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Council Approves Privatization of Police/911 Dispatching

Also during Tuesday's Lawrence Township Council meeting, Stephen Brame was selected to fill a vacant seat on council and the township manager presented his recommended 2013 budget, which includes a 5 cent increase to the municipal tax rate.

Privatization of Lawrence Township’s police/911 emergency dispatching operations has been approved by township council.

As a result of a contract awarded by council during its meeting held earlier this evening (Tuesday, Jan. 22), Cranbury-based iXP Corporation will begin staffing the communications center at the township police station on April 1. The contract will run for two years, with the township having the option to award one three-year extension.

Other significant news coming out of tonight’s meeting include the appointment of zoning board chairman Stephen Brame to fill the vacancy on township council that was created when Greg Puliti resigned on Dec. 31; the announcement by Township Manager Richard Krawczun that the recently-created bulk trash fee will be set at $25 per residential property for 2013; and the release of the Krawczun’s recommended municipal budget for 2013, which includes a 5 cent increase to the municipal tax rate.

The meeting started out with Mayor Jim Kownacki briefly posing questions to the three candidates – Brame, planning board member Ian Dember and zoning board member Ed Wiznitzer – who were nominated by the Lawrence Township Democratic Committee to replace Puliti on council.

The issue of privatizing dispatch services came up shortly after Brame was unanimously selected as Puliti’s replacement and sworn into office by state Sen. Shirley Turner. Brame will serve the remaining year of Puliti's term.  

For just over an hour council members listened as several township dispatchers, union officials, a police officer and members of the public made impassioned pleas urging them to reject privatization and keep the police communications center staffed by municipal employees.

In the end, Mayor Kownacki, Councilwoman Cathleen Lewis, Councilman Michael Powers and Councilman David Maffei all voted to award the privatization contract to iXP. Being newly appointed to council, Brame abstained from the vote.

The bid award was followed, as part of the manager’s report, by Krawczun’s presentation of his $42,986,598.78 municipal budget recommendation for 2013.

(A PDF copy of the recommended budget, as distributed at the meeting, can be found in the media box above.)     

As part of that budget, a 5 cent increase to the municipal tax rate – increasing to $0.94 per $100 of assessed property value from $0.89 – is recommended.

“The impact upon a residential property owner at the average assessed value of $160,262 will be $80.13 or $6.68 per month. Therefore, a residential property owner with a township average assessed value will pay $8.76 more monthly when combined with the bulk trash fee,” Krawczun said, reading from the narrative included within the budget recommendation document.

Krawczun also noted that township ratables declined another $27,093,823 in the last year, with the aggregate six-year loss to the taxable value of property in Lawrence Township now more than $194 million.

 

A more detailed report from township’s meeting, together with full audio from the meeting, will appear in the next few days.

 

 

Susan Handelman January 26, 2013 at 11:20 PM
This whole issue needs not to get nasty. The outcome is not what any of the current dispatchers wanted but we all knew would happen. We have been trying to come up with a solution for months to no avail. Yes, at one time we were inexperienced and learned what we all know now. The point is that as far as I know, Lawrence Twp is not a For Profit Company as IXP is. There will be many costs incurred that may be unexpected that will add to the cost. The outcome is what it is and we all know we can't change it. All I ask is that you keep us in your thoughts in the next few months that we are able to find jobs so we can continue to do what we do best and not end up on the unemployment line. Oh and just so you know "Pam Erin" the comment you responded to was not written by a Dispatcher having a temper tantrum, I can assure you of that. We all have more class.
Susan Handelman January 27, 2013 at 01:53 AM
Jane, while I appreciate the fact that you are backing us, some of your comments were inappropriate. I hope if you post in the future, you think before you write.
Blueline January 27, 2013 at 03:37 AM
No scare tactics here, just plain facts: iXP IS taking over the dispatch center on April 1st. Apparently they do an extensive background check on their employees. Then, after they do their check, the Lawrence Police is going to do a check on these employees. I have heard that THEY HAVE NOT EVEN BEGUN TO HIRE ANY EMPLOYEES YET. When the police department hired its new dispatchers, they needed at least 4-6 months to train for 911/EMD and NCIC along with hands on training. Even longer to hone the skills and become proficient in the basic laws so as to be able to handle "routine" calls. No scare tactics here, just facts. They haven't hired anyone yet who is even trained and they are jumping in with both feet on April 1st. THEY say its gonna be a seamless transition but I can't see how. I don't live or work in the town, so I'm not concerned. ARE YOU???
Pam Erin January 27, 2013 at 09:48 PM
What difference does it make if IXP is a profit company? They are a private business and of course they are looking for a profit, that is what makes them a business. The rant about extra incurred costs is nothing more than a guess and is unsubstantiated at this point. A contract was signed and the costs are locked in I would assume relieving the town of the risk of hidden costs. If I understand correctly, Mr. Krawczun has told us that the cost of police officers working as dispatchers was basically the cause of this privatization. With this decision there will be more officers working the beat. I pay over $12k a year in taxes and appreciate Mr. Krawczun placing personnel in the proper environment in which they are being paid to work. A police officer is not a dispatcher and a dispatcher is not a police officer. If the police officers were paid at a pay rate of a dispatcher while filling that capacity I bet the police union would have addressed this issue long ago. Ms. Handleman my thoughts and prayers go to you during this unfortunate time but you are being offered a job with IXP which would keep you out of the unemployment line as you wrote. It is your choice to risk the unemployment line if you turn down this company that has publicly offered you a job in the media. As a note, I recently lost my job due to personnel cut backs. I was making substantial money in a prestigious position in the private sector. I was not able to voice my opinion or question the decision.
Susan Handelman January 28, 2013 at 12:42 AM
Pam. I wish you had your facts totally straight. IXP will look at the current employees and approach who they want to. They have not contacted us at this time and will wait and see if they choose to do so. What was said in the newspaper is a little different than what they stated in the bid. I read both. You are correct that the basic cost is locked in, but what happens if they come in and find the equipment is not to their liking, them you the taxpayer will be the one footing the bill. As I said before, non of us want this to be nasty. We will work out our days and do our jobs as we are expected and come April 1st, will move on to the next chapters of our lives be it with another Town or with IXP. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, which sometimes should be kept to themselves, but is expressed in anger. I don't want to be like that at this point. When one door closes, another opens and I am waiting to see what is behind the other door. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts.

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