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Washington Twp. Mayor Explains Civilian Dispatching Plan

Mayor Janet Sobkowicz aims to save money while maintaining existing services by replacing police dispatchers with civilian dispatchers.

Washington Township Mayor Janet Sobkowicz explained a plan for how the township's emergency dispatching will operate in the future during a council meeting Monday night.

The dispatch, which is used for the township's police, firefighters, EMTs and DPW, will have three full-time civilian dispatchers on weekdays and two or three part-time dispatchers on weekends, Sobkowicz said. One of the full-time dispatchers would act as the "lead" and be responsible for training and scheduling the others.

The civilian dispatchers will replace police officers, who make more money per hour working on the dispatch desk. Officials previously said no police would lose their jobs because of the plan.

Officials said the lead dispatcher would make about $40,000, the two other full-time dispatchers would make about $37,000 each and there would be about $50,000 budgeted for several part-time dispatchers at a wage of about $18 per hour, though these figures had not yet been voted into the salary ordinance.

Council Vice President Fred Goetz said he was concerned about the costs of the in-house dispatching plan, which is estimated to be about $50,000 more expensive than a plan to share dispatching services with Westwood.

"We're adding more employees, more liability, more benefits packages, more equipment," Goetz said.

The council had voted unanimously in favor of the Westwood plan in November, but Sobkowicz said she would not sign a contract to take dispatching out of the township.

Sobkowicz said Monday that the advantages of keeping the dispatching in the township's Police Department — it would have had to close at night if they outsourced the service — outweighed the extra cost.

"That's not a big price to pay to keep dispatching in the township," Sobkowicz said.

Sobkowicz also noted that other nearby towns, including Hillsdale and Emerson, have recently successfully switched to civilian dispatchers.

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.

Boyd A. Loving January 29, 2013 at 05:52 PM
So what happens when the County starts offering free dispatch service? The Township will then lay off the recently hired civilian dispatchers and pay their unemployment benefits? Or, does the Township plan to continue paying over $200K per year in salaries and benefits for a service the County is offering for free? Don't hire anyone until the County announces their plan.
The Cardinal January 29, 2013 at 06:49 PM
How do Tri-boro Police and Closter area PD's handle this issue? They are not dispatched by local PD but by Central and County. They do not keep an officer in headquarters other than normal business hours. Old Tappan does not have an officer in HQ overnight - never read about citizens who think they are not getting sufficient services as a result of Rivervale dispatching.
george phillips January 30, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Only someone who doesn't know the Mayor would leave such a dumb comment!!
Concerned January 30, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Based on Goetz' comment Mayor was correct. If it only costs $ 50,000 more to keep dispatch in town. It is worth it.
Dumb O'Dumberer January 30, 2013 at 05:18 PM
If Councilman Goetz said it, I would consider it suspect...
Had Enough January 30, 2013 at 07:16 PM
And you believe the mayors numbers? Are you kidding? Dispatch should go to the County or to Westwood. There is no reason to keep it in Township. The highest paid cops are still answering the dispatch calls. No savings there. Time for the mayor to step aside.
Doug Williams January 30, 2013 at 11:34 PM
I don't think she has any close friends or relatives...

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