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1.7B to clean Passaic’s lower 8 miles

  NEWARK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Friday, April 11, that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history. At a press conference held at Newark Riverfront Park, EPA Regional […]

Lost medal recovered from Pa.

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – For more than two decades, it sat – carefully preserved – in a Pennsylvania residence. Next month, however, the Purple Heart medal awarded posthumously to a long-dead Kearny serviceman will be returned […]

Feds won’t pay for more firefighters

Two neighboring West Hudson communities have been shut out in their bids to snag federal funding to hire more firefighters. Kearny Fire Dept. and Harrison Fire Dept. each applied for a share of SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency […]

Tribute to a teacher

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Fred Kuhrt died doing what he loved best – giving of himself to others. His former employer, the Kearny Board of Education, is honoring the automotive technology instructor’s selflessness by establishing the […]

Play ball! (and politics, too)

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent NORTH ARLINGTON – Saturday’s opening ceremony for the North Arlington Recreation Girls’ Softball season took on a political twist. Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, complained that he was snubbed by League President Mike Tetto […]

News in brief

HARRISON – Harrison Mayor James Fife, 73, is spending time in St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, where he is recovering from surgery. The hospital declined to provide any information but Councilman James Doran, who is serving as Fife’s campaign manager […]

 

At last, new boss at HHA

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

HARRISON –

Some three and a half years after Michael Rodgers was fired as the chief administrator of the Harrison Housing Authority, the HHA finally has picked a new leader.

The HHA Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 8 to hire Roy E. Rogers, of Sicklerville, in Camden County, as executive director and he started work Jan. 15, taking over for interim Executive Director Zinnerford Smith, who has served since December 2010.

Rogers, who is a state-certified public housing manager and is certified to manage tax credit developments, will be receiving an annual salary of $100,000 with no contract and no specified time period.

In its most recent posting for the job, the HHA had advertised a pay range of $80,000 to $100,000 to be negotiated and one HHA spokesman said that the commissioners placed Rogers at the top of that range in recognition of some three decades of experience in the public housing industry.

Rogers spent the last 10 years as executive director of the Gloucester Township Housing Authority where he oversaw 224 housing units and, according to his resume, “obtained credit financing from state and federal sources and constructed a 75-unit senior building.”

Between 1997 and 2007, Rogers was executive director/ president of the Keansburg Housing Authority/ Church St. Corp., where he “started up a 35-unit tax credit building” and managed 72 public housing units and 260 Section 8 apartments.

No stranger to Harrison, Rogers worked for the HHA from 1995 to 2010 as its modernization coordinator and management consultant, assisting in the planning of construction work and in obtaining grant monies.

Rogers has an associate degree in general accounting from Illinois Central College, and a business administration degree and a master’s degree in industrial operations from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.

He is a national housing consultant and has taught housing policy classes for the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials.

Photo courtesy royrogersmc.com Roy Rogers

Photo courtesy royrogersmc.com
Roy Rogers

 

In a prepared statement, HHA Board Chairman Laurence Bennett said: “Mr. Rogers brings a vast depth of knowledge and decades of experience to the Harrison Housing Authority. He has extensive skill and proficiency in public housing, with 15 years’ experience as a Public Housing Authority (PHA) Executive Director.

“Additionally, Mr. Rogers has served as management consultant and advised PHAs throughout the nation, on all areas of HUD (U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development) practices, procedures and policies. …

“Mr. Rogers was selected after an extensive and exhaustive national search ….”

The HHA has undertaken searches for a replacement director twice. In its most recent effort – which culminated in an application submission cutoff of Sept. 30, 2013 – it received a fairly wide pool of applicants that its search committee – Irene Almeida, Bennett and Smith – narrowed to eight highly qualified finalists that included candidates from Rochester, N.Y., and New Orleans, and reported its findings and recommendations to the full board, according to one person familiar with the process.

As of last week, Rogers was busy on the job, occupied with a walking tour of the HHA’s Harrison Gardens and Kingsland Apartments clusters, checking on maintenance conditions and other duties.

4 indicted in local sex traficking case

Mug shots courtesy ECPO Patricia Munoz Charles B. Torres Charles P. Torres Victor Reyes

Mug shots courtesy ECPO
Patricia Munoz                  Charles B. Torres              Charles P. Torres                       Victor Reyes

 

By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

NEWARK –

Four defendants were charged last week in a 35-count indictment alleging they were part of a humantrafficking conspiracy involving a 15-year-old Essex County girl, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced.

