Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Suburbanite: Lawsuit filed over installing fire sirens in Englewood Cliffs

Lawsuit filed over installing fire sirens in Englewood Cliffs

Thursday January 10, 2013, 11:00 AM


ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS - After the borough council voted to lift the stop-work order on the replacement of fire sirens in the borough, Gerard Misk, a vocal opponent of the replacement, retaliated by filing a lawsuit against the installation, saying it violates the state's Noise Control Law and that the process to replace them was "tainted."

The re-installment locations are between Bayview Avenue and 9W and between Johnson Avenue and Sanford Drive.

Misk, who lives near the siren on Johnson Avenue, filed the suit Dec. 24, which claims the "tainted bid process" invalidates the borough's contract with Tactical Communications of Connecticut, which allegedly failed to provide necessary documents with its bid. The suit also said 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.

The borough hired fire siren expert Larry Robertson of Teaneck to advise the borough on the best locations for the sirens. He recommended the sirens stay where they are and said any other locations would shortchange the borough. Misk's lawsuit claims Robertson was never told he could consider rights-of-way along the road as potential sites.

Several other residents have come forward questioning the need for the sirens, saying they favored better technology and the fire department carries pagers, but Fire Chief George Drimones said they aren't as reliable as the sirens.

Many other residents approve of the decision to reinstall them and noted that residents weren't completely informed during recent Hurricane Sandy and could've used the sirens in that instance.

"We are replacing a system where it was that will also have a voice capability...we have gone four months without a full signal and we are suffering," resident Steven Rubinsky said.

In addition to alerting the department to a fire emergency, the new sirens would have a public address system that could broadcast messages in emergencies.

During the Dec. 12 meeting when the stop-work order was lifted Mayor Joseph Parisi said the sirens would improve the quality of life in the borough, especially during storms that might mirror Hurricane Sandy.

"We need to move forward and we could have used the siren during the storm," Parisi said. "In addition to that, we have a volunteer fire department that makes less than 400 calls a year and it will not be going off constantly."


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