Thursday, December 2, 2021

Expect no move on Glens Falls’ police

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

Don’t expect Warren County to take over Glens Falls Police Department duties anytime in the near future, despite all the talk in recent weeks and months.

City and county officials seem at a total impasse.

Meanwhile, the police department is costing city taxpayers $4-million, 23.3% of this year’s $17.3-million overall budget.

Mayor Jack Diamond’s newest proposal would pay the County $22.5-million over 15 years to help fund the police function the city wants the county to absorb. The Mayor says the next step is for the county to counter-offer.

But Warren County Board Chairman Kevin Geraghty told The Chronicle Tuesday that what’s needed next is a detailed study.

He recommends that Glens Falls seek available state funding to hire a consultant to delve into details like Civil Service implications, labor contracts, legacy costs (retirement, health insurance) and equipment transfers prior to the county moving forward.

“There needs to be a lot more work then just throwing a number out there…” Mr. Geraghty said. “It’s a city issue, not a county issue. The county doesn’t want to take a position on their police protection. It’s a city issue.”

Told of Mr. Geraghty’s comments, Mayor Diamond said, “We’ve already had a study done. We’ve already worked through all of the details. I sat in numerous meetings over the last two years with Sheriff York and Mr. Geraghty and [Thurman supervisor] Evelyn Wood [who chairs the county’s Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee] and talked about merger costs.”

Asked his next step if the county insists on a study, Mayor Diamond said, “I’m taking my ping-pong paddle and going home.

“How much are they going to charge me to cover the city? That’s what I want to know…I’m not dragging this on much longer. If that’s their response…I’ll close the deal and move on.”

Mayor Diamond said, “I feel bad for the men and women on our police force. They come into work every day not knowing if they are going to have a job here.

“All the county has to do is say yes or no. I can read between the lines. Someone has to take a position. If they can’t do that, it’s over. I can’t even move this forward.”

The county’s Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee is to discuss the issue at its Feb. 29 meeting.

Glens Falls Ward 1 county supervisor Dan Girard said he suggested at last month’s Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee that “if we are really interested in moving this forward, let’s start negotiating. Jack has proposed paying them about 30% of what the City now pays for police protection. Make a counter-proposal! Suggest he pay 95%.”

But Mr. Girard also said that with the county facing increased expenses from all directions — such as hiring more guards for the county jail and expansion at SUNY Adirondack — “I don’t know how the County could absorb the amount of money it would cost to consolidate…I would be very surprised if it happened.”

GF officials: Apply road patrol $$$

Ward 4 Councilman Scott Endieveri focuses on the “$900,000 that the City is paying for [county] road patrols, and we don’t get any road patrols…If the County is serious, it would look at that $900,000 and negotiate that number…If we could negotiate that down, everybody would be happy and we’d keep our police department.”

Ward 2 Councilman Bill Collins likewise says negotiations need to include the $900,000 the City pays for road patrols.

Glens Falls Ward 3 county supervisor Claudia Braymer says, “I think the County needs to credit Glens Falls all or a portion of what it already pays, $900,000, for road patrols…It’s not unreasonable to get a credit for paying for road patrols for the rest of the county.”

But County chairman Mr. Geraghty rejects the whole concept. “I don’t know if that $900,000 figure is a fact,” he said, adding, “Why should people in Warrensburg pay for events at East Field? The County helps the City with those costs. Why should my taxpayers pay for the sewer deal in 2002 that gives the City a portion of the County’s sales tax money every year.

“Parceling out services is a slippery slope. We charge each town and the City to help fund running our jail. But we had a study done and Glens Falls had 40 or 50% of the inmates. Should we charge them more for that?”

Mayor Diamond responds that Mr. Geraghty’s Warrensburg residents “are getting an influx of sales tax because of that sewer deal, because if it wasn’t for that, Six Flags Great Escape would be on septic systems and wouldn’t be doing the business it’s doing now.”

Do residents even want to consolidate?

Mr. Geraghty says, “It’s up to the Common Council and the residents of Glens Falls to determine if this goes any further. Let’s do it the right way.”

Sheriff Bud York said he hasn’t taken a position on consolidation, but “I firmly believe the people of Glens Falls have a right to decide whether or not to consolidate. Not just the Mayor alone, or the Common Council. The people have a right to decide.”

Ward 1 Councilman Jim Campinell said most of his constituents oppose consolidation. “I don’t believe another study is needed. It’s really up to the County to see what their take is on our proposal.”

Glens Falls Ward 3 county supervisor Peter McDevitt suggests the city and county hold a series of public meetings “to get a sense of what folks really want.

“I would politely suggest the Mayor do that. I don’t think the powers-that-be up at the County have a perspective on where the City is coming from on this. Let’s get on with it.”

But Mayor Diamond says he won’t hold any such meetings “until we come to a financial agreement. It makes no sense. There’s no reason to talk about it if we’re not on the same page.”

Brock & Diamond at odds

Glens Falls Ward 4 county supervisor Jim Brock, who ran on a platform of police consolidation, said his new proposal would retain all of the current officers.

“The police officers would simply change uniforms and our expenses would go down $300,000 a year because while they would be paid more, the benefits would be less.”

Asked how he would get the Glens Falls police union to go along with it, Mr. Brock said the higher salary would counteract any reduction in benefits.

Should another study be done? “No,” he said. “Why would we need another study?”

Mayor Diamond, asked about Mr. Brock’s latest proposal, which he was expected to detail to the Common Council at the Feb. 23 meeting, said, “It’s not even worth considering. Our police department is worth more than $300,000 in savings.”

Yes & no on further study?

Glens Falls Councilman-at-Large Dan Hall said he would favor a comprehensive study, but only after a financial counter-proposal from the County.

“How can you make a decision without having all of the facts,” he asked. “…So much information has to be looked at. We’ve talked about this for years, and Jack is trying to bring it to the forefront to see if it would make sense.”

Ward 5 Councilman Jim Clark said he’s not in favor of another study, and wonders, “Is the County willing to discuss this? I hope so. We need dialogue on it. We are part of Warren County. And I think the Sheriff should be part of that dialogue.…If it doesn’t go anywhere, fine. At least we can say to the residents that we looked into it.”

Ward 3 Councilwoman Jane Reid calls another study “a logical next step. If it’s necessary for the County’s comfort level, I’m okay with it.”

Mrs. Reid says, “Until the County responds to Jack, I’m on hold,” but she said “it’s wise to look at consolidation. If it’s not viable or not what the County is comfortable with, at least we brought the issue front and center.”

Ms. Braymer said another study “makes sense, but I don’t want to spin our wheels, if there’s not a conceptual buy-in from both parties.” Is there a such a buy-in now? “Not quite yet,” she said.

“It makes sense to have some meetings now” of residents citywide, she said.

Ward 2’s Mr. Collins said his grandfather was a captain in the police department. “I support the Glens Falls police, and I admire them,” he said. “But as an elected official, I need to examine all options.” But he said any proposal that eliminates police officers, “I would probably vote no.”

He favors another study. “We need to sincerely discuss this. The people who are against it don’t trust what might happen.”

Thurman’s Mrs. Wood says, “I think the county is completely open to a dialogue, and we want to help Glens Falls if we can. Preliminary studies have been done. More in-depth studies are another option. I’d like to see a study done and see what it says.”

Sheriff York says, “At this point we need an in-depth study…If the City is really serious about it, they will take that next step. Then we can decide where to go from there.”

Ward 5 supervisor Matt MacDonald could not be reached by press time.

Copyright © 2016 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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