Emotions may be running high on Monday night as
the Bridgewater Township Council has scheduled a vote on whether to transfer
the township’s 911 dispatch operations to Somerset County.
The switch, which has sparked opposition from the township’s volunteer firefighters,
rescue squad members and some police officers, could save taxpayers $4.5
million over 10 years, Mayor Daniel Hayes said. Property tax bills would
decrease about $21 for a house assessed at $500,000.
Under the terms of the proposed 10-year contract, the county would not charge
the township for the dispatching services. Officials estimate that handling Bridgewater’s 911 calls would increase the volume of calls at the
county center by more than 30 percent.
In July, the Somerset County freeholders awarded a $1.4 million contract to expand
the dispatch center.
The council had scheduled a vote on the switch earlier this month, but decided
to delay a decision after questions were raised about radio communications
among emergency responders and whether the county can deliver either the same
or better level of service that is already given by the township dispatchers.
The key part of the last council meeting was when Police Chief Richard Borden
said that while county 911 dispatch would not negatively impact public safety,
he had complete confidence in the township dispatchers.
Charles Springer, deputy chief of Country Hills Fire Department, summed up the
opposition by the dozens of emergency personnel who came to the meeting to
oppose the plan. “This is about safety. It’s not about dollars and cents,” he
said. “You don’t play with public safety.”