web analytics

This week’s e-Edition, classifieds are now posted

This week’s e-Edition and classifieds are now posted. We apologize for the delay.


Blood appointed

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Take away the “acting” title: the Kearny Board of Education has formally installed Patricia Blood as its official superintendent of schools. The board took the action at a special meeting held last Thursday night at the Lincoln School. The vote was […]


Kearny unveils new monument

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  On May 27, 1922, an estimated 25,000 people gathered in the streets around the small park where Kearny Ave. and Beech St. meet, to witness Gen. John J. Pershing personally dedicate the towering granite monument honoring the Kearny men who died […]


Nutley cops hunt driver in fatal hit-run

A photo (above) of the suspect van was released Nov. 19 by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.   NUTLEY –  Nutley police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating the motor vehicle that struck and killed a 77-year-old woman on Centre St. on […]


School is more than books for these kids

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  HARRISON –  At Washington Middle School in Harrison, nearly 75% of the more than 400 enrolled are just as busy with school-related projects after 3 p.m. as they are during their regular day of classes. And that’s partly by design of the school […]



Frank Goresh

Frank Goresh passed away on Sunday, Jan. 5, surrounded by his family.

Born on Jan. 3, 1940, Frank just celebrated his 74th birthday. He was born in Newark, and became a longtime resident of Kearny.

He was employed by the United States Postal Service for 29 years before retiring in 2000. Frank loved his country and served in the United States Army. He was stationed in Germany in 1962 and was honorable discharged in 1968.

His hobbies were collecting memorabilia for the Civil War and taking trips to Gettysburg, Va. Frank also enjoyed watching old-time movies and relaxing in his favorite chair.

He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Frank M. and Julia Goresh, son Keith T. Goresh, two grandsons Michael F. Goresh and Ryan M. Goresh and a brother Alexander (Ally) Goresh. He is predeceased by his parents Frank and Stella (D’Mytrowitz) Goresh and a brother John Goresh and says goodbye to two long-time friends Joseph Fernandez and Salvator Petruzzi.

A private ceremony was arranged by Shaw-Buyus Home for Services, 138 Davis Avenue, Kearny, and Frank has an eternal resting place at Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Barbara Jean Gorski

Barbara Jean (Laue) Gorski, 60, of Honesdale, died on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at Regional Hospital in Scranton, Pa. She is survived by her husband of 37 years, Chester “Chet” Gorski Jr. The couple married on May 8, 1975, in St. Cecilia’s Church in Kearny.

Born on June 9, 1953, in Irvington, she was the daughter of the late Hans and Dorothy Laue. She was a graduate of Irvington High School, class of 1971. Shortly thereafter, she met her future husband while she was a member of the Woodsiders Drum and Bugle Corps in Harrison, and became engaged in 1974. Barb became the youngest Worthy Matron of the Irvington Chapter of the Eastern Star.

Barb and her husband resided in Kearny, and she was employed as a dental technician with Custom Cast in Irvington. In 1989, she and her family moved to Masthope Ski Mountain Community in Lackawaxen, Pa. Shortly after, she began working at Woodloch Pines Resort in Hawley, Pa., as a reservation clerk. In 2008 she moved to Beach Lake, Pa. and retired from Woodloch in 2011.

Barb was a proud deacon at the First Presbyterian Church in Honesdale, Pa., past VFW Ladies Auxiliary President of Honesdale Post 531, past member of the Masthope Mountain Board of Directors and a Cub Scout Den Leader of Pack 410 of the Beach Lake UMC.

Barb’s love, support, smiling face and positive attitude will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her daughter Jennifer Thomas and husband David of Lackawaxen, Pa.; her son Chester “Andy” Gorski of Beach Lake, Pa.; her brother Joseph Laue and wife JoAnn of Lincroft; her grandchildren Logan Gorski and Kole Gorski Thomas and also her beloved dogs Sarge, Semper, Shotzie and Izzy.

Funeral services were held at the First Presbyterian Church in Honesdale, followed by interment in Indian Orchard Cemetery, Honesdale, Pa. Arrangements were by the Hessling Funeral Home, Inc., Honesdale, Pa.. Condolences may be sent to www.hesslingfuneralhome.com.

Memorial contributions can be made to VFW Ladies Auxiliary, 736 Main St., Honesdale, Pa. 18431.

John E. Jimenez

John E. Jimenez died Jan. 7 at home. He was 72.

Born in Puerto Rico, John lived in Union for 21 years and prior to that, he lived in Irvington.

Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at St. Stephen’s Church. Interment was in Holy Cross Cemetery. To leave an online condolence, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

John was formerly married to Catherine (nee McGaheran). He was the father of Katy Hayes, Susan, John E. Jr., and David Jimenez and the late Robin Lynn Jimenez and brother of Pedro Jimenez and Teresa and Carmen Velez. He is also survived by his four grandchildren James Logan, Jenna Heather, Fiona Raven and Brooklynne Reilly.

