SARANAC LAKE - The village of Saranac Lake isn't the only Tri-Lakes community concerned about its police department's liability and costs in responding to calls outside the village.
The village of Tupper Lake and town of Tupper Lake have been in talks over the same issue, according to village Clerk Mary Casagrain.
"We currently have our village attorney working on a written agreement with the town," Casagrain said last week. "We've been given legal advice from NYMIR (New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal), our insurance company, as well as we asked another attorney, Girvin and Ferlazzo's firm, and they cited specific case law that we shouldn't be responding outside our corporation limit without a written agreement. It's to protect both sides. So we're now formalizing that agreement."
Last week, village Mayor Clyde Rabideau issued a directive to village Police Chief Bruce Nason, following a decision the night before by the village board. The mayor told Nason to limit his department's response to any calls outside the village's boundaries, except for life-or-death incidents or travel to Mount Pisgah, "given the significant costs and liability that village taxpayers incur and/or may incur arising from our response to such incidents."
The village wants to hammer out agreements with officials in the towns of Harrietstown, St. Armand and North Elba to try and reach agreements on compensating the village for its costs and liability in responding to their towns.
"In the meantime, please limit police response outside the village to instances and calls whereby there may be imminent human injury and travel to and from Mt. Pisgah," Rabideau wrote.
But if the village isn't able to reach agreements with the three towns, Rabideau also said "it will become necessary to eliminate this exception," in other words, village police wouldn't be able to leave the village for any reason.
Village officials have already reached out to officials in all three towns, but it's still unclear if they'll be willing to add village police to their liability policies or cover the village's costs in responding to their towns.
Casagrain said the agreement the village and town of Tupper Lake are negotiating would cover the village police department's liability and costs when they're asked to respond outside the village by state police. She wouldn't say how much money the village would ask the town to pay, but Casagrain said she expects the agreement will be finalized within a month.
In the meantime, "Right now we're able to respond if we're requested to do so in mutual aid by the state police," Casagrain said. "We stand ready, and if we get that request, we go. But as far as responding without that verbal communication with the state troopers, we shouldn't be responding unless we're within so many feet of the corporation limit. It protects us. It protects our officers.
"It's not our intent to do traffic control out there or run radar; it's just for quality of life or emergency calls," Casagrain added, referencing a double-fatal motorcycle accident outside the village several years ago. "We went. We secured the scene. We did traffic control because the trooper was in Indian Lake. Those types of things, we're going to go. And we'll still go to those right now. We just want to work with the town to get this agreement on paper."
Meanwhile in Lake Placid, the standing policy is the same, according to village Mayor Craig Randall. Village police can respond outside the village if they're asked to do so by state police.
"We've always accommodated them," Randall said. "I don't envision any change in that."
Asked whether he had any liability concerns, like officials in Saranac Lake do, about village police handling calls outside their jurisdiction, Randall described it as a "gray area." The mayor said he talked about the issue with village Police Chief Bill Moore, but Randall didn't give any indication that the village plans to seek any agreement with the town of North Elba, which the village lies entirely within, to cover its liabilities or costs.
"It's certainly something we're looking at, but compensation agreements with the town or the state don't exist," Randall said. "It's never been an issue until the issue came up in Saranac Lake."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondack