On Nov. 3, Sheriff Craig Apple appeared at an Albany County budget hearing and said his department was going to need more county taxpayer money to hire three 911 dispatchers and to pay the overtime cost of providing special sheriff’s patrols to the City of Albany.
It is an admirable attempt to effectively deal with the troubling level of crime in the city which we support. The sheriff’s overtime alone has cost Albany County taxpayers over $1 million in 2020 and 2021.
Our obligation as legislators is to shed light on this life and death issue.
At the Dec. 6 meeting of the county Legislature, a new resolution was on the agenda requiring Albany County and the City of Albany to negotiate an agreement so the city would reimburse the sheriff for his overtime and other costs. Legislators representing Albany insisted the city should not be asked to pay their fair share, but they supported the sheriff’s unprecedented patrol efforts. We anticipated a continued dialogue on this subject, but a vote was held that night and was defeated along party lines.
The City of Albany Police Department is by far the largest in the region, though it has a large number of vacancies (police and dispatchers) the city has not filled over numerous years. Due to the poor planning and decisions of the City of Albany’s administration these vacancies remain, despite the fact that Albany received $80 million in federal money under the American Rescue Plan. In addition, there have been millions of dollars in savings to the City of Albany due to not having to pay for vacant positions.
Sheriff Apple and County Executive Dan McCoy have asked for payment and/or a contract covering the services being provided and have been ignored by the City of Albany. It is not unusual for the county to charge municipalities for extra services it provides. For example, the Town of Bethlehem and the hill towns pay the sheriff for EMS services and Albany International Airport contributes to the cost of sheriff’s deputies.
Sheriff’s deputies and dispatchers are strained by working longer and harder to assist the region’s largest police department. Meanwhile, residents of other parts of the county with no police department, who also pay taxes, need to be concerned that the sheriff’s patrols are being stretched too thin. We are all one county and no one municipality should be given special favor at the expense of another.
This imbalance must be corrected. Taxpayers in Colonie, Bethlehem, Guilderland and all the other towns and cities affected should speak up. Albany should pay its fair share to the county for their public safety shortfall.
And City of Albany residents should demand the vacancies for city police and dispatchers be filled as soon as possible. The City of Albany Police Department is terribly short staffed.
We hope the public safety in Albany improves but seek a contribution from Albany to help fund increased police and emergency dispatching services paid by the county.
Albany County Minority Leader Frank Mauriello
Deputy Minority Leader Paul Burgdorf
Legislator Patrice Lockart
Legislator Peter Tunny
Legislator Jennifer Whalen
Legislator Todd Drake