WENONAH, N.J. (CBS) – At a packed special Town Council meeting on Thursday night, residents of Wenonah sparred with their mayor over a plan to disband the borough’s police force in favor of purchasing police services from neighboring Mantua Township.
Mayor John Dominy says maintaining Wenonah’s five patrol officers, police chief and support costs about $900,000 to $950,000 annually, but Mantua would supply police services for $550,000, a net savings of $350,000 to $400,000 per year.
“We’ll be able to get much better services at less cost – it’s a no-brainer,” says Dominy.
He says Mantua would not necessarily hire any of their six laid off police officers but would provide extra services such as a detective bureau, K-9 officers and a traffic crash response unit.
“We must make the hard decisions to reduce our taxes,” Dominy told the crowd of several hundred people that flowed out the council chamber out the front door of town hall.
Despite the fact Wenonah is the smallest municipality in Gloucester County with an independent police force, many residents aren’t onboard with outsourcing their officers.
“We’re the taxpayers and what we want should matter because it’s our money that you’re using,” said Cathleen McNaulty speaking out in front of town council.
In 2011, a non-binding ballot referendum asked if residents wanted to disband the police department and a resounding 63 percent said “no.”
“Here we are seven years later, we’re back to the same thing but this time there wasn’t a lot of public awareness about it,” says Wenonah resident George Braun, who is leading the campaign to resist the mayor’s plan.
Many residents are ticked off to learn the mayor has been negotiating with Mantua for months, yet just announced the special council meeting with a vote 48 hours ago.
“I will come after every single council member with as much venom and vigor as I can to ensure that our town remains safe with the folks who run the police department that we all love dearly,” says Rebecca Kowleawicz who helped lead the 2011 effort to keep the police department.
Council unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance to disband the police department and will vote again for a second and final time at their April 26 council meeting.