EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Township Committee introduced an ordinance Wednesday, Nov. 29 that would reorganize the Police Department and create the position of deputy police chief.
According to township administrator Peter Miller, the plan has been under discussion for years, and with the retirement of Police Capt. David Druding Nov. 1, township officials decided now was the time to put it in place.
A public hearing and final vote on the ordinance is set for the Dec. 20 Township Committee meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. at the municipal building, 3515 Bargaintown Road.
Township Committee plans to hold interviews for the deputy chief’s job at a special meeting 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13 in the mayor’s conference room.
The most likely candidates for the new position are Capt. Christopher Ruef and Capt. Michael Steinman, both of whom have more than 20 years with the department. As of the Nov. 29 meeting, committee members only planned to interview the two captains. There is no guarantee one of them will be named deputy chief, but Miller indicated it was likely.
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“Both the captains we have are top quality people, so I don’t foresee one of them not being the future deputy chief,” Miller said after the meeting, stressing that the decision is up to the five committee members.
At the meeting, the committee members supported the change.
“Does this result in taking officers off the street?” Committeewoman Laura Pfrommer asked at the beginning of the meeting. Miller said the same number of officers would remain available for assignments.
“I like the idea of a deputy chief. I like a clear chain of command. I think that’s important,” she said. “I like the whole concept. I think it’s better than what we have.”
Before the vote, Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough cited support from both Miller and Police Chief Raymond Davis, who was unavailable for an interview after the meeting.
Both Miller and Davis provided memos on the ordinance to committee members. Copies of the memos were not immediately available after the meeting. Miller said he needed to check with the township attorney to see if they should be withheld until the final vote because they deal with personnel matters.
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Miller said at the meeting that he expects the reorganization to save the township close to $70,000 next year. Although the plan will increase the allotted number of lieutenants in the department from five to seven, there will be fewer officers in the highest-paid ranks.
Where there were three captains and one chief under the current organization of the 85-member department, the proposal would change that to one captain, one chief and one deputy chief.
The successful candidate will see a 5 percent bump in salary as deputy chief. This year the captains each made about $138,000 a year under the current contract. The job will not fall under the township police union. Like the chief and captain, it will be part of a separate negotiated contract agreement.
Druding served in the department since 1994. He worked his way through the ranks and was named captain in 2011. In 2015, Druding filed suit against the township, alleging that he was passed up for the position of chief when Davis was named top cop that year because Druding had spoken up against the former police chief.
Miller said that case is still in the discovery phase, with attorneys taking depositions.
The retirement left an open slot in the department. On Nov. 27, about 200 candidates turned out to take a written exam to be considered for a job in the department, according to the Police Department’s Facebook page. A physical exam will follow. Part of Miller’s projected savings is due to hiring an entry-level officer after the retirement of an officer near the top of the pay scale.
The new deputy chief could be sworn in at the January reorganization meeting.
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According to Miller, Egg Harbor Township looked closely at how the neighboring community of Hamilton Township runs its police department. Hamilton has a deputy chief.
The committee also unanimously approved a contract with AmeriHealth as the provider of the township employee group health care program. The change will affect more than 200 township workers, and is expected to save about $250,000 a year. The township spends about $3 million a year on health insurance.
The committee also introduced an ordinance for a tax abatement for Matt Blatt Kia at 6211 Black Horse Pike. The car dealership is seeking a 13,000-square-foot expansion. The tax abatement program aims to encourage businesses to build or expand in township commercial zones.
The ordinance is set for a public hearing and final vote Dec. 20.