Tag Archive | "bob pearce"

Town Cops Bust OT By $225,000

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By Claire Walla

Much to the surprise of all members of the Southampton Town board, the Southampton Town Police Department has already spent $225,000 more than was allotted in its 2011 overtime budget — and it continues to accrue more debt.

At a town board work session held last Friday, October 28 the board met with Lieutenant Bob Pearce, Deputy Town Comptroller Kathy Scott and Town Management Services Administrator Russell Kratoville to discuss how the police department managed to run such a high deficit. Police Chief Bill Wilson was unavailable last week, though he is scheduled to address the issue again at this Friday’s work session, November 4.

According to Pearce, there are several factors for the overtime shortage. Not only was the department overworked in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, he said a recent shortage of staff has contributed to the need to dip into overtime. The department has lost four officers, bringing its force down to 92, and there are currently eight officers who are out, six of whom are being replaced in their absence.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi demanded to know why, from 2008 through 2011, when there wasn’t a huge variance in the number of police officers, “there is a huge variance in overtime,” he said. “I think drilling down to the details is necessary to see how these numbers shifted.”

Pearce further explained that when Chief Wilson joined the town he increased the number of sectors with 24-hour patrol from seven to eight, adding an additional patrol car for the Flanders/Riverside area, which Pearce said studies have showed has a relatively high rate of crime and warrants 24-hour patrol.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that it’s important to maintain eight sectors of patrol.

“We saw a very active season this year and there was a commensurate rise in crime activity that needed to be investigated,” she said.

For that reason, Throne-Holst said that the rise in costs came from the detective division.

According to figures read off by Russel Kratoville, the detective division generated 91 hours of overtime in July, 170 hours in August, 120 in September and 150 hours during the first 15 days of October.

For Nuzzi, the crux of the issue goes beyond the reasons why the department has accrued this debt, he is concerned with the town’s immediate dilemma. With two months left in this fiscal year, he emphasized the fact that there is currently a zero in the budget line for the department’s overtime pay.

“How are we going to be able to shift resources around to deal with this?” he asked.

The board had previously authorized shifting $175,000 from the department’s retirement fund to off-set this deficit, but that was before it was revealed that these overtime costs are rising.

“I just want to add that I felt as though I was caught,” Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said. “I didn’t know that we were in this position in the first place. I would have felt a whole lot better about authorizing the money if I had known prior to that — or if we had had something in the way of advisory — that there was no more money left.”

This is Only A Test…

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By Claire Walla

Next Wednesday, November 9 at precisely 2 p.m. don’t be alarmed: your television and your radio will lose programming for approximately three minutes. The same will be true of every single television and radio across the country. For the first time ever, the national Emergency Alert System (EAS) will test its full scope by broadcasting simultaneously from New York to Hawaii that infamous cacophony of monotone beeps and text that reads: “Emergency Alert Notification has been issued.”

“A new era in alerting will commence,” wrote Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief James A. Barnett, Jr. in a statement published on the website of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the 15 years since the EAS has been in existence, it has issued emergency tests multiple times throughout the course of a single year. However, this is the first time the signal will be tested nationwide.

“This test is vital to ensuring that the EAS, the primary alerting system available to the American public, works as designed,” the statement continued.

Emailed messages circulated throughout Southampton Town have indicated local police and management circles are concerned that this test might induce a level of anxiety for some residents. While audio messages peppered throughout the three-minute broadcast will clearly state “this is a test,” the written text will not necessarily indicate the same.

However, local officials seem calm.

“I’ve made dispatch aware of it, in case someone calls in,” said Sag Harbor Police Chief Tom Fabiano. “It’s just the usual test, except it’s happening across the country. Most people probably won’t even notice it.”

And Lieutenant Robert P. Iberger of the Southampton Town Police wrote in an email response: “Folks have been routinely listening to the EBS [Emergency Broadcast System] since as long as I can remember, and now the EAS.”

So as long as the nation refrains from re-broadcasting Orson Welle’s radio drama “War of the Worlds,” Lt. Iberger indicated, “We should be ok.”

The EAS is typically used to spread warning signals throughout regions of the country affected by the onslaught of severe weather, for example. Wednesday’s test is important to ensure that the system would work should anything more devastating affect the nation as a whole.

“If public safety officials need to send an alert or warning to a large region of the United States — in the case of a major earthquake and tsunami on the West Coast, for example — or even to the entire country, we need to know the system will work as intended,” Barnett said in his statement. “Only a top-down, simultaneous test of all components of the EAS can tell us this.”

“Early warnings save lives,” the text continued. “This was demonstrated recently and dramatically during the major earthquake and tsunami that devastated Eastern Japan. Except for Japan’s early warning systems, loss of life would have been much higher.”