Frederick J. Kuhrt Jr.

Frederick J. “Freddie” “Rick” Kuhrt Jr., 58, a lifelong resident of Kearny, died suddenly on Jan. 9.

Arrangements were by the Armitage & Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr.

A Mass of Christian burial was officiated at St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny. Cremation was private.

Condolences may be sent to www.armitagewiggins.com.

Mr. Kuhrt was an automotive technology teacher at Kearny High School for 34 years. He received his B.A. in Industrial Technology at Kean University.

He was a member of the NJEA, the Kearny Teacher’s Association, The Wanderers Car Club of Sussex County, The MG Car Club of Central N.J., The Saxton Falls Hunting Club, president of The Owsego Fishing Club of Kearny, former head coach of The Rifle Club and Freshman Football Coach both at Kearny High School and a seasonal camper at The Great Divide, Green Township.

He was the beloved husband of Deborah Rossi Kuhrt for 34 years, son of Stephanie Levchak Kuhrt and the late Frederick J. Kuhrt Sr., father of Frederick J. “Rick” Kuhrt III (Nicole), member of The NJSP Netcong Barracks and Michael Kuhrt, brother of John Kuhrt (Karen), Lorraine Fitzgerald (Richard) and Garry Kuhrt.

In lieu of flowers, a scholarship at Kearny High School will be created in Mr. Kuhrt’s name and contributions to that scholarship would be appreciated.

Edilia E. Perez

Edilia E. Perez (nee Fadraga) 81, of Kearny, died on Jan. 9 at her home.

A Mass of Christian burial was officiated at Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington. Interment was in Holy Cross Cemetery.

Mrs. Perez was born in Maximo Gomez, Cuba and came to the United States in 1971, settling in Newark and moving to Kearny in 1980. She was a member of The Breast Cancer Survivor Foundation, Kearny.

She exemplified the American Dream. Through hard work and dedication to her family and her country that she loved, she was able to raise a family, travel through Europe and Latin America and purchase her house in Kearny in 1980. Her legacy of love lives on in the hearts of all whose lives she touched.

She was the beloved wife of Juan J. Perez of 52 years, dear mother of Maria Rockfol (Donald), grandmother of Katarina Rockfol, sister of Sarah Goyenechea (Manuel), Eva Tovar and the late Hilda Alfonso, Carlos and Miguel Fadraga, sister-in-law of Roberto Alfonso, aunt of Victoria Fadraga-Matos (Raymon) and their son Raymon, Carlos Goyenechea (Maureen) and their sons Kevin and Ryan, Manuel Goyenechea and Esperanza Clinchot (Charles) and their daughters Kaitlyn and Alexis.

In lieu of flowers, donations To Make A Wish Foundation, 1347 Perrineville Rd., Monroe Township, N.J. 08831 (www.nj.wish.org) would be appreciated.

James Perritt

James Perritt, 70, died on Jan. 4.

Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. The funeral service was held at the funeral home, followed by a private cremation.

Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.

James was born in Jersey City and was a lifelong resident of Kearny.

He served in the U.S. Marines from 1966 to 1968.

Mr. Perritt worked for Monsanto Chemical, which later became Solutia Chemical, in South Kearny for 45 years, retiring several years ago.

James was a member of Frobisher Post 99 American Legion and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, both of Kearny.

He is survived by his wife JoAnne (nee Generoso); three daughters Tracey Solinski (Michael), Katherine Perritt and Kelly Perritt; two sisters Sandra Strain and Georgene Delaney; two brothers Arthur and Edward Perritt and his five beloved grandchildren; Nicholas and Jonathon Solinski and Christopher, Gianna and Juliana Perritt.

He was predeceased by his parents James and Margaret (Matthews) Perritt and his sister Diane Santamassino.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, P.O. Box 1000, Dept. 142, Memphis, Tenn. 38101.

Henry M. Sarnas

Henry M. Sarnas, 64, passed away on Friday, Jan. 10, at Community Hospital in Toms River. He was born in Irvington and resided in Kearny for many years before moving to Bayville.

Henry attended Newark College of Engineering. He worked for PSE&G in Harrison (Gas Generating plant) for many years.

He was the beloved brother of Deacon John Sarnas and his wife Zofia, and the late Robert Sarnas; brother-in law of Donna Sarnas; cherished uncle of Magdalena and Malwina; loyal friend of 50 years, Robert Testa.

Relatives and friends are welcome to attend the funeral on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 9 a.m. at the Shaw- Buyus Home for Services, 138 Davis Ave., at Bergen Ave. Kearny. Thence to Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Kearny, where at 10 a.m., the funeral Mass will be offered. Cremation is private. Visitation is on Tuesday, Jan. 14, from 3 to 7 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn. 38105 (donor stjude.org) would be appreciated.

Evelyn V. Sirois

Evelyn V. (nee Cullen) Sirois of North Arlington (formerly of Bayonne) passed away on Sunday, Jan. 12, at the age of 88. Born in Jersey City, she had lived in Bayonne before moving to North Arlington 30 years ago. She was a tube tester with R.C.A. in Harrison for over 30 years prior to her retirement.