Authorities said that, from May to August 2013, the girl “was transported from different locations in Belleville and North Bergen to various hotels and apartments where she was forced to have sex with adult men for money.”

The Belleville police referred The Observer to the prosecutor’s office, but, to protect the victim, that office declined to provide details on the Belleville connection.

The defendants, all of whom face conspiracy charges including promoting prostitution and money laundering, were identified as: Patricia Munoz, 23, of Jersey City; Charles P. Torres, 59, of North Bergen; his son, Charles B. Torres, 26, of Ridgefield Park; and Victor Reyes, 38, of Union City.

Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Sandler, who is handling the case, said Munoz met the teenager at a party last May. Munoz allegedly befriended the girl and introduced her to Charles P. Torres. Through manipulation and coercion, the victim reportedly began working for him as a prostitute and was required to turn the money she was paid over to him.

Sandler said Charles P. Torres advertised the victim with contacts he already had over the telephone, via text message and online, where he posted ads to sell her body for sex.

Charles P. Torres allegedly took photos of the victim in various states of undress and performing sexual acts.

These pictures were kept on his cell phone, camera and computer and were distributed via text and posted in the online ads, Sandler said.

Additionally, he is charged with sexually assaulting the victim on at least two different occasions in his home in North Bergen.

Charles P. Torres was arrested Aug. 7, 2013, and incarcerated at the Essex County Correctional Facility, but his operation reportedly remained ongoing.

He allegedly continued to collect money from men who had previously had sex with the 15-year-old and at least one other prostitute, an adult.

The collection of outstanding payments was facilitated through phone calls placed by the defendant from the jail to his son, Charles B. Torres, and to Victor Reyes, authorities said. Those illegal proceeds were reportedly shared between Charles B. Torres and Reyes.

Charles P. Torres and Munoz face 20 years to life in state prison. Reyes and Charles B. Torres face 10 to 20 years.

The indictment was handed up Jan. 14. The defendants will be arraigned before Essex County Superior Court Judge Sherry Hutchins-Henderson. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, authorities noted.

“This is our first human-trafficking indictment under the [state’s] new comprehensive anti-trafficking law,” said Murray, noting that it was brought in coordination with the N.J. attorney general’s Human Trafficking Task Force.

“We plan to aggressively go after those who would attempt to exploit children and others in this manner,’’ Murray added.

“This is a heartbreaking case which starkly illustrates the type of sexual abuse and exploitation of the very vulnerable that our new anti-trafficking law is meant to address,’’ said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

Murray lauded the Belleville Police Department, the FBI and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office for their help in the case.

Crime alert for Nutley residents

alarm_web

 

The Nutley Police Department, along with Mayor Alphonse Petracco, is advising township residents of a rash of burglaries in the community, the most recent being Friday, Jan. 17, on Bromley Place, and Thursday, Jan. 16, on Joerg Ave.

Police said most have been rear-door break-ins, with the burglar either forcing open or breaking the glass on the door to gain entry.

Residents are advised to be vigilant for any suspicious activity, suspicious vehicles or suspicious individuals in their neighborhoods.

They are asked to get as much detail as possible, such as the license plate number and description of the vehicle and description of any suspicious people, and report it immediately to police.

“If you see something suspicious, say something!” the NPD urges.

Nutley Police Chief Thomas J. Strumolo noted that his department is taking all the necessary steps to apprehend the burglars, including adding extra patrols throughout the township.

In addition, residents can take the following precautions to protect their properties:

• Interior lights on a timer when you are not home

•Exterior security lighting

•Deadbolts on all exterior doors

•Stopping mail and newspaper delivery when you are away

•Trimming shrubs blocking windows

Petracco and Strumolo also encouraged Nutleyites to view the following Neighborhood Watch link to learn how to protect a home from burglaries. The site includes a home-security inspection checklist: www.usaonwatch.org/assets/publications/HomeSecurityBooklet.pdf

Residents can walk around their home and check all the items on the list.

Home security was one of the prime topics at last week’s reorganization meeting for the Nutley Neighborhood Watch program, Strumolo told The Observer.

“I encourage all residents to take a look at their doors, locks, windows, and interior and exterior lighting,” the chief said. “Just making a few minor improvements can prevent them from becoming a victim.”

Strumolo also noted: “If residents are unsure of what measures need to be taken, we can come out and do a home security survey for them.”

