Opinions aired in meeting about police services in Orleans
ALBION – Some residents are adamant they don’t want to lose the Albion Police Department.
Others say the village taxes are far too high and having the county provide police in the villages would provide much-needed tax relief for villagers.
Residents were given a chance to comment in two public meetings Tuesday about a law enforcement study.
The Center for Government Research has been hired by Orleans County to take on the study with input from the four villages with police, and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department. The study is looking for ways to streamline costs and run a more efficient police service.
That could mean all the departments remain as they are with some shared services, such as more joint training, or perhaps there will be a move to countywide model with the Sheriff’s Department taking over for the village departments.
Kevin Sheehan, a former Albion deputy mayor and village trustee, said he doesn’t want to see the Albion PD gone through a consolidation.
“I think we are top rate in Albion,” Sheehan said during a meeting at Hoag Library attended by about 40 people. (There was another meeting later on Tuesday at the Ridgeway Fire Hall.)
He credited Roland Nenni, the police chief, for pushing to have the officers trained with up-to-date equipment. Sheehan said Albion was the first department in Orleans to have laptops in the patrol cars.
Village resident Kevin Doherty agreed the Albion police provide a quality service, but Doherty said the department accounts for about $8 of a high village tax rate (over $17 per $1,000 of assessed property).
“I’m telling you that you are bleeding me dry,” Doherty said during the meeting. He also said village residents may not see diminished services if the county assumed the service.
Sheehan said he worries the village would see less service with a county-wide model.
“We can’t go cheap on this,” Sheehan said. “We cannot cheap out on law enforcement.”
When he was on the Village Board, the village cut back on brush and road work, but wouldn’t budge with police protection.
CGR has initial data on the costs for law enforcement in each community (not including benefits). Here is a snapshot of each community with a law enforcement staff:
Village of Albion
13 full-time officers
2 or 3 always on duty
$1,019,265 total cost
$181 per capita cost
Village of Medina
11 full-time, 1 part-time
2 minimum on each shift
$902,833 total expense
$152 per capita cost
Village of Holley
2 full-time, 9 part-time
1 minimum staffing
$118 per capita cost
Village of Lyndonville
1 part-time officer
$28 per capita
Orleans County Sheriff’s Department
Orleans County – outside village population: 28,605
Orleans County total population: 42,204
25 full-time officers
3 minimum staffing
$3,503,233 total cost
$83 per capita (countywide)
The local governments combined are spending $5,686,689 for law enforcement.
CGR has worked on 70 government efficiency studies the past five years, including the dissolution plan for the Village of Medina that was rejected by voters. The Orleans County law enforcement study has already set a new record for CGR by having 1,082 people complete a 15-question on-line survey.
“That’s incredible,” said Mary Rowland, Senior Project Manager for Highland Planning, which is doing the survey. “That is more than we have ever had in a project.”
She went over some preliminary findings from the survey. (Residents have until Jan. 25 to fill it out. Click here to see the survey.)
There is a nearly 50-50 split in respondents so far who live in either a village or outside the village. Sixty percent responded they feel safe with 18 percent saying “very safe.”
The leading crime concern, topping 70 percent of the respondents, was drugs.
Of the respondents, so far 65 percent said they would favor shifting to the Sheriff’s Department.
Rowland asked for a show of hands from the crowd who would support a consolidated police force.
The group declined to raise their hands, saying they wanted more information. Stan Farone, an Albion village trustee, said the study so far leaves many unanswered questions about levels of service and cost.
“We don’t have the information to answer the question,” Farone said. “Really it’s ridiculous right now because we don’t have the right information out there.”
Farone said he is inclined to keep the village police.
Carol Tibbits, an Albion village resident, also doesn’t want to give up the village police for Sheriff’s deputies. “Do not touch the village police, no way, not ever,” Tibbits said.
The village police know the community and the “bad guys,” another resident said.
Mike Christopher of Holley said he would favor the Sheriff’s Department taking over the Holley Police Department, which has two full-time officers and nine part-timers. Christopher said Holley tends to have a revolving door of officers who are often unknown by the community.
“They’re very green and we don’t have full-time coverage,” Christopher said.
A county-wide force would result in standardized pay, training and equipment for all officers, he said.
He doesn’t see village residents losing in service if the Sheriff’s Department replaced the village police departments and established substations in Holley and Medina, as well as the base of operations in Albion.
“If there would substations, we’d all be happier,” Christopher said.
A committee of law enforcement leaders and elected officials are on a committee, working with CGR to compile data on existing services and consider options for how law enforcement could be provided in the future.
There will be more public meetings in the future, perhaps in March or April, when options are analyzed and are ready to be presented to the public.
For more on the study, click here.