Letters (3/21-3/28)

mailSupervisor believes state gun law flawed

I would like to respond to criticism of my opposition to the NY SAFE ACT.

I was deeply affected by the murders of children in the school district that my friend’s son attends in Newtown. Her terrified child crouched in the corner of his classroom for three hours while his school was in lockdown.

We watched funeral services, read the names of murdered children, and it took my breath away, when a name on the list matched the name and age of my own daughter. I can’t imagine the pain and suffering this tragedy caused to those who lost loved ones. Parents everywhere feel the broader impact, as events like this shape our consciousness and undermine our sense of security.

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While we continue to pray for the children, teachers and families affected by this tragedy, we are also compelled to action to insure future safety.

This is why I am advocating that state legislators take the time to write a good law that protects our children.

As Saugerties town supervisor, I am accountable; to every child, every mother, and every father in our community. I am responsible to make sure our community is safe. I will not sit idly by and wait for the next tragedy. Criminals and the homicidally insane do not respect our laws or our families.

When legislators pass a law that limits our police officers ability to respond effectively to emergencies and fails to provide resources that are needed to keep our children safe, we need to change the law and implement a plan.

As currently written, this legislation mandates a reduction in carrying capacity of police officers ammunition, and renders obsolete firearms issued by Saugerties Police Department to its officers, with no compensation provided to the town to purchase firearms that are compliant.

It is unfortunate that the governor rushed this through, failed to allow our state representatives to have meaningful input, based on constituent and municipal feedback, and failed to allow for a thorough review of the practical implications of this legislation.

The SAFE Act falls short in addressing gun violence, mental health, and school safety, and creates a significant financial burden to local municipalities as the provisions contained in it are unfunded.

In Saugerties, we are proactively promoting school safety by training our police officers to respond to school emergencies. The Saugerties Police Department provides a full-time school resource officer in the Jr. /Sr. high school, and as part of regular patrols, officers walk through our schools. There is good collaboration between the police department and school administration to assure student safety.

While students are out of school for spring break, our first responders will take part in training exercises inside Cahill Elementary School. Training will simulate an “active shooter” scenario, and allow our officers hands-on training to respond to emergencies in order to minimize risk to students and school personnel. We believe that being prepared is the best way to protect our community.

All Saugerties Police Department officers have completed first aid & CPR training. This year our Police Department will go through rigorous preparation to receive state accreditation, and have received specialized training from the Department of Homeland Security.

While I fully appreciate the high priority of this issue, it’s important to take the time to get our state laws right, and equip our emergency responders with the resources and training they need to prevent and respond to emergencies, so that we can achieve our mutual goal of protecting our families, preventing violence and preventing loss of life.

I wish you peace,

Kelly Myers
Saugerties Town Supervisor

 

Myers passes the buck

This is a response to a letter recently submitted by Kelly Myers. While it’s true that the Town’s bond rating was lowered from A+ to A-, the report also stated that, “We understand that the deficit in 2012 was due to a steep increase in pension contributions and an unanticipated charge from Ulster County for Safety Net (welfare) expenditures without an offsetting property tax levy increase.” Let’s talk about the safety net charges.

The safety net charges that Kelly claims were not budgeted for followed an excepted practice by every other Town in Ulster County until last fall. It was then that County Executive Mike Hein notified every town supervisor, including Kelly, that the county was not going to relevy the safety net charges like in years past and that towns needed to start figuring in a percentage of those charges in their 2013 budgets. She never told the Town Board about what was coming down the pike and was trying to get Mike Hein to make an exception for Saugerties. Fast forward to November, she claims the first time she heard about this new arrangement was a few days before we voted on the budget, a budget that had nothing in it for safety net charges. It’s strange that every other town in the county knew. She had every opportunity to make the necessary adjustments, but dragged her feet and now blames the previous administration.

Another issue that Kelly blames the board for was Mary Lou Dengler’s retirement incentive. We were originally offering a $12,500 incentive for Mary Lou to retire at the end of Feb. and it was accepted by Mary Lou and the union. The Board voted 4 to 1 to move forward with it, Kelly being the only no vote. The board realized how much it would save the town over the course of the coming year. Kelly never sent in the paper work to our attorney after being instructed to do so by the Board, the union got mad and came back with a request of $60,000 due to lack of action. We had to renegotiate a settlement for $25,000. The rest of the board thought it was a done deal at $12,500, but Kelly once again refusing to carry out the wishes of the board cost us dearly. This whole mess was started with Kelly’s botched attempt to fire Mary Lou at a Town Board meeting which resulted in an age discrimination law suit. By renegotiating the settlement, we were able to avert the action against the town and still save the town thousands of dollars over the coming year.

Still another issue was throwing the Police Department and the Chief under the bus for over spending. Kelly wanted to fire a police officer as a way of saving money. What she failed to say is that our Police Chief gave up his town medical benefits to save that officers job, realizing that by firing the officer would cost the Town more money because to cover shifts we would have to pay more overtime. Our Police Department has one of the lowest budgets in the county yet serves one of the biggest towns!

As far as the Transfer Station, we raised fees instead of blindly making cuts that would affect services and those fee increases will more than covered the deficit from the year before. This year, our Transfer Station will make money.

Fred Costello, Leanne Thornton, Jim Bruno and I have made difficult decisions. They were smart business decisions instead of sloppy shoot from the hip decisions by our supervisor. Department heads have helped us come up with ways to trim their budgets and recently have approved an incentive for employees to retire as a way to cut payroll in some situations. Kelly has asked for a $15,000 raise and switched to town medical benefits because the co-pay was lower than the county benefits. What has she done to help the town other than to come up with unrealistic suggestions and in some cases illegal suggestions and then write a letter once again, blaming the board for the problems we face.

Bruce Leighton
Saugerties

 

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