Should Westwood and Washington Twp. Share Dispatching?
Some Westwood and Washington Township officials want the towns to share emergency dispatching services to save money, but others say the combined desk may not be able to handle the number of calls during large emergencies.
Washington Township Mayor Janet Sobkowicz effectively decided that the township and Westwood would not share emergency dispatching services when she said she would not sign a contact for the services to be performed out of town during a council meeting last week.
The shared dispatch would have been hosted in the Westwood Police Department with a team of civilians running the desks. Combining services would have saved about $50,000 a year for the township compared to running their own dispatch with civilians, but the change would have required the Washington Township Police Department to be closed at night as part of savings.
"As far as I'm concerned, $50,000 is not a high price to pay for dispatching to stay here," Sobkowicz said.
Washington Township Fire Chief Jamie Powell said at thel meeting that he was also concerned about the number of calls the combined center would be able to handle in a large emergency, like Hurricane Sandy. During the storm, Powell said he had to turn off radio channels for Westwood and Hillsdale because the sheer number of calls coming in made it difficult for him to hear those for Washington Township.
The mayor's decision drew applause from police, firefighters and EMTs at the meeting, but councilmen — who had just voted in favor of the shared service — expressed frustration.
At a Westwood Council meeting the next night, Mayor John Birkner said he was also disappointed with the decision.
"We had in place a very advantageous and progressive model that could have benefitted both towns," Birkner said.
There had also been preliminary discussions with the Westwood Regional School District to have security cameras at all six local schools broadcast directly to the dispatch center, Birkner said.
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