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Republicans on Albany County legislature call for city of Albany to pay for sheriff patrols

Crime scene in the city of Albany.
WAMC File Photo
Crime scene in the city of Albany.

The Albany County Legislature's Republican Conference is calling on the city of Albany to pay for the enhanced police protection it has been receiving from the county sheriff.

Minority Leader Frank Mauriello says the sheriff’s department has racked up more than $1.1 million in overtime, dispatching and related costs tied to its patrol efforts in the city.

The county sheriff designated additional patrols in the city in June 2020 amid a spike in gun violence.

“And in fact, the sheriff told us in a budget meeting that he was looking to hire two possibly three additional dispatchers to cover the overflow from the city of Albany," said Mauriello. "Now the sheriff's patrols have been very successful in the city, in that they help to reduce crime. But also it's important that police presence is there and the residents of the city know that in fact they’ve called the sheriff's department and they have thanked him and want to keep his deputies there, so we have gone above and beyond, and keep in mind most of the sheriff patrols are in the in the hilltowns in the rural towns where they don't have their own police force. And our sheriff's deputies are being taken from that those areas of the county and put into patrolling the city of Albany.”

The Republicans say overflow 911 calls from the city, nearly 300 over one weekend, show the city doesn’t have enough dispatchers, putting residents in jeopardy if the county did not answer through the E-911 roll-over system.

Mauriello says the city has not responded to requests for payments. He pointed out that Albany is using some of the $80 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to give city workers raises and bonuses. He also claims Albany may have saved millions of dollars by not filling police and dispatcher positions.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democratic County Legislature Chair Andrew Joyce says no money needs to change hands.

“When we entered into the agreement with the City of Albany, there was no contract, there was no agreement on chargebacks," said Joyce. "That's a discussion that we can have as we move through the budget process in our negotiations going into 2022 and 2023. But that's certainly not something we're going to negotiate or analyze or question in the media, that's something we need to talk about in our audit and finance committee, you know, in consultation with the sheriff's department, with the city and the city members of the Albany County Legislature, given the fact that there are an exponential number of resources out there to bring to bear. Just if there was any initial agreement, the city didn't owe us anything for the services, but that's a discussion that we can have, but it'll be in consultation with the legislature leadership, or audit and finance committee, the sheriff's department, and all the different stakeholders.”

Mauriello concedes there was no contract made between city and county.

“That is true that we do not have a contract, what we're doing is directly to the county to write a contract and have a memorandum of understanding with the city," Mauriello said. "So that if we have our Sheriff's patrol, patrol the city, therefore the city should reimburse the county. Now I'm talking about anything that's extraordinary, and not just routine patrol.”

Mark Grimm is a ranking Republican member of the county legislature’s Finance Committee.

"The sheriff's department does provide additional services to certain localities," said Grimm. "For example, Paramedic EMS Services in Hill towns and the chargebacks for that service. So it's not unusual to have chargebacks between the county government and the municipalities within Albany County, and what we'd like to see is this chargeback, the city of Albany pay for something that's out of the norm additional this really enhanced Public Safety that the sheriff is providing. We want the city to pay their fair share, that's only appropriate and it would especially be fair to the two hundred thousand residents who live outside the city of Albany, but pay county taxes."

Mauriello and Grimm say the Republicans will submit a resolution in the legislature calling for a payment schedule between the city and the Sheriff’s Department.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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