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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 the county's dispatching service. Bill Kroepke, a captain with the , 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.

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

Carey Grant May 23, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Hard times means we hard choices need to be made. Change is never easy. But if the savings justify it we should do it. We have to stop thinking so locally and start combining services to get the most bang for the buck. We can't sustain this any longer. Too expensive. Move over Madame Mayor.
george phillips May 23, 2012 at 01:14 PM
So the three amigos voted for something the taxpayers and emergency people are against? SHOCKING!!!!
Concerned May 23, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Janet and Rich Hrbek appaer to be the only part of Township Government with common sense. The people affected said it better than I could: "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." Putting our town in the hands of the County is beyond absurd.
J. Allen Goas May 23, 2012 at 06:22 PM
The Mayor and Councilman Hrbec seem to be our only elected officials who have the Township residents' best interests in mind. Thank you to both!
Hugh Rodgers May 23, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Merge! It's time for the Township to be part of another municipality. Why do we need all the overhead? There are too many municipalities in New Jersey. We should be the "merging" pioneer. It's not like a status change will effect our downtown. All we have is a half-empty strip mall. Think out of the Box!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WT Dad May 23, 2012 at 07:04 PM
So the council on one hand wants save money at the risk of public safety, yet some council members (i.e. Beckmeyer) want to spend money to put turf in Memorial field so the Falcons can have a nice place to play. Remember these actions next time you go to the voting booth everyone!
Falcon Fan May 24, 2012 at 12:17 AM
It is pretty clear that the fire department not the mayor and council run the Township. Time to consolidate.
J. Allen Goas May 24, 2012 at 01:23 PM
So let's see; artificial turf should be the Township's top priority, while public safety is a lesser priority? Thank goodness Mayor Soblowicz is at the helm of of our town's decision making process.
resident May 24, 2012 at 01:52 PM
once again hrbek needs more information regarding the costs before making a commitment. He has been saying this for well over a year. Enough of the nonsense. Get the facts and make a decision. I'm sure the town has a CFO that can get this info and put an an analysis together.
michael woods May 26, 2012 at 01:09 PM
It is so sad every time I read an article about a municipality considering disbanding there own dispatch and joining the county network. The reason, everyone is misinformed and has no knowledge of how this works. Numbers are thrown around and Emergency Service Workers state its not going to work. First of all, regional or countywide dispatch centers work well, depending on how they are managed. There are pros and cons to both sides. In order for an informed decision to be made, you must know the facts. If you are talking about true tax relief, its not in your local dispatch center. You need to take the cost of running the dispatched center and divide that number among every taxable property and that's the saving a resident or business will save, and you will be very disappointed as there will be little savings. In the case of Washington Twp, I believe the dispatching is done by police officers, so the cost is much more then if they employed civilian dispatchers, as police salaries are much higher. The figure of $438,00 is not correct. It takes 5 police officers (dispatchers) to run the dispatch, to cover it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and that covers days off, vacation and sick coverage. Plus equipment, maintenance and upgrades are needed. I would assume if they go to the county, these 5 officers are no longer needed? If this is correct, there will savings over a 25 year period of that officers employment with benefits and pension contributions. Ask these questions
michael woods May 26, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Until you get exact figures, a decision should not be made. Lets talk abut pros and cons, and you still may have many questions. On the local side, they have 1 officer assigned to dispatching. What happens when an influx of 911 calls come into this one officer dispatch center? Who backs them up and how do the get the emergency call back to Washington Twp? Do they offer pre-arrival medical instructions with just one person dispatching? What is there interoperability among emergency services and their surrounding towns? Will the be narrow-band ready? With them retaining their own dispatching, it does help greatly that the officers know the area they patrol. Many 911 calls receive now are cellular, and a large majority of the callers do not know where they are. All administration calls can be handled directly and well as calls a supervisor must take.
michael woods May 26, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Going to the county...What interoperability will the police have with their fire and ems? How about their surrounding towns? When the county takes a non emergency call and requires the call to go back to Washington Twp, will there be an officer there at all times for answer questions or complaints from the residents? The county dispatch will have to depend on mapping programs for callers who do not know where they are, and will the dispatchers ever become familiar with the town as they have a high turn over rate? They will be able to handle numerous 911 calls at one time, as they have more dispatchers working. Are their computer aided dispatch systems the same? If not, how do they retrieve the call information for their report system? Please Please Please, look into all this first before a decision is made. Countywide dispatching does work, will it work here?

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