PATERSON, NJ – Three months after the City Council set aside money in the 2012 budget to hire 34 school crossing guards, Paterson has not yet asked the state for permission to put them on the payroll.
Council members had asserted that rehiring the crossing guards would free up police officers who are filling the school posts to fight crime.
But Paterson has not yet asked the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for approval to add the crossing guards to the city payroll, according to state spokeswoman, Lisa Ryan.
“I was under the impression that it was being done,’’ said City Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris, referring to the city’s request with the state.
“Unbelievable,” said Councilman Aslon Goow. “That’s basically the problem with this administration. They don’t work with anybody to get things done. It’s really disgusting at this point.’’
Paterson Business Administrator Charles Thomas did not respond to several e-mail inquiries about why the city has not moved ahead on rehiring the crossing guards.
The city’s decision to lay off 16 crossing guards in 2011 was particularly controversial because it forced public safety officials to reassign as many as 25 police officers from their regular duties for an hour every morning and another hour every afternoon to perform the crossing guard function. \
Critics pointed out that the move left the city vulnerable to crime. They also said it made little sense financially to have highly-paid police officers perform duties normally handled by civilians who made a fraction of their salaries.
During a budget hearing on February 24, the city council made cuts in the public safety department and decided the savings should be used to rehire the crossing guards. The preliminary budget had $1.2 million earmarked for the salaries of 106 crossing guards. Officials have said it would cost an extra $400,000 to fill all of the city’s 140 crossing guard positions.
Under the terms of agreement that provides Paterson with $21 million in state transitional aid, the city must get permission from the DCA before it hires anyone.
Police Director Glenn Brown said he was not sure what the status of the state application was. “I do whatever they tell me to do,’’ he said.
When asked about the impact of the crossing guard layoffs, Brown said, “It takes a number of officers off the streets. If I had the crossing guards, I could put those officers back on the streets.’’