On Saturday, March 19, the Saugerties League of Women Voters held a forum on police matters.
“I’m very proud of the way things are going,” said Town Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel.
Barbaria said the process leading to the abolition of the Village Police Department was a long and difficult one, and negative comments were made by both village and town officers throughout.
“There were some hard feelings, and I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Barbaria. “But, when that clock struck midnight on January 1, the two departments came together as if they’d been working for years together.”
Mayor Bill Murphy called the transition seamless. He said no loss of service has been experienced in the village, and communications with the unified department remain open.
He pointed out that every full-time village police officer was able to find a job with the town department.
“We were able to offer every officer who wanted one a position,” said Murphy. “It may not be the position they wanted, but everybody has a position.”
One part-time officer also remained employed with the village, filling an empty position in the village’s wastewater department. Six of the village’s ten full-time officers transferred to the town, and two others retired.
Former Village Police Chief Bill Kimble and Lieutenant Tom Rea are now employed by the village as parking meter enforcement officers and school crossing guards.
Officers have been regularly assigned to foot patrols within the business district, and many have stopped in to various businesses to greet owners and seek feedback.
“We want to hear how we’re doing, and how we can improve service,” said Barbaria.
Michael Campbell, chair of the Saugerties Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke with the owners of 18 village businesses. He said the response was overwhelmingly positive: he received just one neutral and one negative comment.
Easier to target resources
Barbaria added that one of the benefits of a larger police department is the ability to use resources to target specific areas. He cited a recent example in the village. After receiving several complaints about motorists speeding and running red lights at the intersection of Main and Partition streets, Barbaria assigned a four-man task force to the location. Last Thursday afternoon, four officers took up positions near the intersection. Barbaria said the four officers issued warnings to several drivers, and wrote nearly 60 tickets over the course of one afternoon. He says other similar operations will be undertaken, including cracking down on DWIs.
BOE president questions validity of consolidation committee
Is a committee really necessary to investigate district consolidation? Board of Education President George Heidcamp questioned the validity of the consolidation committee headed by Trustee Steven Haun, at the March 8 meeting of the Board of Education.
According to Heidcamp, the committee has only held one 15-minute meeting in the six months it has existed. He asked if the committee plans to be more active, or should be disbanded.
“I’ll have to check on that,” said Haun, who chairs the consolidation committee. “I thought we had had a couple of meetings.”
The committee is charged with seeking information on the benefits of inter-district consolidation as well as the possiblitly of full district consolidation. Haun has stated plans to contact other districts to assess interest in the area.