BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ --Township Council approved a shared services agreement with Union County which allows the county to answer 911 calls from the township and dispatch the necessary emergency services, including police, fire and emergency medical services (EMS).
The vote was 5-0 in favor of the agreement, with Councilman Stephen Yellin recusing himself, since he is an employee of the county.
Following the Tuesday, Dec. 3 meeting, Berkeley Heights Police Chief John DiPasquale said, "Our residents can expect the same quality of service and response time as they’ve experienced in the past years of in-town emergency services dispatch. We have spent many, many months thoroughly examining our options. The level of experience, technology and resources that the County can offer just far surpasses anything we could offer our residents on our own with our ongoing budget constraints. We would not make this change if we were not confident this was the right move for our residents.”
Councilwoman Jeanne Kingsley said the township had looked at changing its dispatch services “six or seven years ago,” when New Providence was seeking partners for a joint dispatch center, and decided to keep the Berkeley Heights emergency dispatch in house. However, "times change. The county can give us service and technology we can't (provide),” she said.
Councilman Peter Bavoso called the decision to do the shared services agreement “a no brainer,” and pointed to the extensive data the county can provide the township as another reason to change.
Before making this decision, officials from the various township emergency services, including police, fire, EMS, office of emergency management (OEM) and Mayor Angie Devanney and all members of the council visited the county facility to see first-hand the day-to-day operation of the facility. In the course of their visits, they observed the state-of-the-art county facility can offer technology and resources that far surpass those of the township.
Township officials also consulted with officials with the emergency services in other towns using the county dispatch services to hear about their experiences with the services and with Union County public safety and police administration members from Union County.
The agreement will provide the township substantial savings that includes a savings of more than $100,000 because it will not have to move certain antennas to the new municipal complex for dispatching services.
Kingsley noted the new municipal complex will have the capacity to handle its own dispatch, “should things change,” and the township council decides to move dispatch services back to town.
In a press release from the township, the technical, financial and other benefits of the move were described. They included:
Take advantage of State-of-the-art technology available through the county
Provide significant savings from current dispatch operations
True/real time monitoring of call process times
Fully redundant dispatch center with back-up systems in place
Decrease response times for emergency services through improved efficiencies
Reduce or eliminate support and maintenance contracts on any components associated with dispatch
Reduction of personnel costs both direct and indirect
Flat fee for dispatch which allows for greater accuracy with budgeting having to account for unexpected equipment failures and overtime costs
Reduced training expenses as sworn officers will no longer need to maintain or be trained as 911 dispatchers
New municipal complex construction cost savings
Multiple dispatchers working all shifts to deal with call volume fluctuations without impacting services
Decreased liability to the township