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Shared Dispatch Could Maintain Service Quality, Officials Say

Westwood and Washington Township officials are considering a plan to have the borough host the township's emergency dispatching.

Shared Dispatch Could Maintain Service Quality, Officials Say

Westwood Mayor John Birkner and Police Captain Frank Durante attended the Washington Township Council's meeting Monday to answer questions about a possible shared service agreement between the two towns for emergency dispatching.

The plan is one of many that local officials have examined for ways to save money on emergency dispatching, though Washington Township councilmen previously said they believed this plan would residents and emergency officials had with other proposals, such as using Bergen County's dispatch service in Mahwah.

"I'm very comfortable with Westwood's ability to provide this service seamlessly," township Councilman Steve Cascio said.

Westwood's proposal is that Washington Township would pay an average of $131,000 per year for five years to use the service, which would include four fulltime dispatchers working with emergency officials in both towns. The borough would also need to upgrade some equipment, which would cost the township about $7,400 per year over 10 years, Birkner said. Washington Township would be free to leave the agreement after giving notice one year in advance.

Washington Township still faces an issue with the plan. For the town to save money, they will need to close the at night and may have to cut back on the number of officers working on each shift.

Township Police Chief Randy Ciocco said he was concerned about closing the department because people come there at night when they need help.

"I'm not sitting here saying this can't work, but there is a downside," Ciocco said.

The township would likely invest in a "safe room" for residents who need help when the department is closed, officials said.

The two-town proposal was modeled after a similar shared service agreement between River Vale and Old Tappan, according to Birkner. Those towns have shared dispatching since the Old Tappan Police Department was created about 50 years ago. They had previously considered joining Westwood and Washington Township for a four-town agreement, but that plan "did not pan out," according to Birkner.

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