BUSTI - Busti officials have agreed to pay more for Lakewood-Busti Police Department services.
On Tuesday, the Town Board agreed to a financial proposal from Lakewood Mayor David Wordelmann on a long-term contract for police services. Jesse Robbins, Busti supervisor, said the board unanimously agreed to the proposal that will increase how much town residents - outside of the village - pay toward the police department. Officials from both municipalities have been discussing a new five-year police services contract since last year.
In November, officials from both municipalities agreed on a one-year contract extension for how much Busti pays Lakewood for police services. In the agreement, the town of Busti paid $360,000 in 2013, $20,000 more than it did in 2012. In recent years, the annual increase in how much the town pays for police services usually only increased $10,000. Several times last year, officials from both sides met to negotiate a long-term contract agreement. No multi-year agreement was reached, so officials from both sides agreed on a contract extension for one year, which started Jan. 1.
When the town of Busti paid $360,000 to the village of Lakewood for police services for 2013, it was about 28 percent of the more than $1.3 million Lakewood-Busti Police Department budget. During negotiations on a long-term contract, it was determined the police department answered around 37 percent of its calls in the town of Busti, excluding the village. Because of this number, Lakewood officials have said they would like Busti residents to pay around 37 percent for police services. That would mean Busti would pay around $480,000 a year, an increase of $120,000.
Robbins said at the end of the new five-year contract, Busti will be paying around 37 percent of the costs for the Lakewood-Busti Police Department.
"We need to be involved in it as much as Lakewood needs to be involved in it," Robbins said. "It was time to sign up."
Robbins said Busti officials contacted other police departments, including the county Sheriff's Office and the Jamestown Police Department, on how much it would cost to contract police services. Robbins said other departments couldn't compete with the price the town will pay to continue using the Lakewood-Busti Police Department.
"The Sheriff's Department gave us a price and, at the same time, told me we couldn't get the same quality coverage we have now. We are getting the best coverage for the money," Robbins said. "With the way the economy is, and the way things are happening with crime, we need the police."
Robbins also said he was told by Joel Seachrist, the town's attorney, the option for putting up the police service contract to a public referendum was not possible. It had been proposed to ask town residents if they are willing to pay more for police services. However, Robbins said he was told it would be impossible to hold a vote which excluded village residents because they live in the town, as well.
"There was no way to single out outside-of-village voters," Robbins said.
Even though the biggest hurdle in reaching an agreement between the two sides has been made by Busti - the financial section - all aspects of the contract have not been completed. Wordelmann said the Lakewood Village Board still has to agree to accept the same financial agreement, too. Plus, the mayor said other parts of the contract still have to be done.
"It looks like we are getting closer to an agreement, but still have to agree to the verbiage on the rest of the contract. Are there any changes to any clauses? We've talked about some items back-and-forth (through the negotiation process)."
Wordelmann said one example of an issue that still needs discussed and agreed to is what to do about the Busti Town Court facility.
The mayor said he was glad to get a financial agreement settled before the village starts preparing its budget, which needs approved by the end of April. Wordelmann said it is nice to have the most difficult item when negotiating completed.
"Keeping the police department intact for a good time to come gets us on more financial footing," he said.