Public Safety Committee hears budget presentations

MAYVILLE – One change is being recommended for the Chautauqua County 2014 budget following the Chautauqua County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee hearing from department heads and staff.

The Public Safety Committee heard from the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, district attorney’s office, public defender’s office and emergency services Tuesday. It was the second committee to hear from department heads and decide on changes to be brought to the Audit and Control Committee for consideration next week.

The only change of the day was brought forward by Paul Wendel, R-Lakewood, who recommended adding a .49 equivalent position to the public defender’s office.

“With public safety, there isn’t a whole lot that fluctuates,” Wendel said. “We’ve heard for the last year or more from Mr. (Ned) Barone (public defender) in the different committee meetings that the investigator position is really something that is needed.”

Both the public defender and the district attorney’s offices spoke of an increase in the time spent in court, due to an increase in caseloads. The district attorney’s office also spoke about the investigator position, which has been a topic discussed before with the committee.

“The amount of technical work that goes on now, in terms of electronic evidence is unbelievable,” said John Zurowski, first assistant district attorney. “To have a dedicated investigator, I see now, is even more important than it was when I started here 12-and-a-half years ago. … As we all know, police departments are fighting budgets too, and, quite honestly, we can’t ask them to do all those things all the time.”

Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace highlighted the significant changes to programs and services within his office. He said there is a significant increase in the local jail population, which adversely affects revenue from housing federal inmates. Additionally, there is a continued reduction in patrol services due to increased prisoner transports by full-time officers, and added patrol for the village of Silver Creek, which added four full-time-equivalent positions.

According to Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards’ tentative 2014 budget, there will be a reduction of $860,000 in jail revenue.

Finally, Julius Leone, Chautauqua County fire coordinator, told the legislators that with the completed purchase of Station 7 from the town of Chautauqua, emergency services has the funds available to reinstate the Responder Newsletter without requesting additional funding from the county.

According to Leone, the newsletter used to go out to each member of the county’s 42 fire departments, emergency medical services and special teams via mail. Now, the newsletter will be sent electronically.