Take a Look Back at 2016's Headlines Across Passaic Valley

Take a look back at the stories that made the news across the Passaic Valley regionl this past year.

JANUARY

WOODLAND PARK - The West Paterson First Aid Squad added four daytime shift per diem members due to staff shortages. Two paid employees work at a time, covering a 12-hour shift, seven days a week. The borough relies on the Paterson Fire Department for emergency services if squad members are unavailable or attending to other calls.

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LITTLE FALLS - Former Police Chief Edward Oswald died Jan. 21 at age 77. Joining the department in June 1964, Oswald became captain in September 1988. He was named chief in April 1999 and had retired in 2004.

FEBRUARY

TOTOWA - Hubert C. "Hughie" Vickerilla, a longtime borough councilman, died Feb. 9. He was 89. Vickerilla had been elected to the Borough Council in 1976 and served for 33 years, retiring in 2009. In addition, he ran Hughie’s Red Kettle Deli & Catering on Union Boulevard, which he opened in January 1969.

MARCH

LITTLE FALLS/WOODLAND PARK - As part of the large-scale state Department of Transportation Route 3/46 project, some properties along the corridor were acquired to help widen the highway. Work on the estimated $150 million project began in December 2015.

TOTOWA - Local resident Meagan Akins was sworn in as the first female officer for the Totowa Police Department. She served as a probationary officer while she completed the required training program at the Passaic County Police Academy.

WOODLAND PARK - Board of Education members were given notice that the current before and after-school program in the district will not be provided for families for the upcoming school year. The WPSACC program, which has been in place for 25 years, would close its doors at the end of the current school year, and be replaced in September by a program run by the Clifton Boys & Girls Club.

APRIL

WOODLAND PARK - Woodland Park Police unveiled its new state-of-the-art dispatch center at the station on Brophy Lane. Int features a two-way communication entry system to, upgraded police desk, new flooring and walls, and a data room for storage of electronic equipment.

MAY

WOODLAND PARK - A Passaic County Prosecutor's Office Det. Sergio Mella shot and killed himself in his Grandview Drive home. Police arrived at the home after receiving information that he was in distress, according to Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes. The police department and members of the Passaic County SWAT Team attempted to negotiate with him but were unsuccessful.

LITTLE FALLS - The Little Falls Emergency Medical Service began operating as a paid medical service on May 15, in order to make response times faster. The squad reported to the Little Falls Township Council that response times were 5.6 minutes during its first week in operation. Prior to the paid service, response times reached nearly 20 to 30 minutes.

JUNE

TOTOWA - Matthew Grieco, a 12-year-old Washington Park seventh grader, became a local star when he appeared on the Food Network hit "Chopped Junior," which is a competition for chefs age 9 to 15. In the series Grieco appeared in, he competed against other teams for a $10,000 prize. He and his stepfather Marco starred on an episode called "Dinner for Dad," which aired on June 14.

JULY

WOODLAND PARK - An Elmwood Park man shot himself at the Gun For Hire range on McBride Avenue. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injury. In May, a 30-year-old man Garfield also fatally shot himself after going to the facility with a friend. Mayor Keith Kazmark said it was the fourth suicide to happen in the borough this year.

TOTOWA - On July 24, Totowa Community Pool lifeguards Matthew Shpiruk, 18, Roberto "Tito" Ramirez, 18, and Alex Pezzino, 20, rescued a man who was drowning. The victim, a 71-year-old native of Poland, was in Totowa visiting family. After being pulled from the pool and given CPR the man regained consciousness and later recovered.

AUGUST

LITTLE FALLS - The Little Falls Police Department held the first area Coffee with a Cop event at The Falls Kitchen restaurant with a goal to open and start dialog between residents and police. A national program, Coffee with a Cop is aimed at boosting community relations and visibility. Woodland Park Police also held a Coffee with a Cop event in the fall.

LITTLE FALLS - The Passaic Valley High School Board of Education finalized the sales transaction of a land parcel to ShopRite of Little Falls, for $700,000. Funds from the sale were moved to the school's capital reserve account according to Dr. JoAnn Cardillo, superintendent. ShopRite will soon begin an expansion project, using some of the purchased land area.

WOODLAND PARK – All across the borough, residents placed signs on their properties and bumper stickers on their cars in support their police department. In addition to this measure, the town pained a blue line in support of its officers on McBride Avenue near Brophy Lane where the police department is located.

SEPTEMBER

WOODLAND PARK - Students from North End Elementary School in Cedar Grove began their school year at’s Woodland Park School No. 1 on McBride Avenue while construction work was being done at their facility. Owned by the Woodland Park Board of Education, School No. 1 was most recently occupied by Windsor Academy, a school for children with special needs.

OCTOBER

WOODLAND PARK - The Planning Board approved plans for “and That! by Christmas Tree Shops” and “Cost Plus World Market” in the former A&P supermarket location on Route 46. A&P filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015, resulting in store closings throughout the area.

NOVEMBER

TOTOWA - The federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided a home at 127 Hudson Ave. and found chemicals that could be used to make various types of drugs and as well as explosives. Police recovered a pill press and chemicals that could make methamphetamine, ecstasy and opioids according to the DEA.

WOODLAND PARK - Borough residents shot down a proposed bond referendum by the Board of Education to fund the reopening of School No. 1 for district use by a vote of 2,074-1,428. If approved, the referendum would have appropriated $495,000 in funding to operate the school on McBride Avenue and would have alleviated overcrowding at Memorial Middle School.

LITTLE FALLS - James Belford Damiano (D) defeated Pamela Porter (R) for Little Falls mayor by a vote of 3,250-2,237. Damiano had been elected to the council in 2014. Democrats Maria Martini Cordonnier and Anthony Sgobba also won council seats, defeating Republican incumbent Louis Fontana and Republican candidate Christopher Stacy.

WOODLAND PARK - The three year old Guns for Hire range broke ground on a major expansion, scheduled to be complete by the summer. The $12 million project will expand the 16,000 square-foot facility by 55,000 square-feet.

DECEMBER

TOTOWA - Four homes in the Norwood Terrace neighborhood were torn down by the borough using grant funds from the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program. The homes had sustained flood-damage from multiple flooding incidents in the past.

TOTOWA - Outgoing councilman Phil Puglise (R) retired from the council after serving 28 years. He was replaced by John Capo who was sworn in Jan. 1.

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