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Westhampton Beach won't merge village, town police departments

The Westhampton Beach Village Hall, shown on April

The Westhampton Beach Village Hall, shown on April 16,2012, is located on Mill Road, at the north side of the Six Corners. Credit: Erin Geismar

Westhampton Beach Village will not merge its tiny police force with the Southampton Town Police Department, the village's mayor said .

Mayor Maria Moore said in a written statement that, after considering an offer by the town, the village board decided the larger department would not be able "to provide services at the level to which village residents are accustomed."

Westhampton Beach's police department consists of 11 full-time officers who patrol the 3-square-mile village of 1,700 year-round residents. It is one of four village police forces within Southampton Town. Southampton Town's force has about 90 officers.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst presented the village board this fall with estimates showing police consolidation would save a Westhampton Beach homeowner $278 a year in taxes on a house assessed at $500,000, village officials said.

However, the plan would have reduced the number of officers dedicated to the village and did not provide seasonal part-time officers, on-site dispatchers, traffic control officers or crossing guards, the village mayor said.

The village board "concluded that no further examination of the consolidation proposal was necessary for the foreseeable future," Moore said.

Moore said in the statement that she declined the town's offer on Monday. She and Throne-Holst could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Westhampton Beach officials said the loss of the small-town police force and control over public safety wouldn't be worth the cost savings.

"We are a village that has certain services that we provide for our residents," said Patricia DiBenedetto, a Westhampton Beach Village trustee. "One of those services is a police department."

Ralph Urban, another trustee, also said the "biggest hurdle" was the idea of the village board giving up "a portion of our ability to govern."

Urban added that the village would have had to surrender police cars and other valuable assets to the town.

Westhampton Beach's village board has been searching for a new police chief since Ray Dean, who led the department for 15 years, retired June 30.

Urban said the board is nearing a decision on a replacement after holding extensive meetings on the topic and conducting interviews this fall.

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