Changes in Chatham PD take shape

CHATHAM–The Village Board promoted Joseph Alessi to sergeant last week and discussed the possibility of buying three new patrols cars for the village Police Department.

The monthly meeting was moved from its regular date on the second Thursday of the month to February 20, the third Thursday, due to snow. Mayor Tom Curran thanked the Department of Public Works crew for their hard work digging out the village after several major storms. He also said there had been a lot of overtime in that department and trouble with scheduling.

Board member Lenore Packet said the board was hoping to hire a part-time DPW superintendent. The board has advertised for candidates. The village is also looking for a part-time waste water treatment plant operator, as well.

Officer Alessi’s promotion was made on the recommendation of Police Chief Peter Volkmann, who said it was important to have a second in command. He also suggested creating positions for two corporals but said he would come with recommendations for those positions at the next meeting. The board’s motion appointing Mr. Alessi sergeant did not come with a pay raise. Chief Volkmann said a raise would have to be negotiated with the new union representing the police, the UPSEU (United Public Service Employee Union).

Village Administrator and Treasurer Barbara Henry said there is money in the police budget that could cover the new position.

The board also gave Chief Volkmann the approval to start looking for at least five more part-time police officers. The chief said he was expecting three officers to resign and that there were shifts now that were not being covered. He said that if he does not have officers available to cover shifts he contacts the State Police and the Sheriff’s Office. “The sheriff and the State Police are fully supportive of us,” he told the board.

He said the hiring process for new officers includes background checks, a psychological evaluation and a meeting with board members, all of which could take some time, so he wanted to get started now. He also has planned to upgrade some equipment at the police station in the Tracy Memorial Village Hall. The chief asked the board for permission to purchase new badges at $160 each, which is within his budget.

Chief Volkmann talked about new police cars for the force, saying that at least one of the three cars the police have now is not on the road and another needs major repairs. “We are in desperate need of one patrol car,” he told the board. He said he was looking into financing and the village could lease or borrow money for a car for about $10,000 to $11,000 a year. He said the life of a police car is about four-to-six years.

Board members asked for details on the budget for the new cars, since they are now planning next year’s budget; the fiscal year for the village runs from June 1 through the following May.

“If we are within our budget, then I’m good with that,” said the mayor.
The chief also said he hopes to have part of a pilot program through Albany Medical Center to equip police with drug called Narcan that saves people suffering from a heroin overdose. “This is in Chatham just like it’s everywhere else,” he said of heroin. He asked for a police policy saying that officers should not arrest people who overdose but see that they are sent to the hospital. “If we do save someone from heroin we don’t want to arrest them, we want them to get help,” he told the board.

Also at the meeting the board:
•Heard from Fire Chief Paul Pratt that there is was some ice damage to the firehouse
•Learned that village engineer Pat Prendergast is getting quotes for repairs on the village water tower. But since officials now know there is lead paint on outside of the tower, the mayor said, “It might be cheaper to put a new tower up.” The board will look into the expense at upcoming meetings
•Heard that the mayor and Mr. Prendergast are meeting with representatives from the Chatham School District about adding another exit from the main campus off Woodbridge Avenue
•Is seeking requests for proposals for the use of Tracy Memorial. The board has recently taken over maintenance of the building and is looking for more revenue to pay for needed repairs and upgrades.
Village elections will take place on March 18. Trustees Packet and Adrienne Morrell are running for unopposed for reelection. According county Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Virginia Martin, a third possible candidate, James Garvey, had his petition invalidated on prima facie grounds (six of the seven petition sheets were incorrectly drawn up).
The next Village Board meeting will be Thursday, March 13 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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