Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS

In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.

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Town & Village Take “Baby Steps” Toward Shared Detective Unit

At their May 19 joint session to consider shared services and consolidation, it seemed unlikely that the Mamaroneck Town Council and the Larchmont Village Board could agree on any of the recommendations presented in March by a tri-municipal study group on the topic. Yet by the end of the meeting, the boards had made progress on at least one new cooperative venture with the potential to save $300,000 or more per year.

Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe opened with a host of questions about the timing, cost and details  of the study group’s first recommendation: a combined Mamaroneck Town-Larchmont Village detective task force under the supervision of Larchmont Police Chief John Poleway. Meanwhile, the Larchmont Village Board had already approved a resolution on May 10 endorsing the idea. “I’m assuming this [resolution] is in theory,” said the supervisor, given that there had yet to be any discussion between the two boards.

Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Valerie O'Keeffe, Larchmont Village Mayor Josh Mandell and their respective boards made some progress on a proposal for a shared detective task force .

Everyone was in favor of cutting costs, but where was the data to support the report’s assertion of a $300,000 savings, she asked.  How could the committee recommend a particular leader without interviewing both chiefs? Shouldn’t the boards consult first with the chiefs, the police departments and with their labor attorneys?

Larchmont Mayor Josh Mandell, who was also a member of the Tri-Municipal Shared Services/Consolidation Study Group, defended the proposal and his board’s resolution. In his view, in order to move forward, each board would have to first decide to support the concept.

With help from Bill Dentzer, the chair of the study group, he explained the potential savings. The two departments now employ a total of 9 detectives, but a combined unit could cut back to 7 by eliminating duplication (1 not 2 supervisors and youth officers). Depending on which staff members were let go (or allowed to retire) the savings could range between $300,000 and $450,000.

There were too many “ifs” and “imponderables” to quantify the savings any further, said Mr. Dentzer.  Cutting a senior staff person would save more than eliminating a junior position. But even if there were no staff cuts, said Mayor Mandell, having one rather than two  supervisors would free up staff to perform other duties – thus improving services.

Mayor Mandell said a “full-blown” merger would “get complicated” and require creating  a costly new taxing district and new labor contracts. He was hoping instead to “guilt” the police into going along with the shared detective unit as “not such a bad idea to save money” in the current economy.

Town Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner said costs and staffing are typically decided by going to the chief at budget time.  “We’re not police,” said Supervisor O’Keeffe. They were in (sometimes strenuous) disagreement with Town Councilman David Fishman, who served on the study group. He said he was reluctant to leave  things up to the department heads. “They won’t ever recommend cuts – they are defending  legacy, history, culture.”

As for who would lead the new group – Mayor Mandell praised his chief, while Supervisor O’Keeffe praised hers. Larchmont Trustee Anne McAndrews suggested, “for purposes of going forward, let’s not hang our hat on” a particular person who will be in charge.

As the discussion progressed  – and veered away from deciding up front on the exact details of the proposed detective “group” (whatever its makeup and leadership) – there was greater acceptance of the idea from the previously reluctant members of the Town council.

Ultimately, both boards went along with a proposal by Councilman David Fishman on resolutions (one by each board) in support of the “spirit of the thing” – with details on mechanics and feasibility to be determined at a later date. (Read the Town’s resolution.)

That’s fair enough,” said Supervisor O’Keeffe, echoed by Councilwomen Wittner and Seligson. “It’s a baby step, but it’s a step,” said Councilman Odierna.

Additional steps will include: conferring with labor attorneys and the police chiefs and then meeting again in joint session within the next few weeks.

Fire Departments “Working Together Just Wonderfully”

The two boards also discussed a second study group recommendation, which Mayor Mandell characterized as mostly focused on improving efficiency in Larchmont. There was general agreement that the fire departments in Larchmont and Mamaroneck Town were already working together better than they had in many years, as evidenced by joint training exercises and plans to adopt compatible radios and share specialized equipment or staff.

Despite some grumbling on the part of some paid firefighters, said the mayor, Larchmont will be adopting the centralized paging system (run by Westchester County and dubbed “60 Control) which is employed in Mamaroneck Town. This will not only free up staff, he said, but will also make it easier to expand the circumstances in which two or more departments respond immediately to an alarm.