Mrs. Sirois was predeceased by her husband, Reginald A. Sirois; step-son Brian Sirois; sister, Margaret Hoey and brother William Cullen. Surviving are her sisterin- law, Anna Mae Cullen; nieces and nephews, Janice Cullen, Debbie Petruska, Kathleen Chapman, Eileen McNamara, Charles Hoey, and Kenneth Hoey.

Visitation will be at the Dzikowski, Pierce & Levis Funeral Home, 24 E. 19th St., Bayonne, on Tuesday, Jan. 14, from 6 to 9 p.m. The funeral service will be from the funeral home on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 10 a.m. Interment will be in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Please visit www.dplfh.com for directions and condolence messages.

Margaret T. Was

Margaret T. Was (nee Reto), 87, of Clifton, passed away peacefully on Jan. 10.

Born in East Newark, Margaret was raised in Harrison, graduated from Holy Cross School in 1940 and then Holy Cross Commercial in 1942. She lived in Clifton for the past 49 years. Before retirement, she had been employed as a substitute secretary for the Clifton Board of Education for seven years. Prior employment had been as a production manager with Fischer-Stevens in Clifton.

She was a faithful attendee of St. Clare RC Church in Clifton. Margaret was predeceased by her husband, Joseph Stanley Was; her former husband, Francis Rowland; and by her sister, Ellen McNamara.

She is survived by her children and loved ones: Patrick Rowland and his wife, Mary Jane, of Old Bridge; John Rowland and Linda Kain of Lakewood; Thomas Rowland of Kearny and Theresa Fleming; Jane Garbus of Clifton; and Ellen Kilpatrick and her husband, Joseph, of West Orange. She is also survived by her dear niece, Ellen Jennings of Madison. Margaret left behind four grandchildren: Nicole Bakaj and her husband, Thomas Mullen; Pamela Tracy and her husband, Stephen; Kelsey Rowland; and Anna Garbus. She also leaves behind four great-grandchildren: Archer and Kieran Mullen and Vanessa and Cameron Tracy.

All of the above consider it a blessing to have been a part of her life.

Funeral services will be Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. from the Bizub-Quinlan Funeral Home, 1313 Van Houten Ave., Clifton, and 10 a.m. at St. Clare RC Church, 31 Allwood Rd., Clifton. Final service will follow at East Ridgelawn Cemetery, 244 Main Ave., Clifton. Please visit www.bizub.com for driving directions and online condolences.

Consider dental care for the New Year



Happy New Year from the staff and doctors of The Smile and Implant Center, 837 Kearny Ave., Kearny, who would like to extend an invitation to become part of their dental family. Dr. Harry Harcsztark constantly strives to provide his valued patients with state-of-the-art dental treatment and procedures all in a caring, pain-free and modern environment.

People are encouraged to start the New Year with one of the most important exams they can have in 2014. Ongoing scientific study documents the associations linking oral health and periodontal disease to systemic health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, preterm births, pulmonary disease, pancreatic cancer and even kidney disease. So, when thinking of New Year’s resolutions, people may want to consider adding a dental checkup to the top of the list. It just might be the most important check up you can have in the New Year.

For more information on The Smile and Implant Center and the variety of dental services offered including facial beauty treatments, call Alexis at 201-991-1055 or e-mail her at alexis@thesmileandimplantcenter.com.

News from the Nutley Police blotter

Jan. 10

Several Nutley High School students reported that their cellular phones were removed from the gym locker room. The incidents were logged at 10:48 a.m. Detectives are investigating.

Jan. 8

An investigation of a motor vehicle accident on Lloyd St. resulted in the arrest of Jillian Mahon, 24, of Nutley, at 5:11 p.m. Police said Mahon was charged with two counts of possession of cocaine and meth amphetamine and one count of possession of marijuana and released pending a court hearing.

At 4:32 p.m., police responded to a Clover St. resident on a report of harassing phone calls from someone identifying themselves as “Kevin Petterson” of the IRS who reportedly told the resident they needed to pay $2,000 immediately or face jail time for tax fraud. Police said the victim was told to get Pay Pal money cards and to give the information on the cards to him when he called back. The value on the cards was $2,000. But the victim told police that the caller wanted more money and, after the victim refused, the caller hung up. After that, the victim called police who said they tried to contact Petterson without success.

At 4:12 p.m., a DeVausney Place resident reported a burglary to motor vehicle. The victim told police that someone stole about $1,500 worth of power and hand tools and three prescription bottles. Police said the victim told them they found that the vehicle’s rear hatch window had been pried open and the driver’s side window forced down. Police said they found no visible sign of entry and the glass locked when it was closed.

At 2:29 p.m., police said, a motor vehicle stop on Ernest St. resulted in the arrest of Frank Ruglio, 25, of Nutley, for a warrant out of Newark. He was turned over to the custody of Newark PD.

