Sunday, October 23, 2016

Legislator Karl Graves takes aim at duplication of services

To the Editor:
As promised this is the second installment regarding my concern about the 2017 Tentative Budget proposal. This letter pertains to duplication of services.

I respect our Sheriff.  I support law enforcement, and I know he is trying to protect our citizenry, their persons and property.  My concern – stated to him in as direct a manner as possible – is that his ACLERT/SWAT team and Drug Task Force are a duplication of services already provided to us by the New York State Police. Also, I sat in NYS Senator Cathy Young’s office and heard a high ranking DEC official (The same agency that promulgates “Invasive Species” rules for these lakes.) state that they have unsuccessfully tried to take over enforcement of the navigation laws on Rushford and Cuba Lakes. Yet we continue to send staff to patrol those lakes year after year. There are reimbursements, but they do not cover all the costs involved. Some have expressed the concern that the DEC cannot fulfill their obligations due to staffing issues, but that would not be our problem to resolve.
I worked in a correctional environment for many years, and know the value of inmate programs—especially those that encourage behavior changes, education, drug rehabilitation, career enhancement and social advancement. A turn to religion, faith in our Savior and public service doesn’t hurt either.  Those are programs, goods and services that fit well within a correctional environment and we should have no qualms about our tax dollars being used for such purposes.  It’s good for the inmates, good for the jail staff, and good for county residents.

However, when new programs are added, such as the Pheasant Program and the jail garden, we should all ask questions about cost effectiveness and efficiency.  I have asked what these programs cost, but have not been given an answer.  My concern is when overtime is used to supervise the programs or to replace staff so that others can.  It’s simple mathematics. If the 6,000 pounds of (anticipated) produce costs more to grow than it would to purchase it locally, the Legislature should be given the opportunity to decide if the program has value. 

I have been told the Pheasant Program – the only one of its kind in New York State – costs the county nothing.  That would be awesome if it were true! The reality is that inmates working in the program have to be supervised and I know of no allotment, from any source, that reimburses the county for this supervision. What are the staffing costs?  The Legislature should know and be allowed to either support the program or end it.

During the “Bump the Dump” movement back in the 90’s, Sheriff Larry Scholes could have told the State Police to stay at their barracks in Wellsville and faced the many public safety challenges it presented with his own staff.  Wisely, he chose to call in the State Police for assistance, a decision that saved the county a fortune.  I believe his decision was the right choice then and I think it would be the right choice now.

I have repeatedly asked permission for the New York State Police to address the Legislature and each request has been denied. I don’t understand what the Legislature is so afraid of.  I am not trying to force a confrontation or stir up controversy between the Sheriff's Office and the New York State Police—they are brothers and sisters in the family of law enforcement and need to work together.  But I would like the State Police to outline what resources and assets they can bring should we have an “incident” at one of our homes, schools or other private/public places. Although I think the State of New York has  left us cold in many regards, they’ve shown a willingness – expressed by the 40 or so men and women assigned to the barracks in Belvidere – to do what they can to protect us.  Shouldn't we allow them to do so?

If they listen to the NYS Police (they have already heard from the Sheriff), I have faith our Legislature will make the right decision.  Our first duty is public safety and the NYS Police are part of our First Responder Team.  Keep in mind that the services provided by the State Police are paid for by all 20 million New Yorkers, not just the 47,500 residents of Allegany County. Their personnel are full time; they don't need to be relieved from a post in the jail or a dispatch console before they can respond.

I believe Allegany County should do everything it can to eliminate duplication of services. If we have these duplications in law enforcement, what other duplications are there in the other 20-plus departments the county maintains?  I was taught years ago that “If you take care of the nickels and dimes, the dollars will take care of themselves.”  I would like to see us adopt that same mindset in our budget deliberations—before we dip into savings we should eliminate as much fat as we can from the budget. This county will be here long after the current legislators are gone; it’s our responsibility to leave it in as good a financial position as we can.

A hearing on the 2017 Budget is scheduled for 7 PM on November 10, 2016 in the Legislative Chambers.  Attend if you can.  Ask questions and insist on thoughtful answers. If you agree that the NYS Police should have an opportunity to address the Legislature please call or email your legislators and talk with them about it. They work for you. Take the time to let them know.  A list of your legislators and their contact information follows.

Sincerely, Karl Graves, District IV Legislator
 District 1
Crandall, Curt CrandallCW@alleganyco.com585-365-2372 (h)    716-372-1717(b)  716-268-9446 (f)
Hopkins, Judith D. hopkinsj@alleganyco.com585-567-8974
Pullen, Esq., David T. dpullen@rppclaw.com585-567-8354 (h)   585-567-2222 (b)   585-567-2221(f)
District 2
Healy, Dwight M Healydm@alleganyco.com585-268-5644 (h)
Decker, David A deckerd@alleganyco.com585-968-8409 (h)
Ungermann, Jr. Norman G. ungermannn@alleganyco.com585-968-1790 (h)
District 3
District 4
LaForge, Kevin S.
585-808-9525 (h)   585-593-1084 (f)
O'Grady, Timothy
Graves, Karl gravesk@alleganyco.com585-593-0525(h)   585-610-7286 (c)
District 5
Curran, Philip B. curran5@alleganyco.com607-382-1065 (w)
Jessup, Charles O. jessupc@alleganyco.com607-587-8802 (h)
McGraw, Aaron M. mcgrawa@alleganyco.com607-382-8158 (c)