Lambertville gets $50,000 grant

The money will be used for improvements to the Justice Center and new computers for the police department.

By: Linda Seida
   LAMBERTVILLE — With a new $50,000 state grant, the city will add technological improvements to the Justice Center and buy four new in-car laptop computers to replace the outdated models now used by the Police Department.
   Gov. Richard Codey gave approval to the Special Purpose Grant before leaving office last month. Administered through the Department of Community Affairs, the grant comes from the Governor’s Contingency Fund. Lambertville’s grant was just one of 32 grants totaling $2.1 million made from the fund in early January.
   "This is good," Mayor David Del Vecchio said Friday. "This is helpful. We are pleased that the governor saw this need as something worth funding. We’re excited about it because, number one, the police need mobile data terminals, which are important for their function. The second thing is, we got some money to put back in the Justice Center."
   The mayor took some heat last year for diverting an earlier grant from the technology upgrades to pay for flood repairs when it was discovered the Justice Center was not adequately insured.
   Gov. Codey has come under criticism for the distribution of a total of $3.069 million in 54 grants, including the $50,000 awarded to Lambertville, during his last month and a half as governor.
   But Mayor Del Vecchio defended the city’s award, which was requested via a grant application to the state’s Department of Community Affairs.
   "I will not apologize for doing what I do to help the city," he said.
   Furthermore, he said, it is frequently his habit to inform the governor and others of the city’s needs and requests.
   "Why wouldn’t you?" Mayor Del Vecchio asked. It just makes sense "because you want everyone’s help."
   He added, "I think people like to give out grants to cities and municipalities or agencies that make them look good as funding sources. We’re happy that the acting governor saw merit in what we were asking for."
   He pointed out the new grant allows the upgrades to move forward, and "local tax dollars don’t have to pay for it."
   A video conferencing system for the Justice Center will cost $14,500. A sound and lighting system will cost $19,500.
   The conferencing system will help ease the awkward moments that come up during some council meetings. If a council member is out of town, but his vote is needed to pay bills or for other matters, the rest of the council will crowd into a smaller room to conference with the absent member by telephone.
   This is legal under the Open Public Meetings Act because members of the public and the media are invited to accompany the council while the conference call is conducted via speaker phone.
   "We did it, and we followed the rules, but you saw that was kind of awkward," Mayor Del Vecchio said.
   The four new police laptops, known as MDTs or mobile data terminals, will replace models that are seven years old and literally falling apart. Some of the keys are falling off, according to Lambertville Police Director Bruce Cocuzza.
   The city will spend $4,000 each to replace them for a total cost of $16,000. The older units cost about the same seven years ago, but they were not meant for the "24-hour, heavy-duty use" that police departments give them, according to Mr. Cocuzza.
   "We’re on very borrowed time," he said of the department’s old Hewlett Packard laptops.
   The MDTs "are in desperate need of replacement," according to the grant application.
   "The city relies heavily on the MDTs for information from New Jersey Driver’s License Certified Abstract and Proof of Mailing and National Crime Information Center. Additionally, the MDTs are used as an alternative means of communication between individual officers as well with the officer and central communications. The requested MDTs would not only assist the Police Department in routine patrols, but would permit the Police Department to assist the Fire Department and rescue squad during emergencies."
   The department is considering buying Panasonic Toughbooks, Mr. Cocuzza said. Among its other features are waterproof keyboards and durable keys.