New Paltz town board considers return of an appointed  police commission

Police reform doesn’t mean returning to a system that didn’t always work the first time around, That’s what the New Paltz town board heard at an October 7 public hearing on a law to shift the police commission back from elected officials to a body of appointed volunteers.

The old form had its problems, pointed out Paul Brown. Commissioners didn’t have administrative support or a budget to hire consultants. Brown said the commissioners should have received training, in safeguarding confidential information such as personnel files and civilian complaints and other areas.

Tom Jeliffe agreed. Police oversight was equally important as police practices, Jeliffe said. He suggested a mission statement, noting a statewide push to implement explicitly anti-racist reforms. 

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He also called for greater clarity on the qualifications for and expectations of commissioners. Suitable candidates for police commissioners needed to be identified. A public hearing ought to be needed prior to the dissolution of this commission again, or the dismissal of a member.

These suggestions should be part of an annual resolution, said town supervisor Neil Bettez said, instead of the law itself, according to the town’s attorney. There were “a lot of constraints” on what could actually be put into  such a law.

The hearing was held open.

Justice center almost ready

Supervisor Bettez reported at last Thursday’s board meeting that the new justice center should be entirely up and running soon, perhaps in November if vendor issues can be resolved. Police officers are already set up there. A few issues remain to be resolved in the court portion before a move can be finalized.

Water district bids awarded 

Water District 5 in New Paltz will be paid for by the good people of New York City, to a point. There’s a cap on how much city money will flow to reimburse the cost of tapping into a reservoir on Plains Road, both to bring water to those residents and to make an emergency supply available when the Catskill Aqueduct is shut down. 

A century ago local leaders decided that purchasing water that could have been collected for free was a sound business plan, and the water system in New Paltz developed a high dependence on that aqueduct. It’s such an inconvenience that New York City is willing to pay for the land, the construction and the borrowing costs.

This project has been delayed by multiple lawsuits filed by a few Plains Road residents. The, and the bidding process didn’t start until the current pandemic impacted supply chains and construction costs. were impacted by the current pandemic. The bids came in low enough to allow for a cushion to guard against overruns and yet remain within the cap imposed on how much money city folk will pay for this project. This project will now be moving forward.

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