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Consolidate police operations Depew should fold department into others in return for savings, service

Depew straddles two municipalities -- Cheektowaga and Lancaster. The financial burden of maintaining separate police departments in a tight geographical area offers a spur to action, as officials discuss the possible consolidation of the village police force with those in the towns.

There is possible help from the $25 million in government consolidation incentive money that Gov. George E. Pataki put in his 2006 state budget and now under Legislature review, but it really is up to local leaders to make this happen. Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra is again pressing for the consolidation, and has started talks with Supervisors Robert H. Giza of Lancaster and Dennis H. Gabryszak of Cheektowaga. More recently, Depew Mayor Joseph McIntosh, the supervisors and the county executive met with police chiefs and union reps to discuss ideas for studies on policing to determine staffing and possible savings -- not a consolidation study, it was stressed, but an effort to look for more efficiencies.

There's precedent for such mergers. A couple of years ago the Town of Lancaster folded in the Village of Lancaster's Police Department, with financial backing from the county in the form of $700,000. Later, an analysis signed off by the town and not disputed by the village showed cost savings, to the tune of a about $300,000 a year.

Village police forces tend to be very expensive in proportion to village budgets. Most villages spend between 30 and 40 percent of their total budgets on police forces, which include the largest and fastest-growing pensions and salaries. The economies of scale for small entities tend not to match up with financial wherewithal, and the Village of Depew is no different. Consolidation is hardly popular with unions protecting workers and jobs. But when merger translates into tax savings and a healthier budget, it becomes difficult to argue against it.

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