Lyndhurst Police are looking for two men who robbed a local gas station of about $1,000.
Police said the incident took place at 11:20 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Delta Gas Station on Riverside Ave., just north of Jauncey Ave. off Roosevelt Ave.
Two men entered the station’s convenience store where they ordered the clerk to open the register and turn over the proceeds.
The pair, one of whom displayed a handgun, ordered the clerk to the floor while they searched under the counter for money cash.
Then, the holdup men directed the station attendant, who was in the store at the time, to give them his money.
Both bandits then left the store and sped away in a silver vehicle north on Riverside Ave.
Neither the attendant nor the clerk was physically harmed, police said.
Police described the man with the gun as dark-skinned, medium build, between 5-feet-10 and 6 feet, wearing a black jacket, checked shirt, blue jeans, black gloves, black half-mask and winter fur hat with side flaps.
The other man was listed as dark-skinned, heavy build, between 5-feet-10 and 6 feet, wearing a gray sweatshirt and pants, black gloves, black mask and black winter skull cap.
Police said they are reviewing the store’s surveillance video as they continue their investigation. – Ron Leir
An argument between Kaien Jenkins, 32, of Newark, and his girlfriend was just the beginning of trouble for Jenkins. Police said the pair parked along Rt. 21 and, after quarreling, Jenkins left the vehicle and started walking along the highway. After stopping him, police discovered Jenkins was wanted by Newark on an outstanding warrant. Jenkins was turned over to Newark authorities.
Martin Errico, 20, of Clifton, was busted on drug possession charges following a motor vehicle stop on Oakley Terrace at 11:40 p.m. Police said they saw a small wax envelope containing suspected narcoticsWHAT DRUG? inside the car. Further checking disclosed several more packages, also believed to contain drugs.
Police are investigating a case of more than $1,000 in fraudulent charges, including some from Ohio, being placed on an Evelyn Place resident’s credit card. The resident reported the suspected fraud at 8:19 p.m.
Police went to a Washington Ave. car wash at 1:02 p.m. to check out a customer’s complaint that their car’s side view mirror had been damaged during a cleaning.
At 3:53 p.m. a motorist drove away from a Kingsland Ave. gas station without paying for gasHOW MUCH? received, police said.
Police stopped Joseph Tinsley, 23, of Paterson, as he was allegedly making an illegal left turn on Park Ave. at 8:28 a.m. Police learned he was driving with a suspended license and was wanted on a $250 outstanding warrant from Paterson. He was issued motor vehicles summonses and released after posting bail pending a court appearance.
A motor vehicle stop of a blue Chevrolet with a non-operating headlight, at 9:26 p.m., resulted in the arrest of Joseph Curcio, 34, of Bloomfield, wanted by the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. Curcio was taken to Essex County Jail.
A 911 call brought police to a Winthrop Drive home at 8:22 p.m. After not being admitted, officers forced their way inside where they found blood on the floor. Investigation disclosed that the resident was dealing with a “pet emergency” and had taken the pet to an area animal hospital.
A 68-year-old Nutley man lost $2,300 after an apparent scam artist sent him counterfeit money orders as a “Secret Shopper” and then asked that he return the money via Western Union. The resident later learned that the individual he was dealing with was a fake. Police are urging residents to avoid sending money or wiring funds to anyone without first verifying the recipient’s authenticity.
A dog escaped from a cage and attacked another dog being walked by a woman along Kingsland Ave. at 9:51 a.m. The victimized dog suffered puncture wounds. Police gave the attacking dog’s owner a summons for having an unlicensed dog.
A hit and run driver who crashed and left the scene damaged several parking meters and planters along WHAT? roadway. Police are investigating the 2:15 a.m. incident.
A 59-year-old Franklin Ave. resident suffering from a MEDICAL CONDITION ? was reported missing at 9:30 p.m. Police contacted other agencies around the state in an effort to locate the woman and also appealed to the public for help. The next day, police said, the woman returned home, unharmed, and was taken to an area hospital for evaluation. Police are still trying to determine her whereabouts during the time she went missing.
Several motorists phoned police after 4 p.m. to alert them to a man repeatedly stumbling and falling in the area of Washington and Grant Aves. Arriving at the scene, police noticed the man’s hand was bleeding from his several falls and took him to an area hospital for treatment and evaluation.
