BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ After the departure of three police officers in recent months, and the hiring of three replacement rookies last month, the township police force is promoting others to move up to fill the ranks.

The agenda for Tuesday night's Bernards Township Committee, which is posted online, includes the approvals for the promotion of Christopher Hurst to lieutenant; Alexander McKnight to sergeant; and Christopher Baxter to corporal.

Two new officers, Nicholas Dante and Dustin Lopez, were sworn in at the June 11 meeting. A third new patrol officer, Alec McCrea, was sworn in at the township clerk's office on June 26, said Police Chief Michael Shimsky. 

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The three vacancies on the force were created by one resignation and the retirements of two veteran officers, Capt. Mark Leopold, who retired in May, and the department's Deputy Police Chief, Michael Voorhees, who is due to retire on July 1 following 26 years with the department.

Options for supplemental paid ambulance service due to be presented

Also on the agenda, Shimsky is scheduled to give an update on an investigation into whether the township should contract with professional Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers to cover at certain times for the all-volunteer Basking Ridge and Liberty Corner rescue squads. 

In April, township officials first publicly presented a long-discussed proposal that a paid ambulance service should be hired to answer weekday emergency calls when fewer volunteers are available. Shimsky, speaking on behalf of both volunteer EMS squads, said then that the plan has the support of both the Basking Ridge and Liberty Corner EMS and Fire Co. organizations.

Volunteers will continue to answer calls as they are able, township officials said at the April meeting.

The conclusion was reached after about three years of study, during which volunteers realized that, as in many communities, it had become harder and harder for volunteers to answer calls from  growing number of residents and businesses, Shimsky said at that time

"We are the a breaking point, and it's not getting any better," Shimsky said. "We are all in agreement that we have to do something.

The paid EMS responders would bill patients independently of the township, according to this spring's discussion. Both Shimsky and Township Administrator Pat Monaco offered assurances then that the township would be seeking contractors who would agree to "soft billing," and who would not pressure those underinsured or unable to pay. 

Although the topic will not be on the agenda, the public is welcome to offer opinions on a state discussion about whether to legalize marijuana, said Mayor Carol Bianchi. Although the township cannot control state law, members of the public and officials have for months been commenting on how the municipality should respond.