A special committee, given the task of examining whether the township might benefit from joining a regional county police force, is due to meet today, Monday, to further dissect the county's report and prepare a recommendation to be presented at the July 24 meeting.
Bruce McArthur, one of the members of a subcommittee set up by the Township Committee in April to said the subcommittee is meeting to finalize the recommendations to go to the entire governing body.
The recommendations, discussion and a formal decision on the topic are scheduled to come up at the next scheduled Township Committee meeting, next Tuesday, said McArthur.
Township Committeeman John Carpenter, who serves as the township's police commissioner and also is a member of the subcommittee, said his question about whether the township should participate in a regional policing agency rather than having a solo department is, "How is it better for us?"
Carpenter, who said he himself is not in favor of the idea, said that Bernards Township has among the lowest crime rates in Somerset County, the fewest police officers per capita, and the lowest costs for supporting a municipal police department.
"I don't think it's better for Bernards Township," Carpenter said on Sunday night.
Carpenter added he believes there are many "unanswered questions" regarding the proposal, on which the county's municipalities have been asked to respond by the beginning of August.
Along with his contention that he does not believe that joining a county force would save money, Carpenter said he does not approve of giving up control to a regional board on the township's "primary public safety function."
Also sitting on the subcommittee are Deputy Mayor Carolyn Gaziano and Brian Bobowicz. Carpenter on Sunday said he had not hear any local officials say they are in favor of consolidating the local police force.
The feasibility study, commissioned in 2010 and led by the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, suggested that Bernards join Bernardsville, Far Hills, Peapack-Gladstone and Bedminster as one of five precincts in the county. The report also found that none of the departments’ existing facilities are “sufficient” to serve as a precinct headquarters. The study suggested research could be done in leasing an existing building near exit 33 of Route 78 or exit 26 of Route 287.
The could save an estimated $1.4 million over 10 years if it joined a county police force.
The task force, officially constituted on February 17, 2011, is the third phase by officials in Somerset County to examine an opportunity for a countywide police department. Phase two, which culminated in December 2010, included a police consolidation model prepared by consultant Thomas Banker. The release said the projected potential savings was upwards of $18 million dollars for a regionalized force.
A larger municipality than Bernards, Franklin Township in southern Somerset County, last week voted against joining a consolidated police force. But Carpenter said he has nothing against other municipalities who might want to band together for a regional force — and he also gave credit to Somerset County Freeholder Jack Ciatarelli for working so hard on the study.
Carpenter added he is open to the idea of other ways of sharing services that would save money and best serve the township.
Since April, Bernards Township has been relying on the county for its police dispatch service rather than having an internal dispatching system based at police headquarters at 1 Collyer Lane.
All township-based calls to 9-1-1 or to the department's main phone number of 908-766-1122 are being answered by the Somerset County dispatching service. The transition went smoothly, said McArthur.
Previously, the township had a shared dispatching service with bordering Long Hill Township. However, Long Hill gave Bernards Township advance notice that when its last shared dispatching contract expired in April, that municipality would seek police dispatching services from Morris County, where Long Hill is located.
Other events and meetings coming up this week:
- The township's Planning Board meets at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, at the 1 Collyer Lane. The main item on the agenda again is the continuing in order to make it suitable for reuse for some other purpose, such as residential development. The public has been waiting for an before the board last November. The chance is getting closer for the public to give opinions on the plan, as well as questioning experts for the quarry, as has been done during the series of hearings.
- The township's very own Trilogy Theater Company and the parks and recreation department present Trilogy's staging of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," at 8 p.m. at outdoor amphitheater this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the second week of performances.
- Student Golf Days at the off Valley Road, Tuesdays and Thursdays, for experienced student golfers ages 14 to 23, $18 for nine holes.
- On Tuesday, and head over at 7 p.m. to Pleasant Valley Park to see ever part of the Bernards Township Parks and Recreation fun, free concert series through July.
- The Bernards Township Board of Education regular business meeting has been rescheduled for 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 19, at the office at 101 Peachtree Road. An agenda should be available after Tuesday, according to the board office.
- Outdoor movie, "Puss In Boots" (PG) at 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday at Harry Dunham Park. Large inflatable screen new for 2012! The play and movie are among the
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