BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP, N.J.  — A weeklong search in May for a convict who escaped from a minimum-security prison cost taxpayers $180,000 in overtime for law enforcement.

Most of the overtime was for officers with the state Department of Corrections, which led the hunt for Arthur Buckel after he fled Bayside State Prison on May 3, reported.

Guards noticed that Buckel was missing during an early morning bed check at the Hammonton facility. He was serving a three-year sentence for burglary and theft at the time of his escape, and he was just weeks shy of being eligible for parole.

A large dragnet was cast over southern Ocean County by state and local law enforcement, and Buckel was apprehended on May 9 after he was spotted at a rest stop along the Garden State Parkway.

Corrections spokesman Matthew Schuman said the department has a "longstanding mutual aid agreement" with other agencies when assistance is needed. But that agreement doesn't include financial reimbursement for law enforcement entities that provide help to the department.

The search focused on Barnegat Township for two days after Buckel was seen entering a CVS store there. Republican Mayor John Novak has requested repayment from the state for nearly $30,000 in overtime.

"I would hope, with a similar diligence and a similar sense of urgency, the (Department of Corrections) will process our fair and reasonable request," Novak said. "The good people of Barnegat would like to be reimbursed for their cost. It's only fair."

Schuman said Barnegat is the only law enforcement agency to request reimbursement for the overtime.

Prison officials declined to comment on how Buckel escaped but said better fencing will be built around the prison.

Buckel was in custody and couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. He previously served 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter of a 10-month-old child.

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