At 8:47 p.m. police were called to a Washington Ave. residence after a 17-year-old had ripped a wide-screen TV off the wall in a fit of rage. Police calmed the teen and took him to a crisis center for evaluation. Charges are pending.
Police stopped a speeding vehicle near Sheppard Place, at 11:44 a.m., and learned that the driver had an expired registration. The driverWHO?was issued summonses and the car was impounded.
A Faber Ave. homeowner whose car was being repossessed had a shoving match with the repossesser and police were called to the scene at 10:58 a.m. Police persuaded the repossesser to release the vehicle and advised both parties of their rights to sign cross-complaints.
A police negotiator managed to defuse a potential hostage situation that developed at a Hancox Ave. home at 1:50 a.m. Police and EMS arranged to transport a 50-year-old resident to an area hospital for medical evaluation and the other individual involved in the incident was unharmed, police said.
A report of gun shots brought police to Hancox Ave. at 9:02 p.m. Officers were unable to account for the origin of the noises and speculated it may have been fireworks.
A driver backing up on Franklin Ave. near the post office, at 1:50 p.m., accidentally knocked a pedestrian to the ground, police said. The victim, who complained of leg pain, was taken to an area hospital.
Someone used a Brookline Ave. resident’s credit card to charge nearly $1,000 for the rental of a vehicle between Arizona and California, police said.
Police executed a traffic stop of a 2007 Audi on Park Ave. at 12:17 a.m. and determined that the driver’s registration had expired and that the driver’s license had been suspended. Police gave the driverWHO? summonses and impounded the Audi.
Police were called to a River Road apartment complex at 2:22 p.m. to investigate a burglary. Someone forced entry through the front door and ripped out a large-screen TV from its wall mount brackets.
Police, firefighters and EMS responded to a motor vehicle accident at Kingsland and Terrace Aves. at 10:12 a.m. Nainaben Patel, 49, of Nutley, was extricated from her overturned vehicle and taken to an area hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. Patel was charged with DWI.
Ricardo Powell, 24, of Perth Amboy, was arrested after he was reported to be trespassing in Red Bull Arena. Powell was released on his own recognizance.
Juan Placenia, 28, or Kearny was observed sleeping in his vehicle on Sussex St. Upon investigation, police discovered Placencia to be in possession of drug paraphernalia. He was then arrested, charged, and released.
Police observed two men fighting in the street in the area of Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. and Sussex St. at approximately 3:30 a.m. An investigation revealed that the two had just been involved in a motor vehicle crash. Onesilmo Rivas, 22, of Harrison who was bleeding from his mouth and his nose claimed that he was punched by Alvaro Gonzalez, 50, of Dover. Rivas was then arrested for Driving While Intoxicated and Gonzalez was arrested for assault. Further investigation revealed that Angel Nieves, 20 of Dover, who was a passenger in Gonzalez’ vehicle, had also assaulted Rivas. Nieves was then too arrested for simple assault. All three were later released on their own recognizance.
Theodore Clark, 52 of Newark, was arrested for attempting to pass a forged prescription blank at a Harrison pharmacy. He was released on a summons.
A Bergen St. resident observed his roommate’s vehicle being burglarized. The resident then informed his roommate and the two chased and apprehended the individual. After police were notified and responded, Manuel Ignacio Gonzalez Santos, 21 of Harrison, was arrested. Santos was also found to be in possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose prior to being shipped to the Hudson County Jain with a $12,000 bail.
Three vehicles were broken into while parked on Bergen St. beneath Rt. 280. A GPS unit and some loose change were stolen from the vehicles.
Matthew Dennison, 19 of Woodbridge, was charged with theft after he was accused of stealing a cell phone from an acquaintance. A warrant was issued for Dennison’s arrest.
Darryl Owens, 55 of Newark, was arrested for attempting to pass a forged prescription blank at a Harrison pharmacy. He was released on a summons.
Juan Maldonado, 43 of North Bergen, was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated after he was observed driving at a high rate of speed on Harrison Ave. Maldonado was also found to have outstanding warrants from North Bergen. After processing, he was released on his own recognizance.
A 1990 Honda Accord that was stolen from Newark was recovered in the parking lot on Hamilton St. beneath Rt. 280.
A 2002 Ford Econoline van was stolen from the parking lot on Hamilton St. beneath Rt. 280. The vehicle contained approximately $13,000 worth of tools.
