TUPPER LAKE – A village council administrator wants the town to pay more for his contract for Tupper Lake Police Department services outside the village limits, but the acting town supervisor and his council members say that they want him to go ask in a plus “professional” way.

Trustee Ron LaScala’s renewed effort to change the contract price is due to two factors – the council was due to vote on the village budget (which exceeds the tax levy cap) on Friday night, and the announcement Wednesday by the chief of the TLPD Eric Proulx that his department is cutting their night patrol shift due to a lack of active officers. Council members decided not to vote on the budget on Friday.

LaScala says the village “subsidized” police presence in the city. Proulx said 5% of TLPD’s calls are within the city.

“If you look at the call volume in the city, they’re not paying what they’re supposed to pay, but it’s not far off,” he said.

Last year, Mayor Paul Maroun calculated that 5% of the TLPD budget would cost about $60,000, about double what the city currently provides in the police contract. Maroun asked the city council to increase its contributions to that dollar amount.

“I don’t think it’s an unfair request,” said Proulx.

The board refused to increase the dues.

The contract was initially for $25,000. Two years ago, the city agreed to a $4,000 increase in the contract. Another increase in the municipal police contribution would also increase municipal taxes. Acting city supervisor Mary Fontana said her board should ask city taxpayers what they want to do. She said the city leaders are “Stewards of the city and its ratepayers.

Fontana is also a resident of the village.

LaScala said the village uses the police department as a “piggy bank,” withdraw money from him to avoid cuts in the rest of his budget. The department has cut four positions in recent years, he said.

Administrator Jason McClain said the city’s contribution isn’t the only problem. If the department had more money, it would struggle to hire from a limited pool of applicants anyway, he said.

Proulx is also skeptical that an increased contribution from the city would help a lot.

LaScala said if the department paid more, it could attract more applicants and retain the ones it has. TLPD pays less than other law enforcement jobs.

“It’s very rare for someone to leave a job just for the pay,” said Fontana.

But Proulx said the majority of officers who leave his department leave. “only for salary.”

LaScala said the village needs to give officers a reason to move to Tupper Lake, and taking a pay cut to move doesn’t help. He said it was up to the city to help fund the police department because he was struggling and the village couldn’t support him properly.

Fontana said she understands that, but she thinks the TLPD staffing shortages aren’t the city’s fault.

She said the way she understands the contract is that it’s not for policing services. She said it exists to give the police the power to enter the city if called upon, but the price of the contract is monetary compensation, essentially a “Thank you” to respond to emergencies outside the village limits.

For years, the village police department worked in the town. Eventually, as the laws became more detailed, the village decided it needed to put this jurisdictional permission in writing. At first, Proulx said he was told not to patrol or investigate the city – only emergency response.

Maroun, LaScala and Proulx said they are now receiving letters from town residents requesting patrols and surveys outside the village.

Fontana said that in six years on city council, she had never heard of the townspeople’s desire for more police patrols and investigations outside the village. She said she was ready to have that discussion, but the city council would need to see letters from townspeople showing they want it.

Proulx said the law says the TLPD can patrol the city, but is not required to do so. Maroun said they had a legal obligation to patrol the town.

“The law is clear. If you enter into a contract with a municipality that does not have a police service, you must do regular patrols,” says Maron.

The debate over the police contract came to a head at a village council meeting on Wednesday. Fontana was on hand to discuss the Tupper Lake Field Day event the city is planning.

The event emphasizes first responder appreciation, said the city’s Recreation Department and its director Laura LaBarge, with a parade and raffle to raise funds for new TLPD computers.

Proulx said his department is able to work the parade route to close the roads, but all of the active officers it has — all four — will work.

LaScala took advantage of the visit to address the issue of the police contract. He said he finds it ironic that the city is holding a parade honoring law enforcement where they will all have to work overtime and that the city has not increased its police funding like the village l ‘asked.

“You need to step in when it comes to emergency services, not just have a parade,” LaScala said to Fontana.

“The conversation about the police contract is not the one to have tonight,” said Fontana. “It’s a conversation your board needs to have with mine when we plan our budget.”

The discussion quickly heated up, much to the chagrin of the rest of the village council.

Maroun banged his gavel on the table and called for order.

“We are moving forward” he said.

Fontana later said she kind of expected LaScala to bring up the police contract, but told the village she wouldn’t come to discuss the contract.

“It’s not a conversation I need to have independent of my board,” Fontana said Thursday.

Maroun said Thursday that LaScala was “out of order.”

“His approach and tactics to talk about it were extremely inappropriate,” Fontana said later. “I don’t think he represented his position or the village appropriately.”

She said the city is open to having conversations, but they need to be professional and in the right context.

LaScala said that for eight years he fought to get the city to pay what he considers his “equitable sharing.”

“It falls on deaf ears” he said.

He feels his board doesn’t want to talk about it either and says he’s frustrated. He said any change now would come “too late” as the village has lost millions of dollars over the years and the department has shrunk.

He said the village should “unplug” at some point – reject the $29,000 and never send the police into town.

Maroun said he wasn’t considering that.



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