ANDOVER TOWNSHIP, NJ - The Andover Township Committee announced they will not be disbanding the Andover Township Police dispatchers, to a filled room of concerned residents on Monday, October 22, but they intend to look into restructuring.
“We are not looking to disband; we are only talking about possibly restructuring," said Mayor Michael Lesnak. "As a community we have to analyze everything and the budget is being cut, the pie is shrinking."
Restructuring would take two full-time positions and turn them into part-time ones. The mayor stressed they do not want to lay anyone off, or hurt the town, but they have to think about restructuring. Three dispatchers were brought into the executive session prior to the meeting.
“If that saves jobs for everyone else, then that’s what we have to do,” Lensak said.
There were discussions of bringing other towns in to offset the costs, but those plans did not work out, according to Lensak.
“We had another town that offered to dispatch for $181,000, which would save us money, but we had to find another way to keep our dispatchers,” said Phil Boyce, committee member.
The total net cost of the dispatchers is $361,941.60. If disbanding was to take place, there would be at least six month's notice, and there would be training provided if full-time positions are turned into part-time, Lesnak explained.
“We have been gradually laying people off, and combining positions to help the town with lowering taxes,” Boyce said. "We believe it is important for our residents, and this is not going to go away because we don’t know when the economy is going to come back.”
During the public portion, resident and firefighter, Bill Gallagher, voiced his concerns about the dispatchers, and mentioned there have been discussions about residents’ taxes going up.
“If $53 a year will save a resident from a full-time job, I’d be glad to pay it,” Gallagher said.
Boyce stated he was happy to hear a comment like this, to better understand where the town is coming from.
Also during the meeting's public portion, resident Kimberly Post said she wanted to make sure the alternative means to the bus road is still being discussed. Police Chief Gil Taglialatela said he has suggested a special officer in that area to run that as a trial. There was some debate if the school board agreed to help offset the cost for the police officer to be present.
“The school board did not make a motion to definitely do so. They are still discussing the possibility,” said Patricia Wolfrum, a resident who attended the school board meeting.
Ordinance number 2012-10 was introduced with a general acceptance from the residents of Andover Township. The ordinance, including land use codes and lot line adjustment approval, will lower residents’ fees.
New business in regards to retiree’s and a sick leave buyback policy, which requires banking of a minimum of 75 days, was introduced. Andover Township Municipal Clerk/Administrator, Vita Thompson, said they could add a subsection and the amount would not go beyond $5,000. This yielded a positive reaction from the committee.
There was a motion to approve the bid for cell tower leases. The governing body directed attorney Fred Semrau to prepare the bids.
“Some proposals indicate it could yield over one million dollars to the town,” Semrau said.
Committee member, Tom Walsh, explained there are two cell towers and seven antennas. They have a revenue stream of $175,000 a year, and they would bundle three antennas, and keep four.
“We would be guaranteed a lump sum and be able to bank some of the one million to lower taxes. If it pans out, we will be in very good shape,” Walsh said.