Friday, February 3, 2017

FIRST TOWNSHIP BUDGET HEARING: TRAFFIC SAFETY, CRIME REDUCTIONS AND MORE RATS

Township officials saw more rats, less fire overtime and reduced crime in 2016, according to departmental reports at the first township budget hearings of the new year last weekend.

As for 2017, police plan to step up traffic safety enforcement with a request for a new captain's position, as well as three new vehicles and more video monitoring.

Among those departments that reviewed their budget proposals for 2017 last weekend were health, police and fire. While their exact budget requests remain confidential until they are formally released, those departments did provide some information on what occurred in 2016, along with some 2017 proposals.

Police Chief Robert Cimino declared 2016 "a very good year," saying overall crime was down 13% in 2016. He added that the department now has a full complement of 63 officers, which resulted in less overtime needed.

The proposed police budget includes a request for a 10% salary increase, up from $5.5 million in 2016, budgeting more than $6 million in salary for 2017 with most due to contractual raises.

Some 2017 police initiatives will include a new system for use with officer body cameras that were added in 2016, along with more video camera use in certain neighborhoods and more traffic enforcement.

The chief is requesting $120,000 for three new vehicles, as well as a new captain's position in order to oversee many new officers and the increased traffic safety effort.

"If I didn't feel that it was absolutely necessary I wouldn't make this request," Cimino told the TC.

On the Fire Department front, Fire Chief Michael Dingelstedt said his department had 3,899 calls for assistance, with 1,713 of those for EMS, and 145 fires in 2016. He said inspections found more than 1,000 fire code violations, with 989 cleared. 

The Fire Department brought in $67,000 in fees and penalties, received $25,000 from the state, with EMS billing raising $356,201. Overtime was down by 15%.

As for the Health Department, Health Officer Robert Roe reported
an increase in sanitary-related complaints, which were up from about 300 in 2015 to more than 400 last year. 

"I was kept really busy trying to keep up with all of the complaints," he said. "We had some vicious dog cases. A lot of the increase was for the time I spent inspecting parts of town for rat infestation, which seemed to be higher this year."

Mayor Vic Deluca asked Roe if the township could do more in 2017 to provide information to residents of Winchester Gardens about town health services and events.

"When you talk to the residents there they don't have a clue as to what we offer," the mayor said, later adding, "We can somehow break through the logjam there to getting to the residents. It's just a population that we're not reaching."

The next budget hearing is set for Saturday at 10 a.m. at Town Hall.

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