Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA - A rift between town residents and police over public safety was heard loud and clear Monday night at the board’s regular meeting, just two weeks before election day.
Chris Kaiser, the president of the town’s police club, which represents 99 percent of the department, took issue Monday with the board’s reduction of four police positions since 2006.
He argued that the decisions have harmed the town’s public safety, and a large group of officers and residents attended Monday’s meeting agreed.
“The residents are set to get a tax decrease,” Kaiser said. “But what cost are we really paying ... this would have been a perfect opportunity to restore the positions.”
His comments come after the police club endorsed town board candidates, the first time the officers have done so. After interviews and voting, the board endorsed Republicans Gigi Grizanti, Ann Morelli and Michael Vishion, over the Democratic incumbents, Joseph Emminger, John Bargnesi and Lisa Chimera.
Kaiser responded to a recent comment made by Emminger, who argued that the club was only raising the issue because the officers are currently working without a contract.
“We’ve worked without a contract many, many times,” Kaiser, whose comments were met with a long round of applause, said. “To deflect the problem is denial.”
But Emminger argued he was being genuine.
“Everyone on this town board supports the police,” he said. “I can tell you I was being honest, and I stand by my word.”
Town Supervisor Anthony Caruana then asked Police Chief Anthony Palumbo if the cuts had harmed public safety.
“The numbers are what they are,” he said, noting that since 2006, the positions of an assistant chief, lieutenant in charge of community relations, a detective and a patrol officer have been cut. “I have done everything possible to maintain manpower on the road. It is where it should be, it is where it has always been. We have made adjustments, and in my opinion ... our community is as safe as it has always been.”
Also Monday, the body discussed a grant made available by the state that will go toward brownfield revitalization. The town will receive $275,400 to complete a plan for the redevelopment of eight potentially contaminated sites covering 385 acres, Town Engineer Jim Jones said.
The work will take place on brownfield sites in the River Road area, and the funding will help the town identify and explore options for the properties.
“We are looking forward to our continued work with our brownfields,” Jones said.
In total, $10 million in state grants will go toward 26 communities for brownfield work.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.