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Genesee Legislature votes to equip sheriff’s deputies with body cameras

BATAVIA – The Genesee County Legislature has voted unanimously to equip sheriff’s deputies with body cameras to record interactions between them and the public.

Sheriff Gary T. Maha said, “This is the future of law enforcement. Everybody is videotaping us; now, we’ll start videotaping them.”

Maha said savings derived from beneficial contract negotiations and less-than-budgeted overtime enable the department to transfer the $43,000 needed to purchase 32 cameras, server storage and computer network support.

“We will have a body camera for all 25 road deputies and for two deputies who work in the ‘civil room’ where processing takes place,” he said. “And we will have a few spares.”

The sheriff expects to activate the cameras after Jan. 1, but not until a policy governing the use of the body cameras is put into place.

“The most important piece in this is the policy,” Maha said. “There is a New York State model policy that has been drafted by experts and we’re also looking at other agencies that already have body cameras. Ours will have to be reviewed and approved by the county district attorney.”

The county has a contract to purchase the cameras from Linstar Inc. of Buffalo.

Legislators also accepted two grants related to law enforcement – $3 million from the state Homeland Security and Emergency Services agency to continue the upgrading of the county’s 800 megahertz radio system and a $25,000 grant to continue the rural traffic enforcement initiative project through September 2016.

In other developments:

• County Manager Jay A. Gsell submitted a $150.8 million budget proposal for 2016 that calls for a property tax rate of $9.89 per thousand of assessed value.

While that is only 3 cents more than this year’s tax rate, Gsell said, legislators are working toward a “tentative goal” of keeping it at the same level as in 2015.

Gsell said the county will continue to finance the Genesee County Nursing Home – which has resulted in multimillion-dollar losses to the county – until the sale of the 160-bed nursing facility and 80-bed adult home to Premier Healthcare Management LLC, of Long Island, is finalized. He said he hopes the state approves the transaction by mid-2016.

• Legislators approved a consulting agreement with Barton & Loguidice, D.P.C., of Syracuse for the design of the rehabilitation of the River Street bridge for an amount not to exceed $225,000.

Previously, Genesee County was awarded a federal grant covering 80 percent of the cost to solidify and upgrade the bridge, with the state contributing 15 percent and the county paying 5 percent.