By Kathryn G. Menu
A contentious Sag Harbor Village Board meeting on Tuesday night over the fate of the Sag Harbor Village Police Department ended with Mayor Brian Gilbride and the village board agreeing to release three proposals for outside police service to the public.
At least one of those preliminary proposals had already been posted in it entirety on an online police blog, the Schwartz Report — a move Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said may have tainted a proposal from one of the other departments.
Prior to late Tuesday night, after the village board emerged from an executive session, those documents were protected, according to Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr.
Of the three proposals, Southampton Town Police Department offered the lowest bid, although on Wednesday morning Mayor Gilbride said it was nowhere near the level of service he originally requested from Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson.
Under that $720,694.90 proposal, Southampton Town Police Department proposes to create a new sector to cover Sag Harbor and would offer the village one full-time patrol officer per shift — midnight, day, afternoon — with the addition of a seasonal patrol officer during the summer season (May through September). Special services including the Emergency Service Team and Investigative Unit would be billed on an “as needed” basis and the town would plan on having one fully equipped police vehicle in Sag Harbor. Part-time officers and traffic control officers would use vehicles currently in town’s fleet.
The village received that proposal just last week, on October 4.
The second lowest bid was from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and was delivered to the village on September 11.
In that bid, the Suffolk County Sherriff’s Office estimates the agency could provide police services to Sag Harbor for $923,520 per year. The proposal offers Sag Harbor two patrol units for the day and afternoon shift, with the midnight shift covered by one patrol unit Sunday through Thursday and two patrol units Friday and Saturday.
In addition to personnel costs, for fuel the sheriff’s office suggest either allowing their officers to use the village’s fueling station and budget line or allowing the sheriff’s office to bill back the village on a per gallon basis. Currently that per gallon rate is $3.16.
Investigative services, K-9 services and marine patrol could also be included on an as needed basis.
East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker, Jr. submitted his department’s proposal on August 15, and estimates the town could provide police services at a cost of $1,170,200, which would include one sergeant, five officers, two seasonal traffic control officers, school crossing guards and monies for overtime, uniforms and cleaning, detective services, dispatch and clerical services as well as two vehicles, their maintenance and gas.
The cost of the current, 12 officer police department in Sag Harbor Village is upwards of $2 million.
According to Mayor Gilbride, the village will host a work session before the board of trustees’ November 13 meeting to talk about the different proposals in a public forum.
After reaching an impasse with the Sag Harbor Village Police in contract negotiations late this spring, Gilbride — with the support of the village board — reached out to the county and towns for proposals for police services in Sag Harbor.
Officers in the Sag Harbor Village Police Department have been working without a contract for about 14 months. This summer, the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) filed for interest arbitration.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, former mayor Pierce Hance was critical of what he said was the board’s failure to be transparent in the discussion about the future of the police force.
Mayor Gilbride said he believes the process has been open, and charged more open than in the 1990s, when Hance was mayor and tussled with the police department over the number of officers it employed.
Ultimately, Mayor Gilbride said the discussion comes down to cost and at a cost of over $2 million and growing with each contract, he does not believe the village can continue to afford the police department.
However, said Mayor Gilbride, the village should not disband the department, but rather cut it in half with the remaining police services covered by another agency.
Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano said he was “hurt” that the village board did not share the police proposals with him to see if they were even viable.
Chief Fabiano said he believes the level of police services will suffer if these kinds of cuts are made, adding the discussion is already affecting his department. On Tuesday night, the village board accepted the resignation of officer Michael Gigante.
Resident Jeff Peters wondered if the idea should not be put to village residents for a vote before negotiations move forward.
Trustee Robby Stein said at this point the village board is simply fact finding.
“I don’t think there is an intention of secrecy,” he said.
“As a taxpayer, I applaud you for looking at all your options,” said resident John Parker.
Resident Tom McErlean said he was very concerned about the loss of service the village would have if it looked outside for police coverage.
“They are not going to talk to kids about drugs, or wait for people to speed through the school speed zones,” he said.
“What has been made clear to me is we are getting priced out of policing,” said Mayor Gilbride. “And its not just here, it is in every community.”
“They really care,” said McErlean. “You can’t put a price tag on that.”