Changing of the guard Fire chiefs, two new police officers, council members sworn in

Crowds flooded the second floor public meeting room in the new library earlier this month for the first meeting of the Town Council in 2003. Although a routine yearly event allowing the council to reorganize and set rules and regulations for operations over the next year, the event has several special moments including a farewell to the outgoing fire chief and the swearing in of the new chiefs who will operate the volunteer department for the next two years.

The council also swore in two new police officers, the first Secaucus residents to be hired to the force in over a decade.

The three incumbent council members re-elected to four year terms in November were also sworn in at the meeting.

In bidding farewell to outgoing Fire Chief Robert Cordes, Mayor Dennis Elwell said he wished to give something functional to the chief and gave Cordes a watch rather than the usual plaque.

“I wanted to give something that wouldn’t just gather dust,” Elwell said.

A new volunteer fire chief is sworn in every two years.

Cordes, who was clearly moved by the outpouring of affection by the town and fellow firefighters, said he would remember with great affection his two-year term as chief. Under Cordes’ term, the town was faced with numerous serious issues, including the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

Taking his place, Frank Walters thanked his fellow firefighters and said that the department was built on a solid foundation. Walters served as deputy chief over the last two years. His vacated position will be filled by Raymond Cieciuch, who served as Battalion chief. Cieciuch acknowledged his fellow firefighters.

“If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” he said.

In December, the fire department elected Robert Parisi to fill Cieciuch’s position as battalion chief.

“I hope I can do a good job,” Parisi told the crowd.

Two Secaucus residents sworn in at police officers

Dominick Manderano and Kimberly Elphick were given their badges during the swearing-in ceremony. Both were hired under new rules worked out by the town that will allow local residents to get jobs with the Secaucus police department.

“These are the first Secaucus residents we have been able to hire in many years,” Elwell said. “We now can hire from a residents-only list. Previously local residents had to compete with people from throughout the state for these jobs.”

The 26-year-old Elphick graduated from Secaucus high school in 1994 and went on to graduate from Manhattan College. Two years ago, she ran in the New York Marathon with hopes of raising money for her uncle, John Crimmins, who needed a liver transplant.

Her uncle, Thomas Crimmins, a 31-year veteran of the Hoboken Police Department, was on hand to pin on her badge.

Elphick is the department’s second female police officer.

Manderano, 25, also graduated from Secaucus High School and is currently a student at New York City University.

Both candidates will be attending the Union County Police academy, said Police Chief Dennis Corcoran. The class starts on Feb. 1, and will last 22 weeks.

“After they come back, they will be assigned to a field training officer for three months,” Corcoran said.

The two hirings, plus a transfer of an officer from East Orange, bring the department up to about 57 officers, although Corcoran said he expects another retirement Feb. 1.

“We’re looking for funding,” Corcoran said. “If funding becomes available, we will seek to hire more officers.”

If the state legislature passes a hotel tax, then Secaucus will have money to be able to hire more officers. The town is also seeking federal grant money under the More Cops program.

The number of officers needed depends also on the impact the Secaucus Transfer train station’s opening will have later this year. While New Jersey Transit Police will have a station in the terminal, Secaucus police will be responsible for streets leading to the station.

“We’re concerned about the volume of traffic,” Corcoran said, “as well as the accidents that could be generated. Our fire department and ambulance service will have to respond to any emergency at the station.”

Secaucus police automatically respond to any emergency situation involving the fire department and ambulance services.

Corcoran said hiring local residents is a great advantage in emergency situations such as the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

“We get a quick response,” he said. “In such situations we call up everyone on the roster. Having local officers makes that much easier. If the roads get shut down, we know we have officers here. Even if the roads are open, it is easier for an officer to get here from Secaucus than from 20 or 30 miles away. All they have to do is walk in if they have to.”

Corcoran said while he believe male and female officers are equally qualified, a female officer – when on duty – can search female suspects. In the past, the town has had to call in a female sheriff’s officer from the county to handle the chore.

Three council members return

A change of terms in office as a result of state legislation went into effect last year. Previous to this, the mayor and council served only two-year terms. In 2001, Mayor Elwell and three council members were re-elected under the new law, and began serving their four-year terms in January 2002.

Councilmember Michael Grecco, Bob Kickey and Fred Constantino were sworn in this week to four-year terms.

In a brief speech after his swearing-in, Grecco said he appreciated the work people had done in getting him elected and that he had made great strides in his goal of providing a flood-free Secaucus, but that he still had work to do. He said a new pump station for Sack Creek, rebuilding the Golden Avenue pump station, and possibly rebuilding the pump station at St. Paul’s Avenue were among his objectives for the next four years.

Kickey looked back on last term and the accomplishments he’d been involved in, such as the new library, expanded schools, reconstruction of Buchmuller Park, and the upcoming expansion of Secaucus High School and the construction of the associated auditorium. He said he was proud to be involved with plans for a possible new recreation center and the setting up of an environmental study center at Mill Point Park. He also celebrated the fact that the town had maintained a steady tax rate for four years in a row. But he said he had heard the concerns of residents over the townhouse development planned for the Ship Tank property.

“I heard those concerns loud and clear,” he said. “And rest assured, I will make certain the project does not adversely affect the quality of life for our residents in that area.”

Constantino said that Secaucus had grown significantly since he first took office in 1994, and that he had and would continue to “work diligently” to make Secaucus a place people will want to raise their families in.

Acknowledging a good corporate friend

The Town Council also passed a resolution honoring Public Service Electric & Gas for the various contributions the company has made to the town, including help in lighting the Secaucus High School’s football field and aiding the town with its new animal shelter.

Richard Dwyer, spokesperson for the company, said Secaucus was the first town in PSE&G’s 100-year history to offer such an honor.

“What we do depends on other people,” he said. “They come to us with the ideas on how we can help. But we are proud of being good corporate citizens.”

While not acknowledged at the ceremony, PSE&G has also been involved with tree planning, literacy programs and job training. The company recently made a $10,000 donation to the new library to support literacy efforts there, and helped rescue Secaucus High School’s environmental program, Help Our Planet Earth, which was threatened by school budget cuts.

“This is all about building a better community,” Dwyer said during an interview. “We want to do positive things in the communities where we do business.”


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