Same script: roster keeps changing


And still they come and go. Such is the personnel pattern that prevails at both the Police and Fire departments in Kearny these days.

Last Tuesday, the Kearny Town Council authorized the hiring of 15 new cops and 10 new firefighters – all replacements for retirees, according to town authorities.

And several of the newbies – like the police chief’s son – are following a legacy path that has become something of a tradition in the public safety ranks.

The new police officers appointed, effective July 20, at a starting salary of $41,282, are, in order of ranking on the state Civil Service test, are: Jason M. Rodrigues, Jose M. Castillo, Daniel M. Lopez, Kyle J. Plaugic, Alan E. Stickno, Michael A. Alvarez, David S. Bush, Jonathan W. Dowie, John F. Donovan Jr., Darwin Paulino, Michael Gontarczuk, Andre M. Fernandes, Sean P. Wilson, Richard Poplaski and Jose D. Perez Fonesca.

Going on the Fire Department payroll, at a starting pay of $33,000, effective July 27, are: Javier Fandino, Paul Logan, Jason Montalvo, Carlos Ramos, Christian DiAmantino, Stephen J. Taylor, Richard Caposeina, Jeremy L. Kook, Joseph Gurkas and Yamil Miranda.

Mayor Alberto Santos said that because both departments in the past 12 months have experienced “double-digit” retirements and that, due to being short-handed, both have run up heavy overtime bills, the town had no choice but to put on more bodies.

And, he said, the state fiscal monitor assigned to Kearny has signed off on the hirings.

Santos said that most of the rookies will be undergoing training before hitting the streets toward year’s end.

Still, even with the new hires on board, both department heads said they’ll be coming back to the governing body asking for more soon enough.

Police Chief John Dowie said the new batch “will bring me to [an overall total of] 110, which is still 10 below my ordinance strength and I’m going to lose at least five guys – three superiors and two rank-and-file – to retirement by Jan. 1.”

On the Fire Department side, Chief Steven Dyl said his recruits will push his overall strength to 82, “but we’ll still be 20 short of our T.O. [Table of Organization].” So he’ll be looking for more personnel soon from the existing hiring list which has been extended indefinitely.

On the plus side, Dowie said that with the new replacements, he can begin to “start replenishing” specialty units like Cops in Schools, “directed patrol” assigned to activities like neighborhood issues and traffic control, motorcycle squad, warrants, ABC and detectives “that we’ve had to cannibalize or eliminate” because of being short-staffed.

Pointing to a pile of applications in his office, Dowie said, “We went through 325 names to get these 15.”

As many as 60% of the applicants ended up rejected, Dowie said, because of background information they omitted, such as bad driving records, juvenile offenses, failed drug tests, domestic violence incidents, arrests or residency misrepresentation. In some cases, an applicant “didn’t show up for fingerprint checks,” he said.

Among the new police and firefighter appointments are several with public safety legacies.

For the Police Department, those include the following:

Jonathan Dowie, the son of current Police Chief John Dowie, represents the third generation of Dowies to serve the force.

Kyle Plaugic is the son of 27- year KPD veteran John Plaugic, currently serving as a detective.

Alan Stickno’s grandfather Joe Halpin is a retired Jersey City police sergeant and his uncle Michael Halpin is an active Harrison police officer.

Sean Wilson’s brother Donnie is a Franklin Lakes police officer and instructor at the Bergen County Police Academy.

Richard Poplaski is another third generation member of the KPD: His grandfather is retired Det. Eddie Poplaski and his dad is Sgt. Richard Poplaski.

For the Fire Department, the family connections are these:

Stephen Taylor is a third generation member of the KFD: His grandfather Daniel Taylor retired as a firefighter in 1988 and his dad Andy Taylor is a current firefighter who came on in 1990. And his brother, Andy Jr., is an Englewood firefighter.

Paul Logan’s dad, Robert “Rab’’ Logan, retired from the department in May 2013.

Joe Gurkas is the grandson of former KFD member Joe Gurkas, who retired in October 1978.

As an example of cross-fertilization between departments, there is Police Officer John Donovan Jr., whose dad John Sr., recently retired as a KFD fire inspector.

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