WESTFIELD, NJ — The town is among four municipalities in Union County considering a merger of their municipal courts.

On Tuesday, the town council authorized an application for state assistance with a study that would explore the feasibility of a municipal court shared services agreement among Westfield, Fanwood, Garwood and Scotch Plains.

Town Administrator Jim Gildea said the town had initially discussed a court merger with Garwood in 2018 and 2019. Since then, Fanwood and Scotch Plains expressed interest in joining a potential merger, he said.

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The state’s Shared Services Division, Gildea said, would assist the towns in analyzing the feasibility of a shared court between all or some of the municipalities.

“It assesses the departments as they exist today,” Gildea said. “It’s at no cost to the town. And all four towns are willing to work together to see what might be possible.”

The resolution authorizing Westfield’s participation in the study says the shared service could result in “property tax relief and enhance services.”

Application for a study of the merger came on the same evening that the council approved the appointment of Municipal Court Judge Parag P. Patel for a three-year term extending until Jan. 31, 2024.

A formal swearing in is scheduled for later in the week, Gildea said.

Patel was appointed to serve as the town’s sole municipal judge in 2018. A Westfield resident, he is among two municipal judges to serve in Edison. He has a private law practice in Clark, where he takes cases in tax law, estate planning and elder law.

Mayor Shelley Brindle thanked Patel for his service to the town. Westfield’s was the first court within the county to start Zoom court during COVID-19, she said.

“That is as a result of his initiative,” Brindle added. “So, I’m thrilled that he’s coming back for another three years.”

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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