Firehouse fix expected to start soon: chief

KEARNY –

Public safety infrastructure and personnel were among the focal points at the Dec. 6 meeting of the Kearny governing body.

More than six months have passed since the Davis Ave. firehouse, between Hoyt St. and Devon Terrace, was emptied of its 16 firefighters and engine after the town construction code office declared the 115-year-old building unsafe primarily because of a weakened roof.

After council members asked to be brought up to speed on the status of Fire Station 1, Fire Chief Steven Dyl said that a new round of bids to fix the problem will be received at 11 a.m. on Dec. 16.

“Hopefully, we can award the job at the Dec. 20 council meeting,” Dyl said. “Our engineer estimates that once work begins, it will take 60 to 90 days to do the roofing.”

In late October, the council voted to reject three bids previously submitted, ranging from $198,000 to more than $400,000. To deal solely with the roof issue, town CFO Shuaib Firozvi said, it has been estimated that the town would need to spend $100,000 but to do the roof and other unspecified upgrades, it would probably need to spend an estimated $400,000.

At the time the last round of bids came in, Firozvi said, “we didn’t have the funding in place to do all the priorities.”  So now, he said, the town is seeking approval from the state Division of Local Government Services to go for a bond sale to cover the cost.

Firozvi said an application has been submitted to the state and Kearny is hoping that it will get that approval when a state review board convenes on Dec. 14 – two days before the town opens the new bids.

As the town was occupied drafting an “expanded scope” of bid specifications to accommodate all priorities, another problem cropped up, requiring immediate attention, Dyl said.

“The DPW had to get an outside contractor [Servpro of Nutley/Bloomfield] to clean out a very large pigeon infestation in the attic [of the firehouse],” the chief said. After clearing away the birds and their waste, the contractor did temporary soldering to cover the front of the roof as a “holding pattern,” he said.

As things now stand, Dyl said, “our No. 1 priority is to get the roof done. … Possibly once that’s done, we can get the [firefighters and rig] back inside” and proceed with the other improvements.

In the meantime, town Construction Official Michael Martello explained, in response to concerns raised by a resident who lives close by the firehouse, that the wood barricades positioned along Davis Ave. will remain as a safety precaution. “The roof rafters could kick out and we don’t want anyone hurt if the roof moves,” he said.

Meanwhile, the governing body is casting its eyes on Texas for a business proposition that it hopes will save Kearny taxpayers money. It’s enlisting the aid of the Houston-Galveston Area Council as a partner in a cooperative purchasing agreement to buy two new fire rigs – a ladder truck and a pumper. It recently passed a bond ordinance to provide funds for those acquisitions.

Dyl said the HGAC would do all the legwork for the town – writing up the bid specifications, handling the bids – and then “we purchase the apparatus from the manufacturer.”

Typically, he said, a new ladder truck could run about $1 million and a pumper, as much as $500,000, but by going through the co-op, “there could be a savings of $50,000 to $60,000.”

Dyl credited members of the KFD’s Apparatus Committee with coming up with the strategy which, he said, promises to be even more persuasive than buying under state contract.

Finally, as relates to the protection of citizenry who shop, the mayor and council voted to introduce an ordinance “requiring entities with more than 65,000 square-feet of retail space engaged in retail sales between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. to maintain a security force of at least one uniformed man or woman per 30,000 square-feet of retail space during those hours and providing for penalties for violations thereof … a daily fine of $1,000 for each day the first violation occurs and continues to a daily fine of $2,000 for each day any subsequent violation occurs and continues.”

Asked by The Observer which retailers the proposed law would cover, Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, who chairs the council’s ordinance committee, said that Walmart currently is the only business that would qualify under the provisions of the ordinance.

The proposed local mandate for a private concern to hire security personnel “is not to take the place of our own police department,” McCurrie maintained. “The intention here is to add an extra level of vigilance, both in and out of the store … [and] provide some kind of deterrence against crime for the store’s overnight operations.”

Since the Walmart Supercenter on Harrison Ave., with easy access to Rt. 280, opened nearly a decade ago, the KPD has been kept busy responding to hundreds of calls each year from existing security guards at the facility about shoplifting and other criminal incidents, many of which result in arrests.

The ordinance is slated for a public hearing – and adoption – on Dec. 20.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.