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Dispatch to Stay in Washington Township, Sobkowicz Says

The Washington Township Council voted in favor of pursuing a shared emergency dispatch service with Westwood, but Mayor Janet Sobkowicz said she would keep dispatching in the township.

The Washington Township Council voted 4-1 Monday to pursue a shared service with Westwood for emergency dispatching, but Mayor Janet Sobkowicz said she would not consent to the deal.

"We're going to stay in-house," Sobkowicz said.

Westwood officials had proposed they could host emergency dispatching for both towns in the Westwood Police Department at an average cost of $132,000 per year, plus some expenses for equipment upgrades.

As mayor, Sobkowicz is needed to sign any contracts the township enters. In the spring, she refused to sign a contract for shared dispatching with Bergen County after the council had voted in favor of that, too.

Some councilmen expressed frustration with Sobkowicz's veto power.

"There is absolutely no reason for us to sit here," Council Vice President Joseph D'Urso said. "You may as well be a dictator."

Sobkowicz presented a spreadsheet Monday which compared the costs of three dispatching options: shared with Bergen County, shared with Westwood and alone using full-time civilian dispatchers. According to the spreadsheet, which Sobkowicz worked on with Police Chief Randy Ciocco and other police officers, entering a shared service with Westwood would be the cheapest option, at about $279,000 the first year and $201,000 in subsequent years. Continuing alone with civilian dispatchers will cost about $292,000 the first year and $255,000 per year after.

"As far as I'm concerned, $50,000 is not a high price to pay for dispatching to stay here," Sobkowicz said.

Councilmen Steve Cascio and Fred Goetz questioned some of the estimated costs in the spreadsheet, including the price of equipment for a "safe room" that would be required if dispatching were moved out of the township because the police department would have to close at night.

"None of our numbers have been close," Goetz said. "I'm very skeptical of the numbers in the spreadsheet."

The estimated costs alone do not tell the whole story. Washington Township Fire Chief Jamie Powell said he was opposed to moving dispatching out of town because a central dispatch center may not be able to handle the increased amount of calls during large emergencies. During Hurricane Sandy, Powell said he had to turn off radio channels for Hillsdale and Westwood because there was too much activity.

"They were so inundated with calls that I couldn't hear my calls coming in," Powell said.

On the other hand, it may be harder to meet the estimated savings if the township keeps its own dispatching because civilian dispatchers have a high turnover rate, Council President Richard Hrbek previously told Patch. If there are no civilians to work the desk, more highly-paid police officers will have to fill in, as they currently do. Sobkowicz said dispatching currently costs the town about $489,000 per year.

After the council informally moved in favor of the Westwood plan last month, Westwood Mayor John Birkner said he hoped to have a shared dispatch service in place before the end of the year.

"We have a good proposal on the table," Birkner previously said.

Hrbek said he believed the shared service with Westwood could have saved more money, but any of the options would maintain the quality of existing dispatch service.

"I wouldn't be pursuing any of these if I felt they were in any way jeopardizing the services the residents of Washington Township have become accustomed to," Hrbek said.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Jim Leggate at Jim.Leggate@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

