Consolidation of municipalities has gained headlines recently as a means to save taxpayers money. A group of citizens calling themselves Courage to Re-connect has applied to the state for a study that would determine the feasibility of merging Scotch Plains and Fanwood. Fred Lange, founder of Courage to Re-connect, spearheaded the effort to merge the two municipalities. He sat down with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider about the benefits of consolidation and how the process works.
Lange said the communities could save more than $2 million if Scotch Plains and Fanwood merged, citing a shared services study that outlined that amount of savings. Since his group has proposed a consolidation, he believes more savings will be realized. The merger would create a municipality with a new name and a new structure with one mayor, one council and one police department.
In 2007, state officials passed legislation allowing citizens to initiate and complete a merger without the consent or help of those in local government. And Lange said government officials have not been completely supportive. He said Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr is “dead set against” consolidation in favor of shared services. He said Scotch Plains Mayor Nancy M. Malool has said she’s in favor of consolidation, but officials have opposed actions Courage to Re-connect have supported.
But Lange says consolidation has overwhelming support among residents with 97 percent of people in Scotch Plains and 92 percent in Fanwood in favor of the merger.
For now, Lange said his group is waiting to hear about the status of their application. Supporters hope the state will pick up the cost of the study. Plan B involves getting grants from institutions.