Township Council Moves Toward County Dispatch
The Washington Township Council voted 3-2 Monday to draft a contract with Bergen County for shared dispatching, but Mayor Janet Sobkowicz said she won't sign with the county.
Washington Township Mayor Janet Sobkowicz said she will not sign a contract to use Bergen County's dispatch service, even though the township council voted 3-2 in favor of pursuing an agreement with the county during their meeting Monday.
Officials from Washington Township and Westwood have been considering creating a new, independent dispatching service to share with River Vale and Old Tappan so all four towns could save money. Westwood and Washington Township officials have also been investigating using the county dispatch service, which is operated in Mahwah by the Bergen County Police Department.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're not going to do it that way," Sobkowicz said.
Council Vice President Joseph D'Urso said the switch to county dispatching will help cut down on the amount of overtime paid to township police. He urged Sobkowicz to change her mind.
"You're not a dictator," D'Urso said to the mayor. "If the governing body wants to go with it, you should go with it."
Sobkowicz said that overtime pay is already down this year and expects that the total cost of running the township's dispatch desk for 2012 would run about $438,000.
Councilman Steve Cascio told Patch Tuesday that the county proposed charging the township $185,000 per year for emergency dispatching or $163,000 if a second municipality, like Westwood, also joins.
Emergency officials in both towns have advised against joining the county's dispatching service. Bill Kroepke, a captain with the Washington Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said county dispatchers are often not as familiar with the Pascack Valley as local dispatchers are.
“It’s too far away," Kroepke said. "They have no idea what goes on down here.”
Kroepke also said switching to county dispatching creates the risk of leaving the service's budget in the county's hands. Bergen County Police and the county dispatch received cuts in this year's budget.
Councilman Steve Cascio said he believed local emergency responders would be able to handle a change.
"Good emergency services must learn to adapt," Cascio said.
Council President Richard Hrbek, who voted against drafting a contract with the county, said he would like more information about the costs of both plans before making a commitment one way or the other.