"Windsor-Hights Herald: Police Consolidation the Right Choice"


04-02-10


EDITORIAL: Police takeover study yields no-brainer decision
Thursday, April 1, 2010 7:11 PM EDT


"Residents of cash-strapped Hightstown, facing yet another big tax hike, have been starving for good financial news for several years. They got it, in spades, a few weeks ago. And the borough's top two leaders failed to notice.

Borough Council President Larry Quattrone and Mayor Bob Patten should be ashamed of their "oversight."

Hightstown, its one square mile surrounded by East Windsor, spends about $2.6 million on police-related expenditures.

Now, a nearly two-year study by an independent consultant has determined the borough could save more than $800,000 in the first year of a deal under which East Windsor takes over police coverage of its smaller neighbor. Furthermore, it says East Windsor could provide police service "as good or better than" what borough residents get now.

There are 14 officers on the Hightstown police force and it is understandable its union would oppose this. Those employees and a few others could be out of a job, and that is unfortunate but not rare during this recession.

But it also is reasonable for critics to note that the borough force has one of its officers facing a serious criminal charge of false imprisonment, and another has already been paid $275,000 to sit at home on suspension since late 2007. And this is the same department that allowed reporters and others for two weeks to trample through an apartment where prosecutors say a local woman was decapitated in 2007 before the prosecutor's office apparently shut the scene down. That case has yet to be adjudicated.

That's not meant to paint an entire force as lacking. There are many dedicated and competent employees. Thus, there is no reason to believe several would not find work with the East Windsor force which, according to the consultant, would agree to interview them all as it tries to fill at least seven positions needed if the takeover occurred.

No, this is not about a lot of people losing their jobs.

It is not about the township being unable to provide equivalent service. East Windsor officers drive through the borough every shift and their headquarters is less than a mile from Hightstown. The folks trying to make this about "dangerous" response times are fearmongers.

It appears this is about some local politicians wanting to hold onto their power.

Mayor Patten - who has never supported the move and got himself removed from the committee studying the issue by getting into an argument with a township leader - said last week that he hadn’t had enough time to think about the issue. Mind you, this study began about two years ago, and the idea of police consolidation has been discussed even longer.

Council President Quattrone, who wants to be the next mayor, offered an even more disappointing comment. He said he still needs to be "convinced by the public" this would be a good move.

Sure, there were members of the public who opposed the move at the Borough Council meeting. But public officials from both towns, including Mr. Quattrone, just spent about two years working with an independent, unbiased, unemotional consultant with top-notch credentials.

It is time for action in a town that is the poster child for the need of municipal consolidation in New Jersey. It is time to quickly negotiate a deal with East Windsor, which would make about $300,000 a year, according to the consultant.

The $800,000 borough savings is equal to about 16 cents on the local tax rate, and Hightstown residents need and deserve a break.

To ignore the finding of this report, as was done with another recent study on total consolidation of the two towns, would be irresponsible."

Read the full article, as well as the public comments by clicking here.