BRIGANTINE - The statewide budget crunch has hit the local Police Department, which will lose three officer positions if an ordinance scheduled to be introduced at today's City Council meeting is approved.
Four police positions in total would be eliminated, reducing the department from 40 budgeted positions to 36.
Besides the three officer positions, acting Police Chief John Stone's former captain position also would be eliminated. He took over after former Chief Jim Frugoli retired last week.
City Council also is expected to vote Wednesday on a $159,778 retirement buyout package for the retired chief. Frugoli, whose last day as chief was March 31, will officially retire June 1 after two months of terminal leave.
"I'm not happy about this," City Manager Jim Barber said of the expected layoffs. "We have a small department to start with, and anytime you eliminate positions, you get less service."
Barber stressed that the layoffs, like similar layoffs in other municipalities, were necessary to try and get below the state-mandated cap on municipal budget increases.
"You know the situation is really critical when we have to start reducing public safety numbers," Councilman Bob Solari said.
Vacant positions at the Fire and Public Works departments also could go unfilled, Barber said.
"We certainly have to take a hard look at the budget and see if we can replace any of these people," Barber said.
"I say this all the time," Solari said. "Tell us what services you're OK with reducing and we'll comply. But you have to realize, and have to accept the fact, that services are going to be reduced. It's not just Brigantine."
Frugoli, who said he recently had to pull officers off school patrol duties to have them available to patrol the streets, said that reducing the department would further thin out patrols.
"We've never had the luxury of a big city, where you can just move people around. We only have a certain number of guys and some (patrol locations) had to give," Frugoli said.
The buyout package for the 48-year-old Frugoli, who retired after almost two years as chief and more than 27 years in the Police Department, would consist of a $134,007 terminal leave buyout and $25,771 for unused vacation time, Barber said. He will also receive pension benefits of
67 percent of his $135,000 base salary, or $90,450.
Barber added that it was unclear when the city would officially appoint a permanent successor.
Frugoli said he decided to retire after he was told that it would take longer than expected to recover from recent back surgery.
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