Police & Fire

Montclair Council: Yogi Berra Honored, Firefighters Promoted, Invasive Light Ordinance Passes

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MONTCLAIR, NJ - Township Clerk Linda Wanat, on behalf of the Council and Fire Chief John Herrmann, swore in six Montclair Fire Department members, promoting two deputy chiefs, a captain, and three lieutenants, in a standing-room only chambers on Monday. 

Councilor McMahon, following the swearing-in ceremony, read a proclamation in memoriam of Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra, a Montclair resident for more than 50 years. Yogi's son Larry was present to accept, on the same day The White House awarded Yogi the Medal of Freedom for "his military service, civil rights and educational activism."    

"If my father were here, he would begin by saying 'Why me?'," Larry Berra, said an umpire at a softball game he participated at Virginia Beach last week told him although he had never met Yogi, he idolized him. "[The umpire] said that if more people were like [Yogi] we wouldn't have these problems we have today. I asked the umpire if we could continue the game. And then I wondered what must the other team be thinking."

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Resident Sandy Sorkin added, "Yogi and [his wife] Carmen were real assets to this town."

Before swearing in the company members, the Council held a moment of silence for the events that unfolded in Paris over the weekend. 

The Council and Fire Chief promoted Deputy Chief of Operations Robert Duncan, Deputy Chief of Logistics Brian Wilde, Engine No. 2 Group 4 Captain Joseph Bates, Truck No. 1 Group 3 Lieutenant William Moorison, Truck No. 2 Group 2 Lieutenant Kevin Stoute, and Lieutenant David Hill.   

Relatives who were present took their turns assisting Wanat and Chief Hermann in swearing in the officers, pinning their husbands, fathers, sons, or grandsons, and offering hugs and kisses to the newly promoted chiefs, captain, and lieutenants.

Fire Chief Hermann congratulated his men "on a job well done. We look forward to the years of leadership, and I look forward to working with all of you." 

Mayor Jackson took a turn at the lectern following Chief Hermann. 

"We are making a great investment in our fire department. We are working with the fire chief to upgrade equipment. I'd been thinking about what to say this evening in light of what has happened where we saw the worst in humanity. But tonight we are going to see the best of humanity. It's gratifying, reassuring to see this...the timing of this couldn't have been better."

"Congratulations and keep up the good work," he added.

After the ceremony, three residents stepped forward to comment.  

Resident Sandy Sorkin asked for more clarification about the $12,000 in consulting fees.

"I found 14 entries that totaled that amount. I am kind of curious as to why we are paying this. I thought the developers are supposed to pay this. I would like to know why we are paying this and whether or not we will be reimbursed." 

Mayor Jackson reiterated the township would be reimbursed by the developer upon completion of the projects, and cited Smith Maran Associates "greatly helped with the designs of the hotel." 

Physical Therapist Caryn Bregman brought her frustrations with vaping to the Council's attention. Her office, located at 408 Bloomfield Ave., the Wellmont Building, sits above Artisan Vapor Company. She said patients had seen vaping, or e-cigarette use in action inside the premises, mentioning the fumes do travel up to her practice.  

"Vaping indoors is against the law. I've witnessed vaping no less than 25 times inside. I've been in contact with the health department many times. Robert Jennick issued a citation a couple of weeks ago. I have spoken to GASP and they suggested I come here. I have also spoken with my landlord, sent letters to him as well, and he says it is not his issue. I don't know what to do. The owner of Artisan Vaping came up to my office and had a whole discussion with me about the benefits of vaping. I'm at my wit's end so that's why I'm here."

Attorney Ira Karasick said the police should be involved as the Council could not comment yet. "We'll look into it and will try to take whatever action we can, but I don't want to draw any conclusions."

Karasick said "he didn't know" if it was illegal to vape indoors.  

"Give us your contact information and we will follow up with you," he added.  

All Ordinances placed before the Council passed. 

Councilor Renee Baskerville abstained on an ordinance regulating invasive light, citing the fine of up to $2,000 and possible jail time as "too harsh" for a nuisance-related ordinance. 

Karasick said the same verbiage for punishments exists in other ordinances regulating nuisance, so he carried over said language. 

All Resolutions placed before the Council passed. 

The Council approved items of revenue and appropriation including ten grants, entering into a cooperative pricing agreement with the New Jersey cooperative pricing system, disbursing funds from the Montclair Housing Trust for owners at several properties on Pine Street, authorizing payments for police vehicles. 

After adjourning, resident Sandy Sorkin sat down with TAP into Montclair, reiterating comments he made at the Nov. 10 conference meeting. 

"I took a look at the AARP and WHO documents about their designation of senior-friendly communities. If you look at the document, they are not saying to us that a senior-friendly community is one that does the following number of x number of things. It says that there is a recognition on behalf of the town government that something has to be done. It then elaborates on all the potential areas to make life better for senior citizens."

"I have absolutely no complaints, because I think it's a beautiful roadmap going forward."

He continued, "I do think there are two areas that need to be addressed. Nothing says to a senior get out of town as much as an almost guaranteed annual property tax increase. You are dealing with people who are almost universally on a fixed income and I don't think we have ever had a social security increase that was large enough to carry the property tax increase."

Sorkin's second area of concern is making sure Montclair is a "destination for retirees."

"I don't see Montclair as a destination where people say 'I'm going to go retire there.' We absolutely have people visiting because we have beautiful gardens, libraries, and the restaurants are incredible. The fact that so many of our restaurants are BYOB is just wonderful. It probably makes it much more affordable than probably all the communities around us." 

He concluded if Montclair could convince senior citizens all across America to retire here, then the town would "absolutely be the ideal senior-friendly community."

The Council's next conference meeting will be held on Nov. 23, 7 p.m.. at 205 Claremont Ave. 

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