Shared safety officer initiative moves forward

Montgomery County legislators took a step Tuesday toward hiring a safety officer whose time would be shared with the City of Amsterdam.

Members of the legislature’s Personnel Committee passed a resolution calling for the city and county to split the cost of a full-time safety officer, whose annual salary would be $41,165. According to the resolution, the person hired would spend 50 percent of his or her time working for the county and 50 percent working for the city. The measure also calls for an intermunicipal agreement between the two municipalities.

County Personnel Officer Richard Baia said he met recently with County Executive Matthew Ossenfort, Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, Amsterdam 3rd Ward Alderman Ron Barone and County Legislator and former Amsterdam Mayor John Duchessi to discuss the idea of hiring a safety officer. The county position, which was part-time, has been vacant since 2010, he said.

“When there was a safety officer, we used to have monthly meetings with [the county’s insurance broker],” Baia said. “In my personal opinion, you need a safety officer.”

The county is in the process of finding an insurance broker. Some legislators said the broker should be part of the interview process for the safety officer, so the hiring should be put off until a broker is in place. Ossenfort disagreed.

“I certainly understand where the legislators are coming from,” he said. A broker could certainly provide direction for the safety officer. But if we wait, we lose the opportunity to partner with the city. The mayor and the aldermen are growing more and more concerned.”

Ossenfort said offering a full-time salary would make the position more attractive.

“The part-time safety officer resigned a few months into my term [as county executive],” he said. “That was when I began discussions with the city. We can attract younger, better candidates for a full-time position.”

The resolution now goes to the full legislature for consideration at its meeting Aug. 26.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.