Public Hearing On Revised Plattsburgh Budget Sometimes Emotional And Heated | WAMC

Public Hearing On Revised Plattsburgh Budget Sometimes Emotional And Heated

Oct 16, 2020

Plattsburgh’s mayor presented his 2021 budget to the common council in June. The panel then requested another 10 percent in reductions.  An emotional public hearing was held Thursday afternoon on the revised 2021 fiscal plan that was roundly criticized by the public for its cuts to public safety.

Before he formally opened the public hearing, outgoing Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read, a Democrat, offered a brief summary of revisions he made to the plan including efforts to keep the same number of public safety officers on staff.  “For every person we expect to retire I also put in the budget sufficient funds to replace that individual, somebody, a new person to go into the academy. So this budget actually keeps the same number of public safety officers as there are currently.”

The mayor said replacing retiring officers with new recruits would save the city money.   But former Plattsburgh Police Department Corporal Craig Hilchey called that nothing more than a smokescreen.  “Where’s my replacement?  I retired last year from the Plattsburgh Police Department. We have no officer with the city police department in this current academy. So where’s my replacement?”

Most  comments focused on budget cuts to the city police department.  Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance Outreach and Engagement Coordinator Jamie Young says any reduction would hurt public safety.  “With whatever you call it reduction or… it does affect the overall safety of our community.  We do need our law enforcement. We need our police officers.”
Mayor Read interjected:  “Thank you and please note there’s no reduction in the number of uniformed officers in this budget.”

Most who commented disagreed with the mayor’s concept of uniformed officers, pointing to the proposed elimination of police dispatchers.  Among those who could lose their job is 26-year police department veteran Nikki Schmidt.  “All you keep saying is that you’re not cutting uniformed officers. I wear a uniform every day. I know my job. I do my job to the best of my ability and I don’t understand why I’m being told that my job means nothing.  Please consider what you’re doing because you’re going to put a person on the desk with no experience. I’ve been on the phone with a woman while her husband killed himself in the background. I’ve been on the phone with a mother while her son was hanging.  I got officers there. I helped that person calm down.  I did the best that I could. And it means something.”

Community Resource Officer Brad Miller supervises the city dispatchers.  “We are down nine positions in our department.  There are three dispatchers in the city of Plattsburgh working weekends, holidays, overtime on their days off and it’s disheartening to know what’s going on here.  If you’re taking away funds from a depleted department with nine positions open call it what it is. It’s defunding.”

Resident and local activist David Yocum was the most vociferous in his criticism of dispatcher cuts.  “When you cut dispatchers you might as well say you’re cutting uniformed officers because we’ve got to take those uniformed officers and put them at the desk to answer phone calls. So I wish you guys would really really think hard about what you guys are doing and not sit there and listen to somebody that screwed our city up pretty bad.”
Mayor Read strikes gavel:  “There’s no personal attacks during hearings.”
Yocum:  “Did I mention your name? Did I mention Mr. Colin Read? No I did not mention your name, OK? I have the right as a Black African-American to stand here and speak my damn mind! OK, you screwed our city up!”

The full public hearing on Plattsburgh’s revised budget can be viewed here: