‘Take It To The People’

BUSTI – Are Busti residents, excluding the village of Lakewood, willing to pay more for the Lakewood-Busti Police Department?

That is a question Busti officials may soon be asking town residents.

When the town of Busti paid $360,000 to the village of Lakewood for police services for 2013, it was about 28 percent of the more than $1.3 million Lakewood-Busti Police Department budget. During negotiations on a long-term contract, it was calculated the police department answered around 37 percent of its calls in the town of Busti, not including the village. Because of this number, Lakewood officials have said they would like Busti residents to pay around 37 percent for police services. That would mean Busti would pay around $480,000 a year, an increase of $120,000.

Before a long-term contract can be reached between the two municipalities, Busti officials may ask town residents, who live outside of the village, if they would be willing to pay more for police services. Jesse Robbins, town supervisor, said in November when the two sides reached a one-year police services contract extension, that a public vote may be the only way to know.

”My idea and (Busti councilman) Rick Thor’s (is) … we should take it to the people, who live outside of the village, to see if they want police protection, and how much they are willing to spend. Ultimately, it is their money,” Robbins said in November. ”It is up to the public to decide what they want to do.”

Now, Robbins said a public vote may still be an option.

”We are still kicking that idea around,” he said. ”No decision has been made, yet.”

Robbins said, personally, he hopes town residents living outside of the village will want police services. However, if there was a vote, he doesn’t know what the outcome would be.

”I hope they want police services because I think we need the police,” he said. ”I have conversations with people who are for (police services) and with people who are not for (police services). So, I don’t know (what the outcome would be).”

Also, during the same time as discussions on the police services contract, officials from both sides have also discussed the Busti-Lakewood Recreation Center.

In 2011, how much money the village and town paid toward the recreation center started the most recent debate on whether one municipality is paying more for shared services. In October 2011, the Village Board tabled funding the commission $15,000 before agreeing to appropriate $7,500. The board agreed one reason to lower the amount of funding was the recreation center had a huge surplus. The board agreed if the money funding the rec center isn’t being used each year, maybe the amount appropriated should be decreased.

In November, the Village Board voted to not appropriate any money toward the recreation center until they have more information on how the surplus will be used. According to information from the state comptroller’s office in November, the recreation center has a fund balance of $108,340, Lakewood officials said.

Both Robbins and David Wordelmann, Lakewood mayor, said what to do with the rec center’s surplus will not be discussed during the police services contract negotiations. Robbins said town officials still have questions to answer on whether the recreation center needs to be renovated or a new location needs to be found.

”We are still thinking about that one,” Robbins said. ”We have to do something with the rec center. It needs to be more energy efficient.”