Two vehicles were broken into while parked on Warren St. beneath Rt. 280. A portable GPS unit was stolen from one vehicle.
A 2002 Volkswagon Passat was broken into while it was parked on Hamilton St. beneath Rt. 280. At the time of the incident, it was unknown if anything had been stolen from within.
A 1994 Mitsubishi Galant that was reported to have been stolen from Kearny on January 15 was recovered on Manor Ave.
On February 2 at 4:33 p.m., units were dispatched to Pathmark at 115 Belmont Ave. on a shoplifting call. Store detectives gave police a description of a woman who had left the store without paying for her purchases. A woman fitting the description was spotted on Jeraldo St. and transported to the store for identification. After being identified by store detectives as the woman who had moved through the self-checkout line without paying, the woman said, “Look, I paid for my goods” and produced a receipt for $6.10. Since the receipt didn’t match the $56.96 worth of goods that the woman was seen leaving with, police arrested 42-year-old Aracelis Yamuca on a shoplifting charge. It was subsequently discovered that Yamuca had two outstanding warrants; one from Newark for $750, and another out of Belleville for $250. She was transported to the county jail and held in lieu of $1000 bail.
On February 2 at 5:09 p.m., units responded to a Liberty Ave. address on a sick person call. Police entered the house and found Anibal Rodriquez, 37, of Newark unconscious. They also found a syringe commonly used for narcotics. The man was taken to Clara Maass Hospital and charged with possession of a hypodermic syringe. He was released on his own recognizance.
On February 2, a vehicle was reported stolen from the 300 Block of Little St. The man said that he parked his car at 4 a.m. and when he returned at 7: a.m. it was gone. The missing vehicle is a 2001 Mercury Marquis color silver.
On February 2 a 15-year-old Belleville youth was apprehended on a stolen car charge at Belleville High School. The youth said that he “found the keys (to the car) on the sidewalk” and took the car for a joyride. The juvenile was arrested for motor vehicle theft and released to his mother.
On February 2 at 10:42 p.m., police responded to an apartment complex at 16 Bellevue Ct. on a report of a man spotted with a handgun. Once there, they encountered four males but couldn’t locate a weapon. While running an I.D. check, one man stated that his identification was in his car. Police escorted him to the vehicle and found a black bag containing a flashlight and greenish vegetation – possibly marijuana. A K-9 unit was summoned and the dog “hit” for narcotics. The vegetation was later identified as marijuana. The car’s owner, Jose Martinez, 26, of N. Arlington was arrested for possession of marijuana over 50 grams and possession of marijuana over 50 grams with intent to distribute. His bail was set at $50, 000 and he was transported to the county jail. Joseph Geraldo, 22, of Nutley was arrested for an outstanding warrant out of Wayne, for $264, and another from Nutley for $250. He posted $514 bail and was released.
On January 31 at 9:47 p.m., a plainclothes detective went to the 500 block of Union Ave. to serve a warrant. When he arrived at the residence, he spoke with a man and asked him if he was the man that he was looking for. The man answered, “He’s upstairs.” When the detective checked out the second floor, he discovered a lit joint and paraphernalia usually used for the distribution of marijuana. He also found a white powdery substance thought to be cocaine (which was later confirmed), small plastic bags and a money ledger. The three males present in the home were arrested for possession of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of cocaine within 1000’ of a school, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The men are: Angel Santiago, 30, of Belleville, who also carried a warrant for $500 out of Belleville; Eduardo Ortega, 25, of Belleville, and Javier Illera, 26, of Newark who carried a $1000 warrant from Belleville. No bail was set.
On January 31 at 7:40 p.m., a Belleville High student reported that his car had been vandalized. The student said that he parked the car at 7:45 a.m. that day. When he returned after school, he noticed that a blue line had been scribbled on his 20007 white Ford Focus from “bumper to bumper.” Police are investigating.
On January 30 at 10:34 p.m., an undercover unit responded to Overhill Ave. and Celia Terrace on a report of a suspicious vehicle circling the area. They stopped a Mercury Marquis that fir the description. Inside the vehicle, they uncovered a large amount of pills that they tentatively identified as Xanax, clear baggies and a total of $1,197 in cash. Neither occupant had a prescription for the pills. 18-year-old Marc Senatore, of Nutley, and 20-year-old Robert Thiele, also of Nutley were arrested for possession of a C.D.S., possession of a C.D.S. with intent to distribute, and possession of a C.D.S. within 1000’ of a school zone. Both parties were held at county jail in lieu of bail.
