Residents and property owners in Pulaski heard Tuesday night — many for the first time — what it will cost to keep the village’s police department.
More than 60 people filled the room at the village hall for the public hearing on the March vote to keep or shut down the department. They heard Mayor Karl Hax say that the department needs a second full-time officer in order to be effective and to raise the hourly rate of part-time deputies in order to attract and keep them.
He said the department’s $210,000 budget might need to be increased by $50,000 to $100,000.
That would result, he said, in an increase in village taxes of 10 – 20%.
The village’s tax rate is about $6 per thousand, Hax said. So, for a $70,000 home paying on the full assessment, a 20% increase would bring the tax rate to about $7.20 per thousand. Village taxes would rise on that home from $420 to about $500 — an increase of about $80 a year. A 10% increase in village taxes would mean about a $40 increase for that taxpayer.
“We’re not doing it right,” Hax said of the way the department is staffed now. There is only one full-time employee — Chief Ellery Terpening. There is a part-time Sergeant working a fixed shift and a large number of part-time officers who work full-time jobs elsewhere.
Hax had months of personnel sheets on the table to show that the department has not been able to get part-time officers to cover overnight shifts on weekends. Terpening said that’s true — that the officers are not always available then because of their jobs and family commitments.
Four part-time officers have left the department in the last few months and potential replacements have been scared off ever since Hax and the village board first proposed shutting down the village police agency.
“We’re not running this thing right,” Terpening said. “I take this home with me every night. It’s hard. It’s stressful. This thing is haunting me.”
The Oswego County Sheriff’s Department would provide a deputy to patrol the village at a cost of $50 per hour, Hax said. Undersheriff Gene Sullivan, who was at the public hearing, said it would be wrong to absolutely guarantee a deputy would always be available when the village wanted one.
People at the public hearing generally supported keeping the department and criticized Hax and the board for not making details available before now.
“I think this village is going to go downhill if they dissolve the police department,” Jim Johnson said, to applause.
“We need somebody here all the time,” said one woman, who said her home had been broken into six times.
Nancy Farrell told the board that having a dedicated police force is “an economic development agent….It does affect peoples’ decisions to open a business here, raise a family here.”
Relying on other police agencies for help if the village force is eliminated won’t work, said one man, who is a part-time village officer. “Your response time will diminish by hours. Not minutes; hours. I guarantee it.”
Undersheriff Sullivan explained that the department has six to eight cars on the road on average, with two of them assigned to the entire eastern end of the county, from Cleveland to Sandy Creek. State Police have another two cars on the road from the Pulaski barracks, with a third car assigned only to Route 81.
“Do it right or don’t do it,” Mayor Hax summed up. The vote is March 19 from noon to 9:00 p.m. at the village offices.