Council meeting sheds light on the future of Washington Township Police Department

Also, Washington Township snow removal procedures were discussed

Chief of Police Patrick Gurcsik was honored by Mayor Joann Gattinelli at the Feb. 7 council meeting for his outstanding service to the community and his department.

Police Chief Patrick Gurcsik presented a State of the Police Department Address at the Wednesday, Feb. 7, council meeting, looking forward to continued improvements and community outreach in 2018. Additionally, Public Works Supervisor Brian McCaffery provided an update on the township’s snow-clearing procedures, answering many frequently asked questions from residents during a community snow event.

According to Gurcsik, 2017 was a successful year of building relationships and trust between officers and residents, and he looks forward to continuing to grow the department’s outreach programs and public safety efforts in the new year.

“Relationships are the backbone of any community, and I believe by the wide variety of community programs we held this year, we have gained the trust and friendship of many of our residents,” Gurcsik said. “Community outreach programs have helped our department keep a service mind and attitude.”

Gurcsik said Washington Township saw a 4 percent decrease in overall crime in 2017, while the township’s detective bureau, under the guidance of Lt. Christopher Pelosi, had one the highest crime clearance rates in Gloucester County.

“Our low crime rate is one of the reasons why Washington Township is a desirable place to live,” Gurcsik said.

Highlights from his first year as chief included the addition of school resource officers within Washington Township High School, as well as the increased presence of officers within the district’s 11 schools each day. Additionally, the department implemented a new DARE program and created high-five Fridays, “making officers more approachable and recognizable.”

According to Gurcsik, the department also saw expansion in 2017 with a new K-9 added to the unit, as well as the addition of six newly sworn-in officers. As well, he said, there are six special officers participating in the Gloucester County Police Academy who are expected to graduate in March.

One of the department’s primary goals in 2018, Gurcsik said, will be to earn accreditation, which had expired in 2015, as well as secure unclaimed grant funds from previous years. According to Gurcsik, with the assistance of Lt. William Lee and Township Chief Financial Officer Colette Bachich, the department recovered almost $180,000 in unclaimed, “safe and secure” grant money from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 funding years. Lee and Bachich are also seeking to secure at least $120,000 from 2016 and 2017 grant funding as well. Gurcsik said this additional funding helped purchase new bulletproof vests in 2017.

“In 2018, mayor, council and residents will see us working tirelessly and relentlessly toward our goal of reducing crime by being proactive and engaging our residents,” Gurcsik said. “We will continue to identify issues before they become larger problems.”

In the new year, Gurcsik said, continued improvements to the department headquarters, located at 1 McClure Drive, Sewell, are anticipated. The department will be requesting new carpet, additional lighting, new paint, ceiling tiles, landscaping and a break room in the budget this year. Residents should also expect to see a sign on Greentree Road marking the location of the police station in the spring.

Recognizing Gurcsik’s passion and dedication to the department and community, Mayor Joann Gattinelli and council presented him a certificate of appreciation and hero trophy for his hard work.

“You’re going to lead us into a greater and safer town,” Gattinelli said. “We can lean on you to do that, and you’re the right person to do that. We appreciate everything you’ve done and continue to do.”

In regard to snow removal in Washington Township, McCaffery spoke on the strategic procedure in place for all snow events that may take place through the winter.

According to McCaffery, the public works department’s first priority during a snow event is to clear the “main arteries” through town, such as Mount Pleasant Road, Johnson Road and the main thoroughfares through each development that lead to access to county and state roads.

“We do that so no resident has to travel more than one mile to get to any main artery that is treated,” McCaffery said. “We continue to do that through the duration of any snow event.”

If the township receives more than two inches of snow, the department begins to consider bringing in outside contractors to help with the snow removal process.

According to McCaffery, Washington Township has more than 700 roads, equaling approximately 170 miles, with more than 200 courts. While the township is responsible for clearing snow on township roads, there are also a number of county and state roads that are taken care of by their respective agencies.

According to McCaffery, county roads include Blackwood-Barnsboro Road; Berlin-Cross Keys Road; Chapel Heights Road; Egg Harbor Road; Fish Pond Road; Fries Mill Road; Ganttown Road; Glassboro-Cross Keys Road; Greentree Road; Hurffville Road; Hurffville-Grenloch Road; Pitman Downer Road; Tuckahoe Road; and Woodbury-Turnersville Road.

State roads include Delsea Drive, Route 42 and Route 168.

While the department’s goal is to make roads passable and safe to travel, McCaffery said, bare pavement is an unattainable goal. Additionally, while plowing from curb to curb would be ideal, many obstacles prevent wide lanes, such as cars parked on the side of the street, basketball hoops on the curb or pedestrians clearing their property.

McCaffery asked residents to be patient during a snow event, as the department’s goal is to have to township covered within 14 to 24 hours during a storm. If there are any issues, he said, residents are welcome to contact the department at (856) 589–0523.

In other news:

  • Council adopted an ordinance, 3–1, on second reading setting the salary ranges for certain officers and employees of the municipality. Councilwoman Angela Donato, Councilman Sean Longfellow and Council President Joe Perry voted “yes,” while Councilwoman Dana Pasqualone voted “no.” Councilman Nick Fazzio was absent at the meeting.

While all ranges remained the same compared to the 2017 salary range ordinance, an additional line for $25,000 minimum and maximum salary was added for the Department of Law Director Solicitor Stuart Platt for redevelopment legal services.

According to Platt, most, if not all, of the additional salary will be reimbursed to the township through dedicated redevelopment escrow agreements with redevelopers. At this time, he said, the township has two redevelopment projects in progress.

  • Council unanimously adopted an ordinance on second reading that decreases the number of administrative positions in the Washington Township Police Department to allow for additional patrol officers later this year.
Danielle Barrila (Center) of the Washington Township Clerk’s Office was awarded as Employee of the Month for February at the Feb. 7 council meeting. Pictured with her are her husband Sebastian and Mayor Joann Gattinelli.
  • Gattinelli recognized Washington Township Clerk’s Office Employee of the Month Danielle Barrila for her “dedication, passion and handwork” for February.
Robert Troy Young was recognized for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout of the Feb. 7 council meeting. Pictured with him holding his proclamation is Mayor Joann Gattinelli.
  • Gattinelli presented resident Robert Troy Young with a proclamation recognizing Young as a leader within the community after he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

According to Gattinelli, Young earned 32 merit badges and became an Ordeal member of the Order of the Arrow in 2015. Additionally, Young designed, planned and directed projects for homes within the Center for Family Services Envision Program, offering community-based, long-term residential treatment for female youth ages 11 through 19. Young’s 160-hour project included two reflection benches, five memory boards and six outside flower boxes with flowers.

  • The next council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m.