Residents are also urged to lock their car when parked overnight and not to leave valuable items visible in the vehicle.

“In 2013, we had 80 thefts from parked motor vehicles, and the majority of the vehicles were left unlocked,” Strumolo reported. “This coming year we hope to reduce those numbers by getting help from residents by locking their vehicles.”

– Karen Zautyk

Smoke alarms aid KFD at 3 fires

KEARNY–

A cooking-related fire last week in an apartment at 51 Belgrove Drive forced the evacuation of the entire 12-family building, Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl reported.

The accidental blaze broke out at 10:14 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 14. Damage was limited to the kitchen of the thirdfloor apartment in which it started, but as a precaution all residents were temporarily removed from the brick structure.

The blaze was brought under control within 15 minutes, and no injuries were reported, Dyl said.

The occupants of the apartment in which the fire began were relocated with friends, but all other residents were permitted to return to their homes.

According to Kearny Police Chief John Dowie, the first person on the scene was KPD Sgt. Robert Maguire, who had been off-duty and at Kmart on Passaic Ave. when the alarm came in. He went to the address and began evacuating the tenants.

During the fire, the Harrison FD was on standby, and the Jersey City FD covered Kearny.

Dyl said smoke alarms played a critical role in alerting residents to the danger in this blaze and two other recent fires. “Once again, this emphasizes the importance of having working smoke alarms in your home,” he noted.

The other fires both occurred Jan. 9.

At 4:30 a.m., there was a one-alarm blaze in a vacant former warehouse/office under demolition at 590 Belleville Turnpike. All Kearny units responded; Jersey City covered the town.

At 7:15 p.m., the KFD responded to a one-alarm fire in a single-family home at 403 Forest St. Dyl said damage was confined to the basement, with minor extension to the first floor. The residents were allowed to reoccupy the house.

All available Kearny units responded, along with Harrison and East Newark. “During this fire, we had units operating at a fire in Bayonne,” Dyl noted.

Both of the Jan. 9 fires appeared to be accidental, and there were no injuries in either, the chief said.

– Karen Zautyk

Goodwill: a beacon for those adrift

Photo by Ron Leir Goodwill representatives, from l., Lisa Fiore, Lori Friedman and Robin Garris at Career Counseling & Learning Center.

Photo by Ron Leir
Goodwill representatives, from l., Lisa Fiore, Lori Friedman and Robin Garris at Career Counseling & Learning Center.

 

 

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

HARRISON –

Marie Mendes likes the individual attention she’s getting on formulating her resume.

For Lenora Jones, it’s the professional guidance in “learning to sell myself” to prospective employers.

Others appreciate the instruction they get in updating their computer skills.

It’s all part of the services offered at the Career Counseling & Learning Center at Goodwill Industries’ New Jersey headquarters in Harrison which, since it opened in late August 2013, has seen about 60 clients, said Goodwill Northern NJ Division Vice President Lori Friedman.

With a statewide unemployment rate hovering at close to 8% and some 90,000 Garden State residents registered for jobless benefits, Goodwill is doing what it can to offer a road map to those who haven’t given up the struggle.

The CCLC operates out of second floor offices at the Harrison facility at 400 Supor Blvd. three days a week, with a $50,000 grant from the Bank of New York Mellon Foundation funding personnel and computer software costs, Friedman said.

“The CCLC offers free career assistance and online computer training to individuals who are unemployed, are looking for a job, want to re-enter the job market or advance in their career,” a Goodwill website posting explains.

“Services include: online learning for typing and Office Suite, resume building, interview preparation, one-onone career counseling, career development workshops, effective job search skills, networking technique and social media for job search.”

Many of the center’s clients are repeat visitors, who check its continually updated bulletin board for job leads in the region and a resource table chock-full of information on a range of support services, from food banks to emergency shelters to job fairs to social media as a tool for job networking.

Nearly half of the clients come to upgrade their computer skills and thereby enhance their employability prospects.

CCLC Counselor Robin Garris, a Verona resident who has spent many years as a public sector metro-area career services director and human resources manager, also helps clients create or update resumes.

Clients, pretty much equally divided by gender, range from their early 20s to retirees, Garris said. “We have veterans, people with disabilities, everyday people who’ve lost their jobs,” she said.

Periodically, Garris invites experts to the center to speak to clients on various job-related topics. Recently, Barbara Kimmich, executive director of Lloyd Staffing, a Parsippany- based job recruiting agency, came to speak about the interviewing process – which many find daunting.

