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January 16, 2013

Police, fire chiefs say call volume fell in '12

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — Overall calls to fire and police departments were down last year from 2011, the chiefs of the respective departments told Common Council members Tuesday night.

Police Chief Dennis Nayor reviewed a year-end report that reflected a decrease in calls for service of 14 percent, from 14,939 in 2011 to 13,131 last year. Liquor-law violations and simple assaults were down significantly, which he attributed to the shuttering of three downtown bars early last year.

However, city police responded to 78 percent more calls involving mental-health issues than the previous year, Nayor said, reporting the difference of 81 between 104 in 2011 and 185 last year. The increase of such incidents was discussed at a recent police chiefs’ conference, he said, and the cause was attributed to closures of facilities where patients were housed.

Michael Lynch, Fourth Ward council member, asked Nayor if he would use the year’s statistics to adjust policing strategies, given that the department last year went through a “massive re-organization.’’

Nayor, who was appointed chief last year, replied: “Yes.’’

Police and city officials have met twice in task force sessions, Mayor Dick Miller said Tuesday. The panel was established last year to study police staffing, resources and other issues.

In his report, Oneonta Fire Chief Patrick Pidgeon said crews responded to 3,118 calls last year, a 4 percent decrease from 3,261 in 2011. However, calls since 2009 have risen by 16.6 percent, he said, and the number of patient transports to out-of-town hospitals increased by 162 to 419 last year from the previous year.

Russ Southard, Sixth Ward council member, reminded city officials and colleagues that the statistics have a human component. He praised Oneonta Fire Department crews for their work saving the life of his father-in-law, who had a massive heart attack recently but is scheduled to go home today.

In other public safety matters, an “events committee’’ has been formed to study costs of the activities to the city, city manager Michael Long told the council, and he will meet with Nayor today to discuss security at city buildings and dealing “with irate customers.’’

Separately, city officials reported Tuesday that Standard & Poor’s had rated the city with an “A plus’’ with a “stable outlook’’ for its bonds.

Meg Hungerford, director of finance for the city, said the previous rating was “A plus’’ with a “negative outlook’’ when the city sold bonds in 2010.

The rating is important because the city will be selling $5.5 million in bonds at a Jan. 23 sale, Hungerford said. The bonds will be for capital projects in 2011, 2012 and 2013, including improvements in the Dietz Street parking lot, the municipal garage and Spruce Street, she said.