There was less enthusiasm for a third study group recommendation to have the Mamaroneck Town clerk issue parking permits for both municipalities. Viewed as a potential service improvement, but not as a money saver, Mayor Mandell suggested dropping the idea after some council members questioned the logistics and the fairness.

Whereas, The Town Board of the Town of Mamaroneck and the Larchmont Village Board of Trustees have met to discuss the Shared Services/Consolidation Study Group Report; and

Whereas, There is a general consensus to pursue the recommendation to create a joint detective task force now;

Therefore, be it resolved that the Town Board endorses the spirit of creating a joint detective task force and that the Town and Village will evaluate the mechanics and feasibility of this recommendation.

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4 comments to Town & Village Take “Baby Steps” Toward Shared Detective Unit

  • TommyLarch

    Mayor Mandell’s assertion that a “full-blown” merger would “get complicated” and require creating a costly new taxing district and new labor contracts absolute nonsense!

    Adding a line to the Town tax bill that states “Part Town – Police” does not seem too difficult. If you ive in the unincorporated part of town or the Village of Larchmont it would appear on your bill. If you live in the Village of Mamaroneck, you don’t pay it. They have these new fangled gadgets called computers that can do that kind of stuff. The State is also offering grants to cover costs such as this as well as facility and equipment expansions to encourage consolidation and streamlining of government.

    His claim that a new labor contract would be needed is another false roadblock. The Larchmont Officers would be absorbed by the Town would work under the existing Town contract, If they don’t like the terms of the contract, I know of a dozen laid-off White Plains cops that would happy to come in for an interview!

    The abolish/absorb model is not a novel concept. The Town and Village of Saugerties police are currently in the midst of consolidating. A brief internet search revealed several other examples such as the Town and Village of Haverstraw who completed such a consolidation a few years ago. The Village of Sloatsburg and the Town of Ramapo as well as the Village of Nyack and the Town of Orangetown did the same thing almost 20 years ago. At last check, all of these places are still standing and pay a lot less in taxes than we do. Heck, the Village of Seneca Falls is completely dissolving into the Town of Seneca Falls!

    The Tri-Muni study saves $1 million dollars if ALL of the recommendations are carried out. Consolidating the police departments through abolish/absorb saves AT LEAST $1 million dollars ALONE.

    The discussion that is being held now is not about saving money. It is about retaining power and control. The VOL Board refuses to relinquish any of its power. That is fine, but don’t come to me for more money!

    Since power and control seem to be the sticking point, I suggest two alternatives in the post-consolidation era: (1) Create a free-standing Police Commission comprised of both Town and VOL representatives or; (2) have Larchmont residents run for town-wide office (gasp, a contested election!). This will allow for joint input (power/control) of police matters.

    Tough times call for tough measures!

    • Anon E Mous

      Has been reported that NYC consolidated the NYPD, its Transit PD and its Housing PD, tens of thousands of officers, effectively and with less trouble than is being made here. Perhaps we’ll spend $1M talking about doing it.

      ‘Every day, new
      technological innovations
      help make information flow
      faster, systems work better
      and our lives a little easier,
      But often, when it comes
      to adopting new technology,
      governments lag behind the
      private sector and even the
      casual consumer because
      they are unwilling or unable
      to try something new and
      change the way things have
      always been done.

      In serving the
      public, government
      should constantly
      be looking for new
      and better ways to
      provide information
      and services.’

      - New York City Mayor Bloomberg

  • Anon E Mous

    Baby steps and baby talk. Could someone translate the ‘resolution’ into any language that is meaningful to anyone?

    ‘The language of truth is unadorned and always simple. – Marcellinus Ammianus

  • Reader

    TommyLarch, unfortunately running for town board does no good if the Village Board doesn’t want to dissolve its own PD. The village has to do it according to NYS law. If you want to change things in the village, you have to change the thinking on the Village Board. Remember that 3 of the current board members voted to hire the paid fire chief and expanded the paid staff to 17 people. What effect did that have on taxes? At least Mandell has reversed some of that. If taxes go up 4% every year, that means they double in 19 years. Time to seriously talk consolidation of all departments.