SILVER CREEK - The budget may be settled, but Silver Creek still has a major decision to make.
Trustee Warren Kelly, at a recent meeting, asked when the village board would discuss its policing options.
"Sooner or later we are going to have to have a public referendum for the police department. We have six months until Novem-ber, but I would rather talk about this sooner than have to rush later," he said.
OBSERVER?Photo by Nicole Gugino
Pictured from left are Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo, Attorney Dan Gard and trustees Ben Peters and Warren Kelly.
Last summer, the village board essentially put the village police department on the back burner by laying off the few employees it had and contracting with the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department without holding a public referendum to eliminate the village police.
At the time, it was explained by village Attorney Dan Gard that a referendum was not needed because the village was only entering a temporary contract and would revisit its options at a later date.
The village's contract with the sheriff's expires in December and a public referendum would need to be on the ballot in November if any changes were to be made to the current policing arrangement.
Piccolo said he thought the board would begin discussing the topic after the budget was set.
At the recent meeting, the board was able to get the budget under the 2 percent tax cap by removing funding for training for the clerks and the board and realizing a savings in garbage pickup. The adoption of the budget will be voted on at a special meeting on April 28 at 5 p.m. in the village hall.
Piccolo gave several updates relating to the police department.
He said the most common complaint he has received lately is that the village did not save the amount it previously anticipated by going with the sheriff's department.
"People have called and said, 'I thought you saved money? Why are you $5,000 over the cap?' The thing is we have not seen the savings the way we expected it because we still have benefits and retirement we are paying," he explained.
Piccolo also reported that the Police Benevolent Association contract expires in June.
He said the court clerks have moved in to the old police office for added security and the sheriff's are still interested in moving their headquarters from the town hall to the village hall.
He added that he has had several interested parties contact him about the ammunition and guns left from the village police force. However, he said because of liability, it is very difficult for the village to sell these items to any other entity besides a municipality or police department.
He also said police items cannot be declared excess equipment for sale or disposal without first having a public referendum.
"We need to make a decision whether to stick with the sheriff's department or operate a department of part-time officers like Gowanda and Angola," Piccolo said.
He said the board should first discuss the matter with Gard to see what legally needs to be done.
Piccolo also said the village needs to meet with town of Hanover officials about sheriff's contracts; however, he will not agree to anything that will not benefit the residents of the village. The board will hold its regular meeting and workshop on May 5.