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Scotch Plains Officials Support SPF Police Merger

Scotch Plains Officials release separate statements supporting merger plan, touting cost savings without compromising police efforts.

It has been years since local officials first began discussing a shared-service agreement to merge Scotch Plains and Fanwood . Now, Scotch Plains officials are speaking out in favor of moving ahead with a plan to unite the two police departments.

In a statement written to Patch, Deputy Mayor Mary DePaola and Councilman Bo Vastine expressed their support for moving forward with merger talks, noting that there are two options for merging police forces — a "joint meeting" or a contractual shared-service agreement.

“At this point, we believe either choice gets us to where we want to be — a Police Department that protects and serves both communities efficiently, ending redundancy, and saves the taxpayers money,” the two said. “Any other position that prevents us from reaching the ultimate goal of merging should be marginalized.”

The joint-meeting option would create another level of government, consisting of one governing representative from Scotch Plains, one from Fanwood, and one neutral, or “tie breaking”, representative approved by both towns. This governing body would control the financing, contracting, and operations of the police force. In the event that a joint meeting is established, Scotch Plains would pay for 75 percent of the police department’s expenses, with Fanwood picking up the remaining 25 percent of the cost.

The shared-service agreement would allow Scotch Plains to absorb the Fanwood Police Department, with Fanwood paying Scotch Plains for the police services it uses. The Division of Local Government Services in the NJ Department of Community Affairs recently informed local governments that utilizing a contractual shared-service agreement would be the best option for a merger of the Scotch Plains and Fanwood police forces.

Mayor Nancy Malool, who was unaware that Vastine and DePaola had released a statement, expressed that while she feels she is “on the same page” as her colleagues, she disagrees that a joint meeting should even be considered as a method of merger.

“While I am eager to work to find a compromise, I am in not in favor of a joint meeting,” Malool said. “It creates an unnecessary extra layer of government with more administrative costs… I don’t believe the joint meeting provides Scotch Plains residents with adequate representation, yet it requires that their tax dollars fund three quarters of the budget.”

Deputy Mayor Mary DePaola stated that, while there is no timeline for reaching an agreement, the public should know more within a few weeks.

“The next steps have to be taken in executive session and in talks with Fanwood,” DePaola said. “Now is the perfect time to merge police forces because of the current size of each department. Although neither police force is understaffed, we have had a few Officers from each town retire in the past year. If we were to merge now, we would have an optimal number of Officers to patrol each town.”

Malool also noted that while neighboring municipalities have engaged in a joint meeting of fire departments and sewer authorities, it has never been done for Police Departments.

“I don’t want to [create a joint meeting] just for the sake of doing it first,” Malool said. “Yes, Fanwood would have to give up some authority, but a shared services agreement just makes more sense.”

“We are facing a lot of pressure from both sides on this issue,” DePaola added. “It is time for us to commit.”

Fanwood Mayor, Colleen Mahr and the Fanwood Council have interest in moving forward with a merger.However, Mayor Mahr could not be reached for comment at this time.

In recent , Mayor Nancy Malool emphasized that merging police departments or even consolidating Scotch Plains and Fanwood completely would not still not deliver the huge savings residents desire.

“I think it is critical to point out, though, that even if we were able to cut the municipal portion of our residents’ taxes in half, that would save the average taxpayer (who pays $10,000 per year in property taxes) about $900 per year,” Malool said. “I will, however, continue to pursue both options because our residents expect and deserve it.”

