Villages and county try to flesh out Task Force funding

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2014 at 12:00 am

ALBION – Village and county officials agree that the Orleans County Major Felonies Crime Task Force is a success in deploying a team of officers with specialized training to target drugs and major crimes.

The Task Force includes an officer from Albion, Medina and Holley police departments and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department.

Since the Task Force formed about a decade ago, a reoccurring issue has been how to best fund the operation. The county pays $50,000 towards the salaries of the Albion and Medina officers, and Holley receives $25,000 for its part-time officer assigned to the Task Force.

Albion and Medina have asked for either more funding for its officer or assurances that the officers’ overtime can be contained.

A new year has started for the task force and the Medina and Albion village boards have yet to sign off on the contract with the county.

The contract proposal says the two villages will receive $50,000 towards the officer. The contract then asks each village to commit to $2,500 in overtime.

Albion Mayor Dean Theodorakos said he would be thrilled if Albion only had to pay $2,500 towards the officer overtime, which village officials said often reaches $8,000 to $10,000 or more annually.

Albion Police Chief Roland Nenni said he thinks the contract is asking the village to commit to at least $2,500 in overtime, as well as any OT costs that exceed that. He said the contract hasn’t always been clear and is interpreted differently among the Task Force’s board of directors.

The Task Force board includes the police chiefs, sheriff, mayors of the three villages, some county legislators and District Attorney Joe Cardone. The group meets Jan. 31 to talk about the funding issue.

“It all comes down to money,” Nenni said Wednesday after the Village Board discussed the issue.

Nenni said it costs about $80,000 annually to have a full-time officer on the Task Force. That includes the salary, overtime and benefits.

The county’s $50,000 to Albion and Medina for a dedicated officer on the Task Force has not changed in a decade. The county tried to drop that to $25,000 last year, but the villages protested.

Medina would like to see the $50,000 increased because the officer is working on issues county-wide, and sometimes works outside the county. Assigning an officer from the village police departments also takes an officer away from those departments, sometimes leading to increased overtime costs for the village police.

Medina assigns an officer to the school district for about 10 months a year and the district pays $60,000 to the village for that officer. The district tries to cover the full cost of having an officer there for 10 months.

The Task Force arrangement right now pays about 63 percent of the Albion costs. Albion Trustee Kevin Sheehan said the county should at least cap the overtime to the villages at perhaps $7,500. If the officer exceeds that cap, the county should pick up the difference, Sheehan said.

Sheehan would also like to see funds from the forfeiture account be used to help reduce the villages’ overtime costs for officers on the Task Force.

Some of those funds are paying for a $20,000 renovation to the Task Force’s headquarters at the Public Safety Building.

Nenni urged the Village Board members to attend the Jan. 31 meeting and state their case.

“If you want it, go there and ask for it,” Nenni said.