Broader View Suggested, But 4-1 Vote Gives Booan Support To Explore Idea
By JIM KEVLIN : COOPERSTOWN
The topics were police, police and police.
When the village trustees met Monday, Feb. 28:
• Mayor Joe Booan began by reading a prepared statement denying any personal or political motivation in his exploring contracting with the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department to provide 24/5 coverage to the village, eliminating village police and saving a portion of the $500,000 budget. “I was elected to do a job,” said the Republican mayor, “and I’m doing it.”
• Booan also announced that county Rep. Greg Relic, R-Unadilla, had called him before the meeting to say the county’s Public Safety Committee, which Relic chairs, had agreed to support further talks on providing police service to the village.
• During the public-comment period, resident
Hilda Wilcox read a statement describing brusk treatment by the sheriff’s department when she called with a question. “The question is not one of quantity,” she said, “but of quality.”
• Also during the public comments, Democratic candidate Jim Dean spoke, saying he supports keeping the police department. And Hank Nicols, former police chief, county Democratic chair and father of current chief Diana Nicols, said “the math doesn’t work,” although he supported further study.
• When the mayor asked for a sense of the board on whether he should continue talking to the county, four of the five trustees present supported doing so, although Democrat Lynne Mebust said she would prefer a broader conversation on a range of shared services, not just police. Only Democrat Jeff Katz withheld support.
• Finally, Mebust presented a memo critical of the mayor for spending $443 to send a letter to all village households explaining his reasons for beginning conversations with county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr.
Booan said he used funds from the mayor’s discretionary budget.
Mebust said she’d asked the village treasurer to check back as far as 1994, and found the fund had been used for flowers, pins and lunches for visiting dignitaries, not letters.
Booan, in response to Mebust saying it was misuse of village staff to prepare, copy and mail the letter – “I don’t see how we can justify that expense,” she said, calling it “troubling” – suggested that having the treasurer research the discretionary fund represented a similar misuse of village staff.
The evening featured parry and thrust, which each side suggesting political motivation on the part of the other and honest motives on their own.
(This article identifies individuals by political party because two full slates are vying in the March 15 village election. It is not a practice that will extend past that time.)
In his opening statement, Booan retraced the chronology of his conversations with Devlin, and declared, “Despite the speculation of some, it is not personal or political. Those that point to either of these as fact are wrong. Examination of shared services is a fiscal matter. It will take careful study and I am supporting it.”
Later, when Booan polled the board, Katz, a Democrat running for reelection, said, “Pinpointing the police, I have a problem. I don’t have a problem with consolidation.” He pointed out the street department spends more than police.
Mebust called for a “broader look,” but supported the mayor’s initiative.
Deputy Mayor Willis Monie, a Republican, said, “I support the police department, but certainly we need to take a look to see if there’s a better way.”
Said Matt Schuermann, a Republican running for election, “It may be that we do nothing. But we owe it to ourselves, to our residents, to look at these options.”
And Jim Potts, a Republican also running for election, said, “I support looking at various expenses. Let’s look at the top five. Let’s look at the top ten. I’m supporting the process.”