Petition signed by residents says crime could be slashed in township
After more than a year and a half of crusading for more police coverage in Marlborough, Karin Lea still isn’t ready to give up.
“I just hope other people step up and are vocal about their concerns,” Lea said Tuesday. “I know I’m not the only person in the township with these concerns.”
At last Wednesday’s supervisors’ meeting, Lea presented a petition of approximately 30 signatures to Board President Brian Doremus asking officials to hire a fourth full-time officer for the township’s police force.
The petition, Lea said, was only circulated to her neighbors in the area of Swamp Creek Road and could have been done on a lot larger scale. It was not immediately addressed at the meeting.
In part, the petition says: “In its best interests, the township has historically had four full-time police officers on staff, something that has not been effectively in place for a number of years now. We understand that there are strains on the budget and it is responsible to try to eliminate wasteful spending. However, having a full complement of officers who know this community well is not wasteful spending, it is absolutely necessary.”
Marlborough Police Department has been without a fourth full-time officer for spans beginning in 2007. In mid-January 2008, they officially had only three full-time officers until the retirement of Lt. Frank Buza in April 2009. At that time they hired Officer Ted Baird to take over the third full-time position.
And for two months, police coverage in the township is down again as one of the three officers is out due to an on-the-job injury.
Lea said she believes more police would translate to less crime, especially in her neighborhood. There are frequent parties around the Unami Creek in that location, many involving underage drinking and drug use.
“I think more cars out there on routine patrol doing routine checks would help,” she noted. “They wouldn’t feel so confident that they could get away with it [the crime].”
State police have been providing coverage for the township when Marlborough officers can’t, but the increased response time, among other things, has left residents asking for more.
“They’re doing a great job on what they can handle, but with their budget constraints, they are stretched thin too. If it takes them two or 20 minutes to get there, you can’t blame them,” Marlborough Police Chief Ray Fluck said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Lea said authorities have explained that there are some things that state police can’t even come out for, like minor complaints, and sometimes reports are not completed stating the need for a follow-up by Marlborough authorities.
It’s unclear where the money for an additional police officer might come from, but supervisors announced last week that they have been interviewing candidates for another full-time fficer’s position.
“We need another police officer,” said Supervisor Joan Smith. “If the chief can prove it to us, we should have a full-time police officer.”
In the spring, the supervisors decided to table discussion of hiring a part-time officer until after the supervisors’ mid-year review of their finances. The money for the part-timer was supposed to come from a “contingency fund” that was set aside for expenditures that were not absolute necessities when the final budget for 2011 was adopted.
But the supervisors voted Wednesday night to approve the purchase of two new servers for the township’s administrative offices and police department, so $18,941 out of approximately $22,000 in the contingency fund now goes for the computers instead of a part-time officer.
“We’re very close to hiring a new officer,” said Supervisor Carl Ascoli, who agreed with Smith that the township police should hire a new full-timer.
Smith offered a possible solution to the funding of the new officer: “You [the voting public] could tell us to raise your taxes through a referendum on the ballot,” said Smith. Smith said that she was in agreement with the other supervisors that taxes should not be raised now.
Technology committee chairman Frank MacCauley told the board that his committee recommends purchasing two separate servers to replace the aging equipment now in the administrative offices and the police department.
While the supervisors agreed to move ahead to purchase the servers, they agreed with resident Clare Reihmann to negotiate the installation charges down, and they took MacCauley’s advice to suspend maintenance on the two old servers for the balance of the year, at a savings of approximately $500 a month. Ascoli also suggested talking to the vendor of the computers to see if payment on one of them could be delayed until after the end of the year.
In other business, the supervisors voted to make a copy of any document under discussion at a meeting available to a member of the public who asks for one. The resolution came up after Reihmann asked for and received a copy of a financial statement that had been discussed at the August workshop meeting.
Reihmann wanted to know what the account balances had been when the supervisors discussed the mid-year status of the township’s finances.
Fire Marshal Barry Doremus told the board that some of the repairs to utility lines and poles after the recent hurricane were temporary and that the public should watch out for stray wires that could be dislodged before the permanent repairs are made.