On January 28 at 8:40 p.m., narcotics officers driving on Rt. 21 observed a silver BMW traveling very slowly in the center lane near mile-marker 7.2. When they stopped the car to investigate, they noticed that the female driver was dropping small objects wrapped in rubber bands on the floor. The items were identified as wax folds that are commonly used to package heroin. The folds later tested positive for the substance. Cynthia Barroso, 26, of N. Bergen was arrested for possession of C.D.S. and released on her own recognizance.
On January 28 at 1:01 a.m., an anticrime unit spotted an individual acting suspiciously while looking inside vehicles at the 40 block of Belmont Ave. The man, Vernon Koslow, 29, of Sussex was found with wax folds that are often used to package heroin. The folds later tested positive for heroin. In addition to a possession of C.D.S. charge, Koslow was found to have two outstanding warrants – a “no bail” warrant out of Kinnelon and an $858 warrant out of Newark.
By Jeff Bahr
An anti-bullying Public Service Announcement (PSA) video produced by Nutley High School students begins rather deceptively. It’s a disarming stroke that makes the short fi lm immensely powerful. As the video opens, viewers are introduced to a typical student – scarcely different from the multitudes that have come before him and will come after him – stepping up to a lectern to deliver a happy commencement speech. We’ve all seen this scene a thousand times. But this one is different.
At any moment you expect to hear the young man giving thanks to those who helped him on his journey, while taking a few humorous jabs at friends and faculty for good measure. But “Tom’s Story” omits the standard salutations and light-hearted quips that have become part and parcel of such speeches. Instead, it tackles an insidious problem – a pervasive, deliberate, manmade cancer that targets its intended victims persistently and with great malice aforethought.
In the fictional video, Tom is introduced by a teacher as Nutley High’s 2012 valedictorian and summoned to the stage. The young man opens his speech by alluding to the standard “trials and tribulations” of the student experience. Typical stuff, really. But then, things take a wholly unexpected turn.
Tom, you see, has spent his school days not in happy contemplation of a rosy future, like other students, but in an abject hell – feeling hurt, alienated, unloved and worthless as a direct result of the incessant bullying that he has long endured. As scenes of Tom’s torment are shown in the background for effect, the young man ominously declares, “ At one point I never thought I’d make it here.”
The meaning behind Tom’s comment is apparent. At that moment, a person would have to have ice water running through their veins not to feel genuinely moved by the young man’s pain and crushing sense of hopelessness.
Sadly, there are many who know such pain and torment intimately. According to ABC News, a recent national survey found that 30% of U.S. students in grades six through 10 are involved in moderate or frequent bullying. For members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT), things are even worse. A 2010 survey undertaken by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) showed that 90% of LGBT youth experience harassment at school.
The National Education Association estimates that some 160,000 children miss school each day as a direct result of their fear of bullying and/or intimidation at the hands of other students. If viewed in sheer numbers, the bullying problem has now reached epidemic proportions. According to the National School Safety Center, American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million victims.
These statistics, as worrisome as they are, fail to factor in the increasing problem of cyber-bullying. This impersonal form of online character attacks and reputation sullying may seem less harmless to the uninitiated, but not so to the millions of individuals who have found themselves on the receiving end of such vicious cyber-barbs.
Tom is clearly not alone.
The idea to shoot the anti-bullying video arrived in conjunction with the “Week of Respect,” a statewide observance that directs school districts to provide age-appropriate instruction focusing on the prevention of harassment, intimidation and bullying of students.
According to teacher and video director Jim Kelly, the students “used storyboards, wrote the script, and put together a shooting agenda,” to get the project off of the ground. They then assessed and evaluated the film, scene by scene, until everything fit properly in place. The emphasis during each step of production was to “make it real,” said Kelly.
The finished product elicited a “very positive response” from the student body, according to Kelly. “It hits home when students see other students (in such trying situations),” explained the teacher when asked about the video’s overall impact with its intended audience.
For those who wonder precisely how “Tom’s Story” ends, suffice to say that one single schoolmate with courage and compassion steps up to make the difference in Tom’s tortured life. Hopefully, after viewing this thought provoking film, others similarly enlightened may wish to step into his shoes.