Photo by Ron Leir Client Lenora Jones checks on job postings.

Photo by Ron Leir
Client Lenora Jones checks on job postings.

 

Like Irvington resident Lenora Jones, who served as an administrative assistant with the Army’s 1st Armored Division in Germany from 1979 to 1986, but insists she’s “scared to be interviewed” by a prospective employer.

But Jones says she’s learning, gradually, to overcome that feeling with her counselor’s help. “I have to sell myself,” she says.

And she’s building her confidence with a newly revised resume now configured to fit one page that lists her prior service as a “floater” for Bell Communications and as secretary for 3M Co., along with her work for the military.

She’s been jobless for nearly a year, having last worked as an IT contractor but having left voluntarily because “I got tired of it, no benefits, no stability. And I have my two boys to consider: one is 23 in college, the other is 16 in high school.”

Then there is Harrison’s Marie Mendes who had the misfortune to lose an administrative position with an international firm in 2011 when the company “had to return to their native country, Portugal,” and found a job with another company, only to see that outfit close in the following year.

Mendes started doing job searches at the Harrison Public Library but she said she “needed a faster computer,” and “the library referred me [to the CCLC] and I landed here in October. I love the individual attention. Robin is my personal teacher, my secretary, and, I hope, my friend.”

Armed with those personal tutorials, Mendes says she’s begun to overcome “the barrier of language” in job interviews – and composing a cover letter to accompany a resume. “That’s been a big problem,” she says.

Her hard work seems to be paying off, though. “Robin is teaching me how to approach employers and I got several interviews,” Mendes notes proudly. “So, at least things are moving … little by little. Because I got help from my ‘family’.”

Jones is optimistic, too. “I just interviewed for a position with the SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) at Rutgers University (at the School of Environmental and Biological Science) and for an office manager opening in the New York theater district,” she says.

“Coming here, I feel good – you’re not by yourself and it’s better than going to a temp agency because here, they make you feel supported,” Jones adds.

So far, Garris says, three of her clients have found jobs.

An Essex County man in his mid-20s who was taking janitorial classes landed a job with Costco, a retail merchandiser, in North Plainfield. He’d been out of work for more than two years.

A Union County woman in her early 30s and a college graduate who had lost a job in the retail trade did a lot of preparation with her resume and interview practice, and she was hired as an executive assistant with Sanofi Pharmaceuticals.

Photo by Ron Leir Bulletin board lists job opportunities by work category.

Photo by Ron Leir
Bulletin board lists job opportunities by work category.

 

And a Bergen County man in his late 50s who took early retirement from an executive position when his company downsized decided to pursue an avocation that had always been his “dream job” and succeeded by getting hired by an area YMCA as a karate instructor. “He’s enjoying every second of it,” Garris said.

“The Career Counseling & Learning Center has become a catalyst for hope for so many people — some who’ve hit rock bottom, others who’ve had great, steady jobs but lost them when their companies merged or closed and some whose unemployment benefits have been exhausted,” Garris said.

Hours at the CCLC are: Monday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday, 2 to 7 p.m.; and Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Job seekers are invited to register by calling 973-481-2300 or e-mailing CCLC@goodwillnynj. org.

For more information about the program, contact Lisa Fiore, Goodwill director of rehabilitation services, at 973-474-2023 or LFiore@goodwillny.org.

Trying to keep Kearny tidy & safe

Photo by Ron Leir Damaged roof at 61 Dukes St.;

Photo by Ron Leir
Damaged roof at 61 Dukes St.;

 

 

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

Ed and Julie Kelley are at their wit’s end. They live next door to 47 Morgan Place, an empty house with a garage and outdoor pool, all in questionable condition.

Since the disabled owner moved out in fall 2010, the property has turned into an “eyesore,” Ed Kelley said.

The bank that has the mortgage has kept up the real estate taxes and has retained a caretaker, but issues keep cropping up, prompting the town’s Public Works Department to come in and assess the situation and, if it’s deemed dire enough, to call in a property management contractor for repairs and bill the owner for the work.

At some point after the owner of 47 Morgan Place departed the premises, water was discovered running from a broken pipe in the basement of the house, leaving mold spores on the walls in its wake, Kelley said.

Police and fire personnel were called in and all utility connections were checked to make sure they were shut off, said town Public Works Director Gerry Kerr.

