Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sheriff Says Merger Will Save Money

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sheriff Says Merger Will Save Money

Article excerpt

Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino said Thursday that the merger of the County Police into his department will work and save taxpayers money.

But Saudino, an Emerson Republican seeking a second three-year term, said the ongoing debate within his party over the issue could hurt Republicans politically, particularly those who oppose the merger.

"It doesn't help," he said in a one-hour interview with The Record's editorial board. He added, however, that in the long run his party's position on smaller government and reducing property taxes will prevail among voters.

Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, a fellow Republican who ran with Saudino three years ago, is opposed to the merger that the freeholders approved by a 5-1 vote Wednesday.

Donovan has pledged to veto the measure and, if her veto is overridden, possibly take it to court. She contends the board exceeded its authority by approving the ordinance to restructure county law enforcement.

Republican Freeholder Maura DeNicola, who cast the lone vote against the merger, contends it is a politically motivated move that would hurt law enforcement and not deliver any promised savings.

While Saudino said the merger is a freeholder decision and not his "mission," he supports the plan to move the 88-member County Police force as an intact division within the Sheriff's Office.

"I think politically I'm on the right side of the issue," he said. "But understand something. I'm not doing it for political reasons."

He said he supports the merger, "because it will work and it'll save the taxpayers money."

Jeanne Baratta, Donovan's chief of staff, disagreed.

"We believe it's all about politics," Baratta said.

County Administrator Ed Trawinski said he is skeptical of the claim that the merger would save $90 million to $200 million over 25 years through attrition. He predicted that a combined department would come in with a budget higher than what it now costs to run the two departments separately. …

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