Jan. 7

A motor vehicle stop, at 4:11 p.m., on Brookfield Ave. ended with the arrest of Anthony Capaccio, 30, of Nutley, on a charge of possession of drugs. He was released pending a court date.

Jan. 6

At 10:31 a.m., police responded to a River Road location on a reported of an attempted break-in. The resident caller told police they were in their house when they heard the door bell ring and a loud knock on the door. As they walked toward the door, they said they heard someone trying to force their way in so the resident held the door shut and shouted to their spouse to call the police. The caller told police they saw two tall men, both wearing black clothing, black hats and orange gloves, carrying a crow bar, run from their front steps to a vehicle in the driveway with another man in the driver’s seat. The car, described as a possible Oldsmobile sedan, grey, four-door, was last seen heading south on River Road. Police said they saw pry marks in the front door lock. Detectives are reviewing the resident’s home surveillance tape for possible clues.

– Ron Leir

BREAKING: Nutley police seek help locating 16-year-old girl


Christina Simeonidis

The Nutley Police Department is seeking help to find a missing girl.

Christina Simeonidis, 16, was last seen in Nutley on Jan. 8. She has a tattoo on her left wrist that says “Heaven.”

She may be in the company of her boyfriend, a 26-year-old.

If you have information that can assist in helping safely locate Simeonidis, please call 9-1-1 or contact the Nutley Police Department at (973) 284-4940 or the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit at (800) 709-7090.

Hydrants will be tested Jan. 13 in North Arlington

Water pressure could be low and it could be discolored when hydrants are tested Jan. 13 in North Arlington.

Water pressure could be low and water could be discolored when hydrants are tested Jan. 13 in North Arlington.

The Passaic Valley Water Commission and borough fire department volunteers will be testing fire hydrants in the borough on Jan. 13 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Work is expected to be completed the same day.

In a message to residents, the PVWC assures all customers that the water will be safe for use during this period, although water pressure may be low and there may be some water discoloration.   Water customers are cautioned to determine that the water is clear before washing clothes.

The hydrant inspections reflect ongoing efforts between borough officials and the water utility to improve the water distribution system, said Council President Al Granell.  The borough reached a negotiated settlement with the PVWC in October in which the utility agreed give the borough $275,000 and help fund fire hydrant inspections.

“I’m pleased to see that the PVWC is living up to its responsibility to inspect and upgrade the borough’s water infrastructure,” said Granell. Read more »

Unhappy New Year for carjack suspect

Photo courtesy KPD Anthony Lewis

Photo courtesy KPD
Anthony Lewis


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent 


A 26-year-old Newark man was languishing in the Hudson County Jail after his arrest last week by Kearny police in connection with a home invasion and carjacking.

The suspect, Anthony Lewis, was nabbed in Newark by the KPD after a foot chase across the Clay St. Bridge, police said. He is being held on a dozen charges and $250,000 cash-only bail.

It was just a few hours into the New Year — at 7 a.m., Jan. 1 — when Kearny police received a report of the home invasion on Tappan St. near Devon St., where a man had “burst into” an apartment in a multi-family building. Police Chief John Dowie said it appears as if the invader had prior knowledge of the victims and/or the residence. There reportedly were at least six people in the apartment at the time.

Responding Officer Jay Ward was advised that the suspect was armed with a handgun and had stolen jewelry, currency and a cell phone, Dowie said.

One of the women in the apartment was taken at gunpoint to her parked car, a 2009 Lexus, and was forced to turn over the keys and surrender the vehicle, in which the bandit then made his getaway alone, Dowie said.

Police issued a BOLO on the car, which Officer Thomas Pontrella found abandoned a short distance away, on Devon St. at Johnston Ave. near the Kearny-Harrison pedestrian bridge.

Believing the suspect was now fleeing on foot, the KPD, with the assistance of the Harrison and East Newark police, set up a containment perimeter. Kearny Sgt. Paul Bershefski, one of those patrolling the perimeter, “had a hunch” the man was heading for Newark, Dowie said, and spotted an individual fitting the fugitive’s description in the parking lot of Tops Diner in East Newark.

Dowie said Bershefski recognized Lewis from previous police encounters and called to him to stop, but Lewis bolted to the Clay St. Bridge and fled across the river with Bershefski in foot pursuit.

During the chase, Lewis reportedly was seen pulling a handgun from his waistband and throwing it into the water.

On the Newark side of the Passaic, Lewis scaled a a fence at a construction site and disappeared on the property, police said. Units surrounded the location, and the suspect was found and taken into custody by KPD Officer Cesar Negron.

Police said no shots were fired during the pursuit and hunt, but some ammunition was recovered in the area where Lewis was arrested.

Lewis has been charged in two jurisdictions. In East Newark, the charges are resisting arrest, possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful disposition of a firearm, tampering with evidence, and ineligibility to possess a firearm because of a prior criminal record.