By Ron Leir
Carlos P. Campos, accused of committing a triple homicide in Harrison last summer, has been indicted by a Hudson County grand jury on three counts of murder.
The indictment, which also charges Campos with possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, was handed up to the Hudson County Superior Court on Jan. 24, following a presentation to the grand jurors on Jan. 10 by Asst. Hudson County Prosecutor Michael D’Andrea.
Campos is charged with the stabbing deaths of his parents, Carlos A. Campos-Trinidad, 57, and Ruth Pereira, 58, and his 3-year-old niece, Gabriella Morales, on Aug. 16, 2011, in their home at 216 Hamilton St., Harrison. Campos, who is being held on $1 million cash only bail at the Hudson County Jail, Kearny, is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 21 before Superior Court Judge Mary Costello in Jersey City. However, since Costello is soon to be transferred, from criminal to civil court, the county assignment judge may have to name another judge to hear the case.
D’Andrea will handle the case for the state while Campos will be represented by the county’s deputy public defender Joseph Russo.
If found guilty, Campos could be sentenced to three consecutive life sentences and would, technically, have to serve a bit more than 63 years on each murder count before being considered for parole, according to D’Andrea.
After his arrest soon after the crime, Campos was first taken to the Jersey City Medical Center for evaluation by a hospital psychiatrist but was subsequently transferred to the Ann Klein Forensic Center, a psychiatric facility run by the state Dept. of Health Services’ Div. of Mental Health Services to determine his mental fitness.
Last week Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said that state doctors have concluded that Campos “is competent to proceed (with trial) at this time.”
However, DeFazio said, they’ve offered no opinion as to “his mental state at the time of the crime.”
On the day of the crime, police said Campos, wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants, walked into Harrison police headquarters at 12:18 p.m. and had a conversation with officers that prompted police to descend on the Hamilton St. home, just across the street from the Hamilton Intermediate School.
Inside, on the first floor of the 3-story residence, police found the bloodied, lifeless bodies of the three victims.
Campos-Trinidad, found in a bedroom, died from a stab wound to the back of the head/neck area, possibly inflicted from behind him; Pereira, discovered in a hallway linking two bedrooms, was killed by a single stab wound to the neck/chest area but also had many “defensive wounds,” an autopsy showed.
The baby, found lying in its crib, died from numerous sharp force stab wounds to the neck and upper chest, according to the autopsy.
A knife, believed to be the murder weapon, was recovered at the scene, authorities said.
The baby’s mother, who works for a nonprofit agency that combats substance abuse and who runs the Roselle Family Success Center, a United Way-sponsored program, was in Haiti on a charity mission at the time of the crime. She returned to attend a private funeral for the victims.
By Ron Leir
Unless the township Board of Commissioners have a change of heart on Valentine’s Day – their next scheduled meeting – it’s going to cost more to put a kid through the Lyndhurst Summer Camp and to swim at the Community Pool.
The commissioners are slated to authorize an increase in fees at both venues on Feb. 14.
As stated in the fee ordinance, the township is proposing these increases in recreation fees to reimburse it for the cost of providing the services “and thereby reducing the reliance on the general taxpayer for paying for such services.”
To register for Summer Camp, starting April 1, parents or guardians would have to shell out $300 for the first child – a whopping 71% boost from the current fee of $175.
For a family’s second child, the fee would go from $150 to $250 – a 66.6% increase – and for each additional child, the price would climb from $125 to $200 – a 60% hike.
Parks & Recreation Commissioner Tom DiMaggio said the township needs more cash to meet its expenses.
The Summer Camp “loses money,” he said.
But that’s only because the township didn’t want to whack residents with hefty registration fees to begin with and now it’s trying to make up the deficit, DiMaggio said.
Still, he said, when compared to private camps, people should realize they’re getting a “super bargain.” “When you figure it out, right now we’re getting $300 for a six-week program, five days a week, six hours a day – that comes out to what, $10 a day? That’s still crazy cheap,” DiMaggio said.
And the camp seems to be popular with the kids, the commissioner said.
“Six years ago, we started with 175,” he said. “As of last year, we had 450 children.”
The camp offers a variety of recreational and cultural activities, including basketball, football, soccer, arts and crafts, films and field trips for kids ages five through 12, he said.
DiMaggio said the township last summer hired “between 85 and 90” counselors for which the township allocated $227,730, township records show. Costs for recreation materials and related expenses weren’t available.
