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Westwood Mayor Hoping For Shared Dispatch This Year

Westwood Mayor John Birkner said he hopes the borough will be able to finalize a deal with Washington Township for shared emergency dispatching before January 1, 2013.

Westwood Mayor John Birkner said this week that he hopes to have a shared emergency dispatching service in place before the end of the year.

After months of discussion, the borough proposed that it could host dispatching for itself and Washington Township with a team of civilian dispatchers in the Westwood Police Department. Civilian dispatchers are paid less than police officers covering the desk.

"We have a good proposal on the table," Birkner said. "We are simply waiting for the township to do their due diligence."

Township councilmen informally moved toward accepting the borough's plan during their last meeting, but some details still need to be negotiated, officials said. 

The council will also need the support of Washington Township Mayor Janet Sobkowicz, who will be the one to sign the contract with Westwood. Sobkowicz previously said she would need to finish a report comparing Westwood's plan and an alternate proposal for the township to continue running their own dispatch desk, like Hillsdale officials recently chose, before she could support one plan or the other.

For Washington Township, the move to Westwood will mean the township's Police Department will have to close at night.

Doing a one-town dispatch center with civilians may be more difficult than the numbers show, according to township Council President Richard Hrbek. Hrbek told Patch that civilian dispatchers tend to have a high turnover rate because many leave for jobs as police officers. 

Whichever option the township chooses, it will likely take some time before real savings are seen, officials said.

State officials have voiced support for shared services between municipalities. Birkner's comments followed a meeting with an official from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. According to Birkner, emergency dispatching was specifically discussed as one of several suggestions for shared services. Others included courts, recreation and boards of health, he 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.

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