CAMDEN, NJ (CBS) — Camden County freeholders are planning to form the first countywide police and fire departments in New Jersey — although they insist that participation in the program by municipalities is purely voluntary.

cappelli lou camden freeholder Camden County Planning Countywide Police And Fire Coverage

(Photo provided)

This has nothing to do with pending police and fire layoffs in the city of Camden (see related story), according to county freeholder director Lou Cappelli (right).

“This is a concept that we’ve been exploring over the last year and a half based on the inquiries of several mayors in Camden County,” he said on Friday.

Municipalities that opt in would pay a fee to the county — presumably lower than the cost of running police or fire departments themselves — although specifics are yet to be worked out.

There will be a meeting with mayors next month to assess the level of interest.

A countywide operation could be up and running in about six months. As for staffing, those now working in affected towns could apply for jobs with the county — but Cappelli says with many officers and firefighters laid off in towns across the state, a lot of them will likely sign up as well.

Reported by David Madden, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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