Yesterday Mayors Nancy Malool and Colleen Mahr of Scotch Plains and Fanwood met with Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow to discuss consolidation of both police departments. Both towns are also discussing merging their court operations as well as their building and construction code enforcement offices.
During the meeting the group heard from Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano and Somerset County Freeholder Jack M. Ciattarelli who spoke about their county’s own regionalization plans.
Prosecutor Romankow has been urging municipalities to consider merging their police departments in an effort to better utilize existing resources.
Mr. Ciattarelli, on Tuesday morning, presented a slide show on Somerset County’s regionalization efforts to date.
In an age where law enforcement agencies are shrinking and financial restraints have the potential to hamper effective policing, mergers are a viable alternative.
To that end, representatives from a number of Union County municipalities attended the meeting to learn more about the process including:
Berkeley Heights Business Administrator Amey Upchurch,
Summit Mayor Jordan Glatt
Linden Mayor Richard J. Gerbounka
Winfield Mayor Margaret McManus
Westfield Alt. Acting Mayor JoAnn Neylan
The meeting was also attended by Scotch Plains Police Chief Brian Mahoney and Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo and Union Township Police Director Dan Zieser.
“These are discussions that should be taking place before painful and avoidable cuts are taken, my Office is urging and assisting in any way possible to get these municipalities together to ensure that the public’s safety continues to remain a top priority,” said Prosecutor Romankow.
Mayor Malool stated: “ I appreciate the efforts of Prosecutor Romankow for organizing this meeting and the presentation by Prosecutor Soriano and Freeholder Ciattarelli. The information provided will be helpful as our councils in Scotch Plains and Fanwood continue investigating the possibility of merging our police departments. Our taxpayers are some of the most overburdened in the country, so I believe we need to do whatever we can to try to help alleviate that burden. Although both towns’ police departments provide excellent service, typically, police departments are one of the larger costs in a municipal budget, and that is the case in both of our towns. Therefore, the goal is to maintain or improve public safety while reducing costs. I am optimistic that we will be able to accomplish both.”
Mayor Mahr stated: “In this economic climate with a two percent property tax cap, I strongly believe I have an obligation to my taxpayers to explore alternative models for the delivery of all municipal services, including police. Working closely with Chief Trigo and Scotch Plains we are looking at a combined force from both an operational and financial perspective.”
During the information session the attendees heard from Somerset County officials who are working towards a possible regionalization of all police forces in their country.
The discussions between Scotch Plains and Fanwood are ongoing and the Prosecutor suggested they meet with appropriate officials to continue the dialogue. In addressing the other municipalities during the informational session, Prosecutor Romankow said he hopes other communities in Union County consider following the lead of Fanwood and Scotch Plains and begin talking about shared police services.