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Shared Court Proposed to Cut Costs

Mayor has proposed shared service with Somerville in anticipation of 9 percent savings.

Bridgewater Township is preparing a possible shared service with Somerville Borough for court services, with the expectation that the joint venture will save township residents 9 percent in costs.

Mayor Dan Hayes presented the proposal to the Bridgewater Township Council Monday, with the expectation that they will have the opportunity to vote on a resolution at an upcoming meeting.

"This service is driven by the Bridgewater administration's goals and principles," he said. "The vision is to continue the quality of life in Bridgewater to which other communities aspire. This program is based completely on being resourceful and forward thinking."

The expectation of the shared service, Hayes said, is that there would be $73,000 in savings to taxpayers, $47,000 to Bridgewater residents alone.

"There will be no reduction in services to Bridgewater," he said. "And there will be no change in municipality control [for services] in Somerville."

Basically, Hayes said, both municipalities will maintain their separate court entities, but will share support of resources, and that's where the taxpayers will save money.

The two will be operating a shared court, with each managing their own systems with their own judges, prosecutors and other court personnel, Hayes said. But all the court work will be done in the Bridgewater municipal complex.

"We are a larger court, and Somerville is about one-third the size," he said. "We will share facilities and personnel, and increase the service of the resources, namely the courtroom."

Currently, the cost of Bridgewater's court in 2012 is $534,000. By adding Somerville to the mix, the court costs will increase to $698,498, with Somerville paying $212,066.

That reduces Bridgewater's costs to $47,568, a reduction of 9 percent.

"When we annually struggle to stay in a 2 percent cap, 9 percent is a sizeable reduction," Hayes said.

Bridgewater, Hayes said, currently holds municipal court every Wednesday, and the first and third Tuesday of each month. There are a total of 72 sessions, about, each year.

Hayes said Somerville will be holding court on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month, and expects to hold 24 sessions.

"We will be utilizing a facility that lays idle for us," he said. "The Bridgewater location is a secure setting for all court-related functions."

And, Hayes said, Somerville will pay all services related to their court actions, enabling Bridgewater to reduce its costs.

In terms of the shared service, the two towns will share a court administrator, as well as court personnel to allow for all employees to handle transactions.

Hayes said Bridgewater residents will not be affected at all by the changes, they will just see an overall reduction in the costs.

"Somerville will see a reduction in the cost of court, but will maintain control of its court through the control of the people it has now, like the judge and prosecutor," he said. "For Bridgewater, there is no change at all, and residents will be unaffected."

Hayes said there is also adequate space by using the municipal courtroom, because the building is currently three times as big as the space that is actually needed.

"And the sessions are not overlapping, so there should be no complaints about traffic on court dates when we have sessions," he said. "There is nothing to believe we will have any issues on days when the smaller court is in session."

Council president Allen Kurdyla asked whether it will be Bridgewater or Somerville police manning the courts on the days when Somerville is in session.

Hayes said it will always be Bridgewater police, but the costs of paying them overtime for the work done for Somerville court has been figured in to the costs Somerville will be paying.

"They are providing support services, so it will be Bridgewater police in our building," he said. "That has been estimated, and all of the costs are in the payments I described."

And as for Bridgewater staff picking up additional work through the court administration, Hayes said the costs of picking up additional staff will be paid by Somerville.

"They are full overhead payments, and any costs of those are in the estimate for Somerville," he said.

Councilman Filipe Pedroso also asked whether there is some coverage for the township in terms of wear and tear on the building.

"With more people coming in, there is more use of chairs and the parking lot," he said. "Is this calculated into running the court? The more something is used, the quicker it has to be replaced."

Hayes said they will see what happens as that becomes a problem.

As for the success of the program, Hayes said they will continue to look at court efficiency, comments from both the Bridgewater and Somerville judges and others to determine whether to keep it moving forward.

Hayes said the next requirement is to have the Bridgewater council and the Somerville council approve resolutions concerning the shared service. For Bridgewater, that is expected at the Dec. 3 meeting.

