by Nick Lenczyk
Lately an increase in shared services and privatizing has become a popular way for municipalities to cut taxes and costs to residents. Fair Haven is a great example privatizing trash and recycling pickup, dispatching with Monmouth County, and privatizing park maintenance in regards to cutting and mowing fields. Rumson, on the other handm is still mostly taken care of in-house within the town but in the recent year there has been talk of combining Public Works Departments or privatizing trash and recycling pickup like Fair Haven.
Had Rumson decided to go that way, six employees would have lost their jobs. At least for 2011, six DPW employee’s jobs were spared and collection is still performed by the Rumson Borough thanks to support by the local residents. Other shared services in our area that are being talked about are the Two River Police Bureau and other services related to emergencies like Rumson dispatching with Little Silver and Sea Bright. Rumson already maintains Sea Bright’s vehicles as well as on occasion some of Oceanport’s.
A lot of other towns are thinking about doing the same if they haven’t already. There is always a positive and a negative to everything and this topic definitely relates. Some people rather pay more to get more then to lose convenience and change routines. Others don’t mind the change in services as long as the job gets done. I personally prefer paying more to get more.
The positive to shared services and privatizing of specific resources enables more manpower for other jobs that were not able to get done before. Garbage and recycling isn’t as complicated as it use to be twenty years ago when every type of glass, paper, cardboard and trash had to be placed separate for specific assortment. That makes collection a whole lot less time consuming making the job easy to do with one truck verse six. Dispatching on the other hand is typically outsourced because of cost to man a dispatcher in our local towns. Rumson at current time still dispatches at the new borough hall but research has been done to outsource here as well. Fair Haven and Rumson’s construction office is also combined now and situated at Rumson’s borough hall. Since the two towns are so much alike it makes great sense to condense the department.
Privatizing mowing and large projects is no new idea. These time consuming jobs are easily bided out to private contractors who then perform all the work under the local engineer or private companies such as TM Associates, a local engineering firm situated by the Garden State Parkway. In some cases it can cost more to hire out verse working in house but other times it can pay off.
There may be a positive to changing services but there are plenty of negatives as well. Fair Haven for example switched to Monmouth County Dispatching a few years back hoping to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. The problem is county dispatchers have no clue what the geographic range is as well as important landmarks and street names. Local dispatchers, often cops, have a great knowledge of the local town and emergencies that can exist and can react a whole lot faster.
Another negative is combining three or four jobs and giving it to one guy to handle instead of a few. It can be overwhelming to perform a job that really shouldn’t be combined. If the person is focused on one job, how are the others being supervised? Many towns are losing services that could have been kept over bad choices.
Plenty of research is done time and time again but every town is different and needs to maintain that unique difference to work best for its people. Rumson at current time I feel is doing the right thing sharing construction offices with Fair Haven but keeping local services such as trash pickup and dispatching to the already local guys. The quality of service in Rumson is above and beyond what a town has to do for its people and people recognize this. I personally feel though in Fair Haven that the quality of services and life are drastically decreasing at a huge rate. That’s just my opinion though.
Shared services and privatizing can be great is some ways and bad in others. The above topics are just a hand full of services done in the “Two Rivers” area. We are not the only towns changing what we’ve done for years because of the economy and increasing prices of products and services; this is often seen in the newspapers every day, the talk about changes coming soon near you. There’s really little citizens can do to stop these changes except to get everyone in the community involved like Rumson. The local government is already thinking it and it’s no secret that there are plans in the future to outsource most everything. It’s up to citizen to decide whether it’s a good idea or to pay for better services instead of just essentials.