MONTVILLE, NJ - The Montville Township Committee met on Tuesday evening, Feb. 24 with members Deb Nielson and Don Kostka absent and heard budget presentations from the First Aid Squad and Police Department and discussed JCP&L and the Pilgrim Pipeline.
First Aid Squad Budget
Montville Township First Aid Squad President Pete Greendyk presented the Squad's budget request to the Township Committee. He thanked the Township for the services they provide for the Squad, such as grass cutting, snow removal, workers’ compensation fund donations and a generator.
“It has become increasingly difficult to staff with volunteers. In 2014 we had to put two paid EMTs on some daytime shifts, sometimes just one, and as much as possible, we stack the volunteers and fill in whenever we can, but that’s where we saw an increase in our budget last year,” stated Greendyk.
In 2013, the Squad reimbursed the Township $17,000 for paid EMTs and in 2014 more than $20,000 was reimbursed to the Township for paid EMTs, said Greendyk. However, fundraising support has decreased, so the Squad is examining every expense, but they are anticipating a $28,000 deficit for 2015. The Squad is asking the town for an additional $10,000 above the $25,000 per year that the Township pays the squad for paid EMTs. Greendyk stated that after the Squad transports a patient, they now follow up with a letter containing a survey and a request for a donation, which has resulted in $500 for January and February. The Squad is working with a local public relations firm and hopes to conduct fundraising via email, which is much cheaper than fundraising using the regular mail service. Greendyk stated the Squad hopes to put the dollars earned into their capital fund because it is hoping to replace two ambulance rigs, which are ten years old, which is old in terms of rescue equipment. One rig will cost approximately $225,000.
“We’re doing what we can to raise additional funding, being prudent with all our expenses, but I’m hoping that our request tonight will be considered,” stated Greendyk. The Squad answers 1300 calls a year, including standbys at football games, wrestling matches, the 4th of July celebration, offering free CPR to fire departments and scout groups.
Mayor Scott Gallopo inquired what it would cost a patient to be transported via a paid ambulance service, and Greendyk answered between $600 and $800. Greendyk stated that a paid ambulance service would be coverage of one truck with two paid EMTs from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. – and other times would still have to be covered by volunteers. Gallopo stated, “I don’t think people understand that their donations really make a difference.”
Sandham asked if for-profit businesses that depend on the Squad for transports quite regularly (such as 60 Chapin Road and 165 Changebridge Road) could be billed so that the businesses can in turn bill Medicare for the Squad’s services. Greendyk stated that they are thinking about billing these businesses and also the sports associations in town to cover the standbys, and they have also considered dealing with “third party soft billing,” meaning, utilizing a service to send patients a bill that the Squad would be paid, but to not pursue payment if the bill is not paid. “We have to set up a sustainable revenue flow that allows us to continue to be a viable service in the years to come,” stated Greendyk. Sandham stated that he would like it made clear to members of the Squad that although he supports the additional $10,000 payment for this year, next year he probably won’t.
Conklin stated that he would like the residents to know that the fire districts tax residents, and that is how they establish their budgets, whereas the Squad does not, and is dependent on residents’ donations.
The requested 2015 police operating expense budget includes $63,000 in salary increases, and increases to the education, dues and supplies budgets. Remaining the same were the new equipment, printing/stationery, cell phone, radio service, patrol vehicles, firearms training, crime prevention and vehicle repairs/maintenance budgets. However, the department is requesting $46,000 for 2015 and again in 2016 for the purchase of state-required digital video recording systems. Additionally, the department is requesting $220,000 to install a computer-aided dispatch system. A total of $354,058 is being requested to purchase mobile computer systems, radar equipment, radios, an SUV and upgrade existing video recording systems.