Kearny has charged him with burglary, robbery, carjacking, possession of a handgun and aggravated assault (for allegedly hitting one of the victims). Police said he also had an outstanding Kearny warrant.

Authorities said that Lewis has a record of nine prior arrests — in Kearny, Harrison, Newark, Irvington and Hillside — and three felony convictions.

Following Lewis’ apprehension, Kearny launched its police boat in hopes of recovering the gun from the river, but the efforts were unsuccessful.

The Bergen County Police Dive Team, which is equipped with an underwater camera and robot, went to the site Thursday, but the current was too strong for them to safely enter the river, Dowie said. The divers were scheduled to return early this week.

Lewis’ $250,000 bail, cash only with no 10% option, was set by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis- Mendez.

Adding but also taking

Photo by Ron Leir The new recruits at Nutley Fire Headquarters with Deputy Chief Paul Cafone. From l.: Cafone and Firefighters Ray Lucas, Michael Ferraro and Alan Nardiello.

Photo by Ron Leir
The new recruits at Nutley Fire Headquarters with Deputy Chief Paul Cafone. From l.: Cafone and Firefighters Ray Lucas, Michael Ferraro and Alan Nardiello.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


The Township has hammered out a new labor contract with its career firefighters’ unions, just in time for three new hires to enjoy the fruit of the unions’ labors … at the negotiating table, that is.

From the union point of view, while some of those fruits will be sweet –pay raises totaling 8% over four years – others will taste sour, especially for new employees but some that will weaken existing contract provisions for old and new.

More about that later. In the meantime, the Nutley Fire Department is happy to welcome its three new members – Ryan Lucas, Alan Nardiello and Michael Ferraro, all age 30 and all Nutley residents.

Nutley hired the trio, only after having applied for – and getting – a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Firefighter & Emergency Response) grant of $599,152 – sufficient to pay the salaries and fringe benefits for four firefighters for two years, with no local match required, according to Deputy Fire Chief Paul Cafone.

Lucas, Nardiello and Ferraro made a state-certified appointment list that the state Dept. of Personnel issued in March 2013 but it wasn’t until the fall when the Township Board of Commissioners voted to hire the three men, after concluding that the township would be able to afford the payments after the two years, Cafone said.

“We hope to hire a fourth firefighter in early 2014,” he added.

That’s when the NFD plans to send Ferraro and the fourth firefighter for a 10-week training program at the Essex County Fire Academy. Lucas and Nardiello recently completed their training. At graduation ceremonies on Dec. 10, his 16 fellow recruits presented Lucas with the Merit Award as the one among them most likely to display leadership qualities on the job.

Ferraro, who had been working as an officer with the New York Police Department, has yet to take the training course.

Lucas has three cousins in the Nutley Fire Department (Capt. Robert Ryan and Firefighters Edward Ryan and Joe Ferraro) and his dad, Ben, having served with the U.S. Navy, was assigned to ordnance and was heavily involved with firefighting duties on his ship. Lucas served with the U.S. Marines Wing Support Squadrons 472 and 473 during a tour of duty in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2007.

After completing his military service, Lucas resumed construction work and then enrolled at Lincoln Technical Institute to get certified as a diesel mechanic but had to take a leave of absence. He hopes to go back at some point and apply his technical skills with the Fire Department.

Nardiello and Ferraro have almost identical backgrounds: Both came up through the local public school system, both joined the Nutley Junior Fire Volunteers, both enrolled at Union County College for fire science degrees. And they got married a month apart.

While his father-in-law, Sal Lubrertazzi, was a member of the NFD before Nardiello applied, the rookie said he’s always been drawn to fire rigs. “I love the thrill of being around fire engines,” he said. “It gives me a sense of pride that I’m able to give a helping hand to people in time of need.”

Ferraro echoed that sentiment, saying: “Being a firefighter is something I always wanted to do as a kid. I wanted to get out there and help people who need you in times not so good for them.”

Staying true to that goal, Ferraro said he’s been “taking the Civil Service test for firefighter from [age] 18 on.

”While waiting to be called, the recruit has worked as a bank teller, as a part-time school custodian, with the family catering business in Belleville, and, most recently, as a two-year member of the NYPD. The temporary tilt to law enforcement could’ve been a family influence, since his great-grandfather, Gerald, was a Nutley Police captain and his dad, also Gerald, was a 25-year Essex County sheriff’s officer.

With the hiring of the rookies, the career NFD roster will climb to 35 – still short of the 39 members who were aboard in 2008, according to Cafone. The shrinkage, he said, was due to retirements, with more likely to come. The career members are backed up by about 60 volunteers, he said.

Then there’s the matter of the new labor contract between the township and FMBA Locals 44 and 44A, for which the terms were outlined in a Dec. 16 memorandum of agreement signed by Public Safety Commissioner/Mayor Alphonse Petracco, Local 44 President Greg Misner and Local 44A Vice President John Hund.

