School bond passes; police policy pitched


Legal steps to finance a new junior high school were set in place and a police promotional policy was proposed at a recent meeting of the Lyndhurst Township Board of Commissioners.

At a public hearing June 14, the commissioners approved ordinances adopting a redevelopment plan for 281 Ridge Road, the location of Lincoln Elementary School, and authorizing the sale of $50 million in bonds for a new school.

Lincoln School, more than a century old, is to be torn down to make way for some type of commercial development after the township – in concert with the Board of Education – builds a new school building on Matera Field for grades 7, 8 and 9.

Once the junior high is completed and a certificate of occupancy has been issued, the BOE is to transfer title of the Lincoln School property to the township. Lincoln School will stay in use until such time as the junior high has opened, which is projected some four years from now.

Meanwhile, as a separate school infrastructure move, the BOE is placing a public referendum on the general election Nov. 8 ballot asking Lyndhurst voters to allow the board to spend $19 million for improvements to the high school and five elementary schools. Of that amount, the BOE expects to receive nearly $4 million state debt service aid.

The mutual agreement between the township and BOE specified that the Board of Commissioners were to introduce the bond ordinance for the junior high building “within 120 days following the Nov. 2016 general election,” so the township is actually ahead of schedule, noted BOE/township counsel Richard DiLascio.

As per an agreement between the Board of Commissioners and the BOE, the junior high will be built whether or not the referendum passes.

The township has projected that financing for the junior high – when paired with the reduction of the long-term debt remaining from the aborted EnCap development project – will mean “that for a period of 11 years, 2018 through 2028, the average cost to the taxpayer will be approximately $40 annually.”

Lyndhurst officials said they expect to repay much of the junior high debt with revenues from the future sale of the Lincoln School property to real estate developers and ratables expected from the developed property.

DiLascio said the township will apply $2.5 million from a surplus account for a downpayment on the junior high bond sale.

On the law enforcement front, meanwhile, the commissioners voted for the introduction of two ordinances dealing with the Lyndhurst Police Department: one setting rules for the administration and operation of the department and the other creating a promotional policy.

“We’re still tweaking the documents,” DiLascio said.

There was to be more discussion on their contents at the June 27 township commission meeting before they are finalized, he said.

In recent years, a few superior officers, including the chief, have filed lawsuits alleging that the chain of command within the department has been interfered with and that, in at least one case, a superior officer was allegedly unfairly bypassed for promotion.

Why the new rules? Township Public Safety Commissioner John Montillo Jr., who oversees the police department, offered this explanation:

“The Police Department is up for re-accreditation. As such, we found this the best time to review all elements of the department and undergo some housekeeping. In conjunction with the Police Chief and his Command Staff, we formulated various policies to further promote our mutual goals of efficiency and safety.

“I take immense pride in our Police Department and wanted to continue the tradition of ‘Integrity, Courage and Dedication.’ I believe these new ordinances will assist us in selecting officers who subscribe to our philosophy and promote those officers who have proven themselves great leaders.”

Had Lyndhurst elected to switch to a Civil Service-governed Police Department, DiLascio said that the township would have had to seek public approval through a local referendum and if the voters assented to such a proposal, it would mean that municipal employees in all township departments – with certain exemptions permitted by law – would all be under Civil Service coverage, he noted.

As outlined in the ordinance, as initially introduced, “the promotional process [for Lyndhurst police officers] … [will] include consideration of the candidates’ qualities as a leader as well as on the basis of merit, experience, education, demonstrated ability, and competitive examinations.”

Ultimately, promotions will be up to the Police Department’s “appointing authority,” which is the Commissioner of Public Safety.

Police officers with three or more years on the job will be eligible for promotion to detective; officers and/or detectives with five or more years will be eligible for promotion to sergeant; sergeants with more than two years on the job are eligible for promotion to lieutenant; lieutenants with more than two years of service may be considered for captain; and lieutenants with four or more years and captains can be promoted to chief.

The Public Safety Commissioner can waive those guidelines only if “no member of the department meets the above requirements” or if a promotion “is necessary to fulfill an organizational need.”

At the commissioner’s directive, the police chief will solicit candidates for a promotional opportunity and applicants then have 14 days to submit a “letter of intent” indicating interest in the position.

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