Mixed feelings in Johnson City Tuesday night as village board members debate an issue that could affect their budget and residents’ safety. As our Elyse Mickalonis tells us, board members gathered Tuesday for a special meeting that could change who's in charge of police.
JOHNSON CITY, N.Y. -- A heated meeting in Johnson City Tuesday night as village board members talked about reconsidering a two-year agreement with the City of Binghamton to share a police chief.
“One, we could terminate both agreements and hire from within, do not add to the staff whatsoever, the other was keep the chief and terminate the agreement with the assistant chief or leave everything as is and move forward like that, that’s what was thrown out on the table tonight,” said Johnson City Mayor Greg Deemie.
The village and city joined forces two years ago to cut costs and increase safety.
“I believe it was very useful at the time when we enacted the IMA, but I think at this point we do have the talent in the area to have our own police chief to have someone dedicated here 40 hours a week, plus, to make sure everything gets taken care of,” said Bruce King, a Village Trustee.
Johnson City and Binghamton have been splitting costs to employ Chief Joseph Zikuski since May 2010. The goal was to save both municipalities around $45,000 a year. Some say it’s still the way to go.
“Public safety is number one and we have the right people in place and if we can work together on this with Binghamton on a mutual shared services basis, like we’re trying to do, I think it would benefit both communities,” said Richard Balles, a Village Trustee.
According to the agreement, the chief and assistant chief were required to split their time evenly between the Johnson City Police Department and Binghamton Police Bureau. Each municipality paid half the top chiefs’ salaries and benefits. But some say terminating the agreement could save money.
“We are united as trying to help the village to the maximum effect, however, we’re just going over several sets of numbers unfortunately. But I think right now for the village’s sake hiring from within would be the way to go,” said Luke Slota, a Village Trustee.
But Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan told YNN the joint effort has saved money and raised revenues, especially for Johnson City.
“They’re saving $208 thousand by our figures and we’re saving a little over $100 thousand. So I think they’re getting the better end of the bargain,” said Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan.
While no decision was made Tuesday night, Mayor Deemie says one could be made as early as the next board meeting.
Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan says he believes the union has been good for both municipalities. He says he’d like to speak with the village about providing fire services as well.