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County leaders want more study on consolidation

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QUEENSBURY  Warren County supervisors considering a police consolidation proposal on Monday voted to ask the city of Glens Falls to apply for a state grant so it can hire an expert who will detail what needs to be done.

The county Board of Supervisors Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee approved a letter from board Chairman Kevin Geraghty to Glens Falls Mayor Jack Diamond, spelling out the course of action county leaders believe needs to be taken to move the consolidation discussion forward.

“Our next step should be to establish a timeline, detailing what steps are legally necessary and in what order they need to be completed,” Geraghty wrote.

A grant-funded consultant could answer lingering questions about staffing, Civil Service implications, labor contract ramifications, legacy costs and equipment transfer, Geraghty wrote.

Geraghty also suggested creation of a committee of county and Glens Falls representatives to work with the consultant.

“I think a lot of the onus is on the city for the next steps,” Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood, chairwoman of the committee, said.

Diamond made a proposal Feb. 17 that would result in the city making $22.5 million in payments to the county over 15 years. Twenty-three police officers would transfer to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, and the county agency would take over policing of Glens Falls. The Board of Supervisors has not made a decision on that offer, instead deciding to ask that a deeper review of issues be pursued.

The committee’s decision to correspond with Diamond came after a wide-ranging discussion on the issue that included a threat of litigation from the police union if consolidation is pursued and a public referendum is not held.

Jarred Smith, president of the Glens Falls Police Benevolent Association, told supervisors the union would file a lawsuit if a referendum is not held as its lawyer believes is required. The city’s lawyer has said a referendum is not required.

“We want the people to decide whether they want their Police Department,” Smith said.

Warren County Sheriff Bud York said decision-makers should look at what has taken place in Jamestown, where the city and Chautauqua County have pursued police consolidation for 8 years. A study done there cost $50,000 to $60,000, York said.

York and some of the supervisors also said the voice of the public needs to be heard.

“I think it’s really important for the people to get involved with this, not just the political entities,” York said. “We don’t know what the voters, Glens Falls residents, think about this.”

Diamond said he had no comment on the issue late Monday, pending receipt of the letter. Neither he nor any other representatives of the Common Council attended the meeting.

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can also be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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