Council temporarily reduces admin fee for police services

| 29 Mar 2012 | 12:20

West Milford — The township council has temporarily cut the administrative fee charged to groups that contract with local police for outside events.

This is a step forward for people like Tim Wagner, manager of the Greenwood Lake Airport, and others who put on events in the town that require police presence. Wagner has been to the board several times asking that they change a 2002 ordinance that requires third parties who seek to utilize township police services to pay the overtime rates for the off-duty officers being employed. On top of that, there is the 25 percent administrative charge. So if police costs for an event run $4,000, an additional $1,000 is charged to cover administrative costs.

Councilman Michael Ramaglia, who is the liaison to the township's Economic Development Committee, has been in favor of taking another look at both the costs of police services for these events and the administrative fee. He suggested to the council on March 20 that the administrative fee be waived, as last year's was, while the council and administrator look at a more permanent solution.

Mayor Bettina Bieri said the township does have to cover the administrative costs so waiving the fee might not be prudent. Last year, former township Administrator Kevin Boyle waived the fee for the air show, which Bieri said he wasn't authorized to do.

Ramaglia agreed and proposed a temporary reduction in the administrative fee to 10 percent. He said after meeting with event organizers and police last year, he thinks 10 percent will cover the costs. Administrator Nancy Gage said she will look at the administrative costs and determine a fee that is more in line with those costs. The full council agreed.

"We just need to cover costs and not to make money," said Ramaglia.

Costs keep rising Wagner has some experience in putting on big events in the township. He has run a few multi-day air shows, which have been very successful, bringing thousands of people into the township. Police costs are a major part of his budget, he has said, and if the costs aren't brought under control, it may affect the events he and others can put on.

The ordinance requires the overtime rate be paid to police who work these events. That adds up to between $64 and $110 per hour, per officer. The administrative fee is in addition to that and covers costs and benefits. Just to give an idea of what's involved, Wagner must estimate the crowds he expects on each day. In 2009, his first air show, Wagner paid $7,773 in police costs for the two-day event. In 2010, the event was expanded to three days and the police costs rose to $17,788, even though weather dramatically cut attendance on one of those days.

Wagner fears the cost of doing business will prevent him and others from having family-friendly events here in West Milford. He is hoping the township will bring the police costs in line with surrounding towns or the county Sheriff's Department. He said a flat rate per officer would allow organizers of events to better estimate their costs.

Wagner is hoping the police costs come down as well as the administrative fee permanently. His air show this year is scheduled for Aug. 18 and 19.

"Let's be done with it," said Wagner to the council. "Please let's wrap this up today. It directly affects economic development in this township."