By Ron Leir
Back on May 12, 2005, westbound commuters were briefly stranded when an electrical fire struck Amtrak’s Portal Bridge, which carries train tracks over the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus.
New York Fire Dept. fire boats were dispatched to help combat the blaze but Kearny could do nothing to help since its fire department had no vessel with firefighting capability.
Enroute to the scene, New York’s Bravest discovered a pier fire in South Kearny, recalled Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl.
But the department’s status is expected to change soon, now that the town’s governing body voted Jan. 24 to authorize advertising for bids for a fire boat.
No date was set for receiving the bids since specifi cations for the craft must first be drafted but Dyl is content that at least the mayor and Town Council have started the process to acquire the vessel.
Dyl said that no local tax dollars will be spent; instead, he said, the town will use a $344,000 fiscal 2010 grant the Fire Department secured from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Of that total, $192,225 will go toward purchase of the boat and trailer; $134,078 will go for equipment; and $18,350 for training, according to FEMA.
Kearny qualified for funding as a first responder agency and Area Maritime Security Committee member that provides maritime security services within the Port of New York and New Jersey, a “Group 1” port, FEMA said.
The boat, which will be about 25.5 feet long, will be outfitted with a fire pump designed to shoot up to 750 gallons of water per minute and will also have the capacity to apply foam to contain burning petroleum spills and tank fires.
The vessel will also be stocked with chlorine and radiation detection devices and water rescue paraphernalia such as throw ropes, life preservers, life rings and dry suits for three crew members.
“We’ll have firefighting capabilities to respond to anything on the waterfront, whether it’s boats, piers or bridges,” Dyl said.
“As the river continues to get cleaned up,” Dyl said, “everybody’s encouraging activity on the water so we’ll be there if something should go wrong.”
Which is all the more important, he said, since fire vessels from Jersey City, Bayonne, Hoboken and North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue “are all based on the Hudson River, but nothing on this side (of the meadows).”
Another significant advantage for Kearny is that the boat will be designed for low clearance under the Portal Bridge at high tide, Dyl said.
Dyl said the fire boat could be launched from any of four points, depending on the location of the fire. Those are the Vincent Marina, the Passaic Ave. yacht club, Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus or North Arlington.
The Kearny Police Department has two boats for water rescues and it most recently put them to use during Hurricane Irene to bail out motorists trapped by flood waters.
In other developments at the Jan. 24 meeting, the governing body voted to award a contract for $686,114 to Montana Construction, of Lodi, for the North Hackensack Ave. storm water drainage project, together with the Kearny Municipal Utilities Authority, funded by the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust Fund.
Another contractor had underbid Montana, with a bid of $658,789, but Township Attorney Greg Castano said that bid was disqualified because of “defective consent of surety.” A total of 11 vendors submitted bids ranging up to $1 million for the project, according to the town’s consulting engineer Kevin O’Sullivan.
Water main repairs continue on Bergen Ave. and on Radley St. where, according to Santos, a worker was hurt last Wednesday when during excavation of the street, there was a soil collapse that caused a section of metal plate to “squeeze” the worker. He was taken to an area hospital for treatment of a non-life threatening injury, the mayor said.
Addressing residents’ complaints about potholes and trenching along Devon St., between the Belleville Turnpike and Stuyvesant Ave., O’Sullivan said the town could try and “make it passable” for the winter season but would have to wait until March to effect permanent repairs when asphalt plans reopen. Until then, he said, “we can’t come up with anything else to stabilize the road.”
Unfortunately, noted Councilwoman Barbara McCurrie, “it’s only going to get worse in the meantime.”
Santos said the town had hoped “to be done (with paving) by last summer” but a legal entanglement involving a contractor’s complaint prevented that from happening.
The governing body agreed to defer to its next meeting a request by King St. residents to install a speed hump on the block to get motorists to slow down.
Police Chief John Dowie said the department did a traffic survey of the street in August 2010 and found that most cars were following the 25 mph limit and that the accidents that occurred were “not speed-related.”
But Santos pointed out that the town had put in speed humps on Devon, between Quincy and Liberty; and on Webster where, in his judgment, traffic conditions were “not as bad as on Devon.”
The mayor and council also agreed to delay adoption of an ordinance revising towing regulations and fees after receiving written comments filed by attorney Fred Gillespie on behalf of Moran Towing and after hearing from John Duray of Afton Auto Body.
In a phone interview, Santos said the existing towing ordinance hasn’t been revised since 1998 and “there have been complaints by drivers and by towers that we need to clarify some of the regulations and revise the fees out of fairness to both the towers and the public and to create transparency.”
So the amended ordinance attempts to clearly identify fees for specific services and to break them down by weight of the vehicle, Santos said.
Santos said the revised fees were based on fees charged by other communities in the area.
“This was not a straightforward exercise,” the mayor said. “It took our ordinance committee many months to research.”