Oneida County NY Nov 30 2016
Some of Oneida County's facilities are about to get a serious security upgrade.
As part of the recently passed 2017 budget, nine new "special patrol officer" positions were created, and money was allocated for five such positions that previously were created but never funded.
The 14 officers will provide security to Union Station in Utica and the Department of Social Services building in Rome, as well as periodic nighttime security at the Oneida County Office Building in Utica when construction is going on.
Starting Jan. 1, armed special patrol officers who have the power to make arrests will be replacing the privately contracted security guards that Oneida County has been using for a number of years. The new officers will be stationed at the following locations:
Union Station, 321 Main St., Utica: 16 hours a day seven days a week.
Department of Social Services, 300 W. Dominick St., Rome: eight hours a day five days a week.
Oneida County Office Building, 800 Park Ave., Utica: eight hours a night when construction is occurring.
The new positions are an extension of the 15 officers who have been providing security to the Whitesboro Central School District since last year and are able to carry guns, batons, pepper spray, make arrests and are directly wired to the county 911 Emergency Center.
"Given the nature of the openness of our offices and the train station, which is something even beyond a public building, it makes more sense to have a dedicated armed security system with police powers than just general security powers," said county Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr.
Picente said the opportunity to revamp the county's security in those facilities presented itself when PEC Security — the private Putnam County-based firm that had been doing the job the past three years — went bankrupt and no longer could fulfill its duties.
Those security guards, who were not armed nor had any arrest powers, were paid about $22 per hour, but with the job going out to bid again, the rate was expected to jump to nearly $30 per hour.
The guards from the private Syracuse-based security firm U.S. Security, which the county had to hire in a pinch to fill in until the new special patrol officers take over on Jan. 1 are making $31 per hour.
No longer a contract payment that falls under the Department of Public Works buildings and grounds division, the new special patrol officers will be under the Sheriff's Office and are classified as a step one entry-level part-time position that maxes out at 17.5 hours per week. They will make $25.48 per hour with no benefits.
About five similar officers also have been providing security to the District Attorney's Office since it moved from the County Office Building to Elizabeth Street a few years ago, but those positions fall under the cost center of that office.
Special patrol officers are competitive Civil Service positions that draw from retired police officers, sheriff deputies, state troopers, as well as parole, probation and correction officers.
Undersheriff Rob Swenszkowski, who will oversee all of the new officers along with those who work in the Whitesboro Central School District, said that experience will be an invaluable asset.
"We're talking about guys with a minimum of 20 years’ experience compared to uniformed security guards which need just 16 hours with the state," Swenszkowski said during a budget committee meeting last month. "If you ever have an active shooter scenario, you want a trained officer to be in that situation."