This article is in rebuttal to the article that appeared in the Jan. 19 edition of the Westfield Republican regarding police coverage in the Town of Westfield and the surrounding area.
Let me set the record straight. I first contacted the Supervisor of the Town of Westfield and all of the Town Board members by letter on June 6, 2011. My first response from them was Nov. 21. I replied to the correspondence on Dec. 6, 2011, and the Town replied on Dec. 15 wherein they stated that they could not afford the increase that the Village had originally requested. I understand that this is a negotiation process and that all negotiations are sometimes time consuming and lengthy; but we didn't even get any response from the Town at all until Nov. 21. At their last Town Board meeting, it was stated that they reached out twice in writing to us to try to meet to discuss this? We have no record of those attempts whatsoever. In addition, because I anticipated this type of situation, my board and I have requested that this negotiation process to be in writing so that there is no misunderstanding by either party. In fact I asked the Supervisor to respond to me in writing in my original letter to the Town in June.
In the interim, I have been working with the Police Chief as to how the Village can best supply the Town with coverage with the limited amount of money the Town has considered offering. During this period, we have also been discussing the role of the Westfield Police Department being dispatched by the Sheriff's Department to incidents in the Village of Brocton, Town of Portland, Town of Ripley, Village of Mayville and the Town of Chautauqua. In the Jan. 19 edition of the Westfield Republican, Undersheriff Holder stated that the Sheriff's Department has a contract with the Town of Ripley for "enhanced services" and seemed to be offering this to other municipalities as a solution. If that is the case and Ripley has a contract in place, then why has the Village of Westfield been dispatched to these jurisdictions? Why is our Police Department being dispatched to calls in the Sheriffs backyard?
Here are the facts - for the year 2011 our department has been dispatched to the Town of Westfield 387 times and we have handled 1267 total incidents there. Furthermore, our officers have been dispatched to the Town of Chautauqua 25 times, Town of Ripley 102 times, Village of Brocton 16 times, Town of Portland 65 times and the Village of Mayville 22 times. In fairness to the Sheriff and Mayville, a small percentage of the calls in Mayville listed as an incident were actually arrests or situations which occurred in Westfield that were later handled in Mayville because of the jail. However, the reporting system lists them as a Mayville incident. We don't manage the incident reporting system and have no control on these small duplications. But I wanted to be as factual as I could be. The reality though, is that there are still a total of 230 incidents outside the jurisdiction of the Village of Westfield. For the year 2010 the Westfield Police Department responded to 233 calls out side of the Village and Town of Westfield and again in 2009 191 calls to these same jurisdictions. I do not feel it is fair for the taxpayers of the Village of Westfield to afford free protection to these communities. All I am asking for is some type of remuneration for police services that are in fact being rendered.
Undersheriff Holder was quoted as saying the calls coming into dispatch would go to the closest Sheriffs car or State Police. Why did it take 2.5 hours to respond to a call in the Town of Westfield two weeks ago? In one paragraph he stated that people will not experience any negative impact from the changes being made overall by the Sheriff's Dept., but then in the very next paragraph he talks about the department losing 16 part time deputies and the full time members will be handling prisoner transports. So then where will the road patrols come from? Let me tell you, I have a good idea where they will come from.
Also in the same edition of the local paper the Supervisor in Ripley said that we would no longer respond to calls in Ripley. I sent a letter to the Mayor of Brocton, Town of Portland, Town of Ripley, Town of Chautauqua and the Village of Mayville asking for a meeting to discuss some type of reimbursement for calls made to their jurisdiction in the future. I asked them to respond so that this matter could be discussed. I have heard nothing from the Town of Ripley or the Town of Chautauqua. I asked to discuss the matter in my letter and told them that it couldn't go on without some kind of negotiated change. But to simplify it and say that my letter said we are not responding anymore is a misleading.
I had a very nice meeting with Mayor Abrams in Brocton. He told me that due to budget constraints the Village could not afford the extra expense. Mayor Bova from Mayville contacted me with the same problem, budget limitations. I have had one meeting with the Supervisor in the Town of Portland and another is scheduled for next week.
The Town of Ripley has a $30,000.00 contract with the Sheriff's Department for limited coverage; the Village of Brocton has a similar contract but for a lesser amount of money. If these communities are willing to pay the Sheriff's Department, why are they not willing to compensate the Village of Westfield when we are the ones actually responding? We have tried to offer a fair solution to all parties. All I ask is that if our officers get dispatched to cover in another area, we should be reimbursed. If we can't be reimbursed, then how can we continue to respond in light of the facts?
Municipalities contract with each other all of the time, we have contracts with Ripley for use of the sewer clean out truck, better known as the "Vac Truck." We have an agreement with Mayville between our utility departments for an electric pole trailer. Mayville Electric helps us when we have downed lines and vise versa. There are contractually agreed shared services going on between local governments all of the time. What has to happen is a signed contract. My recommendation to these other municipalities is to review the facts I sent you and If the facts show that our department is responding, why not ask to renegotiate their contracts with the Sheriff so that they pay him a little less to have enough to reimburse us because we will inevitably be called.
In addition, part of their County Tax helps support the Sheriff's Department, a portion of their State Income Tax helps support the State Police. Contrary to some reports, the Village of Westfield receives no reimbursement from the Sheriff's Department or the State of New York for responding to calls in these jurisdictions.
The Chief of Police furnished me with a report listing all incidents that were handled by his department in the Town of Westfield. Like I stated earlier, the total incidents were 1,267; many were vehicle and traffic arrests whereby fines and court fees go exclusively to the Town. Other calls ranged from checking the wellbeing of residents to motor vehicle accidents, burglaries, and domestic complaints. How come the Sheriff's Department was not dispatched to these incidents?
At no time have I told Martha Bills that we will not respond to emergency calls in the Town. The Village Board and I, along with the Police Chief are attempting to determine the most equitable way this service can be furnished. I am as concerned about public safety as is Martha; however, I feel the Village should be adequately compensated for the time spent by our Police Department for services rendered to the Town.
Finally, I would just like to make it very clear that our responsibility is first and foremost to the Village of Westfield residents and tax payers. With that being said, I want it known that we are willing to work with the Sheriff, State Police and the other municipalities to provide a solution that is both fair to the Village and provides police services; when needed, to these other areas. Perhaps we can contact our State Senator and Assemblyman collectively as a group to seek grants or some kind of state aid assistance. The issue of our citizens safety is important to me, do we not owe it to them to put these issues on the table and work toward a solution?
David Carr is the Mayor for the Village of Westfield.