Agreement to keep deputy police chief position reached, council passes revised capital projects resolution

City and police union officials have reached an agreement to keep the position of deputy police chief in the city budget by lowering the salary of the position to the amount normally associated with the rank of captain. The Common Council approved a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting authorizing Mayor Michael Villa to sign a memorandum of agreement that he negotiated with the Amsterdam Superior Officers Association to formalize the change.  According to Alderman Jim Martuscello, the change will save the city $10,000 per year.

The current deputy chief, Victor Hugo, announced last year he would be retiring in March 2018.

“The mayor was going to eliminate Deputy Chief [Victor] Hugo’s position and install a captain’s position as a cost savings to the City of Amsterdam, roughly around $10,000,” said Martuscello.

He added that union officials had reached out to the mayor and council members about keeping the deputy chief’s position at the proposed captain’s salary, because one officer in line for the position had already taken the test for the position, and would instead have to take a different test for the captain’s position.

“It’s a good move on our part,” said Martuscello. “And it’s a good move on [the police union’s] part because the other reason is they already have someone who took the test and they’re already to move in for deputy chief.”

According to Villa, the city has not had a captain’s position since the mid 1980’s. He said that the adjusted salary amount would provide for “separation” between the chief’s salary and the deputy chief’s salary which have been close in past years. Villa said that John “JJ” Thomas is in line to be promoted to the position of deputy chief.

Two years ago, Villa proposed cutting the position, however a deal struck between the council and Police Chief Greg Culick restored the position by eliminating a vacant lieutenant’s position along with other cuts. The position was kept in the 2017-2018 budget with the expectation that Hugo would retire before the end of the fiscal year in June.

The amount requested by the police department for the deputy chief’s position in the 2017-2018 budget is listed as $103,456. The budget line was decreased by $10,000 in anticipation of Hugo’s  retirement. Thomas’ current salary is listed in the 2017-2018 budget as $83,084.

Council members also approved a revised capital projects bond resolution. A resolution authorizing the city to borrow $4.1 million for capital projects was originally approved in August 2017, but had to be revised and re-approved due to errors in wording. The revised resolution  also reduces the total amount by approximately $250,000 mainly by eliminating work on two underdrains,  although some the amounts for several other projects were increased slightly.

Agresta said the reduction was an attempt to reduce the amount borrowed in response to the fund balance deficits reported in the latest financial audit.

The bonding resolution also includes approximately half the amount needed to fund the $1.4 million in planned road repairs for this year. Agresta said that road work expenses will be reimbursed through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) program, so the initial borrowing will be used to complete half the work in the spring, then the city will receive a reimbursement for those expenses from the state, then complete the rest of the work in the summer and fall, followed by a second reimbursement to repay the initial money borrowed.

The resolution was approved 3-0, with Alderman Bill Baaki abstaining. Alderman Chad Majewski was absent.

Baaki said he was not familiar enough with the details of the capital projects to feel comfortable voting for it.

“I wasn’t privy to the underlying discussion when this was discussed back in September before my time on the council and I just received this at 5:30 and I haven’t had time to go through it,” said Baaki.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.