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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.

 

 

Richard J Hutchinson January 23, 2013 at 04:39 AM
I think they are making another big mistake... They have a bunch of great folks on there staff they need to keep them. They will regret there Decision on Privatizing.... Richard J .
grill master January 23, 2013 at 11:56 AM
Looking at the budget, the salaries are way too high. Eliminating positions and cutting full-time positions to part-time isn't going to cut it. Dick needs to reduce salaries, including his own.
Linda January 23, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Grill, I hear you but you can bet they refuse to hear you! Typical TAX AND SPEND LIBERAL!
Linda January 23, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Krawczun and the Gang, have the b***s to call it what it is, "Bulk Trash Tax"! How much is the tax on the "Bulk Trash" in the Lawrenceville Council and the Manager's Office? That alone would pay off our debts! We had to cut out the Trenton Times because we keep getting squeezed by these creeps! I am finding it so very hard to even be civil at this point, starting with Washington on down to Lawrenceville! What are the voters thinking? It is beyond my comprehension anymore! I have NEVER USED BULK TRASH AND NOW THANKS TO THESE INEPT POLITICAL HACKS I will have to continue to spend my retirement money to pay for their failures.
Chief Wahoo January 24, 2013 at 12:18 AM
just wait to see how uncivil you and others get when they can no longer afford to feed themselves anyone who pays that bulk extortion fee, deserves what they are getting
Identical Symbol January 24, 2013 at 12:07 PM
I applaud Krawczun for thinking outside of the box and taking a risk to save the taxpayers a bit of this financial burden. It's worth a try and if it doesn't work then the township can revert back to municipal employee dispatchers. I can not wrap my head around how the dispatchers sitting in an office control the safety of the officers out in the field. Aren't the officers trained to protect themselves without being told how to do so by the dispatcher? The doom and gloom argument turned me off. Lawrence has made statewide news.
donotstaysilent January 24, 2013 at 03:51 PM
I applaud your thinking. The end result of this is more cops on the street. No longer being inside replacing dispatchers. While it is sad that a few will lose their jobs, if they are good employees I am sure they will have no trouble getting a job with the new company. Great move by our town, more cops out on the road, doing what they are supposed to do!
lawrence2003 January 24, 2013 at 04:07 PM
When you need the police/fire/ems I hope that you trslize the people being brought in to do the job of these dispatchers will be completely inexperianced and not know the township like these seasoned dispatchers do. This is why the officers and Lawrence township residents will be put in danger. This wasn't thinking outside the box; this was a quick fix to a problem that Krawzen was too stupid to come up with a real solution too. If it was such an issue to have more officers on the road then the township shouldn't have let so many officers go. And lastly who cares that Lawrence made statewide news....
donotstaysilent January 24, 2013 at 04:27 PM
If the current dispatchers need jobs, they can get one with the company. If not, this is the first time that this company received a contract in NJ. Companies want to perform well and expand, getting more contracts in NJ. All dispatchers must have state mandated training anyway. I would think that this company will put qualified employees in this position and the service will be okay. It is in their best interest to do a good job.
Identical Symbol January 24, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Lawrence2003; weren't all the dispatchers new at one point and completely inexperienced? It was the experienced dispatchers that helped make the new ones "seasoned"as you say. So, if the current dispatchers are so concerned with the safety of the township and officers then I am assuming it to be obvious that all current dispatchers will stay to train and help the new employees keep the officers and town safe. Since there is so much concern on safety it would against the dispatchers plea to abandon ship and leave unexperienced people to directly protect the officers and community. Lets see how dedicated to the officers and township these people really are.
donotstaysilent January 24, 2013 at 04:54 PM
I have read up on this story. According to the town, there are five current dispatchers with one on long term disability. it means that only 4 of the 9 positions are currently working. who knows when the 5th will return to work. So, if the town kept the current dispatchers, they may have to hire 5 inexperienced dispatchers anyway. I do not think that experience is a big factor considering some of the existing employees can take the job with the new company.
Chief Wahoo January 24, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Things are different this time. The scare tactics will no longer work. There really is no more money.
Blueline January 24, 2013 at 07:29 PM
