The Village of Sag Harbor Board of Trustees and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have reached a stalemate in their contract negotiations, forcing the PBA to file for binding arbitration last month.
However, the village is also exploring the future of the police department and whether or not it would be wise to consider contracting police services from another entity.
This week, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said he has reached out to East Hampton and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department for proposals to provide Sag Harbor Village with police service. While he met with the Southampton Town supervisor and police chief last week to discuss the issue, Gilbride said this week he is personally not in favor of closing the department.
That being said, Gilbride added that given the requests made by the PBA during contract negotiations the village board of trustees does feel it must do its due diligence, explore all of its options publicly before deciding on the next course of action.
“I think in this economic environment, I was hoping we could negotiate a salary increase and leave the other language in the contract alone,” said Gilbride on Tuesday. “I will be the first to tell you Sag Harbor does have affluent residents, but we also have long term residents who are on fixed incomes and a two-percent property tax cap to deal with.”
Gilbride said he had been told by a source close to the department that its membership had been polled and a majority thought it may be a good idea for the Sag Harbor Village Police Department to be folded into a larger agency. If that happened, officers from Sag Harbor would be put on a preferred list for hire by other departments.
“This is a great village and we have always been very supportive of these guys, so it does hurt a little that this is the attitude,” said Gilbride.
However, on Tuesday, PBA President Patrick Milazzo said without the PBA knowing what the alternative options were, it was impossible for the membership to have an official position.
“Without knowing the alternative, how can we take a position,” he said. “It could be better, it could be worse. Without knowing I cannot say whether it would be good or bad.”
Given Gilbride’s statement that he would not want to see the department disbanded, Milazzo added, “It sounds like this is all a move to strong arm the PBA rather than to request real police services from these agencies. We are not going to negotiate with a gun to our heads.”
However, last Thursday, Gilbride did personally meet with Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson. Sag Harbor Village Clerk Beth Kamper and Sag Harbor Village Trustee Tim Culver attended the meeting as well.
“He is a proponent of consolidation and cited some laws that allow it,” said Gilbride of Chief Wilson. “He recommended there was a way where we would not abolish the department, but work within an inter-municipal agreement for police service. It would mean less officers in Sag Harbor, but we would still have our headquarters and still have our chief.”
Gilbride said he did not have a specific proposal yet, nor what that kind of agreement would cost in comparison to the police department’s current $2 million budget. However, he did say Chief Wilson said he could guarantee two police cars in the village, year-round.
“It was a constructive meeting and a starting point,” said Gilbride, who said he hopes to have some formal proposals from Southampton, East Hampton and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department some time in the next month.
At its base, the PBA has proposed a new contract with a 4.5 percent increase in salary for each year of the agreement — an increase even Milazzo agreed was not a figure the PBA expected to get either from the village or through arbitration.
Currently, the average base salary of an officer is $99,917.02. Including night differential payments — a lump sum given to all officers for working night shifts — the average total salary is $104,867.02. Neither figure accounts for additional overtime pay.
The village responded by offering a 0 percent increase for the first year of the contract and a 1 percent increase for the second year of the contract and a 2 percent increase the third year of the contract but was rebuffed. A counter offer was not made.
Gilbride said that outside of the salary increase requested by the PBA, the additional changes in language made the proposed contract unaffordable given that the village must adhere to the state mandated two-percent property tax cap.
In addition to the 4.5 percent increase, the PBA asks for a change in the longevity schedule — a payout to reward officers who have been with the department for many years. Under the current contract, the schedule offers a flat dollar amount depending on how long an officer has been with the department. That amount is a maximum of just over $4,000 after 20 years of service. Under the proposed PBA contract that would be amended to give each officer — after being with the department for five years – $425 per year of full employment.
Milazzo said Suffolk County and East Hampton Village calculate their longevity this way and either using this system or one based on a percentage of a salary was standard.
Night differentials are also amended to equal seven percent of the top step police officer rate of pay.
According to Milazzo, currently each officer is paid $4,950 annually for working night shifts, but “the trend” on the East End is to switch to a percentage.
The PBA also requests that any time an officer is on-call or on standby during off duty hours they should be paid time and a half at the prevailing hourly rate for every eight hours on standby or being on-call. They also request that if an off duty officer is called in for duty — however long that duty may last — they be paid for four hours pay at one-and-a-half-times their regular salary. Currently they are paid two hours.
“Every department I know of has a minimum four-hour recall,” said Milazzo.
He added that no officers currently live in the village, with just two officers residing in North Haven and the remainder in western Southampton Town and as far away as Brookhaven.
The PBA has also asked to increase sick leave time from 16 days to 22 days per year and asks that officers be allowed to carry over up to 30 unused vacation days from year to year for future use or pay.
“The last time I researched it, we were the last department not allowed to carry over vacation time,” said Milazzo.
Pay back days — shift officers give back to the village — are also reduced from 18 to 12, a $5,000 death benefit is also requested, and a safety section is added under the PBA’s request to provide time-and-a-half to any officer working alone. Milazzo said that language was added purely to make the practice of scheduling just one officer undesirable because it is unsafe.
The proposed contract also defines how work must be scheduled for detectives in the department.
Milazzo said, while the changes were a “wish list,” officers in the Sag Harbor Police department work more than the average in other police departments — 103 days more than officers in East Hampton Village over a 20 year career and as much as 258 more days than officers in the Quogue Village Police Department over that same time period.
If an officer in Sag Harbor Village uses all of his or her sick leave, which is unusual, said Milazzo, and vacation time, they work 198 days a year.
“Our contract in all fairness looks a lot different from contracts in western Suffolk and surrounding jurisdictions,” he said. “I think Sag Harbor is getting a pretty good bang for its buck.”