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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Allegany Co. Legislator Graves: Questions spending, asks "why not call State Police?"

Letter to the Editor:
At the November 2, 2016 meeting of the Allegany County Public Safety Committee the Sheriff once again submitted a request that we accept a grant proposal. Two of them in fact.  The first, regarding a $25K stipend to purchase rifles and protective gear for our counties First Responders, I could live with, as it appears our local police agencies are in favor of it.  Although the lions share goes to the Sheriff’s Office, which, as you know, does not have a road patrol, under the right set of circumstances could prove to be a valuable asset when it comes to saving lives.The other grant, also passed by the Public Safety Committee, is a jointly sponsored ($90,000) grant Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties are sharing. It was brought before the Ways and Means Committee Monday, November 15th.  Our share of the proposal is $45K with funds earmarked as follows:  Drug K-9 ($20,000), License Plate Reader ($20,000) and a Drone ($5,000). It includes money for a dog, equipment and training but nothing for personnel costs or overtime.  At the previous Public Safety meeting, as it was alleged the Amity based State Police K-9 is often unavailable and that a local government for unknown reasons had ended their K-9 program. So, when the proposal was again introduced, I asked a simple question.  Looking directly at Public Safety Chairman Phil Curran (District 5 Legislator) I asked if he or anyone else had contacted the State Police or the local government about the allegations previously made.  He answered “No”.  I then told my peers that because of this response I could not support the measure.
To me there was no due diligence and therefore the measure should not proceed until same was had. My dissent was the only one voiced. I felt the very least that could have been done was to explain the exigency to the State Police in the hope that possibly another Drug K-9 could be assigned to SP Amity. No such discussion apparently will ever take place. The person this dog is going to be assigned to already has a full time job with us. “Will try to”, “hope to”, “might be able to” adjust work schedules to avoid overtime will – in the long run - not work.
I realize that there is a drug problem in this county. It’s pervasive. However, it’s apparent to me that we are in this fight regardless of the cost.  All I have asked is that some degree of sympathy be shown for the taxpayers. It appears that we love Albany grants but not their service.  I do not understand why it is so difficult to pick up the phone and call the State Police. Also, shouldn’t we know what issues the local government experienced that caused the end of their K-9 program? Why reinvent the wheel? This is a “spend first think about it later” policy that I don’t think this county can afford.
I’m asking my peers this simple question: Isn’t it time for a summit meeting, with all the stake holders involved, to make this a well coordinated, efficiently focused war on the drug problem and other issues law enforcement is struggling with in this county? I’m hoping they will consider it and make it a priority.
The one saving grace I see in this local effort is the work being performed by District 1 Legislator Judy Hopkins.  She chairs the Human Services Ad Hoc Sub Committee on Heroin and Opioid Abuse. Working with Ardent Solutions they have outlined the pertinent issues surrounding the drug problem here in Allegany County and are developing strategies, a way forward, out of this dark tunnel.  She’s done a fantastic job and I commend her for her efforts. My hope is that one or more of the strategies she’s selected will include a well coordinated efficient law enforcement attack, multiple attacks if necessary, that generate positive results. We need to rid ourselves of this scourge on our community.
If you have the time and inclination please call and discuss these and any other issues you feel need the attention of your County Legislator.  Their contact information can be obtained by visiting the counties website at www.alleganyco.com.
Sincerely,
Karl Graves, Legislator District 4