For public safety advocates, in particular, last Tuesday night’s reorganization of the Harrison municipal government was a time to celebrate.
Mayor James Fife and the Town Council promoted Det. Sgt. David Doyle to the rank of lieutenant in the police department and, in the fire department, elevated Lt. Henry Zeinowicz to captain and Firefighter Stephen Spera to lieutenant.
Jan. 5 marked Doyle’s 21- year anniversary with the police department. He was made sergeant in 2011 after having served in an acting capacity several months.
The current base pay rate for police lieutenant is $115,339 a year.
Doyle becomes the eighth lieutenant in the HPD and that, in itself, is significant because the town had to convince the state Division of Local Government Services, which has assigned a fiscal monitor to the town for the past several years, to permit an increase to its table of organization for that rank.
To make the change official, the governing body introduced an ordinance Wednesday to implement the change to the HPD’s T.O. for the rank of lieutenant. A public hearing on the ordinance will be scheduled for later this month.
According to Police Chief Derek Kearns, the extra superior officer slot was sought following the Dec. 1, 2015, retirement of Capt. Michael Green, who couldn’t be replaced because of a prior state-imposed condition that the captain’s rank would be dropped as an economy move, as has the deputy chief’s post been previously eliminated.
But Kearns said the town persuaded the monitor to go along with expanding the lieutenant T.O., from seven to eight, to allow the chief to assign Doyle certain administrative duties that Green had handled previously.
In a related development, the town recently appointed two police officers to fill vacancies created through retirements. They are: Officers Vincent Doffont and John Silva, both hired as “inter-governmental transfers,” having previously worked as Hudson County Sheriff’s Officers. Since they’ve already completed police training, Harrison will be spared the time and money for the academy.
Both are U.S. Marine Corps veterans; Doffont has served in combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Councilman James Doran, police committee chairman, said these appointments bring the HPD back to full strength with a total of 38 members. Each will be paid $36,777 a year, according to Town Clerk/Attorney Paul Zarbetski.
Doran said the town would be looking to hire an as-yet undetermined number of per-diem police dispatchers to fill in for full-time personnel when full-timers are out sick or on vacation.
Kearns said that he anticipates filling Doyle’s vacated sergeant’s slot shortly, pending interviews of the applicants by the town’s police committee. The top three candidates on the current state Civil Service appointment list are Patrick McKerry, John Brown and Charles Schimpf. McKerry and Schimpf have been on the force since Sept. 4, 1997, while Brown was hired July 15, 2004.
As for the HFD, Zeinowicz is a 21-year veteran of the department while Spera has served 11 years. Annual base pay for fire captain is currently $115,339; a fire lieutenant makes $102,216 a year.
Fire Director Harold Stahl told The Observer that with these promotions, the HFD is at maximum strength, with 29 members.
As part of the reorganization session, Council members Carol Mandaglio (First Ward), Victor Villalta (Second Ward) and Michael Dolaghan (Fourth Ward) were sworn in for their new 4-year terms of office, having been re-elected in November. Councilman Francisco Nascimento (Third Ward) was away on vacation and will take the oath of office at a later date, said Mayor James Fife.
The council paid tribute to merchant Jaime Lucero, owner of Gold & Silver, a New Jersey-based business that imports women’s clothing and founder of Casa Puebla New York , for his contributions to the Harrison Fest Committee, and to Harrison High alumna Jia Wen (Karen) Zheng, who designed the logo for the town’s new official seal.
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Zheng told The Observer that after HHS teacher Sophia Ellison recruited her for the project, she “researched a lot” to learn more about the town’s history as the “Beehive of Industry” and its future of waterfront development to combine the two themes in her design.
Zheng is currently in her freshman year at Boston College.