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Amherst police chief decries cuts Askey says restoring funds is critical to ensuring safety of the town's residents

Amherst Police Chief John Askey wants $636,872 added or restored to Supervisor Satish Mohan's proposed town budget for 2009. In a six-page memo, he said cuts to the Police Department are in "critical areas" that could harm public safety.

"These are very high priorities, and failure to fund these areas will severely affect our operations, effectiveness and services provided," he stated.

Mohan and some Town Board members said they are open to compromise, though none presented any Police Department budget amendments for consideration at today's special budget meeting.

Among the areas Askey seeks to have amended:

*An additional $312,000 in police wages. Askey said Mohan's budget assumes police retirements that the chief does not anticipate for next year.

*An additional $154,950 in police overtime. Mohan's overtime budget for next year allocates $300,000 for overtime. Askey had originally asked for $454,950, saying that this reflects a realistic $54,950 increase over the current overtime budget of $400,000.

*An additional $99,722 for one full-time and two part-time police dispatchers. Askey said these cuts apparently reflect the desire to merge police and fire dispatch centers in town. The chief said he supports the concept but needs proper staffing until such an initiative becomes reality.

"This can't happen," Askey stated in the memo in regard to the dispatcher cuts. "I feel more strongly about this issue than any other I have addressed. These are critical public safety positions."

Allocation of $60,000 for computer and photo/crime lab equipment. Askey said this equipment is both critical and unique to the Police Department because it deals with sensitive material and evidence.

The chief had originally sought $305,668 for computer equipment and $72,084 in lab equipment, but he reduced his request to $60,000 for the two combined as the minimum amount he needs to maintain functionality in these areas.

Askey could not be reached to comment Monday, but Mohan said he intends to speak with the police chief later this week regarding his requests. Mohan said he has not had the chance to review the memo Askey submitted.

"I'll meet all the department heads and see where we can come to a middle ground," he said.

Council Member Guy Marlette echoed similar comments, saying he will meet with Askey and hopes to find other areas in the police budget that are overfunded and could be redirected to more critical budget lines.

Council Member Mark Manna, however, said Askey has already made a lot of compromises. The Police Department shouldn't be a place to cut corners, he said.

"I'm not going to compromise public safety," Manna said.

Council Member Deborah Brucki made similar remarks.

"I'm very concerned," she said. "It's quite a large gap from what was requested to what was allotted. We need to make some adjustments."


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