Photo  courtesy Kearny DPW Piles of debris collected at 144 Kearny Ave.;

Photo courtesy Kearny DPW
Piles of debris collected at 144 Kearny Ave.;

 

“Because of recent high winds, the garage, like the basement [of the house], is now very accessible,” Kelley advised town officials in a Jan. 12 e-mail. Since then, Public Works arranged through its contracted property management firm to restore the plywood covering the opening.

But, inside the garage, there is “an abandoned refrigerator,” Kelley said. Hopefully, he added, no small kids will try exploring and climb inside.

Then there’s the outdoor pool in his neighbor’s yard. For a couple of years, Kelley said, it was covered by a skeletal wood frame supporting a tarpaulin, all surrounded by chicken wire. Over time, though, the tarp disintegrated and “over the past two summers, there have been leaks,” he said.

As of last week, Kelley said, the town’s contractor had begun to fill the pool with dirt and, according to Kerr, it will also be depositing stone to contain any excess water.

Photo  courtesy Kearny DPW Exposed pool in rear yard of 47 Morgan Place.

Photo courtesy Kearny DPW
Exposed pool in rear yard of 47 Morgan Place.

 

Meanwhile, there’ve been problems at the house, too. Last spring, Assistant Construction Official Anthony Chisari recalled, the town got complaints about untended overgrowth in the yard and a collapsing front porch, to which the management firm responded by cutting the grass and propping up the porch.

And, in July 2012, the owner was hit with a court summons for violations of the town’s property maintenance code which can be punishable by fines of up to $1,000. The complaint is still pending, Chisari said.

Ultimately, the management firm ended up taking down the porch structure as unsafe last September.

Still, there are other worries.

The fact that Kelley can “open the house’s cellar door” poses concern that squatters and/or animals can get inside. And there’s the matter of a “listing” 3-foot masonry retaining wall that runs along the northern border of his property. “If it falls down – which, some day, it undoubtedly will – who’s going to pay to fix that?” he wondered.

The Kelleys, who recently switched from renters to owners of their property, are not alone in their frustration. Many other residents around Kearny are facing similar scenarios.

Chisari estimated there are probably as many as “several dozen” properties, including some commercial, many of them abandoned, plagued by property maintenance issues. Among those is a vacant one-family house at 61 Dukes St. damaged in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy when a large tree fell onto the roof, causing gaps where raccoons have been reported going in and out, he said.

Fix_web4

 

According to figures supplied by DPW’s Kerr, Kearny spent about $36,000 in 2013 for repairs on 49 properties scattered around town. About a third of that total, Kerr noted, went for a cleanup of massive amounts of debris and furniture covering the grounds of an occupied residence at 144 Kearny Ave.

So far, the town has incurred about $4,100 in fix-up costs for 47 Morgan Place, “mostly for repairs in 2013,” and the Tax Department has placed liens on the property for that amount, said CFO Shuaib Firozvi.

Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle recalled neighbors complaining about “a dangerous condition” at a Linden Ave. property where “squirrels were going in and out of the eaves of a garage and the structure was ready to blow over.” After the town issued a violation notice and imposed a fine, the owners “took care of it,” she said, but it took “three or four months” for that to happen.

Raccoons were making themselves at home at an abandoned house on Oakwood Ave., off Belgrove Drive, Doyle said. “That property has been a mess for three years,” she said. “We can put plywood on the windows but I don’t know how much else we can do, short of arresting the [owners] and I don’t think we want to do that, particularly if they are elderly.”

“In some cases,” Doyle said, “if the owners have passed on, there may be complications with the estate in control of the property.” The other issue, she said, is if a bank has foreclosed on a property and has assumed payment of taxes, “lots of times, institutions don’t follow up on making repairs” because they’ve already taken a loss on the property.

Given the legal restrictions, Doyle said, “Kearny has done everything we can to try to protect the neighbors and to be fair to everyone.”

While the numbers of neglected structures to which the town has tended in recent years has grown, Mayor Alberto Santos said he saw “one positive sign” in abandoned properties “slowly going back to private hands,” as in the case of a previously boardedup property on Grove St. being restored for rental and a new home being built on Maple St. behind the firehouse.

“Interest is there,” Santos

New CFO, rec leader on board

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

NORTH ARLINGTON –

The borough has hired two new key employees: a chief finance officer and a new recreation director. On Jan. 14, the Borough Council’s three Democrats voted to appoint Eugene Leporiere of Scotch Plains as its part-time CFO at a salary of $25,000 a year, replacing interim CFO/Administrator Tom Kane. The three Republicans abstained.

