By Ron Leir
NORTH ARLINGTON –
Republican loyalist Brian Fitzhenry was rewarded for his longtime service to the party with an appointment to the North Arlington Borough Council last Thursday.
Fitzhenry, 50, a Jersey City native and St. Peter’s College alum who has spent most of his life in the borough, was named to fill the seat vacated by Mayor Joseph Bianchi when Bianchi mounted a successful campaign for mayor.
Fitzhenry, marketing director for NewRent Inc., a Kearny-based semi-trailer rental and sales business, was one of three candidates put forward for the empty council seat by the North Arlington Republican County Committee. He was nominated for the appointment Thursday night by fellow Republican Councilman Richard Hughes and was unanimously voted in.
The GOP now enjoys a 5-2 majority, including the mayor, on the borough governing body.
“I want to thank the Republican Party for having faith in me to do the job,” Fitzhenry said, after being sworn into office by Bianchi. “I also want to thank the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department. It’s good to have two families. (He’s been a volunteer since 1991 and a former chief.) And I thank my family.”
Fitzhenry had two prior unsuccessful bids for public office, the first in 2004 with a try for Borough Council and then in 2013 for State Senate in the 36th District.
Still, the Republican is no stranger to public service, as he noted in his public remarks following his appointment. During the last 24 years, he said he’s been a member – and chairman – of the borough zoning board, helped acquire gear and equipment for the Fire Department and coached recreation sports. Currently an assistant fire chief with the volunteers, he is a former Board of Education member.
A key goal Fitzhenry said he has set to work on with the rest of the Bianchi administration is putting a lid on rising property taxes while continuing existing public services.
After congratulating the new appointee, Bianchi reminded the audience that, as the community’s chief executive, “You’re only as good as the people who surround you and with this council in place, I have the best. This is the tops. We have a great nucleus – young and old – to start the new year. These are workers and you can always access them. They’re here.”
In other municipal action, the mayor and council split on partisan lines on the appointment of James Herrmann as borough recreation director at $7,500 a year. Democrats Al Granell and Tom Zammatore opposed the move. Herrmann has four prior years of service in the post. Last year, a Democratic majority replaced him with Michele Stirone.
But the Dems did not contest the appointments of Firefighter (and former chief) Mark Zidiak as OEM (Office of Emergency Management) coordinator for three years at $2,500 a year, Lori Fischer as secretary to the Rent Leveling Board, Barbara Octubre to the Library Board and Fitzhenry to the Planning Board.
Borough Attorney Randy Pearce advised the governing body that the Dec. 29 council appointment of Kathy Kartanowicz to the Library Board was “done incorrectly” because it “should have been a mayoral appointment” and it “was not listed on the [meeting] agenda.” The only way to remedy it now is by someone filing a legal action with the court and getting “a judicial determination.”
Brian Intindola, of Neglia Engineering, the borough’s new consulting engineering firm, told the mayor and council that he’ll work with the county ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator to get approval for work to be done on new disability access corner ramps for the North Arlington side of Jauncey Ave. as a precursor for paving that street. “If you don’t have your ADA ramps, your paving gets held up,” he said. The borough must lay out the money for the ramps and then apply for county reimbursement, he added.
In other business, the council heard a pitch by Bergen County Freeholders Maura DeNicola of Franklin Lakes and Steve Tanelli of North Arlington asking the borough to get behind an advocacy effort for county residents with disabilities, who, DeNicola noted, “are one of the fastest growing segments of our community.”
Tanelli agreed that with the increasing numbers, “it’s almost becoming an epidemic.” But, he added, the county offers a helpline to these constituents. “They have a lot of programs I never knew existed and a lot of them are free. Try to buy in so we can answer the call.”
Bianchi recalled that the borough had been seeking a grant to provide a recreation program for those with autism but had been shut out. At his mayor’s urging, the council passed a resolution to create a committee to work with the county to explore avenues for county and/or state grant funding to support those with special needs. The committee members will include a council liaison selected by the mayor, representatives of the Planning Board, Health Department, Recreation Department, OEM, the Board of Education and the business community. So far, 21 municipalities in Bergen have signed on.
And the council deferred action on a request by Ridge Park/Arlington Park Apartments for a capital improvement rent surcharge over and above the allowable 30% for 10 vacant apartments that are being upgraded pending additional testimony by the applicant.