New Providence Considers New Plans for Dispatch Services

Mayor J. Brooke Hern Credits: Michael Daigle

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Borough Council pondered Monday a revised plan for a shared emergency dispatch system.

The original plan would have created a four-town dispatch service with New Providence, Summit, Berkeley Heights and Millburn.

The plan changed when Berkeley Heights announced it would go alone on a dispatch service, and the Millburn Police Department made arrangements with Livingston for the service.

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New Providence Borough Administrator Douglas Marvin said there is a September deadline for choosing a plan and Summit Administrator Christopher Cotter said the $1.6 million grant that the city could apply to the change needs to be secured by Dec. 31.

Marvin and Cotter presented a plan Monday that would join emergency dispatch services for New Providence police, fire and emergency medical services and Summit’s fire department. Cotter said the city’s fire department has a 30-year agreement with the Millburn Fire Department, which would be serviced under a contract.

Marvin said the total capital costs to build the center, which is to be housed in the former New Providence emergency center, adjacent to the municipal building, are estimated at $700,000, or $350,000 per municipality. The advantage for New Providence, he said, is that police officers, who fill in as dispatchers and who must undergo extensive mandatory training to do so, would not have to cover that desk after the shared service began. It would be like adding another police officer to the patrol squad, he said, while increasing the number of dispatchers per shift.

Further, he said, the new center would bring the latest technology in terms of console units, radios and computers.
“There is no technology we can do individually that would equal what we can do collectively,” Marvin said.

Council President Michael Gennaro said that the joint service needs to be viewed not just in terms of potential monetary savings, but in terms of the improved service that the new equipment would offer. He was one of the council members who toured the Morris County emergency dispatch center this year. He said the advanced computer aided dispatch system in use there provided each dispatcher with more information, a series of questions to ask based on the caller’s responses and provided an exact and instant location of the call.

Councilman Robert Robertson said he wanted more information on alternatives before he would support the proposal. He asked that Marvin provide potential costs for New Providence to partner with Morris County or Union County. He also said he would like to tour the Union County facility.

Marvin said he would get as much of that information as possible by the next council meeting.

He warned, though, that with the deadlines looming, the council could not put off a decision for six months or a year.

In other business, the council agreed to tell the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection that it would not pursue a $500,000 loan for renovations at Oakwood Park.

The loan had been granted in April 2009, the DEP informed the borough in a letter this month. The department noted that the borough had several issues to resolve with Oakwood Park, including a 2010 referendum on whether to turn the park over to Union County.

The department said the borough submitted a revised plan for Oakwood Park  in June, but that in order to secure bids for the project the work must be planned for September.

Mayor J. Brooke Hern said that the borough had recently established a plan for park repairs that included time for residents to comment on any planned project. Also, he said, he felt the borough could borrow the money on its own at a lower rate that the 2 percent offered by the state.

The borough recently had a bond attract a 1.8 percent interest rate.

The September timeline to start the work would not give the residents a chance to comment on the plans, Hern said.

In June, a special committee charged with developing the park repair plans presented the first project to residents. The Hillview Park plans call for the field to be reshaped into a baseball facility with skin infields on two fields, new safety fences and dugouts.

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