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Tedesco ready for quick changes in Bergen County


file photo Boyd Loving

Tedesco ready for quick changes in Bergen County

DECEMBER 29, 2014, 9:57 PM    LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2014, 5:35 AM

From the moment James Tedesco raises his hand in the early hours of Thursday morning to take the oath of office as Bergen County executive, the Paramus Democrat will confront a series of decisions that could go a long way toward defining his administration over the next four years.

Many of the big issues that were debated during Tedesco’s campaign — consolidation of county law enforcement, the future of Bergen Regional Medical Center and the 2015 county budget — will present a quick sequence of choices in the first 100 days of his administration.

Other issues, including construction of an access road to a new public works facility in Paramus and his pledge to sit in on freeholder meetings, will help set the tone of his tenure. He has promised a more cooperative style that will be open to negotiated compromise.

Here is a quick look at what to watch for in the months ahead:

Law enforcement: consolidation or bust?

The hottest-button issue in county government over the last five years is due for a reckoning.

Tedesco — who pushed hard for combining the Bergen County Police force with the Sheriff’s Office — has made this effort one of the top priorities of his first 100 days.

For the last several months, a law enforcement task force appointed by the Democratic freeholder majority has been studying how to carry out what Democrats call “a realignment” of the two departments into one mega-agency.

Those efforts picked up steam after Tedesco’s upset victory on Nov. 4 over one-term Republican incumbent Kathleen Donovan.

Donovan opposed combining the departments, disputing the Democrats’ claim that it would save taxpayers $90 million to $200 million over the next 25 years through attrition, not layoffs.

So the stage is set for Tedesco to begin implementing that plan. One thing to watch for, however, is the reaction of the union representing county police officers. Officers for PBA Local 49 say that “realignment” is just another word for “merger.”

If so, they contend, a “poison pill” in their existing contract will kick in, requiring that their members be paid raises totaling about $1 million per year. The freeholders say their plan is not a merger, but rather a realignment that keeps the county police force intact while moving it under the command of the sheriff.