Marlboro council cancels special meeting to discuss police dispatchers

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MARLBORO — A special meeting of the Marlboro Township Council during which police communications were expected to be discussed did not take place as scheduled.

On May 31, the township clerk’s office issued a notice which stated the special meeting scheduled for June 2 had been cancelled.

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In response to an inquiry from the News Transcript, Township Council President Juned Qazi said, “the decision was made to cancel the (June 2) meeting as we are still fact-gathering from the stakeholders. No decision has been made as to the (rescheduling of the) public meeting.”

During a council meeting on May 19, council members voted 5-0 to schedule the special meeting on June 2. During the public comment portion of that evening’s meeting, resident Alan Ginsburg addressed the issue of police dispatch services in Marlboro.

The Marlboro Police Department employs dispatchers who handle calls in the community.

In recent years, officials in many municipalities in Monmouth County have eliminated their internal police dispatching unit and shifted that responsibility to the county’s communications center in Freehold Township.

On May 19, council members said information regarding the police communications issue would be presented at the June 2 special meeting.

According to a public notice announcing the June 2 meeting, no formal action would have been taken at the meeting. Members of the public would have had an opportunity to state their views on the matter to the members of the governing body.

When Ginsburg addressed the issue on May 19, he said he believed the three Republicans who joined the Township Council in January – Michael Milman, Antoinette DiNuzzo and Qazi – had been discussing the idea of moving the dispatch services out of Marlboro and to Monmouth County since shortly after they took office.

There are two Democrats on the council – Michael Scalea and Randi Marder.

Ginsburg objected to moving Marlboro’s dispatching responsibilities to Monmouth County. He said he believed municipal officials would be able to fund improvements that are needed to upgrade the police department’s dispatching equipment and systems.

Regarding the cancellation of the June 2 special meeting, Ginsburg told the News Transcript, “I can fully understand the canceling of (the special meeting) by the three new council members and/or the council president, at which the fate of our 911 police dispatchers was to be the topic.

“Knowing full well the large turnout of residents in favor of keeping our 911 police dispatchers, they had no choice. As a member of the Marlboro Township Coalition to ‘save our dispatchers and save lives,’ I was, along with representatives from various (adult communities), other police officers and non-county dispatchers from other towns, ready to speak out on this issue.”

He alleged local Republicans “are using the money needed for upgraded communication equipment as a ploy, power play and/or political statement to oust our dispatchers. Since the needed funds are available at the township level, there is no need to go to county dispatch and to fire our 13 dispatchers.

“Apparently the life-saving tasks our dispatchers perform 24 hours a day, seven days a week are not important to them. The response time our dispatchers have is second to none and cannot be duplicated by the county. … You cannot put a price tag on human life, which to me is more important then political agendas,” Ginsburg said.

Regarding the issue, Democratic Mayor Jonathan Hornik said, “The Marlboro Department of Public Safety provides emergency dispatch services for police, volunteer EMS and the fire districts.

“Calls for service are handled by professionally trained telecommunication operators employed locally by the township and dispatched without delay, resulting in a rapid response by a Marlboro first responder.

“At this time, the township requires an upgrade to its communications infrastructure to ensure the continued safety and well-being of the public, police, fire and EMS staff,” the mayor said.

“The current system dates back to the 1990s and has reached its end of life with important components no longer supported by manufacturers and service providers. It is also subject to regular interference from the influx of commercial enterprises competing for signals in the frequency range in which the system currently operates.

“My first concern is the safety of Marlboro residents, especially seniors and children, who are often the most vulnerable among us. Police, fire and first aid squad response times matter. I will not allow any dispatch system to be introduced to Marlboro that does not meet or exceed existing response times,” Hornik said.

“It is my belief the best course of action for Marlboro is that we join the New Jersey Interoperability Communication System operated by the New Jersey State Police, sharing the benefits of a statewide communication network supported by the state.

“Holmdel, Howell and Long Branch are current customers. This system offers optimum interoperability between agencies within the county and throughout the state, and takes advantage of  ‘economies of scale’ with respect to the acquisition of technology upgrades and investments in communications infrastructure going forward into the future.

“The project also involves the purchase of new radios for personnel and vehicles to function on the system, expanded redundancy capabilities, updated computer-aided dispatch/record management system software, and infrastructure upgrades within the township to ensure maximum coverage.

“The estimated project cost is $4.3 million, translating to an increase of approximately $50 per year for the average residential taxpayer,” the mayor said.

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