SCOTCH PLAINS — A group of Scotch Plains and Fanwood residents are taking it upon themselves to merge their two towns. The municipal governments have long flirted with the idea of consolidation but residents say they’re tired of waiting.
“This would solve everything,” said Fred Lange, a 37-year Scotch Plains resident leading the effort. “It would lower taxes, make departments and services more efficient and it just makes sense.” Scotch Plains and Fanwood already share a school district and most recently started talks about combining police forces and construction. Lange’s group, Courage to Connect New Jersey, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to consolidating services in many of New Jersey’s 566 towns. The group operates across the state but sprouted local roots in Scotch Plains and Fanwood in March. Council members and the mayors in both towns say they’re committed to cutting property taxes but feelings about a total merger are mixed. “I think you have to walk before you run,” said Scotch Plains Councilman Kevin Glover. “Walking might have been merging the schools, next you merge police and public works but it should be an evolutionary move, rather than a revolutionary one.” In 2009, the towns spent $50,000 to study merging services such as the police department, public works and the municipal courts, Glover said. But there has been no study that looks at combining the towns on the whole, he said.