CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - The idea of Ogdensburg city police being replaced by St. Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies not only surprised the police chief, it also surprised the sheriff.
In a release Wednesday morning, Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe said “no one from City of Ogdensburg government has contacted me or any member of the Sheriff’s Office to discuss or gain input on the possibility of the Sheriff’s Office taking on any law enforcement duties in replacement of city police officers.”
City officials are floating the idea as a way to save money. The city is also looking at other ways services can be consolidated, such as code enforcement, employee health care, human resources, and payroll services.
“It would take tremendous resources to fill the void of not having a city police department that is focused specifically on issues inherent to a close-knit population,” Bigwarfe said.
Bigwarfe said “the Ogdensburg Police Department is an integral part of our law enforcement community and plays an important role in the county’s Drug Task Force and in combating the county’s increasingly dangerous issues of the drug epidemic and violent crimes that are being committed.”
We spoke to Ogdensburg Mayor Mike Skelly Wednesday afternoon about the sheriff’s words. Skelly says the consolidation effort is the consequence of the financial stress the county has put on Ogdensburg.
“When I listen to the sheriff, who I respect and I’m very appreciative of his respect to our Ogdensburg Police Department, I say, ‘How are we going to keep doing this great job if the county is taking so much money from us,’” he said.
Skelly says some of the strain the county puts on the city of Ogdensburg includes having to pay the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes, even when the property owner doesn’t actually pay the city.
Also, Skelly points to the current sales tax split with the county, which the city is trying to change.
“What we’re saying is you (St. Lawrence County) are contributing to Ogdensburg being crushed right now,” Skelly said, “and if you crush us and we can’t afford these things that we do then you’re going to end up having to take these services and the police department is the big one.”
Bigwarfe’s full news release is below.