Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Big Issues Facing New Freeholders

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Big Issues Facing New Freeholders

Article excerpt

When a newly elected Democratic majority takes control of the Bergen County Freeholder Board in January, there will be a revived attempt at consolidating the County Police into the Sheriff's Office, officials said.

That effort will begin soon after Democrats Steve Tanelli of North Arlington and Tracy Silna Zur are sworn into office, officials in both parties said Wednesday.

Their election will give the Democrats a 4-3 majority and control of the board for the first time since January 2010. The switch could also mean additional funding for Bergen Community College and a revised pay-to-play law.

Both Zur and Tanelli supported the County Police consolidation but said they wanted to first see a plan on how it would work.

Adam Silverstein, a spokesman for their campaign, said he did not know when the merger issue would come up but said he expects it will happen -- "This time in more of a deliberate manner with a comprehensive plan to ensure no gaps in services," he said.

An ordinance that would have dissolved the 89-member county police force and transfer its duties to the Sheriff's Office was defeated on a 3-2 vote on Oct. 4 after 18 months of debate.

Any attempt to revive the merger likely will run into opposition from Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, who sued the freeholders, arguing that they lacked the authority to enact a merger. The suit ended when the ordinance failed.

When asked what her approach will be with a Democratic majority on the board, Donovan issued a statement that read, "The people of Bergen County voted and made their choices. My administration will work together with the new Freeholder Board for the good of the people of Bergen County."

Tuesday's election marked the second year in a row that Republicans have lost a bid for two freeholder seats.

Bob Yudin, the chairman of the Bergen County Republican Organization, blamed this year's loss on the 58 percent majority that President Obama racked up statewide. But Yudin said another factor was GOP incumbent Freeholder Robert Hermansen's vote against the police consolidation measure.

Yudin said internal polls the party conducted in September showed that property tax relief and police consolidation were two very strong issues among likely voters. …

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