The membership of both locals have voted to ratify the proposed agreement which provides for annual 2% pay raises for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and for hiking clothing allowance, from the current $625 to $675 by 2016, but also calls for these givebacks:

• Reducing the yearly allotment of 60 hours of compensatory time to only 20 hours, effective Jan. 1, 2014.

• Adding three steps to the firefighters’ salary guide, increasing the total number of steps (to reach maximum base pay) to eight.

• Creating an additional step, going up to four, to the salary guide for all newly appointed fire lieutenants and captains.

• Extending, by two, the number of steps, for a total of three, on the guide for deputy chiefs.

• Eliminating longevity for new employees hired after Jan. 1, 2014, except for those hired with the SAFER grant.

• Deleting stipends for senior fire inspector and fire prevention officer.

• Creating a two-tier system for vacation days, holidays and personal days for those employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013.

Another concession being made by the unions is, effective Dec. 31, 2013, “all employees with $15,000 or less in unused sick leave shall be capped at $15,000 upon retirement for the payment of unused sick leave. The sick leave bank for current employees that have more than $15,000 shall be frozen and given a dollar value [which] shall be determined by multiplying the employee’s daily rate of pay as of Dec. 31, 2013 (based upon an eight-hour work day) by the number of days in their sick bank as of Dec. 31, 2013. This frozen amount shall be the maximum amount at retirement for accumulated sick leave.”

Town rethinking ‘exempt’ pay package

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


With Christmas in sight, Mayor Alberto Santos and the Town Council tried to bestow some gifts but to those for whom the presents were intended, the spirit of the occasion felt more like the holiday Grinch.

On Dec. 23, the governing body invited public comment on a previously introduced ordinance proposing to grant 2% pay raises – for 2014 only – to 13 “exempt” (managerial) employees unaffiliated with a union, three of whom hold more than one job title.

However, after hearing dissenting opinions from several of the employees who’d be the beneficiaries of the pay adjustment, the mayor and council agreed to table the ordinance pending further review.

Just to be clear: the employees weren’t saying they didn’t want the increase – they were saying it didn’t go far enough. Their last increase came in 2011 but the governing body opted to give nothing for 2012 or 2013.

Chief Financial Officer Shuaib Firozvi, among the affected employees, said: “The total dollar amount of the proposed increase [which he calculated as $34,000] is not significant compared to the town’s overall budget [about $61.7 million] and the individual positions involved.

“And,” Firozvi added, “the town’s financial position hasn’t prevented it from settling with other employee [union] groups for multi-year agreements that didn’t skip two years.”

Firozvi currently earns $108,205 a year as CFO and an additional $33,495 as tax collector. He also receives separate salaries as financial officer of the Kearny Municipal Utilities Authority and as part-time CFO for Northvale in Bergen County.

Another unhappy employee is Fire Chief Steve Dyl, who says he and his colleagues are “always available. We put a lot of time in” – beyond the normal working hours and aren’t entitled to overtime. Dyl’s base pay is $159,207 plus $15,920 in longevity and $12,859 in holiday pay.

And Police Chief John Dowie, whose base pay is $166,800, but also collects $16,680 in longevity and $9,309 in holiday pay, said he was upset because the town’s proposal “didn’t address 2012 and 2013. I don’t think we’re better than other employees but we do want similar consideration given to other employee groups.”

“In 2012,” Dowie said, “a lot of us worked a lot of days during [Superstorm] Sandy. I went a full month without a day off.” During a typical work week, Dowie said, “I put in 55 to 60 hours.”

Several of the exempt employees previously worked under contracts or employment agreements with the town but those have all expired, Dowie said, “so we’re kind of in limbo as to what benefits we’re entitled to. It leaves you wondering.”

Maybe it would be better for the town to propose something more “standardized” for this group of employees, Dowie said.

Other employees included in this group are:

• Michael Martello is on the books as earning $101,052 as construction/zoning officer plus $30,450 as town administrator, and an extra $12,000 as network administrator. • Pat Carpenter, who, late last year, was tenured as municipal clerk, is making $68,317.

• Health Officer John Sarnas, collects $125,256 base pay plus $12,525 in longevity.

• Water Superintendent Richard Ferraioli makes $101,052 base pay plus $11,005 in longevity.

• Public Works Superintendent Gerry Kerr earns $96,118 plus $3,844 in longevity.

• John Peneda gets $75,000 as tax assessor plus $24,500 as Urban Enterprise Zone director. • Personnel Director Kim Bennett draws $76,728 plus $7,672 in longevity.

• Town Treasurer Monica Charran earns $70,194.

• Deputy Town Clerk Lyla DeCastro gets $61,289.

• Mayoral aide Mary Torres receives $47,411 plus $2,844 in longevity.

“Many in this group have been working 25 to 30 years so their salaries would reflect cumulative increases received during that time,” Santos said.

“We have high respect for the work they do,” the mayor said. “Most work well beyond their regular hours.” However, he added, “most of the exempt employees have the highest salaries in town, so not granting them increases for 2012 or 2013 isn’t the equivalent of, say, denying an increase to an employee with a lesser salary. Going without [that increase] is not going to be the hardship it would be for the employee making the lesser amount.”

