The Village of Mineola Board of Trustees voted to reject the bids for a study to look into whether it's feasible for the village to have its own police department. Mayor Jack M. Martins said residents will decide whether the village will have its own police department through a referendum this year.
The police department has been a hot topic in Mineola and discussions have become heated at times; but late Wednesday night, after the board held three hearings, discussion of the issue was civil.
Trustees Linda Fairgrieve and Paul Cusato have always maintained a discomfort with the report of the Mineola Police Task Force Committee, which conducted the feasibility study that stated it was feasible for the village to have its own police force. "I just feel you need an independent [study]," said Fairgrieve.
After a series of hearings on whether the village should have its own police force, Fairgrieve pushed for an "independent study." She formulated a Request for Proposal (RFP) for consulting firms to submit a proposal to conduct the study and that RFP was published in places such as Newsday and the Mineola American.
Only three proposals came back. However, one was from an architectural firm and one from a communications firm so those two proposals were discounted. That left the only one proposal, which came from the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), which proposed to conduct the study for $112,000.
Fairgrieve said she favored the CGR proposal because, among some of the reasons, she liked their philosophy and liked the idea of the involvement of a steering committee that the village could appoint. "I feel they [CGR] would give an independent report," she said.
Trustee Cusato made the motion to accept the proposal made by CGR and Fairgrieve seconded the motion. However, it was defeated by Trustees John DaVanzo and Larry Werther and Mayor Martins.
DaVanzo was against sending out the RFP and Werther, who feels confident in the study conducted by the Mineola Police Task Force, said he doesn't feel the firm of CGR was qualified to conduct the study. Werther suggested that after residents vote on whether the village should have its own police force, if the idea is approved, the village could consider hiring a consultant to set up the department.
As far as CGR's experience, among the projects the firm cited in their proposal, were evaluating the Village of Westhampton Beach to determine if the department was correctly staffed and studying whether or not the Village of Angola and Town of Evans should merge police departments.
Mayor Martins felt that CGR's qualifications didn't match those of the residents of the Village of Mineola such as Ray Leonhard, Walter Crosby, Ed Curran and John Curry, who served on the Mineola Police Task Force.
Said Werther, the deputy mayor, "Nobody has been able to explain to me why you're not qualified just because you're a village resident."
Mayor Martins felt that, just because the village was left with only one firm, that firm's experience didn't warrant the $112,000 it was asking. "Just because they are the only ones left, they're not the group we should be doling out $112,000 to," he said.
Mayor Martins said more hearings will be held and then residents will decide by the end of this year, possibly in November, through a referendum vote whether the village should have its own police force. The mayor said that those who think it is a good idea can vote in favor of it and those who think it is a bad idea or think there is not enough information can vote against it as part of the Democratic process. "My job is to provide people with options," he said.