Ain't gonna happen March 14, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Interesting that the 2 republicans on council didn't make the republican mayor aware of their joint statement. Nothing like loyalty to the party. More like daggers to the back. How high will Marty make them jump?
Barney Oldfield March 14, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Rumor has it that the Republicans are trying to dump Malool and run DePaola for Mayor. Therefore, DePaola has to try to distinguish herself from the Mayor even though she has not disagreed with her on any major issue thus far. It will be interesting to see DePaola try to highlight her scant accomplishments. Not sure what the qualifications for Mayor should be but kicking your "friends" to the curb should not be high on the list. A DePaola candidacy will probably ensure that the big windbag Kevin Glover will be our next Mayor. This is all about the local Republicans still being controlled by the same tired cast of characters, McClintock, Papen, Coronato and our egomanical immediate past mayor.
A March 14, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I'm Holden Magroin and I think that councilman Tex and councilwoman Cell Tower have gone into campaign mode. I have not always agreed with Mayor Malool, but at least she gives better rationale for her decisions. When I read her letter on this subject she explains the options better and justifies why she supports the contract arrangement. The statement from these other 2 justs says they support merging and either option gets us there. If the word on Park Ave is true and Tex and Cell Tower are going to go against the Mayor in the election, they better get their act together. I rate this opening of their campaign as a fail.
A March 14, 2012 at 01:23 PM
I'm Holden Magroin and this is for Barney. I have to disagree that the councilwoman doesn't have much of a record. Here's a link to a Patch story from last year where she took a stand. http://scotchplains.patch.com/articles/another-cell-tower-may-loom-for-scotch-plains And here's the link to her letter to the editor a week after her stand. http://scotchplains.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-sp-councilwoman-explains-cell-tower-comments Since the summer is the time for reruns, a Tex/Cell Tower ticket could provide some entertainment for those dull summer nights. I can imagine 2 Patch pieces on every subject. The first would cover the meeting or print the statement, and there would then be the followup letter to the editor explaining how she was taken out of context the first time.
Just the facts March 14, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Let's not forget there is actually a third option....a shared services agreement whereby Fanwood absorbs SP police. It takes the Civil Service mandates out of play and because Fanwood Police earn less (salary and benefits) the savings might be even more. The Joint Meeting allows for a better wholistic partnership....if Fanwood wants to outsource it services....they should, in all due diligence, have conversations with other potential partners, just as they did with the dispatching issue. In a shared services scenario, SP is not the only option.
Michael Lewis March 14, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Three pieces - the third containing an "unscientific" readers' poll on which view they preferred.
Michael Lewis March 14, 2012 at 05:22 PM
As I see it, Mayor Malool seems to be of the view that the towns are better served by a complete consolidation, with the Police Departments necessarily following. Until that day arrives, it would be quicker and cleaner for Fanwood to contract from SP. Fanwood takes the hit on the personnel side and, operationally, SP does not have to change too much. The near term saving might be greater, but with no fundamental change beyond head count probably less over the longer term. Mayor Mahr seems to be of the view that a merger of the police departments is preferable to, and need not necessarily lead to, a merger of the towns - a view with which I concur. A complete merger under a joint meeting distributes the pain of reduced head count (probably achieved through attrition in any event), and might allow a compete operational reordering longer-term at the cost of some near-term saving. Oh, and it does allow Fanwood more of a say in what is going on which - in light of the political discourse I have seen on the other side - should be welcomed by all concerned.
LongTimeRes March 14, 2012 at 09:28 PM
is it going to save Fanwood money? That is the question. SP taxes for the town are going up >$40 per household and FW taxes are going up <$10 per househould. I don't believe SP has control of their budget at all yet and I fear that FW is going to take on their costs and problems. SP is pushing way too hard for this to help solve their money problems by spreading it around.
Ann Chovey March 15, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Why stop at the police merger? Why not merge the towns? Fanwood has been on the short end of the stick when it comes to lesser services and higher taxes for a long time. Merge everything. Reassess taxes. Make an even playing field. Make everyone happy.
Capt. Jerome Pereira April 02, 2012 at 04:45 PM
This seems to be a better option !
Capt. Jerome Pereira April 02, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Like this idea, bur what woudl the new town be called ? Fan Plains ? Scotchwood ??
Michael Lewis April 02, 2012 at 05:53 PM
I am still lobbying for "Plains of Fanwood".
firedup49 April 03, 2012 at 03:11 PM
2009 the towns had a report done $60,000, over 200 pages. The final analysis by the company that did the report http://www.jerseyprofessionalmgt.com/DO_NOT_MERGE_01-24-2011_2_pages.pdf
bgporter April 03, 2012 at 03:43 PM
As far as I can see, the idea of a full merger of the towns will never really be given more than lip service -- the incumbents (both elected and behind the scenes power brokers) have nothing to gain, so instead they spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt to quell the calls for it. My personal favorites are the perennial, "It's not as simple as you think it is, folks" and "Well, there are just so many unanswered questions..." to which: 1) Okay, it's not simple. Explain the complexities to us, we're not as dumb as you like to think. 2) If our elected officials can't pore through the issues, questions, and problems and craft a workable solution or explain why none exists, perhaps they should step aside in favor of others who'll address the issues more seriously. Enough hand-wringing, people.
bgporter April 03, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I was prepared to ignore the issue of the post-merger town name as an irrelevant detail, but while walking the dog at lunch, I realized that I've solved that problem in a way that also eliminates the financial problems in both towns: auction off naming rights to large corporations. I, for one, will be proud to live in Taco Bell Chalupa Supreme, New Jersey.
Michael Lewis April 03, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I guess we will be waiting for a merger of the police departments for awhile longer, as events play out in Scotch Plains. @bgporter - there is a precedent; Truth or Consequences, NM was indeed named for the gameshow. But according to Wikipedia, there was no money involved with the naming rights. I am sure we can do better!
bgporter April 03, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I was thinking both of Truth of Consequences, NM as well as the idea of 'Subsidized Time' from David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest". There was also at least one town in the dotcom boom that changed their name. Those were the days; the money flowed like cheap beer.

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