In response to your August 11 article (Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times) titled, “Fanwood Council Spurns Merger, Suggests Shared Service,” it is important to know that this effort was started by residents of Scotch Plains and Fanwood who understand that our two communities are really one from our perspective.
We have used the services of Courage to Connect New Jersey to help us use the state’s Municipal Consolidation Act. Contrary to the reporting in your newspaper, Courage to Connect New Jersey is not “forcing” our municipalities into consolidating. The non-profit, non-partisan organization is simply walking our local grassroots groups through steps to explore ways to run municipal government more efficiently, including consolidation with adjoining towns. As a local affiliate of Courage to Connect New Jersey, our group of volunteers in both Fanwood and Scotch Plains are now collecting the signatures needed to form a consolidation study between the two towns. We now have over 800 signatures. We hope that mayors and other elected officials in both towns get involved in this very important initative. By signing this petition, residents are not voicing their support of a consolidation. Rather, the petition is just to launch an independent, non-political study of the pros and cons of merging Scotch Plains and Fanwood. We are involved because we believe shared-service agreements are limited in reducing redundancies in municipal government. This study, when conducted with the oversight of the state Department of Community Affairs, would identify many other savings afforded through the full consolidation of the two towns. An aside: Fanwood mayor Collen Mahr expressed concern in your newspaper that Fanwood would somehow lose its identity if there was a merger down the road. Some might consider that a political scare tactic. That fact is that towns like Short Hills, Colonia and Basking Ridge have their own identities – yet they are sections of other municipalities. As we move down this road, I hope that local officials do not cloud a very complex issue by alleging that Fanwood would not continue to be Fanwood. That just isn’t so. We are focused on ending the duplication in the municipal structure, not how towns identify themselves.