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VOTERS KEEP POLICE FORCE IN VILLAGE OF LANCASTER

Village of Lancaster residents voted 2,838 to 1,667 Tuesday to keep the village Police Department and not transfer its functions to the Town of Lancaster.

"The people in this community are too intelligent to vote to abolish their Police Department without knowing what would replace it," Village Police Chief William E. Hastrich said after the vote.

Mayor Arthur K. Posluszny said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the vote, which came in a heavy turnout.

"Taxes are going to go up substantially" to support and possibly expand the village police force, he said. "It wouldn't surprise me if the property tax rate would go up over 20 percent next year."

The decisive vote brings to an end his administration's effort to consolidate town and village police services, Posluszny said.

Posluszny said the use of the word "abolition" contributed to the proposal's defeat.

"People were left with the impression there would be a vacuum of police protection," he said. State law required using the word "abolition" in the proposal, he added.

He described the proposal as a consolidation and use of the "abolition" procedure as the best means to achieve a consolidation.

The town would have had until Dec. 31 to plan the shift, and town officials had said the 26-officer town department would have had to be expanded to include at least most of the village department's 16 officers to handle the town's additional responsibilities.

Posluszny's Independent Party won the mayor's office and a board majority last year on a platform of consolidation and coordination of services with the town to cut costs. The party's majority on the Village Board voted to abolish the village police force effective Dec. 31 but submitted the question to a referendum.

Posluszny said he was puzzled by the apparent conflict between the votes in 1989 and Tuesday but said there were "other factors," pointing to "a substantial and relentless campaign of misinformation and intimidation."

During a hearing on the abolition proposal May 29, about 180 people jammed the Municipal Building auditorium and second-floor corridor. All but one speaker opposed the proposal. Many residents praised the village police for prompt response to emergencies and were skeptical that a transfer of the responsibility to the town would cut costs.

Posluszny said the consolidation would have reduced village taxes by $1.35 million and increased town taxes paid by village residents by $650,000, for a net savings of $650,000 to village taxpayers.

The projection was based on applying the current town tax rate for police services, which would yield sufficient town taxes from village properties for the town to hire nine village officers, four of the six clerical employees, and crossing guards.

Posluszny had argued that a larger department serving both the town and the village would reduce costs by eliminating duplicative administrations and allow additional services by personnel specialized in crime prevention, youth and narcotics.

A 1989 state study of the village Police Department recommended additional personnel -- as many as three officers and three civilians -- as well as administrative changes. The study did not address possible consolidation with the town department.

The police budget for the fiscal year, which began June 1, is up about 25 percent without new positions. It accounts for 70 percent of the increase in the property tax rate, Posluszny said.

Hastrich had recommended voters reject the proposal but said he favored a "careful, competent study" before any merger.

Second Ward Trustee Darlene L. Humphrey of the Community Pride Party led the campaign against the abolition. Organizers claimed distribution of 6,000 orange ribbons in support of village police.

Mrs. Humphrey said that savings from a town takeover would be at the cost of reduced police protection and that residents would be willing to pay to keep their current level of police service.

The voter turnout was 66 percent of the registered voters, compared to 3,046 -- less than 50 percent -- in the April 1989 village election for mayor and trustees, Village Clerk-Treasurer Ronald E. Wisz said.

More than 255 people registered Tuesday, the day of the vote, which is permitted in special village elections under state law. About 60 others have registered during the past week, he said.

The "no" sentiment carried in 11 of the 12 polling stations -- all but the Public Works Building polling place on Broadway.

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