Stating that the process could take too long if it had to go through committee, Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting sought and received a preliminary exemption from the Essex County hiring freeze policy.
Cutting asked that his office be considered in the same class as the Horace Nye Nursing Home when it came to hiring, meaning he would not have to go through committee review before seeking to fill a position. As part of the 2013 budget talks, supervisors resolved to have all hiring requests come through committee to be approved.
Cutting said during the Jan. 14 Public Safety Committee meeting that his request had to do with the fact that many of his positions in corrections are under state mandate to be filled.
“If I lost an officer tomorrow, I would have to wait until next month for committee and then for Ways and Means and the full board,” Cutting said. “That creates an overtime situation while I am waiting for the full board to make its decision. With the hiring freeze, a six-week period could very well be turned into 12.”
Cutting said that the department is currently down four positions, which were being covered in-house.
“If we are a person down, then I will bring in from overtime because I am not going to jeopardize safety,” he said.
The supervisors passed the resolution through committee, but asked that the Sheriff look into alternatives when it came to filling positions, including part-time employees.
“Essex and Fulton county are the only ones that do not operate with any part-time employees,” Westport Supervisor Dan Connell said. “We are in a position that we have got to do business differently. Do this for a minimal amount of training and save us substantial money.”
Willsboro Supervisor Ed Hatch was the lone vote against the request.
“I would think that this stuff should be looked at by the budget committee before we look at this,” he said. “We have that committee there to look at these things and see how they fit in the budget.”
“That is not the purpose of the budget committee,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava countered. “I think that this issue is very ell explained by the sheriff and he has the paperwork to back it up. The committee is looking to put in place a three- to five-year plan. It is not about bringing every staffing issue to the committee. All of these positions are in the budget.”
Hatch said he was concerned that more departments would seek similar relief.
“If everybody is going to come in here and do this, then we are going to be right back here in November,” he said.
Cutting also offered a presentation from members of Watch Systems, LLC. The company operates the Offender Watch Network, which is currently used to help track sexual offenders in Clinton, Franklin, Washington and Warren counties.
In total, the company is operating in a total of 30 states either statewide or county-by-county, and with more than 4,500 local law enforcement and government agencies.
Cutting said that bringing the program to Essex County, which would include an investigative and public Internet presence, would cost $4,000 for the first year and $3,500 annually thereafter.
“I think that for that amount of money, we need to take a look at this,” board chairman Randy Douglas said. “One of our responsibilities is to keep our constituents safe, and this is something that can help our sheriff and district attorney when it comes to that.”
Currently, Cutting said there are 134 registered sexual offenders in the county, including 15 level three (the most severe) and 52 level two offenders, with three still pending evaluation.