By Cathy DeDe
Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall said he decided to close City Hall Monday afternoon “for the safety of our employees” in light of rally plans to occupy the building.
He said rally organizer Wayne Denton had scheduled but cancelled a meeting before the event (because of a job conflict, Mr. Denton said separately). “I have no problem talking with them,” the mayor said.
Mr. Denton called for “defunding” the police and merging city police with the county sheriff’s office.
Mayor Hall says, “We have looked at consolidation of the police” with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.
“The last time it came up was during an election year. We were going door to door and people said, keep our police department. The general opinion in the city is to have our own police department. I can tell you the Common Council feels that way also.”
Mayor Hall said, “defunding,” as rally organizers proposed, “is a mislabeled term. I think they mean for some funding to go to local social service programs. If they do come in, I can tell them the services we have in the City of Glens Falls.
The mayor said the city is preparing a new program, called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, in which officers responding to a call would screen and direct people to social services rather than police involvement, as warranted.
“We are just waiting on a lead person or agency to get that started,” the mayor said.
As to social services, Mayor Hall said, “It’s amazing what we have, in a city of 14,700 people,” listing soup kitchens, “five homeless shelters,” mental health organizations, the Glens Falls Youth Center, and diversion programs for both adults and youths through the City Court system.
“If someone thinks we’re not doing the job for people with needs or on the edge, they are not quite up to education on that issue.”
Mayor Hall confirmed that the police represents about a quarter of the city’s $19 million budget. He says that includes insurance and pension costs, big items in the budget.
“The Glens Falls Police Department is doing a great job,” the mayor said. “We are a safe city because of them. I think we do a great job with social services. For someone to say they don’t, they need to come in and talk.”
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