Made up of law enforcement authorities from six jurisdictions, the Warren County Tactical Response Team is trained for high-risk searches, barricaded people, hostage rescues, school and workplace shootings and search and rescue.

Now its members face a challenge of a bureaucratic kind: Addressing the Warren County freeholder board next month.

The team is asking the board to double its budget for 2010 to $40,000. Team representatives say members have shelled out their own money for weapons, used vacation days to train and paid for other supplies.

“When you need us, we’ll be there,” said team member Ralph Reppert, a Phillipsburg police sergeant. “If it’s 105 degrees or below zero, we’ll be there, no questions asked.”

Reppert said the time has come to upgrade the team’s body armor at a cost of $9,000 and other equipment used during a response.

The team also faces high costs for ongoing training, including for new members, and instruction in the use of chemical agents and sniper situations, Reppert said.

In addition, the 20-member team started in 1997 hopes to begin saving for a deployment truck. Reppert said some team members now deploy from the rear storage areas of sport utility vehicles borrowed from municipalities.

Tactical response team members are scheduled to address county freeholders April 14.

The request comes late in the freeholders’ budgeting process and appears destined for a no.

“It’s very important that this freeholder board try to stick to a tight budget right now during this tough economy,” Freeholder Director Rich Gardner said. “If they can explain that it’s absolutely essential, they may change the opinion and the consensus of the board and the extra dollars may come in their direction.”

Gardner acknowledged the important work the response team does.

“They are fabulous people and they do great work around the county,” Gardner said. “Unfortunately, I don’t know about all the equipment that they use. I might be in a learning curve myself.”

Read the rest of Tom Quigley’s article at Leigh Valley Live.

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