Chatham board’s not yet comfy with comfort dogs

CHATHAM – The Village Board tabled the discussion on a Police Department comfort dog at the regular meeting January 13.

Chief Peter Volkmann had given the board more information on the program between the December and January meetings. He told the board at this month’s meeting that an insurance rider for the dog is needed.

The board had many questions about the program. In December Chief Volkmann told the board that Deputy Chief Joe Alessi was attending a comfort dog training with his dog. The chief said there was no cost to the village and that, once trained, the village police could use the dog as a comfort animal. The board raised some questions at that time and Chief Volkmann provided them with more information.

At the January meeting, Chief Volkmann said that the dog was not a police dog or a service dog but would be used as a therapy or comfort dog for crime victims and other people who come to the police station. The dog would also work with Deputy Chief Alessi in the community.

In addition, he said that the program is part of officers’ wellness, saying that studies have shown dogs in the office “actually lower stress.”

“The first mission is for the public,” he said and added that “the dog is there for the officers too.”

Chief Volkmann also said that the deputy chief has had all the training required for the national program–there is no New York State program, according to the chief–and that a local resident who certifies therapy dogs for a national program would work with the police. He stressed that the dog would not go out on patrol with the police officers and would be crated in the office when the police officers have to leave.

Trustee Melony Spock said she was concerned about having the program in such a small, part-time police force. She also said it was hard for her to understand what this program would look like.

“I just can’t wrap my mind around it,” she said.

Chief Volkmann said the Albany Police Department has a similar program.

Mayor John Howe said that the Greenport EMS has a comfort dog and that they have offered the program to fire companies and police in the county.

“I’m not ready to go near this,” said Trustee Jaimee Boehme, who had several questions about the program.

“I feel like this is being pushed on us,” said Mayor Howe. He said that he felt the chief had time to present the program to the board before Deputy Chief Alessi went to the training in December.

“I think the concept’s great,” said Mayor Howe; but he said he also talked to the village insurance provider and the village attorney about cost and a contract.

“Can we just have a little more time?” said Ms. Spock.

The board agreed to table the discussion until next month. Chief Volkmann said he would provide whatever information the board needed to make a decision.

Also at the meeting:

• The board set a Monday, January 27 meeting at 6:30 p.m. to hold a public hearing on decreasing the fines on late water and sewer bills from 10% to 2%. The board will also hold a workshop meeting that evening on the policy for employee vacation time

• Clerk Debra Meyers said that the board has gotten out of an energy contract on village owned buildings, which had set a rate for electricity used in those buildings. The mayor said that the village now uses NYSEG as the electricity service provider and has seen a “big savings” in the bills. Ms. Meyers said that bills from some of DPW buildings have gone down by $1,000

• The board discussed again sidewalk snow removal. The mayor said that several warnings and one bill had gone out to property owners who did not remove the snow from their sidewalks 24 hours after a storm. Trustee Boehme said she’d talked to the Village of Kinderhook about their process and was talking to other municipalities

• The DPW will continue picking up Christmas trees until the end of January.

The next Village Board meeting will be Monday, February 10 at 7 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial/Village Hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

Comments are closed.