A big issue in this past campaign for county executive was whether the county has enough police officers to ensure that Nassau is a safe place to live. Nassau Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Gary DelaRaba has been outspoken about not having enough officers in the county while Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi has said the county's crime rate has been at its lowest in over 30 years. But while the debate persisted, a task force appointed by Mayor Jack M. Martins has been studying whether it is feasible for the village to have its own police department is ready to issue its report. The report will be unveiled on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at village hall with a work session at 6:30 p.m. and a public meeting at 7:30 p.m.
Mayor Martins commissioned the task force because he felt the Nassau County 3rd Precinct has not been providing enough patrol to the Village of Mineola. Some feel as a result of the 3rd Precinct's patrol coverage, quality of life has been hurt in the village. Mayor Martins felt it was worth it to at least study the possibility of the village having its own police force.
The mayor had been criticized heavily in political advertisements by the Hometown Party in a village election over a year ago. However, Martins always maintained the residents will make the decision once the data was available. Now, the data is available and the public will get their first look on Wednesday. After that, a series of hearings will be scheduled before the public will get to vote on a proposition through a referendum.
Heading the task force is Mineola resident and retired New York City Police detective John Curry. When Mayor Martins first mentioned the idea of a village police department, Curry, a Martins' supporter, even thought it was a crazy idea. But now, after analyzing the numbers, Curry believes the idea makes sense, at least enough for the public to decide the village fate when it comes to police coverage.
Mayor Martins maintains that forming a task force to study whether the village should have its own police department was never a knock on the Nassau County Police officers. The mayor believes the Nassau Police officers are well-trained and professional. But he also believes there aren't enough of them to adequately patrol the village. According to numbers provided by the Nassau PBA, the Nassau Police Department is down over 200 patrol officers since 2002.
The report to be issued by the Mineola police task force includes an analysis of the coverage the 3rd Precinct is currently providing the village. According to the report, 17 percent of the area covered by police patrol car #306 is in the Village of Mineola. For patrol car, #311, 100 percent of the area covered by that car is in Mineola; 75 percent of the area covered by patrol car #310 is Mineola and 85 percent of patrol car #312 is in Mineola. For that coverage, Mineola taxpayers pay $6,366,916.81.
The task force report studies the cost of having a village police force that contains a commissioner, two lieutenants, five sergeants and 20 officers. The report takes into account everything from salaries to pension costs, to Social Security to Medicaid to holiday pay. It takes into account start up costs such as equipment and the costs of acquiring a building to house the village police headquarters.
Mayor Martins said he purposely put members of the community who may have been skeptical about a village police department on the task force to get a fair and objective study. Now, residents can begin to form their own opinions beginning Wednesday.
The village board unanimously passed a resolution last Wednesday to ask the Town of North Hempstead for the "village's fair share of sales tax revenue. The motion for the resolution was made by Mayor Martins and seconded by every trustee on the board.
The county receives $1 billion a year in sales tax revenue of which $8.8 million is distributed to the Town of North Hempstead. However, the Village of Mineola doesn't get any of that revenue even though the village makes up 1/11th of the town and some of that revenue was generated in the heavily commercial areas of Mineola.
The mayor's and board's resolution asks the town to distribute the village's fair share of sales tax revenue to be put in the village's budget. "It's a right our residents have that they've been denied," Mayor Martins said.
The problem is that New York State tax law denies the village's the sales tax revenue, which goes to the counties, towns and cities. In order to get the sales tax revenue, an amendment to state law is required. However, Mayor Martins will ask the town to budget money in the town's upcoming budget to the Village of Mineola.
In response, Town of North Hempstead spokesman David Chauvin said, "The town respectfully disagrees with the Village of Mineola's position. We believe their request is beyond the scope of the town's ability."