BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ A resolution to approve a shared municipal court arrangement with three other Somerset Hills towns, which would shift the township's court hearings to Bedminster Township, was tabled at Tuesday's virtual Township Committee meeting, but then rescheduled for discussion at a special meeting on Monday, June 1.
A special Bernards Township Committee meeting has been scheduled for 8 p.m. on June 1 to be held via Zoom video conferencing, according to notice received Thursday from the township clerk's office. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss a possible shared services agreement with Peapack and Gladstone, Bernardsville, Bedminster, and the township of Bernards, for the establishment and operation of a shared municipal court. The public will be able to view the meeting live via YouTube, the notice said.
Mayor James Baldassare Jr. said at Tuesday's meeting that township officials would gather more information on the proposal to present to the public before the Township Committee votes on whether to join a shared court system.
A general outline of the agreement, posted in a proposed resolution on the Bernards Township website, states that tax money can be saved by sharing courtrooms, chambers, equipment, supplies and court personnel for their municipal courts. Even with shared facilities, each town would continue to operate as a separate court, according to the resolution and officials' previous comments.
Township Administrator Pat Monaco said in an email on Wednesday that the township is anticipating annual savings in a range between $90,000 to $120,000 by approving the shared arrangement. "We have a range as there are many variables to the projections," he added.
The question was raised at Tuesday's virtual meeting of whether additional overtime costs would be incurred if township police officers would need to travel to Bedminster to testify in municipal court cases.
"We currently schedule officers for court when officers are on duty to minimize overtime, and that accommodation will continue," Monaco said in Wednesday's email.
The Bernards Township Committee first showed interest in a shared municipal court system in March 2019, 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.