Gowanda discusses police changes, OKs zoning amendments

GOWANDA – More changes are being made within the Gowanda Police Department and the village has decided to seek out professional help. The Gowanda Village Board approved a change regarding the officer in charge position, in addition to hiring an outside consultant.

On a recommendation from Mayor Heather McKeever, a motion to rescind the 2014 annual appointment of Sean Hotnich as officer in charge was made. The motion to remove him as officer in charge “… as officer Sean Hotnich was unable to fulfill his duties after running out of hours per civil service rules … .” The motion was approved by the village board unanimously.

As a part-time police department, Gowanda Police officers are allotted a maximum number of civil service hours to work in one fiscal year. When Hotnich ran out of his appointed hours in mid-May, Officer Steve Raiport was appointed as acting officer in charge. The village board approved to have Raiport remain in this position. McKeever also made a recommendation to “bring in an outside consultant who has experience in organizational development to analyze our current organizational structure and to make recommendations moving forward” in the police department.

“I think it’s fair to everyone to have a fair, outside view because things have been messed up for a long time. The people who have been here and the people who have a legacy here deserve the opportunity for us to say ‘… let’s see, what do we need to do to make it right and let’s make it right from there,” McKeever said.

“We’re not experts in the field of police work. These guys put their lives on the line for us and I think it’s unfair for us to assume that we know what’s best. A professional outside opinion would give everyone in the position a fair playing field, it would give us insights into what direction the village needs to go,” McKeever continued.

Trustee Carol Sheibley said the village board has been elected to serve the public and she believes the village board should be making decisions regarding the police department. McKeever said the village has tried to resolve issues within the police department, but have been unsuccessful. Treasurer Cindy Schilling commended the village board for trying to be proactive and hire a consultant who is more knowledgeable on the topic.

“I don’t think it’s unfair that the board may not be able to know everything that is best for the police department. We’re not the authority on that matter, so I commend you guys for thinking on those terms, somebody who knows what they are doing and can lend you guys some good advice,” Schilling said.

The village board approved unanimously to hire an outside consultant at a cost not to exceed $2,000. The village board will once again meet on July 8.

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