A meeting is tentatively planned this week where Southern Ocean County officials are expected to discuss the controversial topic of sharing services among municipalities.
Although he declined to share details of the meeting, Stafford Mayor John Spodofora confirmed that there will be a meeting to discuss "all possible options. All towns have been doing shared services, to some extent or another, and this is just to discuss those."
Lacey Mayor Mark Dykoff, also confirmed the meeting, noting that the township is considering shared services for its animal control and a full-time Information Technology employee.
Lacey has been speaking to officials from Waretown and Berkeley regarding shared services, Township Administrator Veronica Laureigh said. Currently, the township is in a shared service agreement for purchasing items such as gasoline, rock salt, highway signs, auto parts, electric and natural gas through the Stafford Township Co-op.
"Obviously it will benefit the township. It would help by a money savings," Dykoff said. "The other important part, what we try to do whenever we meet with another town, we try to learn how they're doing something; if they're doing something better."
For example, Berkeley Township does in-house garbage pickup while Lacey contracts it out, he said.
"It's a real good thing. You learn," he said. "It's trial and error."
Lacey Township used to have shared services for inspections with Waretown but there were issues with scheduling.
"It didn't work out. It's not all it's cracked up to be," he said, adding that it takes streamlining.
Barnegat Township officials, on the other hand, will likely not be attending.
The township already has a number of shared services with neighboring Waretown, and "our plate is already full with regard to implementing and managing shared services," Barnegat Township Administrator David Breeden said.
Looking toward the future, however, Breeden did not rule out the idea that the town would be doing more shared services, nor would he confirm that others are being researched.
"Shared service agreements are a very sensitive topic, because they involve changes in personnel," Breeden said. Barnegat and Waretown last year agreed to share a tax collector, a zoning officer and a recreation director, in addition to sharing Breeden's services. The township has also arranged shared service agreements for trash collection and maintaining municipal vehicles.
These types of consolidation, are strongly encouraged by the state, Breeden said, and end up in huge savings to both towns.
"There are bills pending in the legislature that promote and encourage the use of shared services by all local governmental entities in New Jersey," Breeden said in a statement to Patch. "There is no question that the state will impose financial penalties, such as withholding state aid, on municipalities not engaged in shared service agreements. That is why it is crucial for [towns] to be proactive in its approach to shared services and enter into agreements that reflect the best interest of the community."