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Ancram splits over paying for more patrols

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ANCRAM—A debate about whether to contract with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office for Enhanced Enforcement Patrols (EEP) raised more questions about police presence than it answered at the March 16 Town Board meeting.

Town Supervisor Art Bassin introduced the topic by describing the contract the town would enter into, which would ask the Sheriff’s Office to assign deputies when they are available to cover areas the Town Board deems need patrol coverage, such as the intersection of Route 82 and County Route 7 in the Ancram hamlet and the Route 82, County routes 3 and 8 in the Ancramdale hamlet.

The Town Board would ask for coverage from Memorial Day to Labor Day like it did last year. The cost of a deputy is $55 to $60/hour with a minimum shift of 4 hours. If the Sheriff’s Office supplied a deputy for 2 days/week for the entire 12 weeks of summer, the cost to the town would be between $12,000 and $20,000, according to the supervisor.

He said the question is whether the town wants to sign up for the program given that the town has radar speed signs set up in each of the communities and might not need the patrols. “On the other hand, having extra patrols when they are available is not a bad thing,” Mr. Bassin said.

Councilmember and Fire Chief David Boice responded by saying he sees State Police and Sheriff’s Office patrols “everyday around town” and was “astounded” to see them even in the midst of the March 14 snowstorm that dumped about a foot of snow in these parts.

“I see them in town a lot as it is, so we’re not paying extra for doubles,” said Mr. Boice.

When asked by Mr. Bassin if he was suggesting the town not sign up for the program, Mr. Boice said, “It’s up to you guys but as I said, I see them all the time.”

Councilmember Bonnie Hundt agreed that she has seen deputies and troopers around a lot too. “I think the [radar] signs have helped out a lot. They have certainly altered my behavior,” she said.

Councilmember Amy Gold said she was torn about the issue, though she noted that road safety is important.

Court Clerk Ruth Wittlinger said having the EEP in place brings the town court “a little bit more business.”


‘My administration has issued no directive to pay less attention to any area.’

Columbia County Sheriff Donald Krapf


Upon further questioning about exactly what the contract provides for, Mr. Bassin said, it will enroll the town in the EEP program, which “we will work with the sheriff to define.” He said that the contract does not commit either party to any specific number of patrols or times. He said the town’s experience last year was that the town asked for two or three shifts per weekend, but got “maybe one.”

Court Clerk Wittlinger added that the EEP program is not mandatory. If a deputy is interested in doing a shift in Ancram, he or she can sign up.

Councilmember Hugh Clark pointed out that the town only pays for the EEP coverage it gets. Mr. Bassin said if at any point over the summer the town wants to stop EEPs it can. He said signing up for more coverage can’t hurt.

Councilmember Boice then said he has spoken to deputies at car accident scenes and “it’s being suggested to those guys not to be in Ancram.” When his colleagues on the board said they did not understand, Mr. Boice said “I’m not going to say it again.” But he subsequently noted, “The sheriff isn’t allowing the guys to sit in Ancram at slow times.” He said, “I know things are going on behind the scenes” and he said he will not vote for the town to pay for extra patrols in Ancram. He went on to elaborate that the reason for the Sheriff’s Office Ancram prohibition has to do with the inability of that office to communicate with patrols in Ancram by radio or cell phone due to the hilly terrain and sometimes weather conditions. He said though others deny radio/cell phone problems, he has been fire chief for 35 years and can verify that there are problems every day.

Town resident Libby McKee spoke to the board via video conference, noting the town should not be entering into a contract until it knows exactly what is expected of both parties. She called the signing of such a vague contract, “irresponsible.”

During a roll call vote on the EEP matter, a majority of board members voted in favor, with Mr. Bassin, Mr. Clark and Ms. Gold voting Yes and Mr. Boice and Ms. Hundt voting No.

In a phone call seeking a response to Mr. Boice’s comments, Columbia County Sheriff Donald Krapf said the statements about not allowing patrols in Ancram “are absolutely false.”

He said his office puts the same emphasis on all of the 643 square miles of territory his office patrols and tries to serve all areas “exactly the same.”

At times certain areas are targeted if speeding, burglary or other complaints are received. Then those areas may get more attention during investigations. “My administration has issued no directive to pay less attention to any area.” He pointed out that the Sheriff’s Office maintains a substation in Hillsdale to specifically cover parts of the county east of the Taconic State Parkway.

He said in terms of communication issues, “obviously there are always some black areas, but we have no control over that.”

Sheriff Krapf said 20 years ago there were spots that weren’t so great, but now the Sheriff’s Office works with 9-1-1 and radio experts and “there is no issue.”

A complete recording of the March 16 Town Board discussion can be found on the town website at www.ancramny.org.

The next Town Board meeting is April 20 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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