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SPF Residents Take Historic Step Towards Consolidation of Neighboring Towns

Courage to Re-connect petitions the Local Finance Board to commission a municipal consolidation study.

Scotch Plains and Fanwood residents in favor of merging the two towns made history on February 15, becoming the first neighboring communities in the state to petition the Local Finance Board to commission a study on what consolidation would mean for the SPF tax payers.

Over the past year, this community has seen an escalation in discussions regarding shared services, including a possible police merger.  Fanwood Mayor, Colleen Mahr, who has dedicated much of her time as Mayor to revitalizing downtown Fanwood, has remained adamant in her opposition to full consolidation. However, Scotch Plains Mayor, Nancy Malool of has openly voiced her support for pursuing a municipal consolidation study, under the Local Option Municipal Consolidation Act, passed in 2007.

Courage to Re-connect is the local grassroots organization that created the petition to commission the consolidation to study. The organization was founded by Scotch Plains resident, Fred Lange. Courage to Re-connect receives support from Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit, non-partisan organization committed to assisting municipalities to study consolidation where appropriate.

Frustrated with rising taxes, Lange formed the organization in 2010. Backed by a firm belief that consolidation was the answer to rising costs, Lange mobilized members of his community to support a municipal study.

In order to commission the study, Lange had to get 10 percent of voters in Scotch Plains and Fanwood who voted in the last general election to sign the petition. Lange exceeded that requirement, collecting over 1000 signatures.

 “Initially, I went door to door to have our petitions signed,” Lange said. “Ninety-two percent of the people in Fanwood and 98 percent of the people in Scotch Plains with whom I spoke supported what I was doing. This is really a citizen-driven initiative. We’re the ones who want to study a consolidation by an overwhelming majority.”

On January 17, the Scotch Plains Town Council passed a resolution declaring the Council’s support of the municipal study being pursued by Courage to Re-connect. Councilman Mickey Marcus was the only opposing vote.

The resolution also stated that the Council would be in favor of consolidation with Fanwood as long as the quality of the municipal services was not diminished and the public safety of residents was not jeopardized. Speaking in support of a consolidation study at a January 4 meeting, Councilman Kevin Glover pointed out that because the two municipalities share schools, 65 percent of consolidation is already done.

The resolution also notes that this process allows the residents to ultimately decide through a referendum whether or not they support consolidation after first receiving the opportunity to review all of the information provided by the study.

The resolution also urges Fanwood to join Scotch Plains in support of a consolidation study. Mayor Malool expressed her views on this matter during a December 8 Council meeting, where this resolution was first discussed in detail.

“I have been in favor of studying this for years and Fanwood refused to participate. We need to put our cards on the table. The people have spoken, and they want to know whether or not merging the towns will save them money,” Malool said.

The application for the municipal consolidation study prepared by Courage to Re-connect will be presented during a statewide municipal consolidation workshop, to be held March 28 at the Days Inn in East Brunswick. The event is open to the public. After learning of Courage to Re-connect’s historic step towards studying consolidation, Gina Genovese, founder and executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey was compelled to comment.

“Today helplessness has been replaced by action,” she said. “The taxpayers now know they have the power."

Willy's Mommy February 17, 2012 at 12:46 AM
What are the property tax rates per $1000 for each town - I think that will be the bottom line for a lot of people deciding one way the other. It's what's uppermost for me, for sure.
firedup49 February 17, 2012 at 03:56 AM
I find it strange that Jersey PM did the report for Scotch Plains and Fanwood in 2010 Top Ten Reasons Why Everyone Should Stop Trying to Merge Towns President, Jersey Professional Management by Dan Mason http://www.jerseyprofessionalmgt.com/DO_NOT_MERGE_01-24-2011_2_pages.pdf
firedup49 February 17, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Sometimes be carefull what you wish for... Why do you need this fishy Courage to Connect, when you can do it on your own, one step at a time....
The time is now February 17, 2012 at 04:50 AM
@fired up. The report was written for the people paying for it. Mayr does not want this. That's also the reason why shared service is moving so slowing. I will remind you that the fanwood council voted in a new police chief right before the jersey prof management report came out. Don't you think they already knew the preordained outcome?
The Time is Now February 17, 2012 at 02:53 PM
@firedup. I wrote comments last night and now they're gone so I will repeat them. The linked study you supplied comes to the conclusion it did because that's what the mayors wanted at the time. Remember, fanwood council appointed a permanent chief of police just before this report came out. How did they know what the report would say prior to it being written? This will not happen because Mahr doesn't want it to happen. She'll stall until stender moves on and leaves her seat to Mahr. In SP former mayor Marks will run Bo for mayor and Malool will be out. That's unfortunate because once again we'll be stuck with marks' opinion, only being said out of Bo's mouth. This "fishy" group as you term them may just be the kick in the butt that will at least get these discussions into the public. Let WE THE PEOPLE decide.
LCB@home February 17, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Politics aside - it may be wise to look at shared services agreements prior to consolidating all at once. Many towns are going in that direction. Fanwood has a strong town identity and a long history that is separate from Scotch Plains - who also has their own. Not just seeking to appease, but sometimes addressing the financial constraints doesn't mean consolidation.
Just the facts February 17, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Here's some food for thought, of your $10,000 tax bill, only $2,000 is controlled by the municipality...so, let's say you can save even 10%....that's $200 per household. Now, just as the library study called for a new building, 10 or 15 years down the road, there will be a need to have just one municipal building, one court, etc......so, any savings will get eaten up in a major capital project to build new facilities....oh, and let's not overlook that SP pays their employees higher salaries than Fanwood....so, I really can't see this being a good deal for Fanwood...might work out better for SP....thus, the different points of view.
The Time is Now February 17, 2012 at 04:40 PM
@JtF - Why if there are currently 2 buildings would we need to build a new one? Could you expand on that logic? I would think that the opposite would be true. Either sell one of the buildings or use one of them for another needed purpose.
Tom Kranz February 18, 2012 at 12:52 AM
I don't know which 92% of people Mr. Lange is talking about. Everyone I've ever talked to in Fanwood thinks merging the towns is a bad idea. That's because, it's a bad idea. Fanwood gains nothing except all of SP's problems and politics.

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