Kane had been filling in for James Mangin, who left last year after a dispute with the then-Borough Administrator Terence Wall.

A borough press release said that Leporiere has been CFO for Upper Saddle River in northern Bergen County for the past seven years, in charge of financial activities in a borough of 8,300 residents, slightly more than half of North Arlington’s population.

Leporiere will continue to perform his duties in Upper Saddle River while putting in 10 hours a week in North Arlington.

Leporiere previously served as CFO of Bergenfield and Hillside and, before that, was controller for the Irvington Board of Education and worked in a similar position for Emcore Corp. of Somerset.

“Mr. Leporiere has dealt with municipal and school board budgets for nearly 20 years, which I find a terrific asset for North Arlington,” said Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat.

And Council President Democrat Al Granell, finance chairman, said he was “looking forward to working with an experienced financial professional who will help the Borough Council chart a course toward fiscal responsibility and accountability.”

GOP Councilman Dan Pronti, who sat in for closed-door interviews with two finalists of the “15 or so” applicants for the finance job, said: “Gene interviewed well but when we got to the [public] meeting, I found out that others were interviewed as well. So I couldn’t sit there for the vote and say [Leporiere] was the best candidate for the job. So I abstained.”

One matter that came up during the interview process that Leporiere discussed with borough officials was a six-month suspension of his CPA license by the state Board of Accountancy, effective March 24, 2006. A complaint filed by the state Attorney General’s Office alleged that Leporiere “… in his position as Treasurer of the Union County chapter of the New Jersey C.P.A. Society misappropriated … $4,000” which he subsequently “repaid … plus interest … within six weeks to the chapter.” His license was restored Sept. 24, 2006.

Asked about this matter, borough spokesman Thom Ammirato offered this explanation: Leporiere was expecting a loan to pay for his daughter’s hospital bill but there would still be a gap to make the final payment on the bill so he asked the CPA chapter board for an advance and the board voted to grant him a $4,000 loan to be repaid in six weeks with interest. Nonetheless, a member of the state Accountancy Board asked that Leporiere be sanctioned and the board voted 4-3 to do so.

Whatever the case, Ammirato said that Leporiere getting the money advanced to him had no bearing on any of his public sector work

. Ammirato said the borough has yet to fill the other positions vacated with the departure of Wall, who served in the dual capacity of borough clerk and borough administrator.

In the other personnel action taken Jan. 14, the council voted to install Michele Stirone, a Jr. Vikings cheerleading coach, as part-time recreation director at $7,500 a year. She replaces James Herrmann, who has served in the post several years.

Massa said that Stirone, who works in the personnel/ accounting field in the private sector, “indicated an interest in the position and I interviewed her and a couple of others. She’s been involved in the borough recreation program a number of years.”

Last year, Massa said he’d “extended the courtesy of an additional year to Jim Herrmann and, after reviewing accountability issues, I thought [Stirone] would be a good fit. … I want to make [recreation] an inclusive program and I thought this would be a good way to show the community we are an equal opportunity employer and give others an opportunity to serve.”

Asked to elaborate about “accountability issues,” Massa said: “We’d like to see [recreation] vouchers processed in a timely manner. Some vendors were complaining that they hadn’t been paid. I believe that’s been resolved.”

Borough Republicans had pushed for Herrmann’s reappointment and several of Herrmann’s advocates attended the meeting to show support for him. Last week, Hughes said: “I have yet to see [Stirone’s] resume or anything about her. We didn’t know anything about [her proposed appointment] until the middle of the meeting when her name was revealed. There’s no transparency. It was completely out of line.”

Hughes also griped about “last minute” Dems’ nominations of appointees for the Board of Health, Recreation Committee, Planning and Zoning Boards, about whom he claimed to know little or nothing. “They also had an appointment to the Library Board but I knew her because she’s Al Granell’s wife,” he said.

Pronti, who coaches recreation softball and soccer, credited Herrmann with doing “a fantastic job … he’s always been on the top of his game.” But he said he seconded the motion to appoint Stirone, “not taking anything away from Jimmy,” because “I believe Michele is a capable candidate.”

Thoughts & Views: ‘There is no Frigate like a Book’

When I was a kid growing up in Jersey City, we had a single first-run bookstore called Pritchard’s occupying a cramped space next to the old Public Service bus terminal in the heart of Journal Square.

