JOHNSTOWN - Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland said today she has been contacted by Gloversville Mayor Dayton King raising the possibility of both cities sharing each other's fire and police chiefs.
She said the proposal was "very general," and many questions still have to be answered.
"I'm not really sure what he's asking for," Slingerland said.
Gloversville Fire Chief Douglas Edwards has retired, and King said today he communicated with Johnstown to see if the services of Johnstown Fire Chief Bruce Heberer could be shared between the Glove Cities.
"What I've done is to reach out to Sarah Slingerland," King said. "Our chief is retiring and what I'd like to do is look into sharing the salary and the benefits."
Slingerland said King never got into specifics in his letter. "This is very sudden and not something you take lightly," she said.
King said he hand-delivered the letter to Slingerland's office Tuesday and he sees the proposal as a great way to share services between the two cities. He said Slingerland e-mailed back, "We're looking into the merit and technicalities of your request."
Slingerland said King's letter also alluded to possibly sharing the services of police Chief Edgar Beaudin with the city of Johnstown. She read from some of King's letter, which noted "we can also discuss our police chiefs" running both cities' police departments "if your police chief doesn't return."
That reference was to Slingerland placing Chief Greg Horning on paid administrative leave Sept. 10. Lt. Mark Gifford is running the department in his absence. The move was made after several public disagreements this year between the chief and the city Police Department's union, but city officials have not given a reason for Horning's leave.
The Johnstown Police Benevolent Association filed three grievances with the state Public Employment Relations Board this year, including one in April accusing Horning of "berating, threatening and intimidating" unionized officers.
King said he thought he would float the idea of the shared fire chief to see if there was any initial interest.
"If you're not interested, why have a study?" the mayor asked.
But Slingerland said a study is what is absolutely needed in any request involving the sharing of personnel between cities. She said there are many details to work out, including Civil Service regulations. She said she would like to sit down and review King's proposal with Gloversville officials in early December.
King said Heberer might be able to help Gloversville with his experience. He said the Johnstown chief knows the area well and is a member of the Berkshire Volunteer Fire Department. He said he doesn't know Heberer personally, but feels he could do a good job for both cities.
"You don't get to be a fire chief by slacking off," King said.
Heberer couldn't be reached this morning.
The mayor said he thinks he can still communicate with the city of Johnstown after negotiations to continue the Gloversville Transit Service bus runs to Johnstown were unsuccessful, leading to the end of the run last week. The cities agreed to a deal for modified service this year and next in exchange for Johnstown increasing its share from $38,000 to $40,000, but Gloversville council members said they couldn't accept that price without assurances Johnstown would continue the bus service after 2011.
King said he is trying to reinitiate a spirit of cooperation. He said shared services make sense and "for the good of the county, I don't think anybody loses."
King said he's heard some talk from some people in Johnstown stating their city is run better and asking what Johnstown gets out of cooperation with Gloversville. But he said the city of Johnstown still has tax increases and is even concerned about its burglary rate lately.
"Nobody's doing well in New York state," King said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.