ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting wants deputy sheriffs back walking hallways in county schools.
Cutting narrowly received tentative permission recently to apply for a federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant that would pay 75 percent of the salaries and benefits of up to four new school resource officers.
The other 25 percent would have to be paid by Essex County. Cutting estimated each school officer would have an $18,000 local share.
In addition, the grant would end after three years, and the county would have to commit to paying the full amount for the deputies for at least the fourth year.
The County Board of Supervisors Ways and Means Committee voted 10-8 to allow Cutting to apply for the funding, although many lawmakers expressed strong reservations against the idea.
Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) pointed out that there already seems to be an excess of deputy sheriffs patrolling Essex County, with Sheriff's Department vehicles parked at the Champlain Bridge in Crown Point and the Champ sign board in Port Henry daily.
State Police operate regular radar speed checks at those locations, as well.
“How many officers do we have on the road right now?” Scozzafava asked the sheriff. “I see them at Crown Point bridge; I see them on weekends.”
Cutting said he has 13 deputies separate from the staff at the Essex County Jail.
CARRYING THE COST
Scozzafava said he supports the school resource officers, but the county might not be able to afford them.
“This certainly doesn't fit into our budget plan, to hire three, four officers,” Scozzafava said. “I understand the possible need for this.”
Supervisor David Blades (R-Lewis) said the resource officer program was effective at Moriah Central School when he worked there.
He said the county should ask school districts if any will pay the 25 percent share.