Berkeley Heights Council Votes to Equip All Township Cars with GPS Devices
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 • 6:57am
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The Township Council made two major decisions at its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23. All township cars are going to be outfitted with GPS devices in 2013, and an inventory system will be initiated for items costing less than $1,500. There is already a fixed asset inventory in place for things that cost that amount or more.
Mayor Joseph Bruno said the GPS idea has been around for quite a while. He noted there are two reasons – safety and “we want to make sure our vehicles are staying in town and not wasting gas.” Five GPS units are currently being tested. Results were due back to Township Administrator Amey Upchurch on Wednesday, Oct. 24.
“I’m getting some push-back from some of the departments,” Bruno said. If those departments object, “make your case before the council for any you think should be exempt.” He suggested one vehicle from each department might fall into that category, except sewer trucks, which always go back to the garage. No employee except the fire chief will be allowed to take a car home. An exception will be made in his case because he goes directly from home to fire scenes as the incident commander. One-time special exemptions will be decided by the mayor and administrator.
For the five test cases, “everyone has been told up front and why. It’s not about ‘I gotcha,’ it’s about knowing where our vehicles are at all times,” said Bruno.
There was some discussion about whether these records could be kept confidential, particularly for the police department, and Township Attorney Joseph Sordillo said OPRA could be used, but each record could be reviewed before release. “I’m saying with confidence, police involvement could be confidential.”
Bruno summarized, “It all started with getting complaints from people saying ‘your cars are here or your cars are there.’ We want to be able to defend our employees if they’re working. But if you think that Big Brother’s out there – you’re right – he is!”
Councilman Edward Delia brought up the inventory issue. “If we don’t know what we own, it’s a problem.”
Upchurch explained that the Division of Local Government Services requires an inventory on items costing $1,500 or more annually, “It’s done every year and looked at in the audit,” she said.
“We want to know what we have,” said Bruno. “Part of the inventory process is also for ordering. Copy paper – is there a savings if we order 10 cases instead of two cases? We’ve asked every department to give us a list of the top 15 items ordered. We’ll review. We have a ton of stuff we’ve had for too many years.”
He continued, “A good inventory of fixtures and equipment is a good thing… Hopefully, we’ll work with department heads to establish ‘model stock,’ ” That is, to stock the number of items in inventory that should be kept on hand at all times.
The council agreed to establish an inventory system and also concurred that for vehicles, the VIN number will be noted each time something is done to a specific car.
“I want to see if people have been appropriating things they shouldn’t appropriate… If so they’re going to lose their job… If there’s a shortage we need to take action. That’s why we have a chief of police,” Bruno concluded.
The plan is to have the new inventory system in place by the end of the year.
Regarding the ongoing plans for secession from Union County, Bruno said school Superintendent Judith Rattner said there would be no impact on the schools; and, at this point, it is not known how county facilities and parks located in Berkeley Heights would be handled. The investigation is continuing.
In other business:
• The Beautification Committee met for the first time last week. Bruno said he’s hoping their work will “transcend to the downtown Business Improvement District.”
• The train station restaurant is expected to be open before the holidays.
• The two meetings in November will be on Nov. 20 and 27. The first meeting was rescheduled to allow council members to attend the League of Municipalities conference.
• Council President Kevin Hall said 2013 budget talks are underway and he expects to have hearings in January and introduce the budget in February or March next year.
• Chipping is complete for the year. Upchurch said next year branches that are not taken will be tagged with the reason why.