The Manalapan Township Committee unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a shared services agreement with the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office for dispatch at Wednesday’s meeting, but not without a fight from the Manalapan dispatchers and support from the .
Mayor Susan Cohen said that the Township Committee has been evaluating the possibility of entering into a shared services agreement with the county since 2009 and that the main reason the committee has decided to do so now is the poor economy. Cohen said that it is the Township Committee’s duty to the taxpayer to make the transition.
According to Committeeman and Police Commissioner Jordan Maskowitz, the township will see a savings of $500,000, the amount necessary to purchase equipment to upgrade Manalapan’s current system if they continued paying dispatchers and assumed an in-house 911 Call Center.
“So, our savings this year, with only realizing half of the year savings from our current dispatcher salary and benefits, the operating costs associated with the dispatch operation, and new hires would be up near $250,000, plus the $500,000 needed to upgrade our system,” Maskowitz said, explaining that next year the township would see the full year savings from eliminated salaries, benefits, and operating costs.
Currently, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office dispatches all of Manalapan’s fire and first aid calls and when Manalapan residents dial 911 from their cell phone they are already immediately dispatched to the county office. The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office dispatches for 20 of the 52 communities within Monmouth County, including nearby Englishtown, Freehold Township and Freehold Borough.
Manalapan Police Chief Louis Moreto spoke on behalf of the entire police department and the dispatchers telling the Township Committee “respectfully, that it’s a bad idea.” Moreto said that entering into shared services agreement with the county will unquestionably reduce the quality of Manalapan’s dispatch services.
“Yes, it is true that it will cost less money, but we have experienced problems with County Dispatch now when they are just handling our 911 calls,” Moreto said. “We expect with the increased volume that those problems will only increase.”
Moreto explained that the Manalapan dispatchers are the only group of employees that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer the phones and for walk-in traffic at .
Maskowitz said that the Township Committee has spoken with town officials from other communities who said their police departments are extremely pleased with the service that the Sheriff’s Office provides, but many Manalapan dispatchers begged to differ.
Chief Dispatcher Doreen Erndl, and several other Manalapan dispatchers, told the Committee that the county dispatchers are not familiar with township borders, the Manalapan residents, and local landmarks.
“Many patrolmen that I have spoken with out of Freehold Township are not happy with [the Monmouth County] service,” Erndl said. “There is a delay in response time and misinformation is given.”
Sheriff Shaun Golden will offer the Manalpan dispatchers employment at the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office and those dispatchers will be assigned to the call center which covers Manalapan, Maskowitz said; seven of the eight dispatchers hired would also be receiving raises if they choose to accept the county position.
Erndl told the Township Committee that the Freehold dispatchers who became employed by the county when their town entered into a shared services agreement spent about a month covering Freehold dispatch and then entered into a rotation, something which Erndl fears will happen to her Manalapan team of dispatchers.
Maskowitz said that he could not deny what the Sheriff told him, which was that the Manalapan dispatchers would be dispatching for Manalapan at the county office.
Maskowitz and Cohen made it clear that the shift to county dispatch bears no reflection on the performance of the Manalapan dispatchers and that the decision to switch was purely based on economics and was not personal.
“It does affect people,” said Erndl. “You’re saying it’s not personal. It is personal. There’s eight lives you’re affecting, plus families, plus every member of the police department, plus the public, plus any businesses in town. It is personal.”
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