May 5, 2010


Common Council waives hiring freeze

City to hire 2 sewer plant workers, police officer as residents raise college crime concerns

Staff Reporter

The Common Council voted Tuesday to waive its hiring freeze to hire a police officer and two Waste Water Treatment Plant workers and agreed to double the fines for several code violations.
The council voted 5-2 to hire a patrol officer and voted unanimously to hire the two laborers.
Waste Water Treatment Plant District Manager Harvey Davis asked to hire three laborers and one operator, but the council changed the resolution to only lift the hiring freeze for two laborers. All five positions requested by the police department and Waste Water Treatment Plant are included in the 2010 budget.
The council enacted the hiring freeze in October and has to waive it temporarily to hire any new employee. It is still in effect, but has been waived earlier this year to hire a firefighter, a parking enforcement officer, a part-time zoning officer and a substitute crossing guard, as well as the positions approved Tuesday.
Police Chief F. Michael Catalano said an entry-level patrol officer’s salary would be $37,752, plus benefits.
Laborers in the Waste Water Treatment Plant would be paid $32,531 each, plus benefits, if Davis hires them at the salaries included in the 2010 budget, Director of Administration and Finance Bryan Gazda said this morning.
Several city residents urged the council to hire a police officer during a public comment period before the meeting. They said residents are worried about a shortage of police coverage in light of the recent rash of crime in the city.
Craig Little, a criminology professor at SUNY Cortland, recommended that the council hire a patrol officer and praised its decision after the meeting. Little said he worries that Cortland could be branded.
“We as a city have to be very much aware of the tipping point at which Cortland becomes the place to carouse on the weekends,” Little said.
Alderman Stephanie Hayes (D-2nd Ward) said she has recently spoken to worried residents and college students who have moved out of the city because they feel unsafe, due to the recent crime.
Police Chief F. Michael Catalano said a civil service list based on the results of an exam will be available in June. He said he would like to hire a patrol officer from the list by the fall. The officer would have to complete the police academy training before being assigned permanently to patrol.
Catalano said three police officers who are now enrolled in police academy will return to the city in September, increasing the number of officers on the street. He said the police force has not been understaffed for any shifts this year because officers have worked overtime to compensate for the vacant position and the officers who are in the academy.
Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) said the officers worked five hours a week in overtime on average, referring to data Catalano provided to the council. Hayes said she is concerned that having police officers work a lot of overtime during a short span could be “a recipe for disaster,” and Catalano echoed her concern, saying officers have worked 16-hour shifts at times.
The council also voted to increase fines for code violations for unlicensed dogs, physical restraint of a dog and a noisy dog. The fines for these violations will now be $25 for first-time offenders, $25 to $50 for second-time offenders and $50 to $100 for third-time offenders.
The council voted to require that a $100 fine be given to first time-offenders for consumption of alcohol in public, possession of an open container of alcohol, disorderly conduct, urination in public and unsanitary deposit of trash on a property and general penalties.
The council also voted to double the fines for code enforcement penalties.


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