Village may dissolve police department

FORT PLAIN — The Village Board voted Tuesday to approve looking into the concept of dissolving the Fort Plain Police Department in favor of coverage by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

Mayor Thomas Quackenbush said Wednesday the board approval at the Village Hall is to at least study police department dissolution, at the suggestion of Montgomery County officials.

“We agreed to a resolution to look into it,” he said.

Quackenbush said County Executive Matt Ossenfort has been making the rounds to lower municipal meetings to determine how smaller governments can assist in the county’s consolidation effort.

The mayor noted Montgomery County is one of six local governments in New York state set to compete for a $20 million state grant to promote government consolidation, shared services and efficiency.

“Part of that is to submit an application,” Quackenbush said of the village resolution.

He said Ossenfort asked the Village Board Tuesday night if it would be “willing to consider” dissolution of the village police department if it meant not cutting services and saving money. He said the county is trying to show the state many ways it can consolidate, in an attempt to secure the $20 million.

The state program, called the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition, will give $50,000 to each of the six selected local governments — Montgomery County, Chautauqua County, Madison County, Otsego County, Ulster County and the town of Brookhaven — and a $20 million prize to the government that submits the “most innovative plan for consolidation, dissolution, service-sharing and other cost-saving measures,” according to a news release from the state.

Ossenfort first became aware of the state contest in January, which meant his county had to have quick turnaround to get local governments to support the application and file a preliminary efficiency plan strong enough to be considered for the $20 million prize. New York state will choose the $20 million winner by September.

Quackenbush said the Fort Plain Police Department currently has two full-time staff — Sgt. Ryan Austin, who is provisional chief, and Officer Tom Malley. He also said the department has over 10 part-time officers.

The mayor said no one is cutting the police department at this time.

He said the state is also willing to give a municipality $200,000 if it successfully implements consolidation.

New York state required municipalities in 2015 to file government efficiency plans to the state, showing ways to cut costs, as part of the requirements for residents to be eligible for New York state’s Property Tax Freeze Credit rebate checks, which paid taxpayers back for any increase in property taxes for 2015 and 2016.

Ossenfort has said the efficiency plan submitted for the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition built off of the efficiency plans created for the Property Tax Freeze Credit. He said some of the efficiencies in the plan submitted include ideas like creating one government office for a town and its village or villages to share.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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