Board drops number of fulltime cops to 1

CHATHAM – The Village Board has passed a motion to replace one of the two full-time village police officers with two-part time officers.

Officer Chris Gardena wrote a letter to the board asking for a leave of absence to join the Poughkeepsie Police Force for one year. After much discussion at the at the board’s regular meeting Thursday, June 14, board members asked Police Chief Kevin Boehme to request Mr. Gardena’s resignation if the officer takes the new job. Michael Richardson, the board’s labor consultant and Audit Committee co-chair, said that Mr. Gardena could not take another civil service job without resigning from his current one.

Chief Boehme and the deputy chief both work only part time. The village department also has several part-time officers and, until the board’s decision last week, two full-time officers.

Mayor Tom Curran said that if the board replaced the full-time position with two part-time officers, the savings to the village will be $17,000. “Dollar-wise it’s very attractive to go to the part time,” he said at the meeting.

He also said changing the position from full time to part time was way to reduce costs in the budget without firing or laying off any workers. He said there would be no loss in police coverage in the village.

Chief Boehme did not agree. He said that scheduling part-time officers is difficult, since they have full-time jobs and family commitments. “Yes, you will be saving money, but the bottom line is… are you truly doing the taxpayers in the village a service?” he said. He called the board’s plan “penny wise, dollar foolish.”

“We are not a huge, huge community,” said Trustee Lenore Packet of having mostly part-time officers to deal with complaints.

Trustee Joanne DelRossi and Mr. Richardson both pointed out the Police Department went recently from having a full-time chief and deputy to part-time in both those positions at the request of Chief Boehme. “The department is moving that way,” Trustee DelRossi said.

Trustee DelRossi and the mayor also discussed with Chief Boehme moving funds granted to the department through the state for traffic safety to the Fire Department. “It’s all public safety,” said the mayor of moving the funds, which would mean a cut of 330 part-time hours for police.

The mayor pointed out to the chief that those part-time hours that would be cut from the grant money in the Police Department might mean that part-time officers would be looking for more hours and would take on more of the time not covered by the full-time officer.

“We see a need in the Fire Department for equipment,” said Trustee DelRossi of the grant funds that are awarded until October. The village normally gets around $6,000 and the board plans to move $4,700 to the fire department.

All the board members expect Lael Locke voted in favor of not replacing the fulltime officer position.

The board also met last week in executive session with representatives from Price Chopper and the board’s special council, Cheryl Roberts, about the supermarket’s new building on Route 66 using village water and sewer. When the board reconvened in open session the trustees adopted a motion to enter into an agreement with Chatham Associates, the company planning to build and manage the new store. Board members did not discuss details of the agreement, which includes a hook-up fee and a yearly user fee.

Chatham Associates still has to get approval from the village Planning Board for the site plan. Most of the new supermarket will be in the Town of Ghent, which has approved the site plan, but a small portion is in the village.

The next village meeting is Thursday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial on Main Street.

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