By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
The Montgomery County Probation Department is beginning to make its move to the city of Amsterdam's Public Safety Building.
"It's just such a closer connection to the police department," said Probation Officer Wayne Marotta. "We work hand in hand here."
According to the Montgomery County website, part of the work of the Probation Department deals with supervising adult offenders, juvenile delinquents, and others in need of supervision, "as a crime deterrent to the offender and as a means to foster law abiding and compliant behavior."
The idea to move probation's Amsterdam office -- which had until very recently been housed on East Main Street inside Centro Civico -- alongside the department has been in the works since last year, said Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick.
Culick said he approached Probation Director Lucille Sitterly and explained how nice it would be to "have everybody in the same building: parole, probation, police."
"It would be everybody under one roof," Culick said.
The departments work closely together and the move seemed like it just made sense, he added.
Culick said the idea hit home recently when probation officers had a man waiting in their office at their East Main Street location who was actually wanted by police.
"It takes us a few minutes to get over there and in the meantime, they were sitting there with someone who knows they are going back to jail," he said. "Having them right here, it works out perfect.
"From a safety standpoint, it just makes all the sense in the world."
Culick brought the idea to the Common Council back in November at a special Public Safety Committee meeting in City Hall.
While the council discussed the upgrades that the police department needed, Culick told the council at that time that the Probation Department wanted to make the move to the Public Safety Building.
The department had their funding cut from the county budget, he said at the time.
Probation had been paying about $6,000 to Centro Civico to rent its space for the year, Culick said, but the police department agreed to let probation come in for just $500.
Another $1,500 will come from parole, which sublets at probation locations, Culick said.
"I said, why not have that money come here and find someway to track if we're saving," he said.
Once it was settled that probation would be making the move, the next step was to chose a space.
Culick told the Common Council at an earlier committee meeting in City Hall that the police department had the room, and the idea was to house probation in the vast lobby walking in to the department.
Now, only one cubicle sits in the lobby, and the Probation Department is housed in extra interview rooms.
Ryan Ricardo, a probation officer who was at the Public Safety Building Thursday, said that was her first time at the new office.
"We've got to work on getting some things straightened out and organized here, but I think it's a good move and I look forward to working closely with Amsterdam Police Department," Ricardo said.
She has been with the Montgomery County Probation Department for seven years and said she certainly sees the advantages to being in the same building as police.
As for where exactly probation will be permanently housed in the building, it is still unclear.
Culick said that the police department's capital projects money went through in order to redo, or add, a women's locker room in the coming year, which could contribute to the available space.
The current Youth Aid bureau will be reconstructed to include that shower area and locker room for the women, Culick said, and the offices will be moved around.
And soon a contractor will be coming in to put up a wall in the lobby of the Public Safety Building, essentially cutting the lobby in half and utilizing the vast, wasted space, Culick said.
"We want to wall off the portion of the lobby with the window view ... and actually make it into an office space, where the bureau could spill into and other interview rooms could be housed," he said. "And that will make it better than people sitting here in an open lobby."
Either the police will get new interview rooms and the Probation Department will stay permanently housed in the former interview rooms they are in now, or visa versa.
Marotta said they are not sure where they will be set up, but knows that being alongside the other departments will be beneficial.
"We work close with police and courts, and here it's all under on roof," he said. "So it just makes sense."