SARANAC LAKE - The village is looking to hire part-time police officers as a way to augment its police force while saving money.
The village Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to create a job description for a part-time police officer position and submit it to Franklin County Civil Service for approval. Mayor Clyde Rabideau said the village would like to hire as many as two part-time officers to boost the police department's current ranks, which includes a dozen officers and Chief Bruce Nason.
"Having two officers on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week is daunting," Rabideau said. "And to add extra full-timers to the payroll so that our current officers can have vacation time and so forth is very expensive and very difficult to do while still maintaining the (state's) 2 percent tax cap. So one of the ideas that we have is creating part-time officers that can fill in the gaps, offer our full-timers more flexibility in their days off and still save taxpayer dollars."
Saranac Lake police officers catalogue a rifle as evidence after finding it discarded in the Saranac River in November 2012. The village plans to give its police department extra help in the form of part-time officers.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
Rabideau said many communities around the state have turned to part-time police help as a way to save money, largely because of the cost of benefits for full-time officers. He said he met an official from the village of Chittenango, in Madison County, at a recent conference and was told that village, which like Saranac Lake has a population of about 5,000 people, has 26 part-time police officers.
"Then you go to our end of the spectrum, and we have none," Rabideau said. "Somewhere in the middle is the direction we'd like to go.
"We don't want to hire another full-timer because the benefit package is financially daunting," the mayor added. "If we can do it with two-part timers, that would be great."
The village is negotiating with the Saranac Lake Police Benevolent Association, the union representing its police officers, and would like to include money for part-time police in the next village budget, Rabideau said.
Nason said he's open to exploring the option, "if we can work out the details between the PBA and the village.
"I don't think we're going to have as big a pool of part-timers as some people think, but Tupper Lake, Lake Placid and Malone police have used part-time help," the chief said. "If done correctly, it can be an effective tool or resource for us."
Nason said the department had 15 officers in its ranks when he started with it in 1994.
Under civil service guidelines, a part-time police officer position can be filled by a current police officer, a retired police officer hired from a competitive list or a new recruit "that is currently on the Franklin County Civil Service list and is reachable," Nason told the village board last week.
The chief said one person - a retired state trooper - has expressed interest in being a part-time police officer with his department. However, under county civil service rules, a retired trooper is not eligible to be a part-time police officer, Nason said. He said Sen. Betty Little has proposed legislation that would change that.
"If that passes, the definition will include all police officers as defined in criminal procedure law, so there will be more candidates available," Nason said.
Nason said he's also met recently with Lake Placid Police Chief Bill Moore and Tupper Lake Police Chief Eric Proulx to discuss ways the departments could work together to save money, "including part-time police officer positions, training and other shared services." He also said he's reached out to the village of Malone police department.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.