A majority of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees empowered Mayor Brian Gilbride on Tuesday night to continue to pursue proposals from other policing agencies to provide service to the Village of Sag Harbor.
This comes as the village and the Sag Harbor PBA remain at a stalemate over the next police contract.
At the same time, Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, who celebrated 35 years with the department this July, spoke to the board about this decision, calling it hurtful and questioning what kind of police service another department will be able to provide Sag Harbor residents.
On Tuesday night, Mayor Gilbride said he has met with Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson, as well as the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and asked that both agencies give the village a proposal on providing police service.
A letter has also been sent to the East Hampton Town Police Department, said Mayor Gilbride.
“My question to the board is, do you want me to continue to do this,” asked Mayor Gilbride on Tuesday night.
He added that while he would not publicly state what figures have been floated from both Southampton Town and the Sherriff’s Department, they are significantly lower than the current $2 million budget of the Sag Harbor Village Police Department.
New board member Kevin Duchemin, a sergeant with the East Hampton Village Police Department, said he would like to see the village entertain another meeting with the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) before continuing down this path.
However, board members Tim Culver, Ed Gregory and Robby Stein said they would like the village to continue to explore all of its options.
Mayor Gilbride added that in mediation, prior to the PBA filing for arbitration, the PBA refused to budge from a 4.5 percent salary increase request. The village had offered a zero percent increase in salary for the first year of the contract, a one percent increase for the second year and a two percent increase in salary for the third and final year of the contract.
Police department members have been working without a contract for a little over a year.
Stating that he has been opposed to abolishing the department altogether, Mayor Gilbride said the state comptroller has called for the consolidation of some municipal resources. Mayor Gilbride said he has been discussing an inter-municipal agreement with both Southampton Town and the Sheriff’s Department.
If the village decided to take that route, said Mayor Gilbride in a separate interview on Wednesday morning, the Sag Harbor Village Police Department would lose about six of its 12 members, saving the cost of those salaries and benefits while still retaining a village police department and Chief Fabiano’s position. Another agency would then provide supplemental police services.
“This is about cost and whether or not the village can continue this way,” said Mayor Gilbride, adding that when salaries and all benefits are factored into the equation, the average annual compensation for a village police officer is around $178,000.
“The pension costs are only going to get worse,” said Culver, adding that the village is solvent, not in financial trouble, which makes it an ideal time to explore the future of police services.
“This is all about the money, not about personnel,” stressed Gregory.
“I have been here for 35 years this July and it is just disheartening to say you want to disband the village police department,” said Chief Fabiano.
He added he has worked diligently to keep his budget tight each year and that he was concerned about the quality of service an outside agency could provide.
Chief Fabiano said the village should wait to see if a financial problem would arise before taking this road, asking the board to see what the results of arbitration are before agreeing to anything with another agency.
“They would not budge from 4.5 percent, Tom,” said Mayor Gilbride. “You were at that meeting.”
However, on Wednesday Sag Harbor PBA President Patrick Milazzo said the reason a counter offer was not made was because it became clear in negotiations the village had no intentions of coming back with a reasonable offer – not because the PBA expects to get such a high salary increase.
“Did I say I agree with them, no,” said Chief Fabiano. “Did I say I agree with you, no.”
“We are in interest arbitration now,” replied Mayor Gilbride, adding it will be up to the PBA to step up to the plate and come back with a new offer if the village is not going to explore other options.
“I am asking everyone to simmer down and think about what we are doing,” said Chief Fabiano. “We are building up here. We have our own court system, we are building revenue, but all of a sudden something has changed.”
Chief Fabiano said every contract negotiation comes with a wish list, but that is what they are, wishes, not what will eventually be hammered out.
“Are you going to get a better deal – a cheap deal, sure,” said Chief Fabiano. “But [those police departments] can’t even cover what they have going on now.”