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Some Camden County Mayors Share Their Views on Countywide Police and Fire Department Initiative

They’re open to exploring the idea, and looking forward to more information

Camden County mayors expressed interest in exploring the initiative of a countywide police and fire department proposed as a shared services option by the Camden County Freeholder Board, but are looking forward to more discussions, input and study before making any decisions.
“It’s a very difficult conversation to have, but it’s a conversation we have to have,” said Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley.

As the Freeholder Board expressed it, in these difficult economic times, shared services can present the opportunity to maintain services while saving taxpayers money.  In the coming weeks, through meetings, input and discussion with all stakeholders, from mayors, police and fire chiefs, as well as PBA, FOP and firefighters union officials, the regional police and fire initiative will be explored.
The County is hosting a meeting on Tuesday, February 1 at the Regional Emergency Training Center in Blackwood from 8 -9 a.m. to gather input from mayors, police and fire chiefs from around the county. A committee will be formed after this meeting to further study the initiative.
“We want to develop a totally voluntary option that can make sense for some municipalities,” said Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr.
“I am a hundred and fifty percent for this initiative, with a different perspective from a lot of mayors,” said Lindenwold Mayor Frank DeLuca. “A regional police and fire department is safer for residents, police officers and firefighters because it allows better communication among municipalities, the ability to have special units and because everyone is on the same page, which isn’t always the case now. I think Camden County is long overdue for regionalized police, fire and EMS.
Stratford Mayor, Dr. John Gentless, who is incoming president of the Camden County Mayors Association weighed in with some of his perspective and concerns.
“I want to know more about the countywide initiative,” he said.  “I’ve spent 36 years as a volunteer fireman and 30 years running with the squad, so these issues are very close to my heart. I have been part of the Blue Shield Feasibility study to determine whether five towns in the Sterling District could share services in some of these areas.
“I’d like more detail and am happy top attend the February 1 meeting and any subsequent meetings or serve on any committees to help determine whether there is a viable option here.”
“Police and fire protection go to the core of the responsibilities municipal governments have to our residents, said Gloucester Township mayor, David Mayer. “I believe the Gloucester Township Police and Fire Departments are the best in the state and they provide the most essential service for our municipality—preserving the health and welfare of our community.
“I welcome the discussion of shared services, and I look forward to reviewing a more detailed county plan, when it is available, with our Gloucester Township Police and Fire Chiefs.”
Mayor Jack Severson of Laurel Springs said, “I like anything that saves taxpayer dollars, as long as there’s a good plan and we maintain municipal identities.”