied Gieger, who felt the resolution simply provides a road map.
Noting the county has time to consider the idea, Samuelson suggested the matter be tabled for “real discussion,” which Gieger did not fight.
“I’m OK with that,” she agreed, joining the unanimous tabling vote of all nine legislators.