MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Due to threatening behavior by some Town Hall visitors that left employees there shaken, the Town Board has moved to hire two special patrol officers (SPO) from the Sheriff’s Department to safeguard the building during regular office hours.

The board voted unanimously at its April 10 meeting to enter into the agreement with the Sheriff’s Department and the officers were expected to begin work this week.

“Sadly, this is the world we are living in these days,” Supervisor Ken Schmitt said. “We had to harden this building, meaning we need to have some security in the lobby and throughout the Town Hall during the course of the day.”

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Schmitt said there were four incidents in 2018 and one in 2019, where individuals came to Town Hall and behaved in a threatening manner toward either employees in the building, or visitors.

“So, we had to take measures not only to protect staff throughout the business day but the public as well,” Schmitt said. “This will be a uniformed officer who will be in the lobby from 8:30 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. These are retired officers who work in the Special Officer Patrol Program that is administered and overseen by the county.”

The Town Board budgeted $60,000 for the two SPOs, who, by law, are only allowed to earn up to $30,000 annually.

The contract calls for the town to pay the county a one-time payment of $2,130 per individual SPO. Additionally, there will be a monthly payment consisting of $25 per hour per SPO for each hour the SPO(s) are carrying out his/her duties, as well as the cost of equipment (uniforms, firearms, radio), FICA costs and other training costs; and an annual supervisory administrative fee of $3,459 to be paid monthly at the rate of $288.25.

The agreement officially began April 1 and ends March 31, 2020. The SPO will be considered an employee of the county under the general supervision of the Sheriff’s Department.

“[The SPOs] will be in the lobby and [visitors will] report to them,” Schmitt said. “There will be a sign-in book where [visitors] will indicate what department they are going to visit.

“I didn’t think I would have to do this during my tenure here, but unfortunately, this was necessary,” he added.