Then the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – the same folks who aided and abetted in the recent Bridgegate snafu – built that monstrosity, the Journal Square Transportation Center, and promptly ruined the Square.

Their machinations in reshaping the retail space around what we used to call the Hudson & Manhattan Tube ended up hiking rents and displacing longtime tenants – including Pritchard’s – leaving a city with more than 200,000 residents bereft of for-sale books.

Thank goodness, we still had the Public Library and the two college libraries (assuming you had access). But still, no bookstore?

Only in the past year did we get one and, sometime this year, we may have two. Glory be!

Not that long ago, Hoboken – the city of yuppies that’s been home to now-ex-Gov. Corzine and now-U.S. Sen. Menendez – lost its Barnes & Noble.

Now, it appears that Rizzoli Bookstore will soon be gone from W. 57th St. in Manhattan to make way for big-time developers’ projects. This comes in the wake of the B&N at Sixth Ave. and Eighth St. folding its tent. And on and on.

In the scheme of things, does it matter? Does it mean that fewer folks are willing to support the cause of literacy? Or that many of us just can’t afford the price of a hardcover book in this economy? Or that we’ve abandoned the written word for the Kindle reader or the Internet. Maybe we just want instant information from Google; we don’t want to ruminate over a best seller, a spellbinding mystery, a sci-fi puzzler or a tasty biography.

When I was a fourth-grader, I remember being so engrossed in the book I was reading (which I’d brought from home), I was oblivious to the fact that our class had begun reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. And I was promptly chastised by my teacher for doing so.

Well, I haven’t quite shaken the habit of allowing the printed page to take me on an unscheduled adventure of the mind. So all I can say is, please support your local library because it may turn out to be the last resource for a hungry mind.

Still unconvinced about the need for gun control legislation?

Well, here’s another reminder: A 4-year-old kid was fatally shot by his cousin as they were playing in the victim’s Detroit home on Jan. 16, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The cousin, a 4-year-old girl, dragged a loaded rifle out from under a bed, aimed the gun at the boy and pulled the trigger, hitting her cousin in the chest, police reported.

Finally, from the Department of What Could They Be Thinking?, there was this development from the Country Down Under:

The people running the Australia Tennis Open didn’t suspend play even though the temperature exceeded the 100 degree mark for four days. Apparently, officials didn’t feel the conditions that disabled several players and many spectators met their “extreme heat” specifications so as to justify closing the roof or shutting down the proceedings.

Just a little dab of sunscreen, a cap, and you’ve got it made in the shade, right?

– Ron Leir

Nutley hometown hero returns

Photo courtesy Nocera family Staff Sgt Michael T. Nocera

Photo courtesy Nocera family
Staff Sgt Michael T. Nocera

 

Army Sgt. Michael T. Nocera of Nutley celebrated his recent homecoming with family and friends after serving in Afghanistan where he was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Nocera served as an Infantry Squad Leader responsible for leading nine soldiers in combat. Upon returning to his base in Savannah, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

Nocera was previously deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.

In September, while still serving in Afghanistan, Nocera was selected from approximately 12,000 soldiers and recognized by the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-101 as the Hero of the Week.

During his tour of duty in the Army, Nocera has received the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon Army, Service Ribbon National Defense Service Medal.

He is a Nutley High School graduate and enlisted in the Army four years ago.

KPD blotter: Dove or jailbird?

Officer John Fabula was on patrol on the 200 block of Passaic Ave. on Jan. 13 when he noticed two individuals “huddled” in the corner of a building and apparently attempting to conceal something, Chief John Dowie reported.

Approaching them on foot, he reportedly saw one trying to stuff a pair of pants into a backpack that appeared to be already full. The second man initially refused to remove his hands from his waistband and face the officer, but eventually produced two bottles of Dove bodywash from under his shirt, Dowie said.

Backup Officers Sean Kelly and Malinda Esposito arrived, but the individual with the backpack reportedly refused to comply with police requests to examine it.

Esposito went to Kmart, reviewed security video, and observed the same two individuals stealing bodywash and deodorant, police said. Armed with an affidavit signed by store security, the officers took the duo into custody and finally searched the backpack, which allegedly was found to contain the same items that had been shoplifted. (Apparently, bodywash and deodorant are favorite black-market items. Either that, or the suspects wanted to smell really sweet and fresh.)