"I think this is the kind of shared service that people are asking us to propose as lawmakers," he said. "There is no change to our services, but an improvement to theirs and a cost reduction. I think we're seeing many proposals like this, and I hope we can bring more to the table."

stewart resmer November 20, 2012 at 10:29 AM
I just dont get it? Before Sandy blew through, public safety sharing proposals with Somerset were voted NO by council person's Party Of Stupid members like Matthew Moench along with several others . Suddenly shared facilities and other public resources and assets of the courts are now somehow the right thing to do? But a community center is so wrong? What is being said here is that judicial shared services, is good, but that pbblic safety related sharing down on the streets is bbbbaaaaaaadddddddd? I just cant wait to hear what the corporate attorney council person Matthew Moench has to say about this one, wanna bet he supports this proposal after voting no for all the other public safety measures he voted NO on in the past that left the township with 15 fewer police officers to cope with sandy?
Tom November 20, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Why did we pay for a building that is three times the size that is needed? Added architectural fees, building and construction costs, Utility costs, maintainence costs? Who was responsible for this?
Tom November 20, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Pubic service employes had for years fought for equal compensation relative to the private sector. I think equality is terrific. Today's reality does not reflect this is as much as private sector employees are compensated far less than in the public sector.
Donkey Tales November 20, 2012 at 02:31 PM
15 fewer police Stew? Where is the money to pay for them? Raise taxes on our overburdened citizens? Why do liberal lunatics always assume that everyone can just print or borrow money to spend because they say so? Unlike your pals in Washington, we have to balance our budgets. Do you ever have a solution that doesn't require raising taxes on our burdened residents and seniors?
stewart resmer November 20, 2012 at 02:57 PM
'get the money from where the money went',,,jesse jackson maybe you should direct your anon comments to you council persons? you will note none rise to respond here though they mug for the camera and their platitudes are the stuff of quotes.
Donkey Tales November 20, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Get the money from where it went? What on earth does that mean? Didn't it go to pay for salaries, healthcare, pensions and capital investments and debt service? Are you suggesting that there is extra money or that money was misspent? You don't make any sense
stewart resmer November 20, 2012 at 03:37 PM
you know like $200-k for Country Club Road?
Donkey Tales November 20, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Wow does $200k paid over 20 years pay for 15 police officers? How about we cut their healthcare costs by 10% and save their colleagues jobs? Do you support higher property taxes or not? Don't play your silly games. Do you even know how to read a municipal budget?
charlie November 20, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Bridgewater meed to get real. Stop with the minimum savings. How about the savings we have not seen from automation!!!!!! Why do I see so many DPW workers driving around and around??? I have followed them to see them di nothing??????!!!! I see them with 3 people sitting in a truck 4 prople standing around and two wirking!!!! I see police cars racing 80 mph to a simple fender bender, watched them sleeping literally sleeping at 4-5 AM why do we need so many township vehicles???? No different for school district !!! Go the HS and watch 5 or 6 admin/ sec ignore u while they are having non work related conversations!!!! What jas automating the district done to reduce overhead???????
Nicholas Clark November 20, 2012 at 06:29 PM
NOTE TO THE READERS: Mr. Resmer is NOT a Bridgewater resident -- he lives in WAYNE!!! joined Patch on 11/7 with an agenda. Click his link and see. All his comments are against the GOP. He's for BIG GOVERNMENT and INCREASED TAXES.
Nicholas Clark November 20, 2012 at 06:29 PM
NOTE TO THE READERS: Mr. Resmer is NOT a Bridgewater resident -- he lives in WAYNE!!! joined Patch on 11/7 with an agenda. Click his link and see. All his comments are against the GOP. He's for BIG GOVERNMENT and INCREASED TAXES.
stewart resmer November 20, 2012 at 07:14 PM
and you point is? nick from raritan?
Barry November 20, 2012 at 09:58 PM
1. We need to get our moneys worth from this new Town Hall. We spent a lot of money to build it and it is being under-used, as pointed out by Mayor Hayes. If we can make this happen, make it happen. We save 9% on costs and the deal can be revoked next year if the proposal isn't what it's cracked up to be. 2. All of the exuses for not making this happen is just that - excuses to not make this happen. There is not ONE credible issue that was presented in this article, to prevent this shared service from happening. It appears to be good for Somerville and it appears to be good for Bridgewater. 3. As noted in this article, this was proposed by Mayor Hayes who worked out the agreement with Mayor Gallagher of Somerville. This appears to be in the best interest of residents of both Bridgewater and Somerville. 4. Why does everything have to be partisan? This is not, nor should it be, a partisan issue. After the elections, the concerns should be about whether or not, this is good for the residents of the township. It has been shown, that Mayor Hayes is all about the concerns of the residents of Bridgewater. This shared service idea of his, is not about doing good for the Republican party, or about his own self ego - it's all about what's best for the residence of Bridgewater as a whole. He has managed to find a way to save 9% on a large ticket item in a time when we have to confine our spending to a 2% cap. This is a NO - BRAINER. The Council of both towns should approve this.
