Summit City Solicitor to Leave at End of Year After 21 Years as Chief Legal Official; JCP&L Gets Dismal Rating on Hurricane Response

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Summit City Solicitor to Leave at End of Year After 21 Years as Chief Legal Official; JCP Gets Dismal Rating on Hurricane Response
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SUMMIT, NJ - Barry Osmun, the man who has stood at the helm of the Summit legal department for 21 years, announced at Wednesday's Common Council meeting that he will leave his position as city solicitor at the end of 2011.

Council Finance Chair Richard Madden said Osmun has done a great deal for the city and he will be sorely missed.

Madden's comments were echoed by Council Member and Republican Mayoral candidate, Ellen Dickson, who said Osmun had been very helpful over the years when she presented him with a number of questions involving city legal matter.

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Also citing the departing solicitor were Council President Dave Bomgaars and Mayor Jordan Glatt.

They said there probably would be many more words of praise from many in the city as the time for Osmun's departure draws closer.

City Administrator Chris Cotter said the head of the city's legal department had been “a wonderful advisor” to him and other members of the City Hall staff.

Madden, whose committee assignments also include personnel, said the city would be looking for an attorney experienced in municipal law to fill Osmun's shoes, and that person would have to be versatile and be able to move quickly.

He added several resumes had already been received and the search committee would be comprised of himself, Bomgaars, Cotter, the mayor and two attorneys. Resumes should be received no later than Friday, October 7, he added.

Meanwhile, while commending the city's police, firefighters, rescue squad members, DPW workers and City Hall staffers for their hard work during Hurricane Irene last week, Glatt said he had “a true and real concern about Jersey Central Power & Light Company.”

He called the electric utility's response to the storm “disastrous.” Many areas of Summit were left without power for days as the utility asked him for lists of neighborhoods that needed attention rather than consulting their own lists, the mayor said.

Some truck drivers working for the utility had trouble finding their way around the city, Glatt noted. He added many areas of Summit were “up and running by Monday”, but “then it stopped.”

The mayor thanked Assembly Members Thomas Kean Jr. and Nancy Munoz for their help in getting JCP&L to respond, and noted they would later hold hearings on the utility's performance.

Councilman-at-Large Steven Murphy thanked the mayor and Cotter for the countless hours they put in to help residents cope with the storm and recover from its damage.

Cotter also said the city's concerns about the utility's performance would be addressed later, although he noted that JCP&L had “catastrophic” damage to its infrastructure. He added JCP&L was the hardest hit utility in the state and the utility's Summit district, which includes Millburn, Berkeley Heights, Chatham, Warren Township and Springfield, was the district suffering the most damage.

He noted 3000 JCP&L customers in Summit went without power.

The administrator praised the city's Office of Emergency Management, which was up and running on Sunday morning, and said the city acted wisely in lowering the Vanderpool Pond on the municipal golf course by three million gallons of water so it could act as a detention basin to prevent further flooding.

He added 9.5 inches of rain fell, the police department responded to 614 incidents while the fire department responded to 416 calls, including three vehicle fires, three outside fires and two structure fires.

Also, Cotter said, when the New Jersey Water Company facility on Kennedy Parkway was flooded, leaving many residents without water and those who live in the entire area forced to boil their water for several days after the storm, fire departments from Summit and surrounding communities used their pumper trucks to divert water from the water company's affected systems to its unaffected systems.

Resident Robert Bendock of Meadowbrook Court said the city did the best job it could responding to the storm and thanked the mayor, Madden and Councilman Vernotico for responding to resident calls for help in his area.

Bendock noted live power lines lay on Division Avenue, Summit, for about three days, forcing many commuters to step over them to get to the New Providence Railroad Station.

Vernotico responded that JCP&L's theory of responding first to the areas where it believed the most people were affected was a fallacy because it was more important to prevent people from having to step over live wires to get to a train station.

Resident Phil Cise, Jr. joined Bendock in pointing out much of the damage in Summit was caused by large trees that needed trimming.

Cise, whose family has been in the tree-trimming business since 1960, said the city needed to bring back the position of fulltime forester. The Summit Shade Tree Commission was formed, he noted, when fallen trees forced emergency vehicles to ride down the middle of roadways, where they almost collided with each other.

Cotter replied the city has a part-time forester who is a consultant to several surrounding communities and is available to give free advice to residents regarding the proper care of trees on their property.

He added the city has had the consultant for the past 20 years and “it has worked out quite well.”

Much of the trees falling down or otherwise causing damage during the hurricane, the administrator added, were not city trees but those on private property and those owned by Union County.

With the approach of the 10th anniversary of the 911 attacks this Sunday, Glatt announced the city's Interfaith Council would hold a memorial service beginning at 8:30 am on the Village Green. A blood drive also will be held at the fire department from 9am to 1pm, he added.

The council also approved a resolution, suggested by United States Senator Frank Lautenberg, requesting residents to stop what they are doing at 1 pm on Sunday to remember those who died on September 11, 2001.

Cise, who said he helped to rescue victims at the World Trade Center on 911, criticized the city for having only a “rock” on the bottom of a tree in the downtown area as a memorial to those who died that day.

He said the monument should be larger and made of granite.

Glatt replied the city's two monuments, on Broad Street and Railroad Plaza, were designed according to the wishes of the families who lost loved ones on 911 and he didn't think the city should go against those wishes.

Cise added, however, he owned a five-acre site on which he was willing to plan and erect a memorial.

Bomgaars said he should present his plans to Community Services Director Beth Kinney and the council's Building and Grounds Committee.

Wednesday's meeting also saw the swearing in of new probationary firefighter, Jeffrey Faulks, and a presentation by Gil Owren of Summit Downtown, Inc. on the Summit Classic Car Show which will be held on Sunday, September 18 in the central business district.

Owren said the show will be held from 10am to 3pm and is expected to feature 150 to 175 vintage cars. This year it is being co-sponsored by the Mercedes Club of North America, which was founded 50 years ago in Summit and now has chapters in all 50 states.

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