Courage to Re-connect, a local grassroots organization in favor of consolidating Scotch Plains and Fanwood, will be holding the second of three public hearings tonight, July 10, at 7:30 p.m. at 200 Forest Road in Fanwood.
The first hearing was held on June 18 at town hall in Scotch Plains. The third and final public hearing will be at 7:30 p.m. on July 16 at the Scotch Plains Town Council Chambers.
The purpose of the meetings is to give community members an opportunity to express their concerns regarding consolidation.
Fred Lange, founder of Courage to Re-connect stated that this is the last step the organization has to take before presenting their findings to the Local Finance Board who can approve or deny a Municipal Consolidation Study.
, when Lange first petitioned the Local Finance Board in hopes of moving forward with the study. Lange successfully recruited 10 percent of voters in Scotch Plains and Fanwood who voted in the last general election, to sign the petition in favor of consolidation. In fact, Lange exceeded that requirement, collecting over 1000 signatures.
Lange expressed his frustration that while several other shared services studies have been done in SPF, no action has been taken.
“As far as I know, nothing has been done to increase shared services at least in the last three years,” Lange said. “Consolidating Fanwood and Scotch Plains would speed up that process, but first we have to have a study authorized by the State of New Jersey.”
These public hearings are mandated by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and Local Finance Board as part of the consolidations study application process. A representative from the State will be present at each of the meetings. Comments from residents will also be submitted with the application.
A Municipal Consolidation Commission must also be organized in order to move forward with this study. The members of this committee consist of five local officials from each town who can serve as an authority on how consolidation would affect this community. Lange declined to reveal the names of potential commissioners at this time.
If the study is approved by the Local Finance Board, the commissioners will work with the company conducting the study to help the public understand the savings that may or may not occur. After the study is completed, a voting referendum will be issued and the people will decide whether or not to consolidate.
The issue of consolidation has caused a divide between the two towns. and members of her council are adamantly against consolidating the two municipalities, while the . Lange stated that a disapproving local government cannot stop consolidation.
“The Citizen’s Action by nature is to try to accomplish something that the politicians are not willing to or can’t do,” Lange said. “We have to hold these public hearings because the State wants to make sure that the average citizen is behind this movement. We will be asking the community how they feel about combining our two towns, and what kind of results they would like to see in the study.
A non-scientific poll conducted by Patch last month showed support for the consolidation, with 301 of 559 reader votes (53%) being cast in support of a merger. Twenty-two percent (124 voters) said they were absolutely opposed to such a merger, and 134 voters — or 23% — said they'd like to hear more about the proposal.
— Associate Regional Editor Mary Mann contributed to this story.