Town Supe Questions Cop Plan

Village looks to save on $2.3 million per year
Sagaponack Village’s board members will unveil plans to replace Southampton Town’s policing of their village with a department of its own. Carrie Ann Salvi

    Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst is not so sure that Sagaponack Village Mayor Donald Louchheim’s plan to establish a village police force will save the money he hopes it will.

    Ms. Throne-Holst met with Mr. Louchheim, Southampton Town Police Chief Robert Pearce, and Leonard Marchese, the town comptroller, on Monday. Jennifer Garvey, the supervisor’s deputy chief of staff, said yesterday that Ms. Throne-Holst has not been privy to all the details, but having been made aware of the mayor’s plan, the two have worked out some numbers on their own, which she called substantial.

    Creating and maintaining a department, including municipal employees’ compensation, pension, disability, benefits, and training, can add up quickly, to say nothing of the logistics involved in a police station and equipment, Ms. Garvey explained.

    Mr. Louchheim said yesterday that he and one other village board member are researching four different scenarios for a village police department, and they will be presented to the public at an informational meeting on Aug. 10 at 9 a.m.

    “No decisions have been made,” the mayor said, “but all scenarios will enable coverage 24/7, year round, for half a million less than we are paying the town.”

    Mr. Louchheim said he would like to have a decision made by the time of the board’s Sept. 16 meeting, so the town could “have sufficient time to account for the transition.” A new police department would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

    The mayor asked for and received assistance from William Wilson, a former chief of the Southampton Town Police Department who he said is “certainly a candidate” for the chief’s position if a new department is formed. By law, a department would have a chief and at least two officers. No other potential personnel have been named.

    Mr. Wilson provided the mayor with estimates regarding a budget and equipment that would be required.

    Moving forward will “depend on the reaction after the meeting,” Mr. Louchheim said yesterday. “If there is sentiment to proceed,” the board will decide on one of the scenarios and draw up a resolution with a price tag not to be exceeded.

    Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said yesterday that he had submitted a bill to permit the Village of Sagaponack to draw up a police contract with Southampton or East Hampton Town in order to avoid its paying the $2.3 million tax to Southampton for policing services. All villages without their own departments are required to pay that, Mr. Thiele said.

    The State Legislature, however, requires an official “home rule” request before it will consider such a measure, and Southampton Town was not willing to provide one, Mr. Thiele said. The village’s only option to get out from under the tax is to form its own police department, the assemblyman said.

    “Concerns are simple,” Mr. Louchheim said at the board’s July 15 meeting. “We’re spending too much money.”

    The Aug. 10 meeting, Mr. Louchheim said, will not be a forum for public comment but a time for the village to share facts about the matter and tell the public “what we think is possibly the best solution and why.”