Summit Council Told Shared Dispatch Center is Feasible With Two Lead Communities Instead of Four; Contract With Police Wins Approval
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 • 6:01am
SUMMIT, NJ - Despite the decision by Berkeley Heights to run “its own show” and Millburn probably not participating as a lead community, the shared emergency dispatch center planned for New Providence still will be workable with only Summit and New Providence as its chief partners.
That was the news brought by Summit City Administrator Christopher Cotter and New Providence Borough Administrator Douglas Marvin to the Summit Common Council at its meeting on Tuesday.
Cotter noted consideration of the shared center has been under discussion for about five years. A Share Grant enabled the initial study of the idea and a followup study. Kimball Associates then performed an assessment that concluded the concept was feasible.
He added that since the origination of the concept, Berkeley Heights had decided to stay with the “status quo” in retaining its standalone dispatch system and Millburn, which had joined later in the process with New Providence, Summit and Berkeley Heights as a possible fourth partner, probably would now pursue a dispatch service separate from the original concept for its law enforcement dispatching.
Currently this means that Summit and New Providence will be the lead partners in the shared emergency dispatch service with Millburn’s fire department dispatch also part of the mix.
Millburn has been under a joint contract with Summit for its fire dispatch service for a number of years.
In addition, Cotter said, the founding partners of the new facility would seek other communities to contract with the shared operation for their dispatch services.
Marvin added that, although New Providence would like to see the shared services facility operate out of the borough, the New Providence Borough Council is studying joint dispatch services in both Morris and Union counties to see if they might possibly fit its needs.
“To New Providence it is not simply a matter of dollars,” he said. “The two communities are similar in that people move into both municipalities because of the high quality of their schools and other services.”
As for the costs of the shared facility, Cotter said a $1.6 million grant received by Summit can be used to start the project and the facility will see modest savings for both communities in its first year of operation.
Going forward, he added, there would be more savings in “soft costs”—chiefly by freeing up officers for police work who have previously been used for dispatch duty.
Contracting with other communities in the future also would moderate the costs, Cotter noted.
Marvin added the capital costs for the shared facility were based on seven work stations and this would leave room for the use of some of the stations by future contracted communities.
Summit Councilman Thomas Getzendanner said even with only two lead partners the shared center would give Summit the advantage of doing away with its current “three-silo” dispatch system with no interconnection among the three agencies using it.
Marvin also said the shared setup would provide the additional benefit of integrating technological improvements that neither Summit nor New Providence could afford to do separately.
Summit Mayor Ellen Dickson said a decision on the shared facility should be made before the Summit grant expired. She also endorsed the idea of “franchising” the shared center to other municipalities.
Cotter and Marvin said an agreement for formation of a shared dispatch facility possibly could be presented to both governing bodies in September.
In another public safety-related matter, the Summit common council approved an agreement with Summit Local No.55 of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association extending from January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2014.
The agreement includes a salary increase of 1.5 percent effect March 1, 2011, and annual increases of 1.5 percent effect January 1, 2012 through 2014.
The increases will be applied to the top step salary and other rates will remain unchanged for the duration of the agreement. The salary guide also will increase the number of steps to get to the top salary grade from six to 10 and will give the police chief more flexibility in scheduling new employees.
In other police business, the council approved the hiring of Henry Ludena and Matthew Tarentino as police officers. Police Chief Robert Weck said the mayor probably would swear in the new officers on September 19.
On another matter, in keeping with Dickson’s goal of increasing the digitalization of the city, Amy Cairns Harrison demonstrated a new “app” for Smart Phones that would take those who download the application on a tour of 19 historic areas in the city with the option of linking to vocal narratives including an introduction to Summit and its historic significance by Dickson.
Dickson said the application, which is being funded by the city’s department of community services and Downtown Summit, utilizes Tour Buddy and will be available for free on ITunes around September 1.
Harrison added applications highlighting the various sculptures in the central business district and law enforcement uses are planned, with spaces for up to 25 additional applications.
In other official business, the council opened a public hearing on an ordinance to expand payment options for parking to Smart Phones and merchant-issued coupons.
Due to the fact that City Solicitor Thomas Scrivo still has to review the legal technicalities of the additional options, the hearing will be continued on September 5 and the adoption of the ordinance probably will be voted on at that time.
Getzendanner said the envisioned technology was beyond the scope of the city to handle and continued to press for takeover of the city’s parking system by a private vendor.
Councilman Robert Rubino replied while the future takeover by a private vendor was a good idea, to implement the paid shopper parking system as planned by this fall action was necessary on the new payment options as soon as possible.
On another parking matter, the councilmen awarded a $30,735 contract for pay-by-space equipment to be used in the tiered parking garage.
Responding to a question by Getzendanner, Parking Services Manager Rita McNany said only one successful bid was received on the equipment with only three bidders because there are few companies whose equipment can accept the Summit Smartcard.
The council, however, failed to pass a resolution authorizing the designation of the Railroad Avenue property currently used for parking behind the Summit Post Office as an area in need of redevelopment.
Getzendanner said the city should not handle the redevelopment and offer the parcel to one bidder but should put the redevelopment in private hands with a number of possible developers bidding on it.
Scrivo explained, however, that the resolution on Tuesday’s agenda only would authorize the planning board to make recommendations to the governing body about the options for the use of the property, including its possible sale. He said the resolution would not limit the development to one bidder.
The resolution failed because there only were four councilmen in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, all four would have to vote in favor for the measure to be approved and Getzendanner voted against the designation.
Councilmen also authorized the application by the Reeves-Reed Arboretum for a $50,000 grant for preparation of the arboretum’s historic landscape master plan and for a Kids Recreation Trust Fund grant that will provide for dugout concrete pads at Long Field and Memorial Field, reconstruction of the Tatlock tennis court, a bleacher retrofit at Investors Bank Field and drainage improvements and bocce court landscaping.