stewart resmer November 20, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Just cant bring yourself to key stroke the word democrat I guess huh? The voting history of the this REPUBLICAN council belies your notion of wat is best for the residents: Seatbelt awareness program paid for by a grant. NO License plate readers for Police cars. NO Community Center study paid for by a grant. NO Sidewalks for school bus p/up drop off areas. NO Emergency Services and equipment sharing with Somerset County (pre Sandy). NO Emergency responders incentives for taking classes and attending meetings ($50) pre Sandy. NO These NO votes plus cutting 15 police officers? Sounds like this council was/is penny wise and pound foolish and played fast and loose when it came to budget priorities without regard to public safety.
Donkey Tales November 21, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Nick don't worry no one in Bridgewater listens to California liberals. Stew doesn't even know how budgets work. He just complains. Classic Donkey
stewart resmer November 21, 2012 at 12:28 AM
an anon poster one more time again @ patch with out the courage of his convictions to use his true and correct legal name how utterly special...
Donkey Tales November 21, 2012 at 12:54 AM
What's wrong Stew? First Amendment only protects your comments? Try again. In the mean time, tell us how we are supposed to pay for all of the goodies you want? Higher Property Taxes? Cutting 15 police? We are still waiting for you to explain where the money would come from to pay them? Higher PROPERTY TAXES eh Stew? We spend $9M on police. $4M on pensions and another $4M on healthcare. $17M tied up right there or 50% of the budget but liberal Stewy doesn't think we spend enough or tax enough. It's "NOT FAIR" Stew, you got any suggestions about cutting health or pension benefits so we can afford to invest in other things or do you want to run with the RAISE TAXES Donkey mantra. Stew you post nonsense.
BradleyBoy November 21, 2012 at 01:11 AM
What a great idea, in light of the proposed legislation that would cut State aid to any town that did not take advantage of opportunities to share services with adjacent communities. Bridgewater, Somerville and Raritan already use the same judge, so administration savings should be good. It's good to see Mayor Hayes getting out ahead of the curve on this one.
Barry November 22, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Democrat, Democrat, Democrat. Happy now? Without bringing up a lot of previous issues - I would like to focus on this singular issue. It makes a lot of sense to make this happen. Any Council person who does not approve of this in the next Council session would be foolish. We complain about money - here is an opportunity to save some money and to get more use from a building that needs to be used. The complaint about wear and tear is silly. Why did we build this building if it was not intended to be used???
Evan Lerner November 25, 2012 at 04:10 PM
@BradleyBoy--Good to see the conversation shifting back to the subject of the article: sharing court costs to save money. Shared services is a great concept if it results in savings without a reduction in services or if it provides benefits at a real savings compared with the costs that would be incurred if the parties acted alone. I think this clearly falls into the category of "good" for the townships involved and encourage the mayor and council to continue looking for like opportunities.
stewart resmer November 25, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Governor Christie has been advocating for shared service agreements for townhsips near where he lives. He tells a funny example of how because of the shape of the boundaries you can almost see and hear sirens from other townships police fire and ambulances but he cannot count on those townships to come to his location and so his emergency help is further away. In councilman matthew moench's example he has voted NO for such agreements in the past and can be counted on to vote along the ideological Tea Party line, thereby continuing to threaten the public safety of all parties involved in order to curry favor with the extreme right wing of the 'Party of Stupid'. Stupid Is As Stupid Does cannot be more aptly applied than matthew moenches NO votes on shared services that fly in the face of the prerogatives of a sitting GOP governor and the signal of the dem legislature to sign on to the concept that threatens to sanction penalize townships that do not get on board.
Donkey Tales November 26, 2012 at 04:47 PM
If Democrats are not the party of stupid and they borrow trillions every year to fix the problems or the poor, homeless and uneducated, then why do we still have poor, homeless and uneducated eh Stew? Is it because Democrats are really the party of borrow and spend stupidity? Look at the waste in our cities and Abbott districts for your proof of what failure looks like.
stewart resmer November 27, 2012 at 01:15 PM
uhm? Because guys like 'The Party Of Stupid' candidates like Mitt the twit, and Lyin Paul Ryan, Cantor and Norquist, Boehner and McConnell aka Thelma and Louise, party of no, have declared economic war on the middle class blocking jobs bills, while at the same time giving unprecedented tax breaks during war time to the uber wealthy ?

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