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AUGUST 12 - AUGUST 20, 2014

Consolidation of LPD Will Save Town Money
Budget Shows Ticket Revenue Nowhere Near Cost

By Mike Hudson

August 12, 2014

Lewiston Police Chief Chris Salada and Sgt. Frank Previte fired back last week against a petition circulating in town designed to eliminate the police force there.

Lewiston resident Ron Craft, author of the petition, says it will save taxpayers $1.2 million a year, but the exact figure appears less because some of it would be defrayed by fines and bail forfeitures

Salada and Previte say it won't save them a dime.

The force consists of 10 full-time and nine part-time officers. How could eliminating 19 positions not save money? Other than tax money, the department's only source of revenue comes from fines and forfeited bail. A total of $372,000 was collected in 2013, and $325,000 has been budgeted for 2014.

Not all of that money people pay goes to the town. Court surcharges and money sent to the state both take a bite. But even if the town kept all of it, $325,000 is just 39 percent of the department's budget.

Salada and Previte seemed concerned about Craft's petition and about the story that appeared in this newspaper.

"We just want the correct information out there," Previte said.

Lewiston is a hotbed of police activity. On any given day, in addition to the town police, you might see the Niagara County Sheriff's Department, the state police, U.S. Border Patrol and state parks police on patrol.

For his part, Craft said he just wants to give Lewiston residents the chance to decide.

"Most people are not in touch with government budgets, waste, or how poor decisions affect individual taxpayers," he commented. "I do, which explains my demeanor. Starting a petition resulting in 509 signatures [of residents] who want the chance to have a say, has given a lot of taxpayers new outlook on life."

Craft needed just 275 signatures to get the referendum on the ballot but got nearly double that number in case some of the signatures are successfully challenged.

Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey said he would prefer to keep the Lewiston Police Department but acknowledges that the decision is up to voters should a referendum be held.

"The people, alone, should decide," he said.

Brochey's predecessor, Steve Reiter, attempted to disband the police department in 2011. The idea was met with stiff resistance, but things may be different this time around as the town faces a budgetary shortfall and a possible brand new town tax.

The combined population of the town and village is 18,963, meaning that there is one Lewiston police officer for every 998 residents.

Salada claims his men will answer more than 10,000 calls this year. He noted that the department has responded to 5,880 calls thus far this year, and made 304 arrests, including 51 DWIs.

"We are still trying to stop a town tax of course. And by eliminating the police, there may be a saving. But I think we should keep a police force for the steady protection for the people," Brochey said.

Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour, whose department would bear the brunt of additional work caused by the dissolution of the Lewiston Police Department, is supportive of Salada and his crew.

Craft doesn't see it that way.

"Outside at night, I sit there and I see the state police, sheriffs, border patrol...there is plenty of coverage in certain areas and this can be consolidated," he said.





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