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The Record: Englewood Cliffs resident sues to stop new fire sirens

Englewood Cliffs resident sues to stop new fire sirens

Monday, December 31, 2012 Last updated: Monday December 31, 2012, 5:12 PM


ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS – A homeowner is suing to stop the borough from installing three new fire sirens, saying it violates the state’s Noise Control Law and that the process to replace them was “tainted.”

Gerard Misk, who lives near the siren on Johnson Avenue, filed the suit Dec. 24, less than two weeks after the Borough Council lifted a stop-work order allowing a contractor to finish installing the sirens.

Only one of the sirens, near Borough Hall, has been installed. The other sirens to be replaced are on Bayview Avenue and in Witte Field near Misk’s home.

Borough officials stopped the project after learning from Misk that crews were replacing the siren pole across from his Samford Avenue house. An investigation revealed that the bid for the project, awarded to Tactical Communications of Connecticut, was never advertised and that Police Chief Michael Cioffi signed the agreement, even though he doesn’t have the authority to sign municipal contracts.

Cioffi has declined to comment on the matter, but borough officials have said Cioffi apparently signed the contract at the direction of Susan Spohn, the borough administrator at the time, who died earlier this year.

Borough Attorney E. Carter Corriston told town officials the borough could not legally rescind the vendor's agreement because the vendor submitted it after legally receiving bid specifications. He also said the council had accepted the bid through a legally binding resolution.

But Misk’s lawsuit claims the “tainted bid process” invalidates the borough’s contract with Tactical, which allegedly failed to provide necessary documents with their bid. It also claims the borough improperly paid Tactical the full amount of $63,861, even though 15 percent, or about $10,000, should have been withheld until the sirens were installed and tested.

The suit also claims the new sirens on Johnson Avenue and Bayview Avenue would violate the state’s Noise Control Act because they’re within 250 feet of a playground and school. The old sirens, installed at least 40 years ago, were grandfathered in.

Misk, a New York City attorney and a member of the Englewood Cliffs Board of Education, said in the suit that the borough ignored provisions in an April 2011 resolution authorizing the new sirens be placed in non-residential areas.

The borough hired a consultant, Larry Robertson of Teaneck, to advise the borough on the best locations for the sirens. He recommended the sirens stay where they are. Misk’s lawsuit claims Robertson was never told he could consider rights-of-way along the road as potential sites.

The sirens, located in the northern, central and southern part of town, have alerted volunteer firefighters to report for duty. Some residents have questioned the need for sirens, saying they’ve been surpassed by better technology. The department's 38 volunteers all have pagers, but Fire Chief George Drimones said they aren't as reliable as the sirens.

Mayor Joseph Parisi did not want to comment on pending litigation, but pointed out other residents, including some of Misk’s neighbors, have had no problems with the sirens. Parisi said the new sirens would have a public address system that could broadcast messages in emergencies.

“We have every right to protect the town,” he said.


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