If a police merger is to happen between the Town and Village of Lancaster, it probably won't go before a public referendum, according to Supervisor Robert H. Giza.
"We don't have to, by law," he said at Monday's Town Board meeting. "You only have to have a public referendum if you abolish something. We're not planning on abolishing either department; we're talking about merging."
The state Division of Criminal Justice Services conducted a feasibility study that was released in June. In it, state officials said a police merger in the 30,000-resident community would save taxpayers between $730,000 and $750,000.
While the town's Police Department employs 33 officers and the village 16, the state report found that 39 officers on a combined force could adequately cover the 42 square miles of town and village.
That taxpayers may not be allowed to vote on the merger didn't sit well with some.
"It's very upsetting, because the people of Lancaster are being controlled by the government on this. The people won't have any say on this," said Daniel Beutler of Tyler Street, Depew. "The village and town boards have deceived people under the premise it doesn't need a referendum."
Beutler also took issue with the state report, saying it's deceiving and misleading. "It's wrong," he said. "The fact is, somebody's going to lose and somebody's going to win."
Giza and Village Mayor William G. Cansdale Jr. have been reluctant to talk about the full financial picture until a detailed financial analysis has been conducted. The state report, they said, primarily focuses on the impact of service while taking only a broad look at costs.
Erie County officials have helped the effort by contracting with the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester for $15,000 to conduct a detailed financial study. The analysis, which is expected to be completed by the end of the month, will deal specifically with the financial benefits and retirement issues associated with the possible merger.
In a related issue, the town might be involved in another state study focusing on police consolidation between Cheektowaga and the Village of Depew, which straddles the towns of Lancaster and Cheektowaga. Depew and Cheektowaga police chiefs are asking the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to look into the matter.