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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 8, 2011

It’s permanent at last
Pucci named commish — Aylward says make it chief

By Jo E. Prout

ALTAMONT — The village board Tuesday appointed temporary Commissioner of Public Safety Todd Pucci to the job permanently, ending a decades-long search for a police force leader who meets Civil Service requirements. To cap off the appointment, Trustee William Aylward called for Pucci to be named police chief.

“He passed the chief’s exam. The trend in Altamont is to have a police chief,” Aylward said. He asked the board to vote immediately, but Mayor James Gaughan said that the village needs permission from the Department of Civil Service to change the title.

“The decision would really be theirs, Bill, not really ours,” said Trustee Christine Marshall.

The village force has been without a formally titled police chief since George Pratt retired in 1992; he had passed the required exam when he became Altamont’s police chief in 1972. In 1995, then-provisional chief Thomas Pollard failed to pass a Civil Service exam for chiefs. At that time, the director for Albany County’s Civil Service Department, current Voorheesville Mayor Robert Conway, told The Enterprise that the Altamont police department could function without a police chief indefinitely because the village force had fewer than four full-time police officers.

 Pucci is now the only full-time officer in Altamont, with a salary of $40,800. He oversees 10 part-time officers. 

Pollard did pass a Civil Service exam for patrolman and, as a sergeant, was named officer-in-charge. After Pollard’s resignation in 1998, the village named Robert Coleman, who had no police certification, public safety commissioner, a title used for administrative posts in larger police agencies. Anthony Salerno, a retired police officer from the city of Albany, kept that title and position for five years after Coleman, but Salerno failed to stay in the post after refusing to take the Civil Service exam for chiefs last year.

The exam for police chief is the same as for public-safety commissioner: Altamont is the only municipality in Albany County to have a public safety commissioner; the others with police forces have police chiefs.

Pucci was appointed public safety commissioner in January, with the proviso that he take and pass the Civil Service exam for chiefs. Pucci passed in June with an 88, the fourth-highest score. After one of the three top scorers declined interest in the position, Pucci became eligible for the post. The village board named Pucci to the position permanently this week with only days to spare from the 60-day limit required from the time the scores were announced.  

In 1998, Mayor Kenneth Runion, who is now town supervisor, said that officers wanted a chief, and not an officer-in-charge. At the time, Pollard agreed.

“If you’re a sergeant, you’re a sergeant. If you’re a chief, you’re the boss,” he said.

Pucci told The Enterprise this week that he was glad to have the appointment complete.

“I’m happy to be their selection. It’s good to have that done,” he said.

Pucci, who had trained through Altamont’s police department and who has been a part-time officer with Altamont since 1997, holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University at Albany.  In addition to working full-time in Altamont, he continues his full-time work with the Cohoes police department.

Pucci said yesterday that he has mixed feelings about his current title. He prefers to be called a police commissioner or a police chief, rather than a public safety commissioner — a post he described as “appointable, not testable,” he said.

A public safety commissioner is a political appointment, he said, for someone who oversees a department of public works, fire, and police departments combined. A police commissioner or chief is an officer who passed a test for the position, he said.

Other business

In other business, the village board:

— Passed new parking regulations to support local businesses, after first holding a public hearing. The regulations amended a 1994 law, extending the two small municipal parking-lot time limits from one-and-a-half to two hours. The amendment also revoked overnight parking permits. Street parking and the large municipal lot off Maple Avenue were unaffected by the new law. Time limits for the smaller lot on Maple Avenue, and the lot off Main Street near the train station were changed.

“We’re trying to make a fair playing field for all the businesses,” said Trustee Kerry Dineen.

The proposed amendment included a two-hour limit on street parking, but local business owners, including Clinda Pollard who with her husband runs the Home Front Café, said that leeway would be needed at certain times, like holidays.

Mayor Gaughan said that changing the street parking requirements would create a need to buy more street signs, and could be difficult for the police department to enforce.

“I’m not getting it right now, as it is stated,” he said about the proposal. “Our police are on duty from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.”

Pucci said that, because the village does not have parking meters, a two-hour limit would be enforced only after the department received a complaint. Once the police were called and the officers saw the vehicles involved, two hours would have to pass from that point for the parking to be considered a violation, he said.

After 11 p.m., Pucci said, Guilderland Police and the Albany County Sheriff’s Department enforce local laws.

Resident Judy Dineen, mother of Trustee Kerry Dineen, said that business owners could ask employees or volunteers to park in the underused large municipal lot on Maple Avenue behind The Enterprise, leaving street parking and the smaller lots free for customers;

— Agreed to hire an additional part-time police officer at $15 per hour. Gaughan said that the budget would not be affected, only the number of hours of police coverage among the part-time officers, whose hours fluctuate according to their other jobs;

— Approved the Altamont Guilderland Referral Committee recommendations to allow Daniel Abbruzzese of Altamont Orchard to amend his special-use permit for a 3,000-square-foot addition to the existing clubhouse. Gaughan said that the SUP amendment request is before the town board this week;

— Agreed to spend up to $17,000 from the water and equipment reserve fund to buy a new emergency generator;

— Agreed to waive building permit and other fees for residents repairing damage from Tropical Storm Irene; and

— Agreed to spend more than $10,000 and to request $12, 674 from the town of Guilderland fire district reserves to buy 20 bailout systems, 20 harnesses, one belay kit, and a training session required under state regulations.

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