Being prepared
Mayor and council make moves for future disasters
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Nov 24, 2013 | 4694 views | 0 0 comments | 95 95 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A TRUCK FOR ALL WEATHER – Councilman James Clancy said the town has purchased a truck that can go into flooded areas to put out fires or rescue people.
A TRUCK FOR ALL WEATHER – Councilman James Clancy said the town has purchased a truck that can go into flooded areas to put out fires or rescue people.

Some residents of Secaucus have been impacted by the most recent super storm striking the Philippines. But local officials say not to be caught off guard and think that this area is safe.

It’s not, said Mayor Michael Gonnelli, who said the town of Secaucus is taking every precaution possible to get ready for another Hurricane Sandy.

“I’ve been reflecting on the disaster in the Philippines where a storm hit with unheard of wind velocities, sustained winds of 195 miles per hour, and gusts of 245 miles per hour,” he said, raising concerns about the lack of preparedness he is seeing elsewhere in the area.

“Others talk about storms and flooding, but I don’t see them doing a lot to get ready,” he said. “When we talk about Hurricane Sandy and see what’s happened, and the continued natural disasters one after another, we have to ask ourselves what’s going on in the world. We need to be prepared for these things.”

Secaucus historically has been a place of troubled waters, partly because it is surrounded on nearly all sides by marsh or river. While efforts were made over the last half a century to curb some of the impacts of rising tides during storms, most of the serious efforts were accomplished over the last decade and a half when the town started to upgrade tide gates and build higher dirt berms to protect low lying areas. Until the late 1990s, some of the tide gates that existed had been installed by early Dutch settlers.
“I’m proud to say we didn’t make a lot of noise in Hurricane Sandy.” – Mayor Michael Gonnelli
Although the center of Secaucus hasn’t changed much in decades, many of the traditional marshes that acted to absorb rising tide and rain water have been paved over for development. While the town has been vigilant in requiring the construction of retention basins – such as a huge one located at the foot of Golden Avenue to handle overflow from properties developed in the outlet section of the town – pump stations, water flow ditches and other older systems for dealing with water became less than effective with the effects of climate change and the higher flood water volumes that super storms like Sandy dumped onto Secaucus.

Gonnelli said Secaucus was able to respond to Sandy partly because the town was better prepared than many communities.

“I’m proud to say we didn’t make a lot of noise in Hurricane Sandy because we have a way of taking care of our own problems,” he said. “Not only did we take care of our own, but we helped out a lot of cities and towns around us that were in distress supplying them with food, pumps, generation equipment, and fuel.”

Gonnelli said he has read a lot about other towns talking about projects they intend to do, but have yet to actually start doing them, leaving them ill prepared for the next disaster he believes is certain to come.

“We have a number projects. We built thousands of yards of heavily supported earthen berms along Millridge Road all the way to Trolley Park,” he said.

This work included the construction of stone work along the shore and tide gates.

The town has also been involved with extensive storm lines installation and currently waiting to receive bids on lines that will allow the Golden Avenue pump station to work more effectively, and much more.

Storm water from various parts of Secaucus drains into existing waterways such as Penhorn Creek, Mill Creek and the Hackensack River. Some parts of town require pumps to help the water reach these destinations.

Gonnelli said the town has worked with the City of Jersey City to get the St. Paul’s Avenue pump station upgraded, which helps prevent flooding in Secaucus as well.

The town has an application with FEMA for $17 million for additional work.

“But we’re not allowing the lack of funding to slow us down,” he said, noting that storms like Sandy prove that disaster can happen in this area at any time.

Truck will aid in fires during flooding situations

Councilman James Clancy said the town has received a grant from the state Department of Community Affairs for the purchase of a used 2.5 ton military truck that can operate in high water situations because the exhaust comes out a pipe above the cab.

Gonnelli said fire trucks have a typical exhaust system which expels exhaust as with cars just above the rear wheels. In high water situations, the water gets into the exhaust, the fire truck can’t operate.

But the truck can enter areas of four or five foot high water. This truck was also modified so it can fit down some narrow streets in Secaucus. It also will be equipped with a fire pump so that in case of a fire during a flood situation, the truck can be used to put it out.

Cash flow improving

Gonnelli said improving revenues help pay for much of this work as well as provide a number of other services to residents in the town.

For this reason, the town council voted to support the request to the state for Allegro Sanitation to increase its daily tonnage of trash from 500 to 1,000 tons per day at its Secaucus Road transfer station. This would be after recyclable items are removed. The town would get $1 per ton as a host fee, or about $1,000 a day starting on Jan. 1, if the state approves. Gonnelli said local inspectors have already determined that the increased volume would not have a negative impact on the area.

Councilman Robert Costantino said the town construction department has had a banner year in fees, bringing in $1,552,000 through Nov. 4. The town anticipated receiving only $750,000 in the municipal budget, he said.

The town recycling coordinator has reported that the town has seen a boost in recycling grant revenues – based on the amount of tonnage reported to the state. In 2010, they received a grant for $47,000. In 2011 (the latest year reported) this rose to $114,000. Costantino said the numbers for 2012 are supposed to be even higher, and credited vigilance by the recycling coordinator in seeking more accurate reports from various corporations doing business in Secaucus. This money is usually used to buy trash cans, recycling vehicles and to pay for educational programs.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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