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Frenchtown hires High Bridge to patrol borough, train cops


High Bridge is going to help Frenchtown with temporary police coverage and the training of two new patrolmen.

This service, which begins Feb. 15, will cost Frenchtown $17,500 a month, and will continue until Police Chief Al Kurylka comes back from medical leave.

“We are fortunate and thankful that High Bridge has a police department that is highly regarded, close by, qualified and able to provide the police services and training that Frenchtown requires on a temporary basis,” said Frenchtown Borough Council President and Police Commissioner Michele Liebtag. “This interlocal agreement maintains Frenchtown’s commitment to community policing and control of our own force, but smartly shares services and mutually benefits both towns.”

At its Feb. 6 meeting, Frenchtown Borough Council voted to add Michael Cristadoro to the police force. Liebtag said he has three years’ experience with the Seaside Heights Police Department, and joked that he’d be ready to handle “the raucous crowd we have here.” He will be sworn in on March 6. The borough starts a rookie at $38,000 a year, and someone with a year’s experience at $42,000.

Cristado will join Erik Ecckles, who was hired in December. He has experience in the Franklin Township Police Department. Frenchtown will also need a new chief; Kurylka is retiring in September.

“I appreciate the cooperation of all of the High Bridge officials,” Mayor Brad Myhre said. “As small municipalities in Hunterdon County, it is necessary to work together when presented with challenges like these. The goal is to get our officers the training needed to enhance our police department and ensure the safety and welfare of the residents of Frenchtown.”

In an exchange of figurative bouquets, High Bridge Mayor Michele Lee said, “High Bridge is happy to assist our neighbors in Frenchtown with the training of their new patrolmen. Our communities are stronger when we work together, and we are thankful for this opportunity to explore a shared service on a temporary basis. I commend our own Chief (Brett) Bartman for his exemplary diligence in helping to formalize this agreement.”

Frenchtown is the last of the smaller Hunterdon boroughs to maintain its police department. Others like Milford, Lebanon and Califon disbanded their departments years ago and rely on the state police for protection.

But Frenchtown’s mayor and council have affirmed the commitment to its three-person police force, at least in part for commuter-traffic control. But the borough, with no juicy ratables, cannot pay its cops as much as larger municipalities can, so there has been a lot of turnover as young cops gain experience and move on.

In other Feb. 6 business, borough council OK’d the Frenchtown fire company’s training exercises in the cinderblock building on the outside curve of Front and Lott streets.

ArtYard, which will soon raze the building to make way for its $10 million theater and gallery, has given the firefighters permission to practice breaking down doors and other destructive maneuvers before demolition.