By Mike Zummo
The Franklin Borough Police Dept. on Thursday afternoon unveiled about $270,000 worth of equipment it has received through the 1033 Military Surplus grant program.
Franklin is the first police department in Sussex County to receive equipment through the program.
Borough police have obtained a bucket truck, Humvee and two Mokai motorized kayaks, computer equipment, a floor polisher and deep-freeze refrigerators, and other items.
Some of the program is near-new. For example, the white bucket truck only has 8,000 miles on it.
Also, the two motorized kayaks can only be used in protected waters and during the unveiling Mayor Nick Giordano mentioned the kayaks can be used for perimeter checks for garbage and debris in the Franklin Pond.
“The 1033 program has been incredible,” Franklin Police Chief Gregory Cugliari said. “We've been able to get a lot of equipment that wouldn't have been possible due to budget constraints. It's really benefited the police department and town as a whole."
Lieutenant-Detective Nevin Mattessich said under the terms of the program, the equipment has to remain under the control of the police department for at least one year.
After the year, the police can decide to pass the equipment along to another department or the borough can sell the equipment if it finds it doesn’t have a use for it.
“It’s going to be in complete control of the police department,” Mattessich said. “We’re going to use it to the best benefit of the community.”
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who police said was instrumental in helping the department obtain the equipment, said the haul would have cost the average Franklin Borough taxpayer about $200 per year.
He said if the equipment didn’t come to Franklin, it would have gone somewhere else.
“If it doesn’t go here, it goes to another state,” Gottheimer said. “That’s the bottom line. We're trying to save taxpayer money. If they can claw it back here, it's going to go somewhere else."
Cugliari said the process took about a year, but things really got moving within the past seven months, and he said it was a team effort between police, the Borough Council and the Department of Public Works.
“(The DPW) checked these items out to make sure they’re in good working order,” he said. “They’re road ready and ready to be put in rotation.”
Franklin and Vernon Township are the first municipalities in Sussex County to participate in the Law Enforcement Support Office grants and in 2017, Wantage Township received its first Assistance to Firefighters Grant in more than a decade.
Cugliari said Franklin is ready to assist its neighbors with the program.
"We're ready to help,” he said. “Anyone who asks to help, we're ready to show them how to get on board with it."