Transparent and opaque

Silent movement on policing ‘problem’

Posted 6/21/22

ELDRED, NY — “What happened with the constables?” Arnie Gruel asked at the June 14 Highland Town Board meeting.

With that, supervisor Jeff Haas laid out current developments. …

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Transparent and opaque

Silent movement on policing ‘problem’


ELDRED, NY — “What happened with the constables?” Arnie Gruel asked at the June 14 Highland Town Board meeting.

With that, supervisor Jeff Haas laid out current developments. “The operation has been suspended,” Haas said. “We’re working through rewriting their manuals and procedures book, and setting new specifications for the constables. It’s quite an undertaking. That is why the sheriff is here tonight—to provide us with our police protection and explain what they will be doing before we get our own constable patrol, or if we decide to go with a part-time police force in place.”

What that meant was unclear.

Earlier in the meeting, councilmember Kaitlin Haas, with prompting by the supervisor, had given a quick constable committee report. She said, “We completed the investigation and presented a preliminary report to the board on the findings of the investigation. Where we go from here is up to the town board.”

Sheriff Mike Schiff and lieutenant deputy Paul Pratti were in attendance to answer any questions about the services the sheriff’s department provides. Schiff said that his department would “assist in any way that they can and try to help whenever they could with whatever they got.” He also said, “I can’t promise full-time coverage or any kind of coverage that would be meaningful on a scheduled basis.” Manpower was a problem, as his department is short on people and there is severe understaffing at the Monticello Police Department, which put additional strain on his department.

He said that because the summer population rises from approximately 75,000 to 350,000 or more, all law enforcement and public safety people—fire and EMS—are strained. However, he reassured the public that “We will be here as much as we can, and we’ll be talking to the supervisor and the town board on how we might be able to help out as good as we can, until you resolve the problem that you have rewriting your manuals, rules and regs.”

Haas reminded the audience that constables only worked 32 hours per week— eight hours on Friday evenings, 16 hours on Saturday and eight hours on Sunday. “We didn’t have full-time coverage all week. So we have always relied on the sheriff’s department and state police in the past,” particularly with incidents along the river. Haas indicated that the sheriff’s department agreed to help out with traffic on Route 97 during the weekly farmers’ market. He is working out the details with the undersheriff, with whom he speaks every Friday. “We do have a handle on it, and we will be moving forward with our own operation in the very near future once we get our ducks in a row. Things are starting to fall into place and we’re not there yet. We will not move until all is in place,” he concluded.

Attorney to the town Michael Davidoff reitereated that the constables also served as court officers and that the sheriff’s deputies were providing coverage. Kaitlin Haas thanked the sheriff for fulfilling this twice-a-week responsibility.

In other news, the board amended the contract of Fusco Engineering and Land Survey to provide services for the code enforcement office. The new contract stipulates that the firm will provide 70 hours a month at an annual rate of $70,000 or $5833.32 a month. Additional hours will be billed at $90 per hour. In discussion about the amended contract, Davidoff said that Jim Hansen, whom the board had retained part-time last month, would be the Fusco representative as part of that contract.

In other business, the board announced that it was negotiating with Chris Marshall and Lake Region Computers for computer services following the death of the town’s computer consultant, Jeff Choba.

The board also thanked Carol Sundholm and her team of Sullivan Renaissance volunteers for their beautification work and announced that an RFP for the painting of the Highland Town Hall will be put out, with bids due July 13. They also announced that a $10,000 grant was received from TransCanada Energy for the summer youth program; it is an outdoor six-week, five-day-a-week day camp, running from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with aftercare available at Camp Koinonia in Highland Lake.

They approved a budgetary transfer of $4,281.54 to the 2022 general budget and, following an executive session, moved to pay Highway Abstract #5-2022 62-79. This excluded claim #62-80, which totaled $4921. The board said it had questions for the highway superintendent, who was on vacation.

In other highway department news, the board announced that the bid price for the truck package was over $307,000, (originally $250,000 five months ago) and that the attorney needed time to review the contract, so “that we have an out in case that the price goes through the roof.” The quote is good for 30 days, and the truck is not expected for two years.

The meeting was recessed until Wednesday, June 22 at 8 a.m.

constables, Highland, Highland town board, Sullivan County Sheriff, code enforcement, Sullivan Renaissance


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