DeWitt (WSYR-TV) -- In just a few months, the East Syracuse Police Department could be abolished. After months of discussion behind closed doors, the public will soon learn the details behind a potential shared services contract with the Town of DeWitt.
Like most everything else municipalities are dealing with, this all comes down to money.
Mayor Danny Liedka says the police department’s $1.2-million budget accounts for 21 percent of the village’s overall expenses and to keep the department intact, as it is now, property taxes will have to increase 20 percent next year.
On the other hand, abolishing and entering into an "enhanced coverage" agreement with DeWitt would save the average homeowner about 35 percent on their tax bill or about $531 per year. A savings Liedka says taxpayers and the village desperately need.
“I think change is difficult for anybody, but it’s something that we have to look at. If we’re going to sustain this village for years to come we have to change the way we operate and consolidation, our hands are forced right now, and this is something we have to consider,” Liedka said.
However, not every taxpayer thinks the savings are worth it.
“If you take away our community policing that we have in this village, I think we’re going to be in a lot of trouble,” said Kim O’Brien, who organized the group Friends of the East Syracuse Police Department.
O’Brien is an 11 year resident and is now leading an effort to save the police department.
"These police officers know the village, they know what's going on and I don't think we're going to get the same coverage. I think it's going to take DeWitt a lot longer to get here,” O’Brien continued.
But will it?
“I see it as the opposite,” Mayor Liedka said. “I see it as that service could actually get better because we have more resources now. I see response time the same, if not better, just because of aligning ourselves with a larger agency there’s more personnel.”
The DeWitt Police Department employs detectives and has a crime lab, something the village now goes without. Exactly how DeWitt Police would cover the village and what will happen to the six full time and eight part time employees in the village police department hasn’t been revealed. Those details are still being kept secret until a public hearing in September. The final decision would be made by village taxpayers by referendum.
"Don't come with a pre-determined notion, on either side. Come and hear the facts. It's going to be truthful, transparent; everything will be on the table,” Mayor Liedka said.
Over the last few months, the village, Town of Dewitt and police unions have been working on an agreement for enhanced coverage. In this case, to help defray the cost the village would pay the town a fee for police service.
The first public hearing on the issue will take place in mid-September with a possible voter referendum later in the fall. If the dissolution is approved, that would take effect the first of next year.