GALLOWAY TWP. - What is now a vacant field on the campus of Stockton College could soon look very different, as Stockton and Atlantic County reached a preliminary agreement to build a dispatch facility for all county EMS, police and fire in an effort to save money.
"Taxes are going up and we have a 2% cap, said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson.
The municipalities realize they have to do more with less, in reality they have to do less with less and this is a way we can start saving money. It would be more than a million dollars a year to have a centralized system here."
Levinson says 19 of 23 municipalities are in favor of the plan as of right now and some Cape May County towns have even expressed interest. One interested municipality is Egg Harbor Township, where their dispatch center currently serves Egg Harbor Township, Northfield and Linwood.
"I think between the County and Stockton College, I think they are really making a very good move and consolidation of services is really the future of municipalities," said Egg Harbor Township Mayor Sonny McCullough.
Mayor McCullough estimates a $700,000 saving for the Township and is pleased to see the County supplying the more than seventeen million dollars to fund the facility from the capital budget.
"Its shared proportionally among all municipalities and that's the right way to do it," said McCullough.
In addition to the donation of ten acres of land, Stockton will contribute 4.8 million dollars and receive full dispatch services.
"This is the way government should work and hopefully the municipalities, the 23 towns in Atlantic County understand days of home rule are coming to a close," said Levinson.
Twelve dispatch centers are currently operating in the county and Levinson says competitive tests will select in his words "the best and brightest" to work in the new facility.
"We don't have that luxury any longer, that it's the taxpayer that has to be thought about but hopefully the dispatchers working in the municipalities will obtain these jobs," said Levinson.
The plans will next have to meet the approval of the Freeholder Board and the individual municipalities.