Firefighters concerned about hiring freeze
Mayor Richard Turner, the chairman for the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue Board, announced at their May 18 meeting that their fiscal 2010 budget would not be ready until next month, at the least.
Turner said a scheduled health benefits review was cancelled two weeks ago and rescheduled for May 19. After they receive those findings, the drafted budget should be ready to be introduced, Turner said.
Two union representatives also spoke out against the hiring freeze during the public portion of the meeting.
Welz said that the department normally had around 320 members, but that because of the hiring freeze placed upon the department by a judge, they are now below 300. The NAACP currently has a discrimination lawsuit against the department, claiming that it does not hire enough African-Americans.
The department has entered an appeal in third circuit court on the basis that their municipalities are overwhelming Hispanic and that the judge’s decision has created reverse discrimination.
“We are 26 [firefighters] down,” said Fire Officers President Jim Stelman.
Stelman continued, “I know regional is appealing the ruling by the judge that they had to open up the list to three counties. Now I know and I sympathize with the applicants that are on the North Hudson list, but being down 26 firefighters down and periodically closing companies prior to even getting to the summer, we need to hire from that list [the judge has put in place].”
Turner said that they would not hire from that list, and that no one has been jeopardized by their recent decisions to rotate firehouses when overtime goes into effect.
“We are willing to negotiate with the individuals pressing the lawsuit to a certain extent,” said Turner. “It is not fair to our residents. It is part not fair to the Hispanic residents that are now starting more and more to come onto the list.”
Also at the meeting, Guttenberg resident Allen Frost asked who is responsible for creating the budget, since former NHRFR Chief Financial Officer Christopher Pianese stepped down in March and took a seat on the board.
Turner said that currently, Pianese is working on the estimated $50 million budget, along with the other members on the board, and that the only difference is that Pianese is getting “paid less.”
He said that Co-Director Jeff Welz was stepping in to o.k. bill lists until they hire a new CFO.
The board also approved amending an architectural service agreement with RSC Architects, in conjunction with the work being down at their 43rd Street firehouse project in Union City.
Co-Director Michael De Orio said that originally the fire apparatus would not fit through the doors of what was once an automotive shop, but that the architects agreed that metal capping on the door ways could be removed without affecting the “integrity of the structure.”
Turner said that the contract was to not exceed $145,000, with a clause of $14,000 for additional services.
Frost asked how much was remaining in the construction budget. Pianese estimated that there was $2 million in that account.
County approval postponed for developer
The Hudson County Planning Board postponed making their decision on a controversial development planned by Avak Properties LLC along River Road in North Bergen at their meeting on May 20.
The project would include a Walgreens, Bank of America, and Starbucks.
However, a preliminary report by Oweis Engineering Inc., a firm hired by the township to check the safety of the project, appears to support the developer’s plan.
North Bergen Spokesperson Paul Swibinski is currently compiling a press release about the findings.
Man attempts stealing ‘money’ sack; gets into brawl
According to Guttenberg Police Capt. Joel Magenheimer, two individuals allegedly attempted to rob two victims who had been carrying a khaki bag, allegedly believing that it was filled with money.
On Monday May 18, Officer Joseph Keselica was on patrol when he noticed a fight occurring on 68th Street, according to the report.
He noticed four males “chasing each other” and was assisted by the Hudson County Prosecutors Office Detectives.
One of the victims told him that his bag was “forced” out of his hands because it appeared to be a moneybag.
“It looked like a bank bag,” said Magenheimer. “They thought it was full of money. It wasn’t, it was personal papers.”
The victim attempted to run into an apartment building, but a man from Guttenberg ran up to him and allegedly started to hit his head, said the police report.
The victim’s brother attempted to get the two men away, but both males also allegedly struck him in the head causing injury to his face.
Weehawken EMS responded to the victims and Guttenberg Police arrested Lucky Rosa, 18, and Carlos Contreras, 18, of Guttenberg on two counts of aggravated assault, robbery, and conspiracy.
“Once Lucky Rosa was in the cell, he started to yell and [allegedly] throw bodily fluids at the doors and cameras in the cell block,” said the report.
Heroine receives $50K
Angelica Mercado, the North Bergen resident who risked her own life to save a tanker truck driver who had been engulfed in flames, received the top prize at the 13th annual Russ Berrie Awards held at Ramapo College.
The program, established in 1997 by the late Russ Berrie, honors New Jersey residents for their unselfish work for others. There were 15 other finalists.
Mercado, 25, is a nursing student studying at Felician College who was on her way to Holy Name Hospital when she saw the tanker on fire along the New Jersey Turnpike. She then transported the ailing man to a hospital, saving his life in the process.
Mercado received the top $50,000 prize.
Her first experience with charity was when she was on the receiving end at 12-years-old, when she lived in a homeless shelter.
Today she has only one year left to obtain her nursing degree.
“I’m so at peace and grateful for everything I have,” Mercado said at the event. “I really want to do big things … to show people you can change a life around.”
Guttenberg approves original school budget
Guttenberg’s $14 million school budget, which included their tax levy of $8.7 million, was approved by the Guttenberg Council without any amendments at their May 18 meeting.
The tax levy is up 2 percent, $158,000 more than last year.
Mayor Gerald Drasheff said that the town, after speaking with Board of Education officials, decided that the school was operating on the necessary amount of funds and that nothing could be cut without affecting the quality of education.
He also noted that the budget was only narrowly defeated this year by 12 votes and that the town had a record low of residents who came out to vote.