Point Beach Open to Keeping Court in Boro
But Beach wants more money and a new security plan
Point Beach may be amenable to keeping its municipal court in Point Borough, but the Borough needs to sweeten the pot and solve a security staffing problem.
That was generally the sentiment of Point Beach Mayor Vincent Barrella who said on Wednesday that the current financial situation regarding the two towns paying administrative staff has to change.
"I don't think the current percentage works," he said, declining to specify dollar amounts and percentages because the towns are still negotiating and any agreement that's struck still needs to be approved by Superior Court Judge Vincent Grasso sitting in Toms River.
For many months, Point Beach officials had said they wanted their town's municipal court operations back in their own Borough Hall on New Jersey Avenue.
And Point Borough Council had voted in February to allow that, adding, at the time, that details still had to be worked out. There was also a unanimous Borough Council vote in March.
However, as residents waited and wondered what was happening with those "details," there was apparently a shift in the minds of municipal officials about leaving court where it is as municipal court staff indicated they would rather keep the Point Beach operation in Borough Hall on Bridge Avenue.
The Borough has a newer, larger facility that the court staff apparently prefers, Barrella said.
"It's a newer facility, it's probably a more efficient facility, and we'd like to accomodate their request," he said. "But we have to make sure it works for the taxpayers. And, speaking only for myself, the deal, as presently constituted, does not work financially or in terms of providing court security. So the ball is in the Borough's court right now."
That "ball" was tossed about in a closed session at the Tuesday night Borough Council meeting in Borough Hall on Bridge Avenue and information coming out of that discussion will be discussed with Beach officials, said Borough Administrator David Maffei.
Point Borough Municipal Attorney Jerry Dasti said after Tuesday night's meeting, that the Beach court operation will remain in the Borough, but that the Beach wants the Borough paying a higher percentage into court staff salaries.
Dasti said the towns are still negotiating and that he thinks the issue will be resolved by the next Borough Council meeting on Sept. 18. Beach Council meets on the same night.
Mayors in both towns only vote when there is a tie. The matter has been the subject of executive sessions in both towns and ongoing discussions between both borough administrators.
"This has been going on for a year and a half," said Borough Mayor William Schroeder after Tuesday night's Borough Council meeting.
The core issue with providing security is that Point Beach special police officers have no jurisdiction in Point Borough or any other municipality, as per state law, Barrella said.
So Point Beach has been sending either full-time uniformed officers or detectives to the Beach court sessions at Borough Hall on Bridge Avenue to provide security.
That is in addition to the Point Beach officers who must be at Borough Hall to testify in specific cases.
Having full-time police provide security, sometimes for many hours, cost Point Beach $20,000 last year alone, Point Beach Police Chief Kevin O'Hara has said.
When asked if Point Beach would be amenable to helping to pay for special police officers hired by Point Borough, Barrella said that's possible.
"But I'm not paying more than $13 an hour," he said, referring to the salary specials typically earn.