FANWOOD, NJ -- In an editorial entitled, In tight times, towns must embrace shared services, the editorial board of NJ.com on Wednesday morning praised Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr for efforts to "renew an old effort to fold her 14-member police force into the department of neighboring Scotch Plains."
However, the mayor later responded with a statement saying that she wants to "assure the residents of Fanwood that absolutely no decisions have been made about the possibility of restructuring the leadership of Fanwood Police Department or merging with anyone else."
Mayor Mahr's full statement follows:
In response to the Star-Ledger editorial published this morning, I want to assure the residents of Fanwood that absolutely no decisions have been made about the possibility of restructuring the leadership of Fanwood Police Department or merging with anyone else in light of Chief Trigo’s stepping down earlier this month. The Ledger steered today’s facts with conversations that happened several years ago around shared services.
Our police department is in good hands under the leadership of Captain Kevin Grimmer of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, and I am grateful for the cooperative relationship we have with Prosecutor
Ruotolo as we navigate our next steps.
The Borough Council and I will soon be discussing what those potential next steps are to fill the vacuum of leadership created by the Chief's resignation and the retirement of other senior officers earlier this summer, but please know, we are not contemplating any measures at this Monday’s council meeting or without hearing from Fanwood residents first.
Our residents expect and deserve a fully functioning police department that protects and serves them and they deserve our efforts to explore every avenue to reduce the costs of providing that service now more so than ever with the continuing financial fallout of COVID 19.
We are a small community that has a unique opportunity to reexamine how we provide this critical service and owe it to our residents to see where we can find savings. I expect to have conversations with our neighboring communities on what that can look like as well as what we can do ourselves.
I look forward to engaging with our Borough residents as we set out to find the best solution for our community.
On June 18, 2013, a special joint meeting of the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Fanwood and the Township Council of the Township of Scotch Plains was held at the Scotch Plains Municipal Building to discuss the possibility of a police department merger between the two municipalities. Although progress was made in 2013, ultimately the deal fell through, and the two towns have continued to maintain separate police forces. However, the recent retirements of the Fanwood police department's top brass have brought speculation whether the towns might again look to unite their forces.
The Scotch Plains police department currently has 49 officers, led by Chief Ted Conley. The Fanwood department currently has 14 members and is being overseen by Captain Kevin Grimmer of the Union County Prosecutor's Office.
Related: Hopes of Scotch Plains-Fanwood Merger Dashed as Consolidation Commission Disbands (Dec. 12, 2014)
By Star-Ledger Editorial BoardState and local revenues have cratered since New Jersey was slammed by the coronavirus, and the need to cut costs by sharing municipal services has taken on a greater meaning. It’s not a silver bullet, but if local leaders can overcome the petty parochialism that has sabotaged the process in the past, significant savings could be found.So we applaud Fanwood mayor Colleen Mahr, who is going to renew an old effort to fold her 14-member police force into the department of neighboring Scotch Plains. And the rest of the state should watch closely, because this is one merger that seems eminently practical — so much that another failure should prompt the Legislature to use fiscal sticks and carrots to incentivize these civic unions...
To read the NJ.com editorial in its entirety, click here.