Sagaponack board members William Barbour and Lisa Duryea-Thayer with Mayor Don Louchheim Monday afternoon as the board announced it has signed a new contract for police services with Southampton Town.
By Tessa Raebeck
In a unanimous vote Monday afternoon, the Sagaponack Village Board agreed to accept an inter-municipal agreement (IMA) with the Town of Southampton for additional police services, at least temporarily ending the village’s debate on whether or not to create its own police department.
“The wording of this IMA and the copy as approved by the town does incorporate all the language that we asked for in it,” said Donald Louchheim, the village mayor.
Drafted by Southampton Town officials last week, the IMA designates Sagaponack Village as a separate patrol area. It pledges to assign an officer to patrol the village’s four square miles 24 hours a day in season from May 15 to September 15 and from 8 a.m. to midnight during the off season, between September 15 and May 15. An officer will be assigned to the district on an exclusive basis except in emergencies, which are specified as something that is not in the normal course of business, said the mayor.
The village was looking into creating their own department due to perceived disproportionate police coverage. A village of 314 permanent residents, Sagaponack currently contributes some $2.3 million in taxes to the Southampton police district, accounting for around 10-percent of the department’s total operating budget.
Also citing long response times and officers’ lack of knowledge of village codes, several members of the board and residents of Sagaponack had asked the town for increased coverage and better-informed officers. Wary of losing Sagaponack’s large contribution to the police budget should they form their own department, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst pledged to work with village officials and offered the IMA to the village early last week.
According to the mayor, the IMA “pledges that there will be consistency in assigning the personnel with officers instructed to do community policing with familiarity with local residents and local conditions and maintain person to person communication with the village hall and officials.” Village officials will continue to meet with representatives from the town and police department on a regular basis to discuss the implementation of the IMA.
“If the town does fulfill on its commitment, it would give us pretty much exactly what we wanted to have if we did our own police force,” said Louchheim. “It will not give us quite the same control, but I think we should adopt this, take the town at its word and if it turns out that they are not performing in the way they said they would, we still have the option to take the alternative.”
Louchheim proposed that the board adopt the resolution and was seconded by Lee Foster, the deputy mayor. Board members William Barbour, Joy Sieger and Lisa Duryea Thayer accepted the proposition in a unanimous vote.
“Just to make sure that the grueling struggle that related to our reflecting the pros and the cons is adequately emphasized and with the opportunity and the option for us to see how it goes, I think we’re doing the right thing,” said Foster.
“I would only make the comment,” said Barbour, “that I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but I guess that’s not our concern.”
“They say that they’re going to do it in effect by continuing to work with part time officers,” replied the mayor. “At any rate, they’re going to start implementing this starting today.”
“I want to thank the town board and particularly the supervisor for coming forward with this in a timely fashion,” said Mayor Louchheim. “I hope it will be a win-win situation both for Sagaponack and Southampton Town. We will still be paying a disproportionate amount of the police budget, but so be it. I think we will be getting things from this that we would not be getting from our own police force in terms of depth of coverage.”
The trustees gratefully acknowledged the increased public participation at their meetings surrounding the police department debate, which Louchheim called “heartwarming.”
“We’re really happy to see that someone has been paying attention to what we’ve been doing,” joked Thayer.
The next meeting of the Sagaponack Board of Trustees will be held Tuesday, October 15 at 4 p.m.