Speeders beware, Chatham wants fines to balance budget

CHATHAM–The Town Board has approved hiring a county Sheriff’s Office deputy to police speeding on Taconic State Parkway and some town roads as a way to boost revenue for the town.

At their July 21 meeting board members were looking for ways to make up a recently announced $60,000 shortfall in the 2016 town budget and they discussed speeding tickets as a revenue source. They also rejected the request from the town Judge James Borgia-Forster for funds to attend a state conference, because the town has frozen spending as it deals with the budget.

The judge asked for $500 to cover the cost of the conference. But board member Henry Swartz said that the board is asking departments to make cuts “across the board,” so spending this money didn’t seem appropriate.

“We can’t dig our hole any deeper,” said Councilmen Bob Balcom.

Board members Landra Haber and John Wapner voted against denying the judge’s request. Mr. Wapner said he would like to see a motion saying the board is temporarily denying all employees the funds to attend conferences, unless attendance is mandated by the state.

The board did approve paying the Sheriff’s Office $26 to $54 an hour plus mileage to monitor speeding on local roads and the part of the Taconic that runs through the town.

“The town needs revenue,” said Supervisor Maria Lull of the sheriff’s program. Ms. Haber stressed that the speeding was also a safety issue in the town that needs to be addressed.

“I’m quite certain in an eight-hour shift the deputy will find the revenue,” said Mr. Balcom of the town making back the money it would have to pay in fees to the Sheriff’s Office and added court costs for the program.

Mr. Swartz was the only board member who voted against it. “I don’t think we are going to hire a deputy to make money for the town,” he said.

Resident David Levow told the board during the public comment part of the meeting, “To look at this as a revenue source is dead wrong.” He said that there may even be more costs in the courts with more tickets and that it could give the town an even worse reputation as a “speed trap.”

The board also heard from part-time Chatham Village Police Chief Pete Volkmann about his Chatham Cares 4U program to find detox and rehabilitation beds for area residents who are addicted to heroin. Chief Volkmann said that the program had already helped people addicted to drugs who come to the police station at the Tracy Memorial on Main Street in the village asking for help.

One major issue he said he’d encountered so far is finding treatment facility openings. He said that free programs in Massachusetts and New Jersey accept only people from those states and that in New York people looking for help need to have insurance. So his officers have had to find rehabilitation centers that take the insurance of the person looking for help. He said in cases where the person has no insurance, they have to apply for insurance through the state.

The chief had initially believed that beds would be available in Massachusetts and that insurance would not be a requirement.

“Treatment centers are hearing about us,” he said of the program. He also said his officers have spent hours on the phone looking for beds. He said a detox program costs about $5,000 and often a person has to go through treatment programs several times before being able to stay off drugs.

“We’re jumping off a cliff here,” he said of starting the program. He said he was working to get a tax exempt status for Chatham Cares 4U so that he can take donations.

He was at the meeting to get the information out to the greater Chatham community. He stressed that the program was open to anyone with a heroin addiction problem. “The thing that we require is that you have to come to the Village of Chatham,” he said of people looking for help at the police station.

The next regular Town Board meeting will be Thursday, August 18 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall on Route 295.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email moc.r1568567331epapa1568567331ibmul1568567331oc@el1568567331adsae1568567331te1568567331

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