For the 2012 camp season, the township anticipates spending possibly as much as $240,000 for wages, according to township Tax Collector Deborah Ferrato.
As for the Community Pool, which opened a year and a half ago, the ordinance calls for increases for both residents and nonresidents, except for senior citizens, whose fees will remain the same for seasonal and full-year memberships.
The new rates for full year members would take effect April 1 while the revised fees for summer and seasonal members would be implemented Sept. 10.
Full year members would take the biggest hits: Resident adults would go from $270 to $365 (a 35% raise); non-resident adults, from $290 to $410 (41% more). Resident children (under 17), would go from $225 to $250; non-resident children, go from $240 to $265. Resident seniors (60+) would stay at $185; non-resident seniors, $200.
For seasonal members, resident adults go from $100 to $135 (35% more); non-resident adults, from $120 to $160 (33% increase). Resident kids, $90 to $100; non-resident kids, $100 to $110. Resident and nonresident seniors remain at $75 and $90, respectively. Fees for a family of four: residents would go from $310 to $325; non-residents, $330 to $350.
Finally, summer members would face these changes: resident adults, $80 to $100; non-resident adults, $100 to $125. Resident kids, $70 to $85; non-resident kids, $90 to $100. Resident seniors stay at $65; non-resident seniors go from $80 to $85. For a family of four, residents, from $230 to $300.
Township fiscal records indicate that $117,025 was budgeted for the pool operations for 2011 but it’s anticipated that $180,000 will be needed for this year, said Ferrato.
“We need to be in a position to pay our bills,” DiMaggio said. “We’ve been holding our own. The pool’s only been open a little over a year and we want to expand the hours during 2012.”
Pool Manager Tom Cofaro said he’s still reviewing the full year membership rates for both residents and nonresidents to determine what would be a fair increase.
“We’re not doing it for loss of revenues,” he said. The idea is to find a “happy medium” that will adequately support expenses for electricity, pump maintenance and chemicals, along with pay for lifeguards and custodians.
The pool also derives revenues from rental fees collected from two private swim clubs – Jersey Flyers and Skyy Swim Team – who are permitted to practice on weeknights and on weekends.
Cofaro said he’s hoping to grow the pool membership of 112, a combination of summer, seasonal and full year. “We’re looking to draw more from the Kearny, North Arlington area; there’s certainly room for more.”
He’s also planning to add a tots swim program for ages 6 months to 3 in the spring or summer. And he’s aiming at extending the weekend open swim for the general public which now runs from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
An aquasize light impact aerobics class for seniors that runs eight weeks has been drawing a lot of folks from Rutherford, in particular, he said. The cost is $39 for weekly sessions or $75 for twice a week.
For school purposes, Monday to Friday, the pool is reserved for physical education classes from 1 to 3 p.m. and for Lyndhurst High swim team practice, from 3 to 5 p.m. Open swim for the public is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m.
During the summer months, kids in day camp get their shot at the pool.
“We also rent out the pool for birthday parties,” Cofaro said.
By Ron Leir
As part of a growing trend among government entities, Harrison has reached out to another Hudson County community to help continue providing public health services to its residents.
On Jan. 17 the Harrison Board of Health signed an interlocal agreement with the Township of North Bergen, through its state-certified local health officer, Richard Censullo, to facilitate the delivery of those services.
The two-year agreement calls for an annual payment of $50,000 to North Bergen.
Under this arrangement, explained Mayor Raymond McDonough, Harrison “is fulfilling its duties to meet the state’s minimum health standards, as prescribed by state law.” Final approval was anticipated from the state Dept. of Health and Human Services, the mayor added.
The Board of Health went this route after the town’s veteran health officer Karen Comer retired last year. It will realize an annual savings of about $80,000 by contracting with another municipality.
Aside from North Bergen, with its 68,000 residents, Censullo said that he also serves as health officer for Union City (67,000 population), Bayonne (67,000) and now, Harrison (16,000).
For Harrison, Censullo said that, for now at least, his intent is to continue all current health services – clinics, flu vaccinations and rabies shots, tracking any communicable diseases, licensing and inspecting of local food establishments and following up on citizens’ complaints.
“I’m also in discussions with the North Hudson Community Action Corporation’s Health Center on providing a full service public health wellness program at no cost to Harrison residents,” Censullo said.
