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Spa City's top chiefs retiring

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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- City Police Chief Edward Moore and City Fire Department Chief Robert Cogan - with a combined service of 70 years - held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to announce they are retiring.

The city's top two uniformed public safety officials said budget cuts that call for the eliminating about 15 police and fire department jobs in 2010 weighed in their decisions.

"By retiring, I hope to allow at least one of the officers currently in danger of being laid off to keep his or her job," said Moore, who joined the Police Department in 1974 and has served as its chief for the past 6-1/2 years.

"I cannot, in good conscience, remain on the job while young officers who are just starting their families and careers face layoffs," he said.

Cogan has served with the Fire Department since the 1970s and as chief for the past 14 years.

Both chiefs each earn about $100,000 in annual salary and benefits. Their positions are expected to be filled from within their respective departments.

Assistant Police Chief Christopher Cole currently earns about $95,000 a year and Assistant Fire Chief John Betor about $88,000, according to The Empire Center for New York State Policy.

What savings the city may realize from retirements is not guaranteed to go toward the restoration of public safety positions targeted for cuts. The savings can be applied as the city council chooses.

It was not immediately clear whether the current city council, which includes Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim, will move to amend the 2010 budget before the end of this year, or whether it will do so after Jan. 1, when newly elected Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth takes office.

Kim said Tuesday he will ask the council to consider a comprehensive plan he will be proposing that combines some newly found savings and the chiefs' retirements to hold onto three police officers, two firefighters and a traffic control operator targeted for layoffs.

Short of acceptance of that plan, all that will be accomplished by the two chiefs stepping down is that everyone will move up one step, and save the job of one officer, Kim said.

City workers' salaries and other employee-related expenses account for about 80 percent - or about $30 million - of the city's annual budget. And the payout costs for retiring city employees have grown in recent years.

In 2005, city taxpayers paid out $142,000 to retiring city employees. That number jumped to $262,000 in 2006, $331,000 in 2007 and about $433,000 in 2008, paid for unused sick days to retiring employees whose union contracts permit sick days to roll over, year after year, into a sick-day bank until they retire.

The payout figures for the two chiefs were not available Tuesday afternoon, said Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins, because he had yet to see the retirement papers for either chief.

"That's the whole problem with Commissioner Kim springing this on us at the last moment. There are too many variables," Ivins said.

Both chiefs will likely receive paid medical insurance coverage for life as part of their retirement benefit.

Cogan said he will retire Dec. 25. Moore said he has not set a specific date, but he can retire before the end of this year and a specific date is "still open for discussion."

Kim said the payouts will be limited.

"As a general rule, you are not going to see huge payouts with chiefs because their contracts restrict overtime and there is a cap on sick leave. We're not talking about them leaving with $200,000 each," Kim said.

The announcement came one day after the city's 2010 budget became official, calling for the elimination of about 15 police and fire department positions - a loss of about 20 percent for each department.

Newly elected Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth, who defeated Kim on Election Day, said the city will miss the decades of experience Moore and Cogan brought with them.

"I'm sure under their trained leadership, they have trained the officers who will serve the city," Wirth said. "And I will be there to give those officers the support and the tools that they need."



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