Hamilton Township declined to accept a federal grant that would have provided two new officers for three years because of concerns over funding the positions once the grant ran out.
The Township Committee unanimously rejected the $512,042 grant from the federal Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program Monday.
The grant would have provided funding for two positions for three years but the township would have had to pay for the officers for at least one year after it ran out, said Mayor Roger Silva. That fourth year would have cost between $180,000 and $200,000, he said.
"We have been committed to eliminating the structural deficit and paying as you go. To do this would be a contradiction," he said. "There is no free money out there. Grants always come with strings."
The township currently has 49 officers for its 115-square-mile township after laying off 13 officers in 2011 to help close a $2.4 million budget shortfall.
Since then the department has stopped sending officers to minor calls, instead asking residents to self-report violations such as criminal mischief and traffic accidents with no injuries.
Police Chief Stacy Tappeiner said he supports the committee's decision.
"The grant requires a significant financial commitment that doesn't fit the township strategic plan at this time," he said.
Atlantic City, Bridgeton and Wildwood also received money under this program that was awarded last month. More than $9.4 million total in federal grants were given to nine New Jersey police agencies to hire new officers, who must be military veterans who meet certain requirements.
Atlantic City is unsure how much, if any, it will take.
The approval is for as many as 16 officers, but that the city will have to pay a portion — and all of those salaries in the fourth year — has raised some questions. Budget numbers are being looked at to see what the city will do, Public Safety Director Willie Glass said.
He has said the city would like to add to its ranks beyond the 330 minimum the city promised the union.
Also at the meeting:
Silva asked residents to continue to be patient with the cleanup of trees and other debris from the June 30 storm. Silva said because of the magnitude of the cleanup it will take longer than people are accustomed to. The mayor encouraged people to take their debris to the curbs when possible and said that county or municipal crew will eventually clear it.
The committee awarded a $154,000 grant to RubberRecycle Co. in Lakewood to construct a playground for those with disabilities at Underhill Park. Administrator Mike Jacobs said construction could begin in the next month.
The township's Hometown Celebration, originally scheduled for June 30, has been rescheduled to July 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Main Street, Silva said.
Staff Writer Lynda Cohen contributed to this story.
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