Any question about whether or not the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees was bluffing as a means of strong-arming the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) into a contract agreement when it talked about looking elsewhere for police services was answered on Friday morning.
After a two-hour executive session on Friday, the trustees voted 3-1 to authorize Sag Harbor Village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and the village’s labor attorney Vincent Twomey to draft an early retirement incentive package for eligible village police officers. In addition, they were instructed to draft an inter-municipal agreement between the Village of Sag Harbor and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office for police service.
Trustee Kevin Duchemin voted against the resolution.
In an exploratory fashion, Thiele will now begin to look at what other municipalities have done in terms of shared police services.
“To say there are a lot of details and issues out there would be an understatement,” said Thiele on Wednesday. “Really, this is the village doing its due diligence and examining the legal issues involved.”
Thiele acknowledged that if the village board tells him to strike a deal with the Suffolk County Sheriffs’ office he is authorized to do so, but that “we have not proceeded far enough for that to happen yet.”
What has happened, however, is it does appear that the sheriff’s have edged out East Hampton and Southampton Town Police Departments as the favored candidate for sharing police services.
This summer, facing a stalled contract negotiation with the PBA, the village board asked all three agencies to submit proposals to provide police services in the village.
Village police officers have been working without a new contract for more than a year.
On Monday, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the village has received proposals from the sheriffs as well as East Hampton Town, but not from Southampton Town. He said the Suffolk County Sheriffs have currently offered the most competitive proposal.
The contents of the proposal have not been made public.
According to Mayor Gilbride, the Sheriffs have stated — in writing — that they could provide two police officers and cars for all shifts in Sag Harbor at a cost of $923,000, far below the over $2 million budget of the Sag Harbor Village Police Department.
However, according to Gilbride, he would like to see the village maintain its police department, but cut the number of officers from 12 to six, having another agency provide police services during the shifts not covered by members of the local department. Gilbride said the sheriff’s office has estimated the village could save between $400,000 and $600,000 annually if it took this route.
The mayor added that negotiations with the PBA, which are in arbitration, have continued to be “unproductive.” Gilbride and trustee Ed Gregory met with PBA President Patrick Milazzo last week, but failed to come to any agreement on a new contract.
“They do a great job and we love these guys, but when looking at these costs it is just a question if such a small village can afford this,” said Gilbride.
For Duchemin, who voted against the resolution, this is not what he believes the residents of Sag Harbor want.
“I can understand where the mayor is coming from,” said Duchemin on Wednesday. “His whole mindset is to save the taxpayers money; but I hear nothing but positive things from the taxpayers about the department and a lot of them are wondering why we would get rid of them.”
Duchemin said one resident even showed him his tax bill and remarked on how little he is paying for comprehensive police services.
The PBA, he added, would never be able to pare down its contract to provide the village with the kind of savings it is looking at if it contracts with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office.
“But until this is approved by the Suffolk County Legislature this isn’t going anywhere,” added Duchemin, adding he wonders if the legislature or even Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone knows what is being proposed behind closed doors.