As reported by nj.com, Lawrence Township could become the first municipality in New Jersey to privatize 911 police dispatching services, should the council approve a contract worth $719,400 a year with iXP Corp. of Cranbury next Tuesday.
The idea of privatizing the town’s six-member dispatching team was first floated last fall, as Lawrence sought ways to plug a budget gap. Superstorm Sandy delayed the process until last month, when iXP returned the sole bid to take over the service, though at a higher than expected cost.
Current dispatchers have had a lukewarm reaction to the proposal, saying they don’t know enough about iXP and the pay and benefits the company will offer. In addition, privatization of police services has often been viewed with apprehension by the law enforcement community.
South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond J. Hayducka, the president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, said he’s monitoring the situation with interest. “There’s always trepidation with something new, especially if something is working,” he said. “It’s a new concept that hasn’t been tested yet in New Jersey, but I’m familiar with other states where it has been successful. It will be interesting to see.”
iXP has experience providing dispatch services similar to the Lawrence proposal, staffing a facility in Sandy Springs, GA that serves multiple communities in the Atlanta-metro area. While Hayducka said iXP has a very good reputation as a vendor in the police community, he also said any police chief would naturally be concerned about the selection of personnel. He noted that dispatchers use the National Crime Information Center database. “We would want to make sure they could provide the same service and the same background checks,” he said. “Dispatchers have access to NCIC terminals and sensitive police matters.”
Lawrence’s dispatchers make about $47,000 a year, while the one senior dispatcher is paid about $56,000. iXP said those dispatchers hired would, in their first year, earn the equivalent of their current town salary, through a combination of iXP’s starting salary and a sign-on bonus. In the succeeding years, they would earn the base salary and have opportunities for quarterly and performance bonuses of $700 to over $3,000 a year. However, they would no longer receive contributions to their pension plan, but could participate in a company-matched 401(k) plan.