Sagaponack Will Hold Public Meeting To Discuss Forming Its Own Police Department

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Maintaining that no decision has been made about forming its own police department, the Sagaponack Village Board this week scheduled a public information meeting with residents for August 10, at 9 a.m., to discuss the village’s plans with regard to police protection.

Village officials have said that residents are paying too much in taxes to the Southampton Town Police for too little service. Forming a small police department of its own, and contracting with the town or another municipality for other law enforcement services, could save the village’s residents hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, potentially as much as $1 million, supporters of the idea say.

On Monday afternoon, Mayor Don Louchheim told his fellow Village Board members that after more than two years of discussion and research, it was time that the board made a decision about what it will do going forward so that the town would know whether it can count on the full $2.2 million in taxes Sagaponack homeowners pay into the Town Police Fund as the Town Board drafts its budget for 2014 in the fall.

“I think if we’re going to do something, it should be by our meeting on September 16, which would give us time to be ready to go by the end of the year, and also to give the town time to account for the transition in its budgeting process,” Mr. Louchheim said. The August 10 meeting will be “an informational meeting—we’ll lay out what our inquiries have come up with, what our options are, what we think is possibly the best solution and why.”

Former Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. has been working with village officials to draft a pro forma budget and mock-up of what a bare-bones village police department would require, and cost. State law requires that village department have a chief and at least two officers. Mr. Wilson has said he would be interested in being the first chief.

Mr. Louchheim noted that there would be no actual proposal on the table at the meeting, only a concept. If the village goes forward with an official policy proposal following the meeting, there would be additional public hearings before the Village Board to hear the arguments of residents for or against whatever shape a proposal may take.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that she has scheduled a meeting with Town Police Chief Robert Pearce and Mr. Louchheim to discuss the details of what the village forming its own police force would mean for the village. She said she doesn’t believe the village has looked fully at the costs, short- and long-term, of creating a police department.

“Of course, first of all, it would not mean the elimination of all $2.2 million of those taxes—they’re still going to need a lot of those services,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “They need to look at a full analysis of what the costs for them are going to be over time. Pension costs and all of that starts to accumulate down the road. We’re happy to do all of that for them.”

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