J. Allen Goas November 20, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Good decision. Listen to our wonderful first responders. Nice job, Madam Mayor.
B@B November 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM
I wonder how much this was about keeping a level of service and how much was about protecting crony jobs in the Township. This mayor and council have zero credibility anymore, so why should we believe them about this?
Hugh Rodgers November 20, 2012 at 05:18 PM
This township needs to merge. Do we really need this kind of publicity? There's no valid reason that we should stay as we are. Merge!
Disgusted Resident November 20, 2012 at 06:32 PM
They should change this form of government so this way the "mayor" doesn't have the last say on everything
Township Townie November 20, 2012 at 07:13 PM
This mayor is so out of touch with reality. The council put up a good idea and Her Majesty blocks it. This is crazy, same old nonsense from the same old behind the scenes republican puppeteers.
scruffy November 20, 2012 at 07:17 PM
This on the same day as The Record has an article stating that a new law may cost towns State Aid if they refuse to share services with their neighboring towns. So in other words in the Mayor's mind no need to save even 50,000 a year on this? It all adds up and she needs to be respectful of the taxpayers. If the bill gets approved by the Senate panel Monday it becomes law. Maybe this is what is needed to force mergers.
George November 20, 2012 at 07:59 PM
But our mayor is not listening to our Council or the taxpayers. I think she needs to clearly explain her position.
George November 20, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Eveyone knows that we can't afford to have police officer's making $150k -$200k/ yr (incl. benefits) in a dispatching role, they should be on patrol, not at a desk. If we keep dispatching in house, how long will it take to fully switch to civilian dispatchers? I believe we have a few part time civilian dispatchers now, but we never use them.
WT Dad November 20, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Nice job by the mayor not to be bullied into this. Closing our police department at night, just doesn't sound right to save a few dollars. 50k, 60k, whatever, is just a few $ in the grand scheme of things.
Township Townie November 20, 2012 at 09:34 PM
That's nonsense. WT Dad must be either a member of the fire department or in the pocket of BS (how appropriate). Wait, that is the same thing.
Jeffrey Tammen November 25, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Hey wash twp dad are you kidding its more like 375,000.00 which is a lot amongst most circle of people. It comes down to control nothing else our police department does a great job in all that they do. You do not need a person making 100,000.00 answering phones doesn't make sense.we have to be smart about this .
Jeffrey Tammen November 25, 2012 at 04:33 PM
If we can not afford it or can find other ways to save the mayor should want to follow thru on. The problem us that even after Rudy is gone and some new faces everybody else was put in there buy him . We need new faces and to clean house up atop the hill so we can have some checks and balances.ill tell you how bad the mayor and council have been during my 18 yrs as a vol firefighter and 2 yrs as a fire chief in this town with a 100 percent credit for more then 12 yrs and a perfect record I blew the whistle on my asst chief who was a alcoholic and abusing his power and car going to calls and passing the scene and talking to residents while being under the influence.so I got paid back and harassed for being a whistle blower .current mayor and bob Schroeder were part of it . Go figure Schroeder is arrested for bad checks and they leave him on the dept .even though with a record he should be dismissed of his duties. So there's the double standard plus it's volunteer go figure
WT Dad November 26, 2012 at 05:11 PM
It is ignorant people who cannot debate without getting personal.....
Michael P November 27, 2012 at 02:19 AM
The next time you should try spell check and proof read your comments before making them public. Didn't Westwood FD get rid of you too?
Jeffrey Tammen November 28, 2012 at 12:40 AM
No actually I'm still a member of hose 2 and due to a heavy work load and having more kids I could not do both.Hey mike p is the p for pussy or just afraid to use last name.if you have more comments pls free to call me it's in the book
Jeffrey Tammen November 28, 2012 at 12:42 AM
And mike p maybe you should check your facts first before you say something that's not true. Sorry for misspelling my spell check is broke.
Jeffrey Tammen November 28, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Hey mike FYI I spent 24 yrs volunteering for my town and Westwood. What have you done for your community ?
Jeffrey Tammen November 28, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Hey wt dad it's not personal I just don't agree with you and your facts are wrong ,and just because people don't agree with you in a debate doesn't make them ignorant.maybe people who don't understand the problem and state some crazy facts that are not true maybe they are ignorant.
joe shmo November 30, 2012 at 04:09 AM
as a chief you really knew all about Checks and Balances.....out of curiosity why are you Not on the Fire Dept anymore??????
Jeffrey Tammen November 30, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Hey joe shmo you must be just as stupid as as your screen name. Blog said it
Jeffrey Tammen November 30, 2012 at 05:52 PM
And it's not about me but about the township of Washington.
Jeffrey Tammen November 30, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Don't be a hater joe shmo tell me what you have done lately for your town
Jeffrey Tammen November 30, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Oh pls stop it joe shmo you hurt my feelings lmao . How come you don't use real name freak
bcpo3547 December 01, 2012 at 06:45 AM
so stealing from a fire dept really shows how big of a man you are
Jeffrey Tammen December 08, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Stop it you savage lol you must be swimming in the same sewer as the rest of them.you are such a coward my number is listed why not call and hear the facts or do u really care you will not silence the truth .
Jeffrey Tammen December 08, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Just so you know the issue is with the township . You are so smart you found me out wow rocket scienctist I bet lmao

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