The computer-aided dispatch system will allow the department to track, log, and maintain a record of all complaints received, such as when a call was received, what officer(s) responded and the outcome. Police Chief Rudy Appelmann presented a slideshow which stated the current system “has a fragmented, antiquated and costly approach towards integrated technology, with numerous vendors and technology that doesn’t communicate with other Township agencies.” The proposed system would allow communication with police, fire, EMS, Department of Public Works and citizen services. It would allow for live video streaming of a situation, vehicle location via GPS, interface with the Sexual Offender database and turn-by-turn routing to expedite response times to a situation. It would also allow for analytics such as crime mapping, and would provide the state with immediate ticketing information. Further, it would allow for computerized accident reports with electronic transfer to the state. The system would allow for senior citizen emergency ID cards for use by the Township’s EMS, it would provide for expedited BOLO (Be On the Look Out) information disbursal to other agencies and data associated with an address, such as, notes from the previous shift, premise history, local warrants on people associated with the address, etc. The video capabilities include “bookmarking” when evidence is tossed from a vehicle to locate the items using GPS, and allowing citizens to tie in their live stream of a business, school or premises through IP-based cameras which the citizen can link, if they wish, to the police system. Appelmann showed a slide with a sample public interface screen which showed options for reporting a crime online, viewing a crime map, reporting a pothole or accessing an accident report.
Conklin asked who else has the system and Appelmann stated that Wayne and Paterson are currently using it. Committee Attorney Fred Semrau asked to aid in the contract process because the system is an “enormous undertaking” and he hopes to avoid problems.
Sandham asked Appelmann about the current state of the department, and Appelmann stated there are currently 37 officers, with two retiring soon. He would like to have 39 or 40, and one more patrol, because community programs are on the back burner and the force is short-handed and vacation and sick time “get us. One arrest and we’re running a little short on the road.”
Appelmann further stated that the school district and the police department are interested in installing a full-time school resource officer, who would be based at the high school and be responsible for “handling all the calls, security planning, and mapping. The officer would be our eyes and ears on the ground inside the school.” Appelmann said Superintendent Paul Fried is very supportive of the idea and the District would be interested in paying for half the cost of this program. The officer has been trained but is serving on a County task force, so when the officer returns from that position, he or she would be placed in the school, which Appelmann hopes to have happen before the end of this school year. The Committee was enthusiastic about the idea.
Gallopo stated he thought the Township’s CFO, Katie Yanke, had done a great job working with the budget. Township Administrator Victor Canning stated that for now, the levy will be increased by .726%, but that depends on how the Committee edits the budget, if they do.
Gallopo stated he had met with Assemblywoman Bettylou DeCroce and “got her up-to-speed with our issues with JCP&L and our Route 46 traffic concerns between Caldwell and New Road. She is definitely in our corner regarding JCP&L which is great and we’ll have all three of our legislators rolling up their sleeves fighting for us with regards to JCP&L and she’s just waiting, as are we, for JCP&L to submit its plans to the BPU. Every week we’re told [the plans will be submitted] ‘next week,’” stated Gallopo.
Shelter Grant, Hydrants, Pilgrim Pipeline
Township Administrator Victor Canning announced that the grant received from the county for the senior house emergency shelter renovations has increased $15,724. (See original story about the grant HERE)
Committee Member Sandham stated he had spoken with fire personnel in the Township who wanted to remind residents to please clear away the snow from fire hydrants so they can be accessed in case of emergency.
Canning stated his satisfaction with the meeting held on Feb. 18 with the Karen Gentile, Community Assistance & Technical Services Manager for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regarding the Pilgrim Pipeline proposed routing through Montville. He further stated that the ultimate decision regarding the pipeline will be made by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.
Sandham commented that the meeting was not about this route per se but was still informative. He reiterated that the NJ DEP will be the “driving force” regarding decisions about the Pilgrim route. “It’s incumbent on us to make sure that all our concerns are raised with our legislators and as many legislators as possible, particularly regarding the aquifer, which the DEP will be concerned about for us,” stated Sandham.
Gallopo announced that there is a concernt that Trenton will move to merge the state and local pension and healthcare benefits, which would not be favorable to Montville, since the state pension fund is operating at a deficit.