MORIAH — One town councilman wants to start a dialogue about the future of the Moriah Town Police Department.
Councilor Timothy Garrison said the two-person force costs the town about $100,000 a year.
He’s questioning whether the money would be better used on other town needs, like road repairs.
Garrison said officers Steve Stahl and Arthur Brassard do a good job, but only work 80 hours a week. State Police cover Moriah the rest of the time.
“I am trying to get the community involved and trying to make positive change happen,” Garrison said. “We’re spending $100,000 a year on a police department. Is that money being well spent?”
Moriah Town Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said he’s hearing from a multitude of residents who want the town to keep its police.
“People want a police department. We’ve been down this road before, and our residents have responded that they want local police.”
The supervisor said the Moriah Town Police Department was created from a merger of Port Henry Village Police and the town force in 1990. The two departments had been formed in the 1960s.
“Back then, we had five full-time officers and several part-time officers,” Scozzafava said. “Now we have two full-time officers to cover a town of 5,000 people in five geographic areas that are heavily populated.”
Moriah includes the hamlets of Mineville, Witherbee, Moriah Center, Moriah Corners and the Village of Port Henry.
The supervisor said if there’s enough interest in the issue, he’ll schedule a special Town Council forum to discuss it.
“If the people want us to dissolve the Police Department, we’ll put it on the ballot, hold a referendum. Or maybe our citizens want us to expand it. We’ll find out what our constituency wants.”
Moriah Police Officer-in-Charge Steve Stahl said his department has many services that State Police don’t, like enforcing local ordinances and community-oriented policing.
“We’re out in the community every day, talking with people, and we have a visible presence that can be a deterrent in itself. We know the geographic area of the town very well. We can diffuse many situations because we know the people involved.”
He said Moriah Police also provide traffic control and security at public events, such as Moriah Central School football games, the annual Labor Day celebration and parade, Champ/Hometown Hero Day and others.
Stahl said Moriah Police had 194 calls and complaints in July.
“Those two officers are extremely busy,” Scozzafava said. “I feel a strong majority of this community wants a police department.”
He said it’s fine that Garrison brought the matter up for discussion.
“I respect Councilman Garrison. There’s nothing wrong with a town-board member advocating for different things. We’ll take the pulse of the community and see what they want.”
Garrison said he agrees that Moriah’s citizenry needs to get involved with the issue.
“People need to tell us what they want. The town board won’t make the decision; the people will.”
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