The biggest scam of the finances being talked about here is that Tricky Dick kept on using the cost of ALL 9 dispatch positions AND he drummed up some crazy number of how much he felt it cost to put a few cops up there. The fact is, if he hired enough dispatchers to fill all 9 positions the cost for the officers could not be included. With all 9 dispatcher positions filled and an occasional per diem replacement for vacations, keeping the dispatchers in house would've costed LESS than this proposal. Read into some of the other articles too. Once they have the control, the company WILL raise its price knowing that the town cannot do without them because hiring new dispatchers would be a terrible transition. This company will not stop officers from being inside as they say also. The new dispatchers will not have a clue whats going on and will constantly be calling in officers to handle even the simplest of questions that they cannot deal with. Therefore, a station officer will be needed. Hmm, station officer / cop dispatcher, not much of a difference people. You all have been once again fleeced by your elected officials. If you went to the meeting you would know, the dispatchers provided a plan that would've costed less by keeping them. Oh well, lets see who's next. And by the way, don't complain when your town services suck, you asked for it.
lawrence2003 January 24, 2013 at 08:54 PM
it is not the current dispatchers job to train these people they are being let go. And as long as you dont feel that experience is necessary then you wont have a problem calling 911 and getting someone who has no idea how to handle a crisis situation. These new people will be trained by IXP outside of a dispatching control room. You think this will save you money, you are highly mistaken and very ignorant to the facts of this insane contract. Within the next five years the township will be paying more and you taxes again will increase, and again every single one of you that are pro for this will be complaining that your paying to much in taxes. You talk like you have read and researched the company and the privatization. However your ignorance to this situation shows you truly have no idea facts to the matter. These people losing their job put countless hours into coming up with a solution something Mr. Hundred Thousand a year town manager did not do. You see a small saving for a year and think that this is an amazing decision. Read into things and go to meetings before you come and comment on something you really dont have any idea on....
Million Dollar Man January 26, 2013 at 09:15 PM
My suggestion to those who think this is a brainless job that just involves answering a phone. Go on a "ride along" in communications and you will change your opinion of the job within 15 minutes. You will ask yourself, how do 2 or 3 people handle all those calls and emergencies without delay & with perfection.
Jane Doe January 26, 2013 at 10:26 PM
At the council meeting, the Manager was asked how much more the residents of Lawrence Twp will be paying to IXP the first year. He was unable to answer the question because he conveniently did not bring that information to the meeting. As for the Officers filling in for the dispatchers, most of the cost was due to the Manager not filling open positions for almost a full year. Just remember, the reason there are less cops is because the Manager threatened to lay off 4 to start, so those who were in danger found other jobs. The Dispatchers were in a no win situation because minds were made up way before this even came out the the residents. There are a lot of other things going on in this Township that only a select few know about. Keep that in mind in the upcoming months. The Mamager won't even be around if this privatization goes south. Once his house in Fla is ready, where do you think he will be. Probably working for IXP in Florida!
Pam Erin January 26, 2013 at 10:27 PM
No one said its a brainless job, in fact, it is a very serious and important job. I personally don't see the difference in having qualified people performing the job tasks whether they are employed by the government or private sector. Just being township employees does not make them more capable, more qualified, more experienced, better suited to handle emergency calls, more friendly, more professional, more knowledgable, better acquainted with the township, etc. A qualified dispatcher is a qualified dispatcher regardless of who pays their salary. The point raised in a comment prior about how the current employees should not be responsible to train new employees is a challenging point to stand behind. A fundamental argument raised by the dispatchers during their plea to avoid privatization was their care for the safety and close relationship with the community and officers they serve. Resigning and abandoning the very officers and community that were the cornerstone of their argument shows how shallow their relationship and attachment to their beliefs really were. It is hard to sympathize with people who display anger and temper tantrums. While this is a sad situation and some may feel betrayed, a decision was made for the best interest for the community and for that I thank Mr. Krawczun, council and the police chief.
Pam Erin January 26, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Jane "current-dispatcher-having-a-temper-tantrum" Doe. How dare you question the ethics of Mr. Krawczun in an anonymous public forum? The more I read the better I think his decision might have been.
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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