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CUTS COULD TRIM 'VITAL' SERVICES, SHERIFF WARNS

Specialized services of the Erie County Sheriff's Department, including its helicopter and its Weapons and Ordnance Unit, could be severely affected by an $8.6 million budget cut, Sheriff Patrick M. Gallivan told municipal leaders Thursday night.

With the reduction, about 90 sheriff's deputies would be laid off.

Gallivan said that would deplete the ranks of the Special Weapons and Tactics Team, the Weapons and Ordnance Unit -- the only one of its kind in the county -- and could mean that the helicopter would be grounded if Capt. Kevin Caffrey, its pilot, was needed to supervise elsewhere.

Fire/Hazardous Materials Investigation and the department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, which is presented in 27 schools countywide, also would be affected, he said.

"I could go on and on," Gallivan told a dinner meeting of the Association of Erie County Governments.

As he did earlier this month, Gallivan urged the supervisors and mayors to appeal to county legislators for full funding for Sheriff's Department services.

County Executive Joel A. Giambra's administration has proposed that municipalities that get most of their police protection from the Sheriff's Department pay extra.

Without the money, the department's budget would be cut by $8.6 million.

"These services are not a luxury at all; they're vital," Gallivan said. "We touch everybody. We touch every single municipality."

If the deputies are laid off, "My priority will be answering emergency calls. That will come first," Gallivan said.

Earlier Thursday, the County Legislature's Public Safety Committee was informed of the consequences of the layoffs.

"I vehemently oppose these types of cuts," said committee co-chairman Ray Dusza, D-Cheektowaga. "Public safety is first and foremost."

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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