A Record article on the county's attempts to unify municipal dispatch services under one roof at the Public Safety Operation Center in Mahwah has elicited mixed responses inside and outside of Fair Lawn.
Fair Lawn Dispatcher Joe Cecere and Fair Lawn Policemen's Benevolent Association President David Boone voiced their opposition to the idea of consolidating the borough's dispatchers in an op-ed last week, citing the potential difficulties that dispatchers unfamiliar with the area might have deciphering Fair Lawn's unique address system.
Two days later, Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins responded in his own op-ed that the county's dispatch system was up to the task, and even speculated that if the borough had contracted its dispatch services earlier, the cost savings might have been enough for the borough to have retained the four police officers it laid off in 2010.
Borough manager Tom Metzler said Friday that when it comes to maintaining or consolidating Fair Lawn's dispatch services, he wouldn't rush to recommend one course or the other.
"We're in the very, very early stages," said Metzler, who met for the first time last week with both the county and Chief Erik Rose about the prospect of merging Fair Lawn's dispatch services. "At a minimum, I'm sure we're 60 to 90 days out [from making a recommendation]."
Metzler said the dispatch consolidation issue had only come to his attention recently when the police department made a request in this year's capital improvement budget for major upgrades to its communications center.
"If you're going to spend a quarter or half-a-million dollars in new equipment, we certainly have an obligation to look and see -- can we save that money and offer the same service by going up to the county?" Metzler said. "If the borough is going to look into a shared service agreement, now would be the time to do that."
Whatever the ultimate recommendation, it isn't something that will be made haphazardly, Metzler assured.
“There’s a process here. This isn’t something that’s done in a void,” he said. “There will be a committee formed. There will be representation from the police department, the administration, the dispatchers, the different department heads… And we’ll work on this together and make a determination whether that’s a good move or not.”
At this early stage, Metzler said he was uncertain how much consolidating dispatch would save the borough.