100 percent hike in police overtime draws concern

B y Jaime Thomas

Members of the Granville Village Board were not in agreement about approving the tentative 2013-2014 budget at a meeting Monday night.

Trustee Gordon Smith brought up the large, general-fund line item of police overtime pay, which more than doubled from last year from $27,000 to $59,000.

“There is one line I have a very strong dislike for and a bad feeling about. I voiced my opinion in the budget workshops, so I felt it was only proper to voice it again. A budget is numbers you’re willing to spend — I’m not willing to spend a 50 percent increase on police department overtime,” Smith said.

He went on to say that he was not questioning Police Chief Ernie Bassett’s ability to run the department, but in his opinion the new police union contract is to blame. And Bassett agreed with him.

“I documented this in a letter. I said this is what would happen if that (the contract) were to be signed, and I don’t think anyone took that serious at that point,” Bassett said. He said he has an issue with the way the contract was handled on both sides, but that he does not know how to fix the problem at this point.

“My hands are tied. It is what it is now; I hope there can be some agreement between the two sides,” he said.

Smith said he thought the immobility of the new police schedule is what has caused such extensive overtime. Bassett said he is not a supporter of a 12 hour schedule in police work, but it is less costly.

Mayor Brian LaRose said he thought it was necessary to have the extra money in the budget in case it is needed, but he thought there would be a lot left over at the end of the year. Other board members voiced similar opinions.

LaRose said the issue is a matter of tweaking the schedule that can be fixed with collaboration between the police union and the board.

“It’s not a quick fix; the fact is we do have a problem. I’m confident we will work on those problems and get them ratified sooner than later,” LaRose said. “We’ll see a gain by the end of the year; we’ll have that cooperation.”

Bassett said the problem doesn’t lie solely with the contract.

“We’re still trying to do the same services we’ve always given with not as many people,” he said. Smith mentioned that he realized every department is being asked to do more with less, but he could not agree with the budget item.

“I’ve heard all the arguments, and I cannot approve of this line, and if this line stays the way it is, I cannot approve of this budget,” he said.

After the discussion was finished, the four board members who were present voted on the tentative budget. Trustee Dean Hyatt, Trustee Paul Labas and LaRose approved the budget, and Smith opposed it, so it passed. Trustee Frank Caruso was not present.

As it stands there will be a 1.91 percent levy increase this year and a 2.99 percent tax increase.

Fire Debris on Main Street

During the public comment portion of the meeting, local John Norton readdressed the board about the pile of debris left from the Main Street fire on Nov. 12.

“We’re into our fifth month of that mess on Main Street. It’s an awful mess and it’s the talk of the town. I think it’s a public disgrace,” Norton said. He has raised the issue at previous meetings. He told the board he does not think the property is being maintained properly.

Board members told Norton they have done everything in their power to ameliorate the problem. LaRose said Clerk Rick Roberts has been making phone calls to former buildings’ owners and their insurance companies at least two times every week, but it is now a matter of insurance.

“Our only leverage is constant pressure to both insurance companies,” LaRose said. Roberts said as far as he understands, both parties have been involved with Washington County code enforcement. The village has no power to move forward with cleanup until the issue is settled with the insurance companies and the county.

Yearly appointments, Pember Library

Also during public comment, resident George Henry raised concerns he has about the Pember Library and Museum. He asked the board to readdress their duties with the library and its board.

He said officials were not following Franklin Pember’s bylaws from 1909. The library’s board of trustees, for example, is made up of several Vermont residents and only has one member from the village, which is not how it should be, Henry said.

Village Attorney Mike Martin told Henry the village board has no say about the running of the library and museum, and their only influence is to approve or deny Pember board members every July.

“I urge you to please attend their meetings. That board does not want an older brother, but they need one really bad,” Henry said.

LaRose stressed that Henry’s claims are only alleged at this point, and he said the board will look into the matter.

As Monday night was the village’s organizational meeting, the board also made several designations. The Granville Sentinel will remain the official newspaper, and Glens Falls National Bank will be the village’s official depository. Meetings will continue to be held the first Monday of every month.

Mayor LaRose also thanked everyone who responded to last week’s fire on Mettawee Street.

“I saw it during Hurricane Irene, and I was honored to see it again — the response by all the police and firemen. I never get tired of telling everyone you guys did an extraordinary job,” he said.

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