Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Win for Yorkville, Win for Utica Residents

Yorkville residents vote down police abolishment proposal
By a vote of 538 to 100, Yorkville residents decided they didn’t want the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office patrolling the village . . .
Shannon Conner remained concerned about the safety and response time with abolishing the department.
“The economy is bad. Crime is increasing. Things happen,” she said. “It’s nice to have police right there and not have to wait.”
I actually think that the sheriff takeover would have worked out well for Yorkville residents: More crime-fighting resources would have been available at less cost. No doubt, on a personal level, Sheriff Maciol would have been able to make this work because he came out of village police ranks, was a village mayor, and knows the territory.

However, there is always the issue of local control, and that is a biggie. In this day and age when government seems to be out of the control of those whom it supposedly serves, you cannot blame people for wanting to hold on to the little control they have left. And in that sense, yesterday's vote was a big win for the People of Yorkville.

But Why is this a Win for City Taxpayers?

The plan also included enhanced investigative and supervisory services, and the Sheriff’s Office would take on any liability costs.

The Sheriff's Office is funded by County taxpayers. County taxpayers, thus, would be picking up the liability costs resulting from Yorkville policing. Without a thorough analysis of costs including things such as overtime, pension contributions, etc., and a comparison with what Yorkville residents would have paid into the Sheriff's Office, the potential exists to shift a lot of local policing costs onto County residents -- many of whom are also City residents (Utica, Rome) or residents of Towns with their own police departments (New Hartford, Whitestown). City residents could have wound up paying for part of the cost of local policing in outlying villages taken over by the Sheriff's Office, in addition to paying for their own local policing. In that respect the Yorkville vote is a win for Utica residents (and those of N.H. and Whitestown, too) because an opportunity for cost shifting has been avoided.

No doubt this issue or others similar will come up in the future as local governments struggle to make ends meet.  "Consolidation" or "shared services" will be the buzz words for local government leaders. Every time they are used should be a "red flag" that cost-shifting from one group of taxpayers onto another group may be afoot.  "Local control" will always be the buzz word for voters. But at what cost?

At some point reform of local government will have to occur because financially what we are doing now is unsustainable.  

Can we have both consolidation AND local control?  I think we can.  All it takes is for us to look at each other and see who has similar characteristics and interests -- and then join forces for the common good.


D Naegele said...

The only consolidated police force I could possibly envision would be NY Mills, Yorkville, and Whitesboro all sharing the services of a shared, well funded force. We all would probably concede that a true "metropolitan force" would have UPD at it's core, but that is not in the cards for the area, although it would probably make sense.

A populated area that would truly be a prime candidate for a consolidated law enforcement effort would be down the valley, where Herkimer, Mohawk, Ilion and Franfort all run together, all fund their separate police departments and all could realize a large savings by coming under one agency that shared resources and personnel among the 4 communities.

The focus for the Sheriff's Dept might be better aimed at taking over the responsibilities and patrol areas of the TOWN police forces, such as NH, Whitestown, and Kirkland. THAT IS a level of law enforcement that is actually a duplication of services and the savings would be significant.

My only observation of the situation in Yorkville is that the village, as all small villages, actually depends on outside agencies for any critical services such as criminal investigation, crime scene processing, forensics and jailing of those arrested for criminal offenses. I might go so far as to see the village PD as an expensive luxury providing relatively frequent patrols, and a fairly lucrative source of revenue with their very active traffic enforcement. One might ponder question whether the traffic enforcement revenues are enough to fund the cost of the equipment and personnel utilized in the effort. Personally, given a choice as to what services one might vote to reduce, I would sacrifice the village police force in favor of maintaining all the funding necessary to insure that the fire department has all it needs to provide service that actually has to be located within a close response distance and that can't simply be provided by anyone else working out of a patrol car.

An alternative that might have been more palatable to the voters may have been a proposal for the consolidation of NY Mills, Yorkville, and Whitesboro village forces, rather than to concede the authority and responsibility to the county level.

The time is rapidly approaching, or may have already passed, when we as taxpayers have to make some fairly deep sacrifices in services, and take logical action to reduce the costs and size of government at all levels, from small town all the way to Washington DC.

I wish all those little bedroom communities that we all grew up with the best of luck in surviving and maintaining their character and identities, but cuts and consolidation are rapidly becoming a necessity rather than an option.

It is an issue that was voted on by the taxpayers that fund the department, and the residents that are covered by the services of the department, and I have to support their decision seeing as how I don't live there or pay for it.

My only comment to all the towns and principalities around there is that while you vote to maintain all the services and nice to have duplicated services, the infrastructure, and specifically the sewer system and roads, is falling into a critically poor state of disrepair, and the longer you wait to fund repairs and maintenance, the more devastating the impact will be when the shoe drops and it HAS to be fixed.

Anonymous said...

Lots of luck in change around here, it is already to late in case you have not noticed the population and wealth decline, the age of the population and the educational level. The mayors of Utica and Rome and the County Executive will not have four year college degrees.