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Sunday, September 23, 2007

A good start

Some of Trenton's current problems that could be addressed with some simple City Council legislation include the city's police understaffing and overtime problem, and the continued slide of some of the city's housing stock due to an underfunded and undermanned housing inspections department.

Councilman Jim Coston has always been quick to point out the number of housing inspectors Trenton has, which leads to a situtation where housing seldomly gets inspected, and each inspector is required to check around two thousand homes.

On top of this, Trenton City Code requires housing inspections only every five years.

Mayor Palmer responded to calls for action with a plan to shift the inspectors around the trouble areas of the city, but said not much more could be done because of a lack of funding for the program, in the neighborhood of several million dollars.

Fiscally related is the situation where Trenton relies on overtime to the tune of over $10 million annually to fill police coverage.

But the result is a tired and overworked staff stretched thin in Mercer County's most crime-ridden municipality.

Once again, Palmer administration officials said staffing cannot be increased despite the obvious need, due to financial considerations and ongoing contract negotiations.

The city's finances are all related and cannot be looked at in a vacuum, but it seems hiring more officers would reduce the overtime by several million dollars, and would release funding necessary to hire a small amount of housing inspectors and allow the city to increase inspections.

The hiring of 30 more officers, according to Councilman Coston, would cost the city around $1.2 million in the first year, plus the costs of equipment and training.

That is a lot of money, but it is a lot less than spending over $10 million in overtime every year to give us overly tired and overly thin police coverage.

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