SUMMIT, NJ—The City’s police chief, mayor, council president and other Summit Common Council members as well -- as the city administrator -- all expressed both their deep sense of loss and their pride in the community as tributes poured out at the first Council session since the tragic May 30 death of Summit Police Detective Matthew Tarentino,
Tarentino, who many considered the beacon of light behind the Hilltop City's police community policing initiative, was killed the day after Memorial Day on Route 78 while on his way to work when a vehicle heading westbound crossed the median on the highway and collided with the officer’s car at 6:20 am.
The five-year member of the force was posthumously promoted to detective.
During the Council meeting tribute, Police Chief Robert Weck said the conduct of his officers and other members of his department following the tragedy and at this week’s funeral for the slain officer proved to him once again that his department “is one of the finest police departments in the state of New Jersey.”
He thanked the members of the City staff, the mayor and council for their “unwavering support and leadership” concerning the department. He also paid tribute to the City’s businesses, organizations and residents for “the way they wrapped their arms around us and the Tarentino family,” both in their outpouring of condolences and raising more than $500,000 thus far to help the detective’s wife Vickie, two sons Robbie,4, and Ray 2, and the third child the couple is expecting in August.
The chief said that sometime before school starts in September, after the department has had a chance to fully deal with the tragedy, the department and City would hold a “joyous and fun-filled family event so we can fully celebrate Matt’s life in the spirit he would have loved.”
In closing, he added, to truly remember the officer, residents and supporters should all engage in “random acts of kindness,” as Tarentino would have wanted.
Council President Mike McTernan praised the utmost “integrity and dedication with which Officer Tarentino carried out his duties during his five years with us.”
He called Tarentino “the face of community policing in Summit," noting the officer’s work touched everything from with kindergartners, the DARE program to senior citizens, and his ability to relate well with every age group.
Mayor Nora Radest echoed the Council president’s words and said how proud she was of the support shown to the police force by the community and the way City police officers handled themselves with “dignity and professionalism” during a very difficult situation for them at the funeral.
City business administrator Michael Rogers, calling the officer’s death “unimaginably tragic,” said he was deeply honored to have the overwhelmingly positive attitude of Officer Tarentino cross his life. He too praised the “benevolence and loyalty” of Tarentino’s fellow officers and the way in which all City employees carried out their duties despite the tragedy.
The administrator also said the slain officer’s wife showed one of the greatest examples he had seen of “grace in her saddest moment” as she spoke at the funeral.
Council public safety chairwoman Mary Ogden expressed not only her deepest condolences, but also her pride in the strength and “compass” shown by Weck in his attention to detail for the funeral and his caring for the Tarentino family.
Councilman Robert Rubino, after expressing his condolences, called Tarentino one of the most excellent police officers and praised the exemplary leadership of the Summit Police Department during the difficult time.
His sentiments were echoed by Councilman-at-Large Richard Sun and Councilman David Naidu, who said he. also, was deeply impressed with the grace of the officer’s widow and the behavior of City police officers “during this very tough week.”
In business at the meeting, the Council introduced an ordinance that would add a corporate membership, similar to that in effect at the municipal golf course, at the Summit Aquatic Center.
Under the ordinance, any Summit-based corporation could purchase an annual corporate membership in the City swimming facility for $1,500, and its employees could be admitted to the facilities by showing a corporate identification card and paying a guest fee.
Naidu voted against the measure and told TAPInto Summit after the meeting that he did so because he felt the aquatic facility was intended as a community facility for Summit families and their guests and not as a facility for non-residents employed by city businesses.
A second recreation-related ordinance, adopted at the first June meeting, outlines fee ranges for the golf and aquatic facilities and fees for programs at those facilities and provides that future increases may be approved by resolution rather than ordinance.
The council also adopted a resolution approving the design plan and authorizing the advertisement for bids for the Summit Community Center Renovation Project.
The project, now with an estimated cost of about $6.5 million, will feature an additional, high school-regulation-sized gymnasium and expanded facilities for use by senior citizens.
Proposed improvements will expand the current 8,000 square-foot facility with an 11,600-square-foot addition that will include, in addition to the new gym, an expanded senior lounge, additional modernized restrooms with some showers, enhanced meeting spaces, an area for teenagers, kitchen space, improved parking and accessibility improvements.
The governing body also adopted an ordinance outlining 2017 salary and wage levels for all city employees and a resolution authorizing salaries for specific city employees, retroactive to January 1 of this year.
Also adopted was the $469,000 2017 Summit Special Improvement District Budget, which is supported by fees for various events and taxes on central business district landlords.
It helps finance such items as the Summit Farmers Market, Girls Night Out, Cars and Croissants and the Summer Festival as well as helping pay for the cleanup of the business district.
Parking ordinances also were introduced:
- Setting parking by permit only along designated areas of Elm Street from 5 to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, for City employees or residents at the $4 daily fee, and hourly parking paid at the usual fee after 11 a.m. On Saturdays, parking would be hourly from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Increasing the non-resident parking rate for certain meters in the East Broad Street lot from $10 to $12 per day.
- Increasing the rate for parking five hours or more in the DeForest Park and Shop Lots five-fold -- from $10 to $50 -- to discourage non-resident commuter parking in these lots.
- Reserving certain meters on Summit Avenue between Parmley Place and Whittredge Road for employees of downtown businesses.
The public hearings and possible final adoptions of these ordinances are scheduled for June 20.
Also introduced were bond ordinances for various improvements and equipment purchases for City departments, for parking utility improvements, for sewer utility improvements and for road reconstruction and improvements on Dorchester, Winchester, Plymouth Roads as well as Tanglewood and Silver Lake Drives.
Aside from the road improvement measures, the public hearings on the bond ordinances were set for June 20.
The hearing on the road improvement measure is set for July 11.
On another item, Radest and Council members said they have been assured by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit officials that Summit commuters will give adequate notice of alternatives to rail commuting during the Amtrak track repair work this summer in New York Penn Station prior to purchasing their monthly commutation tickets for July.
City officials said the transit aides had assured them commuters also would be given adequate notice of the track repair completion schedules.
On another matter, Rogers announced the City had reached an agreement with Celgene Corporation on its tax assessments for the Celgene West Campus on Morris Avenue -- the former Merck & Co. property -- for tax years 2016 to 2020.
Rogers said both sides agreed on a $265 million market value for the property and Celgene had negotiated in good faith and had withdrawn its complaint against the city.
The evening also saw the mayor present a certificate of recognition to Ben Stackler, a semifinalist in the New Jersey League of Municipalities Louis Bay 2nd Future Municipal Leaders Scholarship Competition for his essay on “What Summit City Government Does Best.”
Radest also honored Summit High School graduating seniors Owen Wilkins and Cooper Macpherson for their four years of volunteering with the Summit Free Market.