Helmetta police will contract with Spotswood or Jamesburg

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HELMETTA — Municipal officials have decided to disband the Helmetta Police Department and are expected to vote on April 18 to contract for police services with either Spotswood or Jamesburg.

The vote to disband the police department, which is budgeted for seven officers and has a current roster of one sergeant and two patrolmen, came at the March 27 meeting of the Borough Council.

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On April 3, Mayor Chris Slavicek said the three officers have been given layoff notices. Helmetta falls under Spotswood PBA Local 225, so the Spotswood PBA president, Detective Adam Sabatino, is working with the Helmetta officers to help them find new employment, Slavicek said.

On April 18, the action disbanding the Helmetta police force is expected to become final and officials are expected to vote on a resolution naming the Spotswood Police Department or the Jamesburg Police Department as the agency that will be responsible for public safety in Helmetta.

“A decision on the shared service will be made that night,” the mayor said, noting the topic has been discussed for 20 years.

Slavicek said Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey most recently recommended that Helmetta officials explore opportunities with neighboring municipalities to consolidate the borough’s police services in a letter dated Aug. 2, 2017.

The mayor said the prosecutor’s office and the Spotswood and Jamesburg police departments provided Helmetta with manpower on an as needed basis while the borough’s police chief was on medical leave; he retired earlier this year, according to Slavicek.

“We have paid out over $65,000 for coverage,” the mayor said.

Slavicek said instituting a shared service agreement with Spotswood or Jamesburg is a difficult decision to make.

“Acting as a leader, I do not want to see the disbanding of our police department or the layoffs of any of our hard-working employees,” he said. “We have no choice. There is no price on the safety and security of our residents. We are a small yet mighty community with a big heart.”

Slavicek said the process to consolidate police services has been a very slow and lengthy process. He said no stone will be left unturned in the process.

“I always say, ‘Slow and steady wins the race,’ ” he said. “There were a lot of moving parts.”

Members of Helmetta’s Public Safety Committee began negotiations with representatives of Spotswood and Jamesburg and discussed instituting shared service agreements.

“Given the importance of public safety, we sent a poll to 1,088 households asking residents which municipality is better suited to share police services with,” Slavicek said.

The mayor said officials received 439 responses. He said 307 households (70 percent) favored Spotswood, 124 households (29 percent) favored Jamesburg, and eight households (1 percent) indicated they had no preference.

On March 27, officials discussed the cost of a shared service agreement with Spotswood or Jamesburg. Slavicek said the police department is the borough’s largest budget item. In 2017, the police budget totaled $832,372.

Borough officials presented the cost of a five-year agreement with Spotswood. In 2018, the prorated cost would be $461,017. In 2019, Helmetta would pay $605,000; in 2020, $610,000; in 2021, $615,000; in 2022, $620,000; and in 2023, $625,000.

The potential agreement with Spotswood would include police coverage, emergency medical services and dispatch. Currently, Helmetta has a shared service agreement with Spotswood for EMS services at an annual cost of $15,000.

In a five-year agreement with Jamesburg for police coverage and dispatch, Helmetta would pay a prorated cost of $445,370 in 2018. In 2019, Helmetta would pay $600,235; in 2020, $611,872; in 2021, $620,321; in 2022, $632,427; and in 2023, $644,776.

Slavicek said that under the terms of a shared service agreement, a minimum of one full-time police officer would be in Helmetta at all times. The borough’s population is 2,200 residents. Helmetta borders Spotswood and 291 children who live in town attend Spotswood public schools. A portion of Monroe Township lies between Helmetta and Jamesburg.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.

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