Shared services summit reviews opportunities

Staff Writer

Citing an ongoing need to produce cost-savings and efficiency in government, state and county officials held a shared services summit to discuss county programs that are available for municipalities.

The summit, which was held at the Monmouth County Fire Academy, Route 33, Howell, on Oct. 5, provided information regarding county services, including the 911 Communications Center in Freehold Township .

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden told those in attendance that the county service is more than a call center.

“There is so much more to offer in the background in terms of just taking a call and dispatching the call,” Golden said, referring to other telecommunications and information technology services.

Golden said the long-term goal is to have an emergency dispatch center that will be capable of serving the entire county, which stretches from the Jersey Shore in locations such as Asbury Park and Manasquan west to Allentown and Upper Freehold Township.

The emergency dispatch center currently answers calls for 45 towns, as well as for Naval Weapons Station Earle and the former Fort Monmouth property, and it dispatches for 10 police departments, 50 fire companies and 23 first aid squads.

In 2010 the emergency dispatch center received 640,000 calls, of which 190,000 were 911 calls, the sheriff said.

Anew center, which will be constructed behind the Monmouth County Police Academy on Kozloski Road in Freehold Township, will continue to address the growing needs for services, according to the sheriff.

Golden advised the local officials who attended the summit to maintain a collaborative effort with all agency and department heads in their towns and to be on the same page before reaching out to the county for services.

“I know it’s an unpleasant conversation, but those are the conversations you need to have and that’s the buy-in you need to have,” he said.

Monmouth County Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone told the local leaders he wants them to be partners with the county.

“The only way we are going to achieve our goal on the county side is to have our stakeholders come in with us and join serv- ices,” Arnone said. “We want people to look at Monmouth County and say, ‘that’s the way it’s done.’ ”

State Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos (R-Monmouth and Middlesex) also encouraged local officials to continue to pursue shared services, citing the need for government to be more efficient.

“I would urge you to be as creative and forward-thinking as you can,” Kyrillos said. “That’s what the people want us to do, they want us to be smarter and to save them money. They can still have their local character, their feeling of community.”

Following the shared services summit, Howell Mayor Robert Walsh said the event was informative and provided networking opportunities.

“It’s something we are all going to have to do, share as many services as possible,” Walsh said. “So the more information we have, the better prepared we’ll be.”

He said Howell participates with the Monmouth County Improvement Authority, which provides cost-saving alternatives to traditional methods of financing equipment. The initiative has saved taxpayers thousands through lower interest rates, Walsh said .

Township officials will continue to pursue shared services with neighboring communities and the county, he said.

“Our governing body and management team have been actively looking for different ways to share services and reduce costs,” Walsh said. “As mayor, I think it’s one of my primary jobs to search for where we can save the taxpayers money and at the same time deliver the services.”