It’s an idea whose time has finally come; an expansion and update for Jefferson Township’s police department headquarters.

Following years of anticipation and discussion, it appears likely the department will soon be getting much-needed additional space at its department headquarters in the municipal complex on Weldon Road.

Earlier this month, police Chief William Craig presented updated plans to the township’s council for the renovation and expansion of police headquarters. The most recent structural expansion and addition plans were presented to the council in May.

The updated architectural renderings were presented by Craig during the township’s December 6 council meeting. While cost of the improvements apparently has not yet been officially established, council vice president Jay Dunham stated that a complete number was needed for appropriation in the township’s capital fund. The police chief assured a number would be forthcoming.

In addition to more storage space, plans call for inclusion of a “secure and safe area” in which to process prisoners. When the plans were first introduced, Chief Craig noted that the department is undergoing an accreditation process, and maintaining a secure processing area for prisoners is mandated.

He also pointed out that the current facility contains a very small locker room area and does not contain a separate area for female officers, a situation that will be remedied in the remodeling.

In addition to two locker rooms, as well as separate toilet and shower facilities, the proposed addition also includes a second floor for evidence storage.

In previously responding to questions by council members in May, Chief Craig reported that accreditation would allow the department to institute “national best practices,” adding the township would receive a discount on its insurance policy.

The facility’s technology will also be upgraded, according to Craig, who had previously noted that the building’s dispatch area hadn’t “been touched in 25 years.” A $350,000 Office of Emergency Management mitigation grant will be used to redo the dispatch area with 21 st Century technology. The plans have received the blessing of Mayor Russell Felter, who noted that upgrades to the department’s headquarters had been long overdue. In fact, expansion reportedly had been discussed intermittently for almost three decades.

Meanwhile, during that time, as the police department facility remained in a fixed state, the department itself and the community it serves has steadily grown around it.

According to the 2010 United States Census, the township’s population numbered 21,314 residents, which represented an 8.1 percent increase compared with the 2000 U.S. Census. That year’s Census report of 19,717 township residents represented a 10.6 percent increase in population during the prior decade.

In other business at the December 6 meeting, the council welcomed H. Ronald Smith back as a council member. Smith was elected last month to fill an unexpired one-year term on the council and given the oath of office by municipal clerk Michele Reilly.

Township clerk Michele Reilly gives the oath of office to newly elected council member H. Ronald Smith, as his wife looks on. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

Additionally, township resident Liam Anderson was sworn in by Reilly to Fire Company No. 2, receiving certification from council president Debi Merz.

New firefighter Liam Anderson is sworn in by township clerk Michele Reilly as his family looks on proudly. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)
Council President Debi Merz presents the new firefighter with certification. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

In other business at the December 6 meeting, the council approved amendments to several local ordinances and attended to the general business of the township, like bill paying.

At the same time the council consented to a resolution authorizing the township’s planning board to “to undertake a preliminary investigation” of the former Pathmark site on Route 15 to “determine if the property qualifies as an area in need of redevelopment for condemnation purposes.”

(Editor’s Note: In the public interest, complete agendas and minutes of all public township committee meetings are available at the Jefferson Township’s official website: http://www.jeffersontownship.net/Cit-e- Access/TownCouncil/?TID=4&TPID=114)

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Maria Weiskott is a Jefferson Township resident and a forty year veteran of the publishing profession. An award-winning journalist and editor, she served in top managerial positions at numerous business-to- business newspapers and magazines including Reed Elsevier and Fairchild Publications. Early in her career she operated a local newspaper in the Passaic Valley towns of Little Falls, Totowa and the former West Paterson. Following retirement, she launched a “ghostblogging” service that provides social networking update and blogging services for small and medium sized businesses. Maria travels widely with her husband and is a passionate photographer. She can be reached at maria.weiskott@thejeffersonchronicle.com.