The Niskayuna Police Department will get a part-time clerk to help with daily tasks an executive secretary to the chief would normally perform, alleviating some of the work two people are currently handling for day-to-day operations.
The Niskayuna Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to appoint Kristine O’Brien for $20 an hour as a part-time clerk beginning June 28. No Town Board members commented on the appointment.
O’Brien, who works as a part-time court clerk, will be a good fit because 20 years ago she worked for the Police Department as a clerical aid alongside the executive secretary, said Deputy Chief Michael Stevens before the meeting.
Stevens said this time last year the five staff members needed to run the department–the chief, executive secretary to the chief, deputy chief, lieutenant and clerical aid – were all filled. But then Fran Wall, who was the lieutenant, took over as interim chief and the lieutenant position was never filled, Stevens said. Then in January the executive secretary retired and most recently Wall left the department. Those staff losses left Stevens and the clerical aid covering the jobs of the three other positions.
“It’s probably the most important position we have to fill in the place,” Stevens said about the executive secretary job.
He said that’s because the executive secretary is in charge of everything from answering phone calls, to ordering items, filing paperwork with state agencies and doing payroll.
Stevens said he and Wall had both been talking to town board members about filling the executive secretary position.
In an email to Police Department officers and staff, Wall said one of the reasons for her retirement was the lack of support she received from the town to hire additional staff – even mentioning the executive secretary position.
Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed said before the meeting in an email that it’s just a coincidence that the board was appointing O’Brien after Wall retired and the board “does recognize the need to fill this position from an operational standpoint.”
One of the problems facing the town with getting someone into the spot was that the position requires passage of a civil service exam and none had been offered because of the pandemic, Stevens said.
Stevens said the goal now is to have O’Brien take the civil service exam for the position when it is available and then get her hired as the executive secretary after she passes the test.
Staffing concerns were a hot topic among residents speaking during the privilege of the floor at the meeting Tuesday evening.
Resident Michael Cassella said he doesn’t understand why the town hasn’t approved more staffing hires.
“We’ve lost two people this year because of morale, two good people,” he said.
He said without high morale there is no structure in the department and therefore, no accomplishments.
Resident Janet O’Farrell said she was concerned about the safety and effectiveness of the department.
“I have lived in Niskayuna since 1978 and I have never ever before been embarrassed or worried about how it appears our Police Department is being dealt with,” she said. “It certainly seems like an increase in officers and staff is needed. How can a department be safe and effective when they’re stretched too thin and morale is down?”
She said she would be willing to pay more taxes in order to have more officers and staff at the department.