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Proposed DWI deputy in Genesee prompts many questions

BATAVIA – The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee voted Wednesday to explore funding a new full-time sheriff’s deputy dedicated to arresting drunk drivers but stopped short of a wholehearted endorsement of the position proposed by the county’s STOP-DWI coordinator.

Committee members asked several questions dealing with program costs, arrest quotas, job description, scheduling and sustainability following a 15-minute presentation by Assistant County Manager L. Matthew Landers, who also oversees the STOP-DWI program.

Landers said he believes the creation of a DWI road deputy would be more cost effective since there would be a decrease in the amount of overtime paid from the STOP-DWI budget for late-night patrols and special traffic details by sheriff’s deputies and Batavia and Le Roy police officers.

“By paying straight time instead of overtime, we would realize about 50 percent more productivity in our effort to find drunk drivers,” Landers said.

His plan is to use $60,000 in STOP-DWI funds to pay the new deputy’s salary and $40,000 from the county’s general fund to pay for fringe benefits. He added that Livingston County has a similar position and that Genesee County Sheriff Gary T. Maha is on board with the idea.

Committee member Raymond F. Cianfrini, who also is the legislature chairman, asked how many DWI arrests the deputy would have to make for, as Landers contends, “the program to pay for itself.” He also wondered out loud the effect of the new position on other deputies.

“In addition, would this put pressure on the (DWI) deputy to make more arrests, possibly entrapping … waiting for people to leave the bar?” Cianfrini said.

Committee Chairman Robert Bausch asked about the deputy’s schedule, Frank Ferrando asked if STOP-DWI could fund the entire position with the possibility of county funding in the future, and Marianne Clattenburg asked if there was “an educational component” to the job.

At the end of the day, the committee agreed to put the position in the STOP-DWI budget as a “placeholder,” contingent upon further discussion this fall leading up to the adoption of a county budget.

Landers reported that police officers made 136 DWI arrests through July of this year compared to 105 during the same period last year.

In other action, the committee recommended the approval of the sale of the Genesee County Nursing Home to Premier Healthcare Management LLC of Great Neck for $15.2 million.

County lawmakers struck a deal with Premier in June, culminating a lengthy search for a buyer in light of multimillion dollar losses to operate the 160-bed nursing facility and 80-bed adult home on Bank Street.

The committee’s unanimous vote moves the measure – which involves the signing of three contracts to the full legislature meeting on Sept. 9.

Following the expected “yes” vote by the legislature, the county will receive a down payment of $1.4 million from the privately-owned Long Island firm. The entire sale process, including approval by the state Department of Health, is expected to take six to nine months.