Elaborating, Santos said: “The town clerk, deputy clerk and assessor positions are on [salary] steps; by state law, the town clerk, tax collector and tax assessor are entitled to pay parity with ‘similar’ employees but there are no clear guidelines on the meaning of ‘similar’ employees.”

So what happens now? The ordinance, as it now stands, is dead and would have to be reintroduced in another form, assuming it is revived, Santos said.

While it’s not the town’s intent “to have 13 sets of negotiations” with each of the exempt employees, Santos said he and the council are awaiting a “counter-offer” from the two chiefs and CFO which, he added, would still have to comply with the state-mandated 2% cap and “would have to be inclusive of longevity and any additional compensation beyond the base pay.”

Once such a proposal is received, Santos said, “we’ll invite [all 13 employees] to come in and discuss” the issue. That doesn’t mean that the town’s ultimate offer would be structured the same for everyone, he said, suggesting that some may prefer to have the 2% spread over time or to get a fixed cash amount, for example.

Kearny EMS out, MONOC in at Harrison

Photo courtesy monoc.org

Photo courtesy monoc.org


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


The Town of Harrison has a new tenant occupying its Cleveland Ave. firehouse.

Kearny Emergency Management Services (EMS) has vacated the space and, as of New Year’s Day, it’s been replaced by Monmouth- Ocean Hospital Service Corp. (MONOC) EMS, based in Wall Township.

Mayor Ray McDonough and the Harrison Town Council voted Dec. 19 to accept the bid submitted by MONOC to provide emergency medical service coverage – basic life support provided by EMTs – for Harrison and East Newark. MONOC says it will also provide medical 9-1-1 call intake, pre-arrival instructions and dispatching.

The town is paying nothing for the service and, in fact, will be collecting $1,500 a month rental fee from the new vendor for stationing of a MONOC ambulance at the Harrison firehouse and for sleeping quarters for MONOC staff, according to Town Attorney Paul Zarbetski.

Zarbetski said that the agreement with the new provider is for one year with a provision for possible two one-year extensions.

Zarbetski said that under the contract terms, MONOC will handle all billing with patients. The vendor will accept payments through third-party insurance firms, including Medicaid and Medicare, he said.

The town won’t be on the hook for any deficits that may be experienced by the vendor, he said.

On its website, MONOC describes itself as a nonprofit hospital cooperative with affiliated member hospitals around the state, including Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, which is part of the Barnabas Health network.

If MONOC’s ambulance is on the road responding to an emergency and another call is received by a dispatcher, then Harrison will deploy one or both of its two backup ambulances, as needed, Zarbetski said.

Zarbetski said MONOC was the only firm to submit a bid on Dec. 17, the date designated by the town for receiving proposals for emergency services. “Kearny didn’t bid, which was surprising,” he added.

It was also puzzling for Harrison Public Safety Director Harold Stahl, who said that during the past two and a half years that Kearny provided the services – responding to about 1,600 calls a year – “we were working well together.”

Kearny EMS, which operates independently of the Town of Kearny, has been an “interim provider” of the services since July 1, 2011, after Harrison – with prodding by the state Dept. of Community Affairs – opted to end a longstanding practice of having its Fire Department, whose members are trained as emergency first-responders, handle ambulance runs.

With a depleted fire personnel roster, Harrison officials felt the town – and neighboring East Newark – would be better served by delegating that service to another entity. At the time, DCA encouraged the town to solicit bids but, instead, the town elected to go with the Kearny squad on a trial basis. Kearny EMS operated from the Cleveland Ave. firehouse with a Harrison ambulance.

In mid-October last year, Kearny EMS President/CEO Harry McNeill wrote to Mc- Donough, serving notice that the squad would “terminate its services as interim EMS provider … effective Dec. 31,” pending Harrison bidding out the service, “… in which Kearny EMS may submit a bid for contract.”

But Kearny didn’t follow through, because, according to Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, “it was not a cost effective service.”

Although the mayor couldn’t provide figures to back that up, he said the Kearny squad “did an analysis” of the operation and concluded the revenue from the Harrison enterprise wasn’t sufficient to cover costs.

Santos said that the squad did receive monthly compensation from Harrison to cover “labor costs” but nothing for administration overhead or for gaps in uncompensated insurance coverage. “Only about one-third of the patients the squad transported were insured,” he said.

“Acute care service is a very competitive industry these days,” Santos said. “With medical conglomerates swallowing up smaller hospitals and hospitals merging, with hospital stays tending to be shorter and more medical procedures being done in outpatient clinics, ambulances are being used to direct patient traffic to those hospitals they’re affiliated with and those ambulances will get subsidized by the receiving hospitals. The Kearny squad has no hospital affiliation agreements and, as required by state protocol, takes patients to the nearest appropriate [medical] facility.”

