Hopewell Township moves ahead with Montgomery on shared service agreement

The Hopewell Township Committee members at a special meeting adopted a shared services agreement with Montgomery Township for interim health services.

The township committee meeting on Feb. 24 resulted in a unanimous vote for the shared services agreement.

Mayor Kristin McLaughlin, Deputy Michael Ruger, Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski, Committeewoman Courtney Peters-Manning and Committeewoman Julie Blake voted ‘yes’ on the motion at the Hopewell Township Municipal Complex.

The shared service agreement with Montgomery Township for interim health services had to be addressed by committee due to the recent resignation of Hopewell Township health officer Robert English.

“This interim agreement is to provide Health Officer services, as required by State Practice Standards, for 90 days while the Township evaluates how to best provide essential public health infrastructure to serve its residents. It’s essential to have health officer leadership in this looming public health crisis of novel coronavirus in the U.S.,” said Stephanie Carey, health officer for Montgomery Township. “We don’t know exactly how this outbreak will play out, but we need to be ready for all eventualities.”

She added that the agreement is a good fit, as Montgomery’s Health Department already serves Hopewell and Pennington Borough, as the Boroughs share a school district and emergency management functions with Hopewell Township.

Hopewell Township officials said that the shared services agreement was necessary in order to receive health related updates from the state.

“We knew when our health officer submitted his resignation that we needed to find a solution quickly since you are required to have licensed health officer in order to receive state health updates,” McLaughlin added. “Montgomery’s Health Department already services Hopewell Borough and Pennington Borough, so this agreement made sense. We had heard great things about the department from the two municipalities.”

Hopewell Township’s health department will work with Montgomery’s department and do an assessment of what the township needs in beginning the agreement.

“We are going to work to find the best solution for the township. Definitely getting Montgomery involved now was Step 1 and can’t really say what the future holds, but we are very comfortable with our residents being served during this particular time period with the structures we have in place now,” McLaughlin said.

Township officials are leaving the possibility open for additional appropriation of funds for the township’s health department, as officials develop the final budget for 2020.

“Now one of our current employees in the department has a higher title, so there was an increase with that and there is a cost associated with Montgomery. Overall, we do not expect a big increase in funds at all and we are also not looking at a decrease in funds,” McLaughlin said. “The health of the township comes first. We will figure out the budgetary issues this causes or offers, when we get a final solution.”