Mayor David Delle Donna announced that Michael Martic of Fairview has been approved by the Township Council to become the newest member of the Guttenberg Police Department at a salary of $33,000 per year.
Martic had spent the last two years as a Grade 2 special officer in the town, which meant that he was licensed to carry a gun but could not do all of the regular patrolman duties.
Delle Donna said that the council decided to hire Martic after realizing that they were spending too much on overtime police salaries after two officers, James Hoise and John Russino, resigned last summer to take on new positions in Somerville and New Milford, respectively.
Both Hoise and Russino had three years of experience.
"They were fine police officers and will be sorely missed," Delle Donna said. "After they left, we thought that we could get by without hiring a new full-time officer, but as it turned out, it was costing us too much money in overtime. Mike has worked here for a couple of years and is very well respected by police officials and other people in the town."
Special officers work details such as town events and activities. They are also able to write summonses for ordinance violations, like those for dog waste removal and garbage.
"We looked at the special officers we had first and ideally, we'd like to draw from the special officers," Delle Donna said. "The reason for hiring a special officer full-time is twofold. First, you already know what kind of employee they are and this way, you encourage other people to want to become a special officer."
Although Martic has received a license to carry a weapon and underwent police academy training in the past, Delle Donna and Police Director Frank Criscione thought it would be beneficial for Martic to attend the Bergen County Police Academy in Mahwah, which begins its new cycle of training recruits next week. "We thought it would be better for Mike to start his new career with full training at the academy," Delle Donna said. "No one said that he had to go. We just felt it would be beneficial for Mike down the road. This way, we're covered if we ever get into a question of legalities."
Delle Donna said that Martic has been a basketball coach at Our Lady of Grace in Fairview, where many of the township's youngsters play Catholic Youth Organization basketball.
"He knows a lot of kids and the kids all know and respect him," Delle Donna said. "He's put a lot of time in with the kids, so that's a positive sign. I think it's a hire that makes sense and we believe he will be a good police officer."
Because of the township's budgetary restraints, it will be very difficult to hire more than one officer at this time, according to Delle Donna. Martic's hiring brings the police department to 24 officers, which is down from the state recommended total of 27.
Other council news
In other Guttenberg news, the council introduced an ordinance that has created a new Department of Administration and Human Resources to better help the relations among the township's 65 employees.
Councilman Javier Inclan has been appointed to oversee the new department. He will get no additional salary.
"We never had anyone have official responsibilities," Delle Donna said. "Our positions as councilpeople were ceremonial. We were not like the commission form of government, where the elected officials are more hands-on. But having something for our employees was never something that we closely identified. With Javier's background [in human resources at Monroe College in New York], it was a perfect fit and when he puts his mind to something, it gets done."
Delle Donna added, "It's all been done with good intentions, to have better relations with the town's employees. No one was ever really in charge of the employees in the town and the employees really had nowhere to go, except for Linda Martin, who is the part-time town administrator and town clerk. Now, we have a councilperson working with her."
Delle Donna also said that Guttenberg will have a computer system with complete Internet access in the coming months. "I don't know how we've been doing anything without it," Delle Donna said. "We have to be able to have Internet access. We shouldn't be faxing and copying everything."