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Westwood Dispatch Plan Favored by Washington Twp. Council

Westwood officials have proposed that the borough could host emergency dispatching for Washington Township so both towns can save money.

The Washington Township Council informally moved toward accepting Westwood's offer to host their emergency dispatching during their meeting this week, according to Council President Richard Hrbek.

Officials have narrowed their search for a way to save money on emergency dispatching down to two options: using civilian dispatchers in the Washington Township Police Department or contracting with Westwood to share a civilian dispatch desk in the borough's police department.

Hrbek said he believed the two-town option would provide the best service and could also generate some significant savings in the future. Unlike the previously-considered Bergen County dispatch, township emergency officials have said they believed Westwood could maintain the quality of service the town currently has. 

If everything goes well as final details are negotiated between the towns, the council could be ready to vote on a resolution to go with Westwood by their next meeting, Hrbek said.

However, the council will also need Mayor Janet Sobkowicz to agree to the deal. Sobkowicz is working on a spreadsheet which compares the township's options and she said she could not support one plan or another until she had completed it.

"Once you go to dispatching someplace else, it's hard to come back," Sobkowicz said.

Sobkowicz effectively vetoed the council's plans to go with Bergen County dispatching last May by refusing to sign the contract.

Township officials had also previously discussed investigating hosting their own two-town dispatch center. Moving the dispatch to Westwood will require the Washington Township Police Department to be closed at night for the town to see real savings.

In Westwood, Mayor John Birkner said he was not interested in pursuing a township-hosted dispatch center.

"Our proposal is solid, and it exists," Birkner said at a council meeting earlier this month. "Should they decide they want to come here, we'll be here."

Keeping dispatching in the township would allow the police department to remain open at night. However, Hrbek warned that civilian dispatchers have a high turnover rate because many leave to become police officers or take other better-paying jobs. 

Westwood's plan would have the two towns sharing the dispatch's expenses. The township would pay an average of $131,000 per year for the first five years for operating costs and about $7,800 per year for 10 years for new equipment. 

Under the borough's proposal, Washington Township would also be able to leave the agreement, provided they gave at least one year's notice. Township officials said they would like to cut down the amount of notice they need to give, possibly to as short a time as 120 days.  

It will likely take several years before any significant savings are seen with either plan, officials said. 

"This is an investment for savings down the road," 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 October 17, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Any plan which closes the Township's police headquarters, for any period of time, should be vetoed.
Falcon Fan October 18, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Wake up. What is taking so long. They have been talking about this for a long time. Move forward and get something done. Please.
Hugh Rodgers October 18, 2012 at 11:29 PM
The township should be merged totally. One Big step, not one baby step!

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