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Village looking to get more from Town for police coverage

December 21, 2011
WESTFIELD — How much money is a local police force worth?

That is the debate going on right now between the Village and the Town of Westfield.

At the November meeting of the Village Board of Trustees, Westfield Village Mayor Carr reported to that, after discussing it with the board, he had sent to letter to Westfield Town Supervisor Martha Bills in June asking that an 18-year-old agreement between the village and the town be revised. The current agreement, which started as coverage in just Barcelona, essentially shares the village’s police department with the town and the town pays $10,000 per year for that service. Carr’s letter asked for the amount the town pays for its use of the police to increase incrementally over the next four to $70,000.

“Costs have increased measurably in 18 years,” Carr said.

However, Carr got a letter back from Bills stating, “We would be interested in discussing the restructuring the current (agreement) to address issues of concern to both boards.”

As part of his argument, Carr mentioned the increased cost in pay to police offers. His example was that in 1994, a patrolman made $8.99 per hour, whereas a starting police offer makes $18.49 per hour now. He also mentioned the cost of vehicles, gas, maintenance and ammunition have all increased in 18 years.

“That board would like to continue the agreement as it is right now,” Carr said. “To me that’s not satisfactory.”

The current agreement between the two municipalities, which has no expiration, allows for village police officers to take action in the town. If the village or the town decided to cancel the agreement, which can be done by either municipality at any time, the village police could respond to and secure a situation, but the officer would have to remain there until a Chautauqua County Sheriff’s deputy showed up to take action. The town currently has a contract with sheriff’s department for $27.64 per hour, according to the letter Carr received from Bills. Additionally, part of Carr’s concern is the number of layoffs the sheriff’s department is facing with a tighter budget and how that will affect coverage.

The entire Board of Trustees agreed with Carr that the current amount paid by the town for the police service is not sufficient. Carr asked the board members for their input on the situation and how best to proceed. Trustee Rob Cochran said part of his issue was that the town is making money through court fees every time a village police offer writes a ticket. Trustee Dave Brooker brought up the fact that, at times, there is only one sheriff’s car covering the entire county. Carr pointed out that those in the village pay town taxes, but that the residents of the town do not pay village taxes.

“I don’t think a lot of people know what’s possibly going to be lost for them,” Cochran said of town residents.

In the end, it was decided the board would think about it and the topic would be brought up again at the December meeting.

“I think the town deserves some kind of protection,” Carr said.

An audience member who asked if she could comment on the issue and stated that she fears having the police gone from the village. She said kids in the village are a lot safer knowing the police are there and feels the town should give up a few amenities to pay more than $10,000.

“I can’t imagine the town not wanting the coverage,” she said. “And I can’t believe people in the town don’t want personal coverage. … I can’t see them losing it.”

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Article Photos

File photo
In this file photo, Village of Westfield police officers help some bicycle riders get across the street. The Village of Westfield would like to change its agreement with the Town of Westfield in regards to the cost of police coverage.



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