Mayor Tim Dougherty’s opponents made shared services a campaign issue in last fall’s mayoral race.
Two weeks into his second term, the Mayor has announced an agreement with Morris County to share health department services, a move his administration says will save taxpayers nearly $600,000 over five years.
“Over the last four years, I’ve said that when opportunities arise for shared services that make economic sense, with cost savings and better levels of services, we’d do them. This makes sense. It’s taxpayers saving money,” the Mayor said Tuesday at the first regular council meeting of 2014.
County Health Officer Carlos Perez will serve Morristown, replacing town Health Officer Darlene O’Connell, who has retired.
The town will pay Morris County $131,655 this year, with slight annual increases reaching $142, 507 in 2018.
For that amount, the county also will supply an environmental health specialist to monitor health and safety conditions at restaurants, the town pool, tattoo parlors and the like, said town Administrator Michael Rogers.
Additionally, the county will provide a public health educator and public health nursing supervisor, both part-time positions.
When all of these services are factored in, the projected savings to taxpayers over the life of the sharing agreement is $573,312, according to the administrator.
The council’s lone Republican, Alison Deeb, noted that the same county health officer also serves Denville and Morris Plains.
“And there will be no diminishing quality of service, with our 200 restaurants?” the Councilwoman asked.
“There will be better quality of service,” Michael Rogers said. Although the health officer only will be in town one day per week, he said, the officer does not need to be physically present to oversee all health operations.
The health officer is responsible for enforcing state and local health laws and overseeing inspections, licenses and permits relating to health issues. He can revoke licenses and close establishments to “abate an existing or threatened menace to public health,” according to the agreement between the town and Morris County.
During the mayoral race, challengers Rich Babcock and Ed France, a Republican and an Independent, respectively, both called for more regional services. Mayor Dougherty won re-election in a landslide.