Danny Morales, 35, of Newark was charged with shoplifting, summonsed and released. His alleged cohort — the backpack guy — faces graver consequences. Bruce True, 28, of Newark, allegedly was found to be in possession of three glassine folds of suspected heroin, labeled “Gravity,” two hypodermic syringes, a crack pipe and wire cutters.

Along with shoplifting, True was charged with possession of burglar tools, CDS and drug paraphernalia.

The merchandise was returned to the store.

Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:

Jan. 10

An arrest warrant was issued for a woman who fled Kmart on Passaic Ave. after security attempted to detain her on suspicion of shoplifting. The “combative” suspect “violently resisted” the guards and assaulted one with her handbag before escaping in a car with Washington, D.C., plates, Dowie reported.

Officer Leroy Bibbs responded to the 1:15 p.m. report of the crime, did a plate/driver’s license check, and found a Virginia license for the owner. Police said Kmart security identified the woman in the license photo as the suspect: Jdira Nora, 27, of Washington. Patrol units were alerted to be on the lookout for the car.

Officer Jay Ward took a report from a Forest St. resident who believed he had been the victim of a phone scam. The man said he had received a call from two reputed Internal Revenue Service employees who led him to believe he was more than $2,000 in arrears on his taxes and needed to make a payment immediately to avoid an arrest warrant.

The victim was hoodwinked into providing his bank account PIN numbers, and subsequently more than $1,200 was withdrawn in three separate transactions, police said.

The case has been referred to the Detective Bureau for investigation.

At 9:30 p.m., in the area of Kearny and Johnston Aves., Vice detectives observed a car operated by a Belleville man whom they reportedly knew to be the subject of an active warrant out of Union Township. When they stopped the vehicle, they detected the odor of marijuana and a search revealed a container of a substance believed to be the drug, police said. Issa Waldron, 29, was arrested on the warrant and drug charges and also was issued a summons for driving with a suspended license.

Jan. 11

Officers Derek Hemphill and Tom Sumowski were on patrol at 3:30 a.m. in South Kearny when they were alerted to a possible assault at a Hackensack Ave. service station. They arrived to find 23-year-old Plainfield resident Charrod Wilson, who denied knowledge of any assault, but who requested that the officers give him a ride home. Said request was politely refused.

People at the station told the cops they did not want Wilson hanging around, but he refused to leave, police said. Checked for warrants, he reportedly was found to be wanted by Woodbridge and finally got his ride in the patrol car, to KPD headquarters, not Plainfield.

At HQ , he phoned “the love of his life” to get a ride home from her, Dowie said, “but apparently her love did not extend beyond a 10-mile radius because she advised him that Kearny was too far,” so he remained a guest of the KPD.

Jan. 12

At 3 a.m., Officer Mike Santucci responded with the Kearny EMS to a Devon St. address where a 20-year-old man has been assaulted. The victim, suffering a head injury, was found in the hallway of the multi-family dwelling and was transported to Clara Maass Medical Center. Following inquiries, suspect Reynaldo Fuentes, 29, of Kearny was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault.

At 3:30 a.m., Officer Tom Pontrella responded to the 200 block of Schuyler Ave., where a car had struck a parked vehicle and then left the scene. While Pontrella was searching the area for the 2003 Saturn with heavy front-end damage, the auto was found by Officer Pat Becker on a grassy area adjacent to the Walmart lot. Pontrella arrived to question the driver, Vanessa Casaretto, 30, of Washington Township, who was taken to HQ for an Alcotest and charged with DWI and leaving the scene of an accident. Casaretto was also found to be wanted by Maywood, Rahway and Paramus PD, police said.

Jan. 13

At 10 p.m., Vice detectives at Passaic Ave. and Afton St. observed a gray Mercedes speeding, tailgating and travelling erratically, followed it along Afton and Belgrove Drive and stopped it at Devon and Liberty Sts., where the driver was seen discarding an object onto the passenger-side floor, police said. It allegedly turned out to be a vial of ketamine. During a search incident to his arrest, David Lopez, 31, of North Bergen, was found to have a sceond vial of the drug in his jacket pocket, police said. He was charged with possession of a CDS and drug paraphernalia and issued a summons for reckless driving.

Jan. 15

At 8 p.m., Officer Malinda Esposito responded to the 100 block of Devon Terrace when a resident reported that his home had been burglarized sometime during the day. Dresser drawers were in disarray, and an iPod and Kindle tablet were missing. Dets. John Telle and Ray Lopez are conducting the follow-up investigation.

– Karen Zautyk