Booan On Contracting Idea: Village People Want Savings
By JIM KEVLIN : COOPERSTOWN
Despite an iffy reception from Otsego County’s Public Safety Committee, Mayor Joe Booan said he will continue to focus on the “bottom line” in contracting out police services.
“I’m committed to finding efficiencies in our system,” the mayor said Tuesday, Feb. 15, a few days after the committee chaired by county Rep. Greg Relic, R-Unadilla, declined to commit itself on the question.
Before any agreement is made with the county Sheriff’s Department to assume responsibility for 24/7 coverage in Cooperstown, a number of “if bridges” must be crossed, Booan said.
For instance, “if” the county is interested. “If” the village board is interested. Then, “if” the public at large is supportive; a permissive referendum would be required for that final step.
“We’ve started the process,” the mayor continued. “We shouldn’t be afraid to look at the options. If the village residents then decide they want to maintain the force, fine. I think we can replicate the service we get now, but I’m one vote ... And I’m comfortable with that.”
Over the weekend, the mayor mailed out a message to all homes in the village explaining his point of view.
The mayor and county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., have been in conversations for several weeks over whether Devlin’s deputies can provide the same level of service at less cost than the independent village force.
In his remarks, Booan likened the Village of Cooperstown’s situation to New York State’s as outlined in Governor Cuomo’s Feb. 2 budget address: Statewide, spending has been rising 5.7 percent a year while inflation has held at 2.4 percent.
In the village’s case, the mayor said, the budget has risen $1.4 million or 65 percent in the past nine years, or 5.7 percent a year; if the Village Board had held increases to the inflation rate, the village would be spending $800,000 a year less today than it is.
At the same time, the number of village taxpayers declined by 6.8 percent in the 1990s and another 5.3 percent since 2000, he said.
The police department directly costs village taxpayers $500,000 a year, the single biggest expense, so that’s a natural place to look for reductions, he said.
Asked for comment by county Rep. Jim Powers, R-South New Berlin, Police Chief Diana Nicols said studying consolidation is “an excellent idea,” but that further study is needed.
If the village contracted with the county for 24/7 coverage and no deputy was in town when something happened, would the county be liable? Relic asked.
“There are voids in the 24/7; there are always glitches,” he said. It was also pointed out that, as is, the village cruisers have been out of town more than 150 times in the past year, transporting prisoners or assisting other departments.
For his part, Powers also asked: What if other villages – Gilbertsville, for instance, in his district – would then want similar services?
Devlin also said his deputies might not be interested in walking a beat, as village officers are required to do for an hour per shift in the summer, half an hour in the winter.
The committee concluded it would have to confer further on the matter before offering Booan any support.