April 8, 2024
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April 8, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Bergen and Rockland Cooperate on Shared Services

Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan and Rockland County Executive Ed Day, both Republicans, have been partnering.

While states have cooperated with each other: the New York-New Jersey Port Authority Compact of 1921 (which didn’t work out so well recently), the Palisades Interstate Park Compact, The Tri-State Sanitation Compact of 1962 and the Waterfront Commission Compact, these have been at the State level and their objective had nothing to do with cutting taxes.

Law enforcement officials from both states have cooperated with each other to stop and solve crimes and catch criminals, most recently notable is the month’s long planning and actions taken to secure the safety of attendees of Super Bowl 48 at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. this past February. Also of note is the mutual aide provided by volunteer firemen from Bergen County in helping to control a 370 acre forest fire on Clausland Mountain County Park in Orangeburg, NY this past November. But again, this had nothing to do with cutting taxes.

These are examples of situational instances and not an ongoing, sharing or consolidation of services. According to Capitol Ideas – the Council of State Governments, while states have worked to share some services with other states, no instances could be found of counties crossing state lines to share services with neighboring counties in another state.

This initiative started said Day said when he was most taken by Donovan’s graciousness, needing a cane to walk and yet still attending his inauguration in Pomona, NY on January 1 of this year.

“We started speaking about areas where we could find commonality. We started talking about the bi-state Watershed commission and the frustration we had that it wasn’t approved,” said Day. He said the two spoke briefly at the time about breaking down fences between the two counties and seeking ways and means they could cooperate with each other.

Donovan said that after their initial meetings they’ve brought in members of their staffs to join in the conversations.

“I think and I think Ed shares that we’ve got a great opportunity to share a number of services, some that we don’t even know yet because we’re working on it. In this case, between states, but as you know the border of Bergen County ends with the boarder of New York, (Bergen County shares 19 miles of its northern border with Rockland County), you just walk across the street from one to the other because we’re side by side neighbors and there’s so much we can share in government and cut taxes to do that. It’s astonishing!”

Donovan listed some areas her staff is exploring: public works, highway, water concerns and flood prevention. “Anything and everything is on the table to see how we can bring together our assets and Rockland’s assets. It’s a win, win situation.”

Said Day, “One of the issues which is kind of on hold right now was a proposal some time ago to build a highway garage in Chestnut Ridge. If at some point that becomes a potential project it would serve as an ideal central location for all of our local highway departments but Bergen County is right there also.”

Day said other areas they are looking at are: emergency service response, “we’re looking at areas where we can enhance public safety possibly and we even got to a point where we talked about baseball and football fields.

“While we don’t have direct control of fields in the County” Day said, “I’ve spoken to the Village of Suffern, I spoke to the Town of Ramapo because they give permits out and there may be availability and time when we are full and Bergen may have availability or visa versa.”

He said even where government isn’t directly involved there are areas that they think they could find that would make life a little easier for residents and give them a little bit more opportunity.

At this point these are ideas to be explored and they could come up against individual State laws and ordinances. In fact it took several years for New Jersey and New York to agree on the Bi-State Water Commission bill. But Day said if they don’t ask, they’ll never find out.

One issue Day said needs to be explored is can an active New York police officer carry a firearm in New Jersey. Years ago, a New York City Police Officer could not travel the Palisades Interstate Parkway with a firearm when off duty. Now H.R. 218 “Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act,” exempts qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from local and State prohibitions on the carrying of concealed firearms.

“The key here is to make sure we are on solid legal grounds,” said Day, whose’ elected government service started in the Rockland County Legislature in 2005.

Donovan has a different view, with her perspective of elected service starting in 1988 and going from County Clerk and the General Assembly. She was also appointed to the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, becoming its commissioner. “If people want to do this, if people want to share services, (which is an initiative she’s been working on during her term in office) there’s nothing to prevent it. Anything that might be a difficulty can be worked out.”

A follow-up meeting was held May 1 to take the second step to find areas the two counties can potentially work together.

“I give Kathy a lot of credit for her forwardness in this area,” said Day, “Neither of us are looking to let boundaries get in the way.”

By Anne Phyllis Pinzow

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