The officers could remain the same, but the department could change hands.
Whitehall Village Mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti said he is willing to put the matter of turning the duties of law enforcement in the village over to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.
“I think that this should go out to the voters to see what they want to do,” said Putorti after the village’s June 1 meeting where board members looked at three options given to them in a letter from village attorney and state Assemblyman Tony Jordan after he spoke with Sherrif Roger LeClaire.
Putorti said that the matter would be discussed further at the June 15 village board meeting, including whether to ask for a formal price from the county and to hold a public referendum on the matter.
In a letter to the board, Jordan explained what he had done concerning the matter.
“In speaking with Sheriff LeClaire the following was a general overview of what they thought they could provide in terms of coverage if the Village requested a formal submission,” said Jordan in a letter given to the board by attorney Andy Kelly.
The letter presented three options, the first being “coverage of every shift that the Village has currently with the addition that the A-line (midnight) coverage will have two officers as requested by Sheriff’s Department requirement plus would have regular backup coverage for routine calls available by the various patrol calls throughout the County would have an approximate annual cost of $350,000.”
The second calls for “all coverage that the Village has currently except no dedicated A-line coverage Sunday night through Wednesday night. … This cost would be approximately $230,000.”
The final proposal was “a very stripped down coverage proposal with no A-line coverage Sunday through Wednesday, no B-line coverage Sunday and Monday and no C-line coverage Sunday through Wednesday at a cost of approximately $161,000.”
In each case, the county would be looking for a three-year service contract and a sub-station in the village, preferably in the downtown area.
Putorti said that the current budget for the Whitehall Village Police Department was $393,268.96.
“Even if it is a small savings, it is a savings of around $40,000 for the best service plan,” said Putorti.
Trustee Walter Sandford, who also serves as the police chief in the village of Fort Edward, said that there would be other costs that needed to be looked into.
“We would also have to look at personal services and maintenance expenditures on our end,” said Sandford.
“We also have to look at the fact that this budget is going to go up for the village force,” said Putorti. “Once we get the police union contract done, there will be back pay that will go into effect and the only thing that this budget number is going to do is go higher.”
At the meeting, Putorti again said that this decision would not be made by himself or the board.
“I want options out there and this is an option,” said Putorti. “Would I make a recommendation for a vote here one way or the other? No. I want the voters to decide the matter.”
Sandford asked about the current employees with the village force.
“What would happen to our employees,” Sandford questioned. “I wouldn’t want to see a guy like Dickie (LaChapelle), who has been here for 20 years now, to lose his position.”
“Roger said that they would look to use the staff that is here in the sub-station,” said Putorti. “They would all be able to continue working here and have jobs under the county.”
Trustee Kenneth Bartholomew said that he was glad to have numbers to show the differences in expenses between the two options.
“We now have answers,” said Bartholomew. “When people ask the questions about this, we now have an answer. I’m not impressed with what I see here, but at least we have a number.”
Bartholomew said the only option he would be willing to consider was the first one, but there was not enough of a savings to make a change.
“This puts me more in favor of keeping a village force,” said Bartholomew. “But the only one that I would be interested in is the first one because of coverage.”
“I agree,” said Putorti. “You have to compare apples to apples here.”
Putorti said that he plans to bring the matter in front of the board again at its June 15 meeting.
“I want to look at this more the next time we meet,” he said.