ELIZABETHTOWN - The two candidates in the race for Essex County Sheriff made their cases before a live audience Oct. 18 as Denton Publications held a debate at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School.
Richard Cutting and Michael "Ike" Tyler fielded questions on topics ranging from road patrols to officer training, but the main point of contention between the two centered around fiscal management.
"The sheriff's department budget is up 19 percent," said Tyler, pledging to bring more fiscal conservatism to the position. "To the many taxpayers in Essex County who are struggling to get by, that's unacceptable."
Cutting, however, pointed that boarding out-of-county inmates at the jail has produced enough revenue to cover the $1.5 million annual bond payments the county still shoulders for the new public safety building.
"I produce a very fair and austere budget," said Cutting, pointing out how the sheriff's budget increased only $54,000 last year despite a $133,500 increase to payroll due to union contracts.
According to Cutting, the department operates with the minimum amount of administrative staff recommended by the state, and there aren't very many non-mandatory services that can be cut from the department's budget.
"If I were to cut any personnel out of that budget, we would jeopardize our ability to board [out-of-county] inmates," Cutting said.
Tyler, however, said a fresh look at the department's budget could lead to more ways to save, the most important of which, he said, would be a new alcohol and substance abuse program for inmates.
"I think this program, if it's done correctly, will save taxpayers a lot of money and solve some of the problems we currently have [at the jail]," Tyler said, claiming additional training is needed to allow corrections officers to work safer and more effectively.
Tyler said he provide corrections officers with new equipment and training for cell extraction and arrange training with the state's Crisis Emergency Response Team instructors.
"If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got," said Tyler in his closing statements, pledging to donate $10,000 of his own salary as sheriff back to the county if elected.
Cutting said he hopes to continue the professionalism that the sheriff's department has exhibited in the past several years.
"Sheriff is the highest law enforcement officer in the county," he said, noting how he has the five years of supervisory experience the state recommends for county sheriffs to possess. "I feel my experience with rank makes me the best candidate for the job."