Without the assurance of a hospital subsidy, “it does not add up” for the squad, Santos said, “unless you make [the deficit] up elsewhere.”

So if an ambulance ends up taking an emergency case to an affiliated hospital, Santos added, “the question then arises, is that the best outcome for the patient?”

While its base is the Jersey Shore area, MONOC isn’t exactly a stranger to this area. In June 2011, the firm was contracted to provide EMS dispatch to Hudson County, meaning that its staff received 911 EMS calls from the county sheriff’s office and, in turn, relayed information to guide first responders – including paramedics, fire or police, if needed – to the correct location. And MONOC currently provides Advanced Life Support paramedic emergency service to the West Hudson region.

MONOC, founded in 1978 “to improve health care and reduce [hospital] members’ costs,” comprimises 15 acutecare New Jersey hospitals from Meridian Health System, Robert Wood Johnson Health Network and Barnabas Health System spread among five counties, the closest being Essex. Its website says MONOC “employs over 700 staff and operates a fleet of over 100 ambulances and works within a $61 million annual budget.”

Affiliated Essex hospitals listed by MONOC are: Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, St. Michael’s Medical Center (now owned by the California-based forprofit chain Prime Healthcare Services) and St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.

In 2004, then-Assemblyman James Holzapfel (R-Ocean) questioned MONOC’s billing practices after receiving complaints from Monmouth and Ocean county patients about allegedly excessive bills for paramedic service. Holzapfel couldn’t be reached during the holiday period to learn what, if anything, resulted from his inquiries.

More recently, while Kearny EMS was providing BLS services for Harrison/ East Newark, Santos said that MONOC would periodically send him letters asking that Kearny share insurance fees the squad received for providing BLS service in connection with ambulance calls to which MONOC also responded – a request that, Santos said, Kearny consistently rejected. He said the cooperative threatened to sue but never did.

2014 forecast: ‘Trying to contain taxes’

Observer photo Mayor Alberto Santos

Observer photo
Mayor Alberto Santos



Sworn in for his 12th consecutive term as Kearny’s chief executive at the town’s annual reorganization meeting Friday night, Mayor Alberto Santos delivered an Inaugural Address, listing financial stability, public safety protection and development as being among his administration’s priorities for the next four years.

The mayor also attacked Gov. Chris Christie’s administration for what he felt were oppressive fiscal policies.

And he also lauded new community initiatives such as the newly formed West Hudson Arts and Theatre troupe whose mission is to be “a cultural resource that will enrich and invigorate the West Hudson community as a whole,” along with the successful first season of the Kearny Community Garden and organizers Jenny and David Mach, Ed and Peg Bixler for “beautifying, educating and nourishing the Kearny community.”

Addressing the town’s fiscal pressures, Santos said: “The future must … be one in which Kearny remains affordable to live and work,” Santos said. “With property taxes in Kearny exceeding $9,000 a year for an average-assessed home in a community that is predominantly working class and fixed-income households, the homeowner’s tax burden is heavy.”

Fixed costs figure into that tax equation, Santos said. “Since my first year as mayor (2000), employee pension costs have nearly tripled, health insurance costs have more than doubled and garbage and sewage disposal costs have doubled,” he noted. “These costs will add up to $23 million in this year’s budget, which is almost one-third of the total budget.”

In hopes of securing an equitable share of state revenue, Santos said he would “remain vigilant against efforts to undo tax sharing in the New Jersey Meadowlands.” This year’s funding formula, he said, provided Kearny with $3.8 million in revenue that helped balanced the municipal budget.

To try and shake loose additional revenues, Santos said he would press state lawmakers to lift the tax exempt status currently afforded CSX and NJ Transit for “two of the largest rail yards in the region,” as well as the county jail; two PSE&G power plants, including a $250 million peaking facility; and shipping container storage facilities, all located in South Kearny.

“Highways such as the N.J. Turnpike, the Pulaski Skyway and Rt. 1&9 impose demands on Kearny’s police and fire departments, and take up substantial portions of Kearny real estate, but generate zero revenue for the town,” he said.

State aid to Kearny has also taken a hit, Santos said. The town’s share of the state’s energy tax receipts and property tax relief programs has dropped from $21.4 million in 2000 to $18.4 million. By changing the original Public Utility tax, the state has deprived Kearny of the “full amounts” due from utilities, he said. “If the law had been followed,” Santos said, “Kearny would have received an additional $46 million from the state over the past 10 years.”

Because of these inequities, along with the mandated 2% budget cap, “we are losing our fiscal capacity to govern,” Santos said. If the state continues “encroaching” on home rule, it will open the door wider to “further consolidation of state power and probably mandated regionalism from above by the attachment of strings to whatever reduced revenues are dispensed by the state to municipalities.”

“The current state policies that reduce municipal financial burdens under the pretense of fiscal austerity will not reduce the property tax burden,” Santos said. “Rather, they will further centralize the power of the state at the expense of local democracy.”

– Ron Leir