Council approves $475K bond ordinance for police upgrades

Residents sought alternative ways to pay for capital equipment

Gloucester Township Council approved a bond ordinance earlier this week that will fund upgrades and improvements for the police department.

Earlier in September, council approved on first reading a bond ordinance that called for borrowing approximately $450,000 for capital equipment. 

According to its agenda, the purpose of the ordinance was the “acquisition of various equipment for the police department, including, but not limited to Tasers, dispatch equipment and computer equipment.”

The breakdown in allocated funds for equipment and technology includes $157,000 for Axion Tasers; $64,000 to upgrade dispatch services; and $30,000 for miscellaneous equipment, according to Business Administrator Tom Cardis. Police Chief David Harkins said the Taser portion of the upgrades is part of a five-year Officers Assistance Plan that also includes both body and squad-car camera systems.

The largest portion of the bond ordinance allocates approximately $200,000 for computer upgrades in the police department that Cardis previously said are  much needed. The township still uses Windows 2007 and a recent state audit recommended computer upgrades.

While the bond ordinance passed on second reading, residents at the public hearing still questioned the need to borrow the money rather than fund it through other means.

Resident Pete Heinbaugh asked council and administrators why the $526,000 currently available in the capital budget couldn’t be used to cover costs for which the township sought to borrow..

“It seems to me that’s enough cash to cover this bond ordinance without the need to do any more borrowing,” he said.

Cardis confirmed during the meeting that the township does have that amount of cash currently leftover in the budget. But he didn’t recommend the township use it in place of the bond ordinance for a few reasons.

“I don’t know if any of that is still for outstanding projects that have not been completed at this point,” Cardis explained. “I would not recommend we use it because of the uncertain times right now. We don’t know what we’re going to be facing. That would be a place where we would be able to take money out for emergencies.”

Heinbaugh also said that since the township borrowed $10 million this past summer through a Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) due to uncertain state aid,  money is already available for emergencies. He believes the township should be able to spend the additional money in its capital budget on the sole capital project from the recently passed budget.

“We did borrow $10 million in a TAN to handle the potential emergencies that come up, so that’s available” Heinbaugh insisted. “I’m just suggesting that we have the capital fund cash to cover this police equipment purchase, and therefore we shouldn’t have to do this bond ordinance and borrow further money.”  

Sam Sweet was the last resident to speak during the public hearing about the bond ordinance. He requested council seek alternative ways to fund the upgrades and improvements.

“Just because we can borrow and it meets the requirements doesn’t mean that we should borrow, because we’re constantly, constantly borrowing,” said Sweet. “Why are we constantly borrowing?”

Following his statements, the bond ordinance passed on second reading by a unanimous vote.