The Rockland County Legislature voted unanimously to approve a resolution reimbursing the four towns that put officers into the Narcotics Task Force, giving the task force its contracts for 2012.
The resolution was a late addition to Tuesday night’s legislature meeting, and pushed the top of the agenda to be dealt with immediately, as towns were to from the task force if a contract and reimbursement weren’t agreed to.
Originally in his proposed 2012 budget, County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef eliminated funding for the task force, but the legislature in their revised budget last year.
“This was put on tonight because the back-and-forth trying to negotiate the contract and the supervisors said if the legislature doesn’t approve [the contracts] tonight we’re pulling them in,” said Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, whose office oversees the task force. “You cannot believe the hostility in the negotiations between the county executive and the towns. It got to the point where reason was put aside and it was all emotional.”
In the resolution passed Tuesday night, the towns’ police departments will be reimbursed $1 million:
- Haverstraw will receive $225,811
- Orangetown will receive $169,674
- Clarkstown will receive $402,732
- Ramapo will receive $201,783
The task force was formed in 1975 as a collaboration between the county and towns to fight drugs, and up until three years ago, the towns weren’t reimbursed. Zugibe said he wasn’t for reimbursing the towns for putting officers into the unit at that time for fear of what ended up happening: when funding was pulled, towns were going to pull their officers. He said that would end up putting the task force in the middle of a situation between the county executive and the towns.
Zugibe added that he thinks the discussion over the task force in 2013 is going to be even worse. Still, he’s happy the task force has a contract for this year.
“You live for today. I’m pleased to keep this unit alive and well, and I basically have eight months to try and come up with a solution for 2013,” he said. “In the meantime, I had to at least preserve this unit for 2012, and now I’ll turn my attention to the future.”
Rockland County Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell said the agreement was a long time coming, and the legislature approved the resolution because it was the same money the force got last year, which they already planned for in their budget.
“There was a good bit of back-and-forth primarily between and among the town supervisors and the county executive, but the legislature was very supportive of this Narcotics Task Force because of its collaborative efforts working county-wide to assure we have a safe and secure county,” she said.
Clarkstown Town Supervisor Alex Gromack said, "Last Wednesday and Thursday Town Attorney Amy Mele brokered an agreement, a contract with the county attorney's office and the legislature. We can now submit our vouchers for January, February, March for the three months that our officers have been in the narcotics task force and it will be 100 percent funded under the contract that the county legislature adopted tonight."
In the budget hearings last year, funding was also pulled from the Rockland Intelligence Center, but an agreement about reimbursement for the center wasn’t reached.
“The Intelligence Center could not come up with a resolution on it,” Zugibe said. “Haverstraw and Stony Point already pulled them in. Clarkstown and Orangetown intend to pull them in once this current investigation’s over. It’s a travesty. It’s ugly.”
Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan said the town police chiefs are meeting Wednesday to discuss the future of the Intelligence Unit.
"The intell unit, right now, we're evaluating it," he said.
Gromack said the talks will focus on whether the unit which had a budget of $2 million can operate with the $1 million that is on the table.
"There is some discussion about revamping that unit to more or less fall within the confines of $1 million," said Gromack.