BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Joining Bernards Township's municipal court system with nearby Bedminster Township's might have seemed like an obvious way to share services and possibly save court costs, but months of discussion have failed to lead to an agreement _ for the time being.
The Bernards Township Committee first showed interest in the proposal back in March, after Bernards hired Judge Katherine Howes as the township's new municipal court judge. Howes also is the municipal court judge in nearby Bedminster, which already shares its court system with the other Somerset Hills communities of Bernardsville and Peapack/Gladstone.
Bernards announces it will 'explore other options' but 'door always open' for agreement
But earlier this week, Bernards Township issued an announcement that the Township Committee has "decided it is in the township's best interest to take its time, and explore other options."
The release from the Bernards municipal clerk's office specified that "Bernards Township has explored joining the shared court of Bedminster, Peapack/Gladstone and Bernardsville but did not reach an agreement."
"Bernards Township remains, however, interested in pursuing a shared court," the release said, before adding that the Township Committee intends to look at other options.
Looking to Warren or Bridgewater as well [updated]
In an email on Thursday, Bernards Township Administrator Pat Monaco said the township remains interested in exploring shared services as related to court. "The door is always open," he said in response to a question about whether disucssions might continue with Bedminster Township. He also said that reasons for the failure to settle on an agreement "iincluded the shared funding for all partners."
Monaco added the township has been directed to explore whether Warren or Bridgewater townships have any interest in pursuing a shared court.
"Given the time of year, and new elections, I do not anticipate a response from them before their new governing bodies take office and review in 2020," Monaco added in the email.
The announcement from the township on Tuesday specified that, "The Township appreciates the time and effort everyone put into exploring the opportunity." The release singled a number of participants out for thanks, including Monaco, Bernards Chief Financial Officer Sean McCarthy, and Human Resources Manager Emily Kesselmeyer, as well as Bedminster Administrator Judy Sullivan, Bedminster Mayor Lawrence Jacobs, the municipalities of Peapack and Bernardsville, and their staff members.