SILVER CREEK – Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace presented a proposal for a county takeover of police services for the village of Silver Creek at a special meeting Tuesday evening.
Gerace offered a price of $365,263 for 2013 and $377,652 for 2014. He said there would be 24-hour-a-day coverage in the village with a car assigned to the village limits that would only leave in the case of an emergency in a nearby area.
The session was held in the town of Hanover courtroom to accommodate a crowd of more than 50 people.
Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo answered questions from the audience for about an hour after Gerace’s presentation. He noted that the current Silver Creek Police Department is down to Chief Timothy Roche, one full-time officer who is on probationary status and several part-time officers.
Piccolo said the department has a contract with the village for about two more years and the board has asked that it be renegotiated.
“Basically we can’t afford our own police department,” said Piccolo. “Whether the sheriff likes it or not, even if we don’t have a contract with them, they would still have to respond,” he said.
Over the last year, the village department lost four full-time officers to other police departments. According to village officials, Silver Creek, with 2,700 residents, is the smallest village in the county with its own full-time police department.
“We gave a proposal to the Police Benevolent Association but we have not heard anything,” said Piccolo. He said the officers currently receive many benefits, including health insurance and a uniform allowance.
Piccolo admitted that the village’s 2013-14 budget includes about the same amount as the Sheriff’s Office in an account called “the mayor’s contractual fund.”
He said that the costs for a police department in the past were well over $500,000, due to benefits, salaries and insurance.
Phyllis Kohler, a local resident, asked if a referendum is needed to abolish the local department. The mayor said it would not be necessary if the village laid off the only patrolman.
The 2013-14 budget will be the topic of a special meeting on Wednesday in the Village Hall.