The Sagaponack Village Board on Monday accepted a new police coverage agreement with Southampton Town, ending a recent push to form its own police force.
The agreement, which was approved by the Town Board last week, will give the village a dedicated patrol car 24 hours per day between May 15 and September 15, and from 8 a.m. to midnight the rest of the year. Between midnight and 8 a.m., the village will be part of a larger coverage sector, which also includes Bridgehampton and Water Mill, that is patrolled by one police car.
Village Board members said that they felt the new agreement would provide the village with much the same level of police coverage they were looking to achieve by forming their own department.
“If the town fulfills its commitment, it would give us pretty much exactly what we wanted to have with our own police force,” Mayor Don Louchheim said. “It will not give us quite the same control … but I think we should adopt this and take the town at its word. If it turns out that they are not performing as they say they will, we still have the alternative.”
The agreement means that the $2.3 million in taxes that residents of Sagaponack pay in taxes to the town for police coverage will remain unchanged. The village’s threat to seek other options for their coverage had loomed over the town department as a potentially painful economic loss, which town officials said could have led to layoffs or reductions in police coverage in other parts of the town.
On Tuesday, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said she was glad the village had seen that remaining in the town’s police district was the wise choice.
“We’ve proved our ability to provide them the level of service they are looking for and we’ll extend that to year-round now,” she said. “I think there was a growing understanding of how hard it was going to be to run a force over the long term.”
Ms. Throne-Holst said the town has yet to calculate what the additional cost of dedicating an officer to Sagaponack will be. She said the assignment will likely require one full-time officer and two part-time officers and that the bulk of the additional cost will be in overtime pay for the part-time officers.
Mr. Louchheim and Ms. Throne-Holst, and their legal counsels, had met several times in recent weeks to talk about the language of a new agreement, which village officials would then use as the basis for a cost-benefit analysis of forming their own department. Among the points in the new agreement were directives regarding keeping the same officers on the beat in Sagaponack over time so that they developed better knowledge and familiarity with the community, and regular meetings between town and village officials to discuss the police coverage.
In the meantime, the village had been pushing aggressively toward forming a department, hiring former Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. to help them mock-up pro-forma budgets for a village department in a variety of potential forms. Village officials had touted the plan as providing better police coverage at a lower cost. At one point, it appeared as if at least a majority of the Village Board was in favor of the move to a village force.
Even on Monday, there were some lingering doubts about whether the town would be able to come up with the staffing to support their promise to have an officer in Sagaponack at all times.
“I don’t know how they’re going to do it, they’re down officers already,” Village Trustee Bill Barbour, who is a former Southampton Town Police officer, said. “But I guess that is not our concern now.”