Such medical services as pediatric exams, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy care – from sonography to actual delivery – would be made available at the Harrison Board of Health offices on Harrison Ave., he said.
Because the North Hudson agency is designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center, it is eligible for reimbursement through Medicare and Medicaid and the services it provides are offered free, according to Censullo.
“It would be one-stop shopping,” Censullo said, for residents’ primary and preventive care needs.
Censullo said he expects to learn by mid-February whether the program can be secured for Harrison.
In the meantime, Censullo said he’ll be analyzing the Harrison Board of Health’s budget to measure the effectiveness of existing services provided by a registered nurse and registered environmental health specialist, along with a contracted medical director.
“I also want to see what we can get for no cost to the Harrison taxpayer,” he said. “I want to see what public health grants are out there.”
Harrison isn’t alone in seeking outside help for meeting the demands of public health services, noted Greg Fehrenbach, management consultant to the N.J. League of Municipalities.
“Over the last 35 years or so, there has been a continued trend for municipalities to cease having their own health officer or health department and aligning with a county, regional health commission or another municipality,” Fehrenbach said.
A survey done two years ago showed that of New Jersey’s 567 municipalities, fewer than 150 provide direct health officer supervision, he said. In Middlesex County alone, for example, only four of its 25 municipalities provide directly health officer service; the rest link up to the county health department.
Aside from cost savings as the rationale for consolidation of health services, Fehrenbach pointed to the “enormous liability” attached to the job of health officer. “Look at the anthrax scare of 2001 or the flu pandemic anticipated three years ago,” he said. “There’s tremendous responsibility that goes with the job, along with the rigorous (state) requirements for certification. It’s not all that easy to find someone who also has to be a good administrator.”
But public health isn’t the only area being squeezed by governments looking to economize.
William Dressel Jr., executive director of the League of Municipalities, said: “Clearly in the last four or five years, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of interlocal agreements or shared services between municipalities, counties and even school districts.”
And, aside from health consolidation, Dressel said, “We’ve seen a number of communities giving serious consideration to sharing of municipal assessors, tax collectors, joint courts, fire protection and EMS – just about every service you can provide in a joint fashion.”
Although the state Legislature has provided for such undertakings since 1973, Dressel said the process has been accelerated during the Christie administration, “where we’ve seen towns looking at every possible way to save taxpayer dollars or to promote more and/or better services. Some have been successful; some have been rescinded.”
In Harrison, for example, the local Fire Department used to provide ambulance service; last August, the town arranged for Kearny’s Emergency Ambulance Squad personnel to handle the job with Harrison’s vehicle from the Cleveland Ave. firehouse in Harrison.
Harrison Fire Director Harold Stahl said that under a first-responder system he’s initiated, “If an emergency call is serious or life-threatening, we can roll an engine company with three or two firefighter EMTs, (on Harrison’s reserve ambulance) depending on availability of our personnel, from Harrison, but Kearny EMS is in charge of the scene.”
“If the Kearny EMS personnel are out on a call and if we can’t reach anyone through mutual aid, we’ll put our backup ambulance unit on the road,” Stahl said. If the backup unit is out on a call, then the Fire Department will send an engine with firefighter EMTs, he said.
Asked about the prospects of Harrison Fire Dept. taking back the service, Stahl said that was “unlikely” at this point because the current operation is working well and “because there are too many irons in the fire. We’re putting our best foot forward.”
Under another inter-local agreement, Harrison Police Dept. is providing dispatcher service on behalf of the East Newark Police Dept. and police officials for both communities say that’s working well.
Elsewhere in the region, the police departments of Belleville and Nutley recently explored a possible sharing of police communications but it appears that is now a dead issue, one official said.
Bloomfield is actively pursuing providing fire protection services for neighboring Glen Ridge, which currently contracts with Montclair for that service. A decision by Glen Ridge officials is anticipated shortly.
Lyndhurst has a shared service arrangement with its Board of Education for the community pool at Lyndhurst High School but has scaled back its prior agreement that provided for the use of municipal personnel to maintain school grounds.
Offering an overview of consolidated government services, Dressel said the League has offered training in applying merger strategies “but we don’t promote it as a panacea to property tax woes but, rather, a way to evaluate services in a joint fashion with a neighboring community.”
In any case, Dressel said, “it’s not something you dictate from Trenton – there’s got to be a deliberative process where the local officials have to decide if the move makes sense.”