Fanwood Council Passes Resolution to Support Police Merger Agreement

Resolution proposes to share police services with Scotch Plains.

In an unanimous decision at Tuesday night's meeting, the Fanwood Borough Council approved a resolution in support of a with the Scotch Plains Police Department. 

The resolution, which Mayor Collen Mahr called "necessary for property tax relief" is intended to share resources with Scotch Plains to reduce both stations' budgets for the fiscal year. 

Mahr said she will be meeting with government officials from Scotch Plains on January 19 and will report back to the community about what is discussed in a following meeting. 

She said Police Chief Richard Trigo from Fanwood and Scotch Plains Chief Brian Mahoney have been examining the possibility of the shared services agreement, including the merits of a report conducted in 2010.

"We are going to pick up the conversation," she said. "With this agreement, we can reduce the two largest line items without compromising safety."

Mahr emphasized that the resolution does not call for consolidation and both departments will maintain the resources they have in the agreement.

Councilman Anthony Parenti said the action can better serve both communities and further reduce taxes.

"There comes a time when we have to get something done, and this is time for action," he said. 

The council acknowledged concerns including where the calls would be dispatched, but said the logistics will be discussed after the January 19 meeting. 

Councilman Robert Manduca, who voted in favor of the measure, issued a warning, saying to exercise caution until Fanwood has the protection of the state in the agreement.

The council cited legislation promoting the more effective operation of local government and the sharing of services among local units. 

The legislation, S2794 sponsored by Senator Stephen Sweeney, protects municipalities in shared services agreements and recommends specific consolidations and mergers under current law.

Mahr said the next step is to talk to Scotch Plains administrators and hopes to have an agreement within the year.

"We want what is best for Fanwood and our residents, and this agreement will reduce taxes and maintain safety," Mahr said. "We truly believe this is what is best for us."

In addition to approving the measure, the council accepted statistics from the fire department and the first aid squad for 2011. 

The fire department answered 410 calls, including 26 training calls. Parenti said it was the highest number of calls, which he attributed to the high amount of natural disasters that happened in 2011. The fire department did not log in any injuries. 

The first aid squad responded to 611 calls, including 50 mutual aid calls from Plainfield and 64 mutual aid calls from Scotch Plains. 

The Union County Ambulance Corps assisted Fanwood 72 times in six months, and Parenti expects the number to be much higher in 2012. 

Both squads will be honored at a banquet on January 21, including recognition of John Piccola as the newly-appointed fire chief. 

The council also applauded Eagle Scout Robert Colonna for his project in the Fanwood Nature Center. He installed new signage, cleaned the area and planted a new garden. 

"The area is Fanwood's hidden jewel," Mahr said. "The work of people like Robert helps us maintain a very special area in our town."

Willy's Mommy January 11, 2012 at 02:16 PM
"Mahr emphasized that the resolution does not call for consolidation and both departments will maintain the resources they have in the agreement." I'm not sure what the difference is between shared services and consolidation and how it saves on taxes."
Just the facts January 11, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Consolidation....as intended here, is the dissolution of one or both municipalities and it's respective departments and the creation of a new municipality serving the entire Fanwood/Scotch Plains area. Shared Services, for the purposes of this resolution, is about simply combining the two Police Departments to start.
Willy's Mommy January 12, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Thank you so much for that explanation. Understanding the terms of the discussion is so important. Does "maintain the resources they have" mean no one will be laid off? The same number of cruisers will be maintained? I'm still struggling on how this will save taxes. Will combining "to start" mean eventually eliminating duplicate positions, like dispatcher, chief of police, administrative support?
Michael Lewis January 15, 2012 at 06:18 PM
@Willy's Mommy - All of this is still being examined (and negotiated), which is why any comment on it at this point is is speculative at best; some of the near-term cost aspects will depend on the nature and timing of what comes out of Trenton in terms of Civil Service protection / relief and costs offsets (if any). Longer-term - again, speculating - savings would come from those things you mention, probably with a particular eye on attrition. Once a framework has been agreed upon, look for a community outreach on the part of Mayor Mahr and the Council to explain it in depth - your questions get to the heart of things. @Just the Facts - Your understanding has always been mine, but the article certainly does not make that clear...had to reread what was written.


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