HOWELL – The township police department recently saw retirements and a reduction in overtime, and could use an upgrade to its fleet of vehicles.
As Howell Township continues to iron out the coming municipal budget, Police Chief Andrew Kudrick shared his department’s request to purchase 10 new police vehicles. Kudrick said the department has undergone a massive reduction in police overtime since he became chief in July 2015.
The police chief explained these requests, current costs and more in a budget presentation February 6. Though Kudrick said Howell has a very low crime rate, the leading causes of township fatalities are road accidents and drug overdoses.
He said the vehicle additions include a multi-functional, fully loaded response truck that would be an asset in responding to late night car accidents and crime scene investigations.
The proposed Ford F-550 would already be loaded with these tools and be a true “first response” vehicle, manned by officers who have already been trained to use it, he said. Toms River is already using these trucks on its force.
Six, top-level police officers retired last year, and Chief Kudrick is asking for an additional three new hires this year.
A proposal is being discussed with the Howell Board of Education that would allow some of these retired officers to provide security at public schools, in response to a bill that Governor Christie signed into law last year. The law states that to provide security, these “Class Three” officers must be under 65 years of age, undergo specialized training and work no more than 20 hours a week. The township plans to hire 15 Class Three officers in total and station one in every middle school.
Kudrick also explained the Howell EMS budget. The EMS is primarily a part-time business that pays for itself by bringing in annual revenue of over a million dollars. It recently hired its first full-time employee in 10 years, a coordinator who helped locate an additional $300,000 in revenue through billing discrepancies.
Chief Kudrick recommended hiring another full-time coordinator to handle the road, but councilmembers pushed back, saying that it would nearly double the coordinator’s salary after factoring in health benefits and other intangibles.
The police chief also proposed some upgrades to safety communications, including the purchase of four portable radios that would allow emergency services to link up with the police department and dial into state, county and local radio frequencies. Right now, emergency workers are using donated radios that only operate on one frequency.
Although the radio upgrade would cost $30,000, Township Manager Jeffrey Mayfield told councilmembers, “I don’t see any way around it.”
The budget hearing opened up a larger debate about these costs, with some council members saying citizens care less about safety and more about their taxes going down.
An additional budget meeting date is scheduled for 6 p.m. February 21.