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Questions remain in horrific East Orange crash

Caption_-_A_makeshift_shrine_was_made_at_the_site_of_the_crashEAST ORANGE - Family and friends of the three men who were killed in a head-on July 9 crash here on South Grove Street have not let the lack of a funeral announcement as of 5 p.m. July 16 from grieving.

They, plus family and friends of the two women injured in the other vehicle, those on the NJTransit No. 90 bus who witnessed the collision, and the Essex County Prosecutor's Office are looking for answers since the accident happened just south of the Central Avenue intersection at about 8:50 p.m. July 9.

Neither the ECPO Accident Investigation Unit, which surveyed the scene overnight July 9-10, nor the medical examiner, have announced what caused the crash that killed East Orange 24-year-olds Tyrief Parker and Dean Scovil and Kebeer Bishop, 20 of Newark.

"We had a head-on accident involving a car and a small SUV," said Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly to WABC Channel 7 Eyewitness News at the scene July 9. "The three men in the car are dead; the two women in the SUV are injured."

County Prosecutors released Bishop, Parker and Scovil's identities by 5:30 p.m. July 10. The identities of the two Irvington women - besides their 74- and 54- year-old ages and that they were taken to a local hospital - were otherwise undisclosed.

Authorities also released videotapes of the accident from outside Crosstown Plumbing Supply at 190 So. Grove St. The tapes are from two cameras from two different angles. There is also a third tape, from aboard the No. 90 NABI bus, being examined.

The videotapes show a northbound Nissan Maxima having crossed Grove Street's double yellow line into the southbound lane. The Maxima hit the southbound Toyota 4-Runner head on and spinning onto the westside walkway.

The southbound No. 90 bus stopped just short of the wreck. Several riders reported minor injuries.

All three vehicles came to a rest across from a closed warehouse along the street's east side. The warehouse is the second building south of the Central Avenue intersection's southeastern corner - and a parking lot north of the plumbing supply house.

Witnesses told investigators and media outlets that the Maxima was trying to pass the bus. They also complained that the stretch on South Grove between Central Avenue and South Orange Avenue a quarter-mile south is notorious for speeding.

"Local Talk," when visiting the section 6:30 p.m. July 15 and 2 p.m. July 16, noticed the double yellow line between those two avenues. The only breaks there are for 12th Avenue and Grain Street and a now-closed and gated west side street.

State law forbids crossing the double yellow line - something that motorists leaving Central avenue visits can attest to in East Orange Municipal Court.

The street between Grain and Central is one lane each direction, without any curbside parking, speed bumps or rumble strips.

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery runs along the entire fifth-mile stretch's west side. Seven houses, Raiken Memorials office and between six and 11 Jewish cemeteries line the east side.

Several new fence sections along the west side plus several open gate gaps and toppled gravestones attest to motorists' past off-course excursions.

A makeshift shrine, marked by 171 candles, three RIP t-shirts, Mylar balloons and stuffed animals, marks the Maxima's resting place. An on-scene reporter quoted 30 candles 5:30 p.m. July 10.

East Orange Sgt. Maurice Boyd referred questions to county prosecutors.

East Orange water commission gets overhaul

IMG_3281EAST ORANGE - Mayor Lester Taylor III has replaced four of the five-member East Orange Water Commission board here July 15.

"The problems with the East Orange Water Commission are systematic, long running and ultimately affect the residents of this City," Mayor Taylor said via a press release. "The changes I requested are not personal, they are based off of factual information that my Administration has reviewed, and it was in the best interest of the residents of this City that four of the five Commissioners were asked to be removed. I have confidence that the new commissioners will return the East Orange Water Commission to functioning and operating properly in the best interest of the residents."

In the July 15 morning press release, Taylor officially unveiled the following members by name, ward representation, and board office title:

- Michele Antley, First Ward, Chairwoman.
- Chris Coke, Third Ward, Acting Interim Executive Director.
- Ayeshia M. Govan, Second Ward, Acting Secretary.
- Melinda Hawkins Taylor, Fifth Ward, Vice Chairwoman.

Antley, whom Taylor appointed in March, is an administrator in Cushman and Wakefield's retail services division. Coke is also the city's public works director.

Govan, said Taylor, is "a small business owner" who is also working in the city's Board of Education's human resources department. Hawkins Taylor is bringing her 16 years' legal experience on the local through federal levels. (A Mayor's spokeswoman told "Local Talk" July 16 that there is no known relation between the mayor and the attorney.)

Mayor Taylor, in his release, said that the quartet will be serving for an interim 45-day period, until the City Council votes their appointment to full three-year terms. The mayor, in his July 7 correspondence to the council, said he had already appointed Govan and Hawkins Taylor.

Taylor, however, has not filled the Fourth Ward's representative on the board. The mayor, citing board "mismanagement," asked for all but Antley's resignations on or before June 20. The EOWC supplies water to 88,000 customers here and in South Orange.

Outside forces changing waterworks leadership

IMG_3281EAST ORANGE - Leadership of two local water operation panels, who supply nearly a million Local Talk News area customers, are being changes by outside forces while you are reading this.

East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor III, for example, has received the resignations of two of four East Orange Water Commissioners as of June 25. Two other commissioners, however, have refused to step down.

The 104-year-old EOWC supplies water to 90,000 customers in East Orange and South Orange.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali, on June 20, meanwhile appointed Joseph Hartnett as interim Executive Director of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation. Hartnett, formerly Montclair Township Manager, is to oversee the dissolution of the 40-year-old water supplier to the City of Newark.

NWCDC supplies water to Newark's 270,000 residents plus customers in East Orange, South Orange, Bloomfield and Belleville, among other towns along its supply path.

Taylor, as of 4 p.m. June 25, has not, directly or by his public information office, said what his next step will be regarding Commissioners Darryl C. Walls and Khalid Wright. Walls and Wright, in separate responses to the mayor, "The mayor wants commissioners in place who'll vote 'Yes,'" wrote Walls in his response to Taylor. "The mayor's attempting to create the illusion that there's a crisis that would condone corruption."

Taylor, who reappointed Walls Jan. 1, replied that he had asked the commission to appoint "a qualified leader or management firm . . . but they did absolutely nothing until June 4."

"Mayor," wrote Wright in his response, "if at any time I had personally done any harm or endanger the residents of this city, my family or this city . . . you wouldn't have to ask for my resignation. I'd remove myself from the board immediately."

Taylor, citing previous city government using EWOC proceeds to balance its budget, cited the commission for "gross mismanagement" June 13. He also asked for - and received - the resignations of Roger R. Rucks and R. Greg Ward on or before his June 20 deadline.
Wright added that one more well in EOWC's Millburn/Livingston/East Hanover watershed has come recently on line, therefore reducing the volume of water the commission and the city has to pay the NWCDC.

East Orange and client South Orange have been paying fellow non-profit Newark watershed company water for two reasons. Newark water, for instance, is reaching parts of the respective city and village customers that EWOC is not currently reaching. EOWC is producing half of their residents' requirements while buying four million daily gallons for the balance.

East Orange and South Orange are also buying Newark water to help meet New Jersey Department of Environmental water quality monitoring standards. Several of the commission's 18 artesian wells have been capped since they were found to have higher than DEP-allowed contaminants.

The DEP has also placed a $4 million fine on EWOC in February as the result of a criminal investigation The late WOWC Executive Director Harry Mansmann and Assistant ED William Mowell were indicted on February 2013 for falsifying water quality reports. Mansmann died March 24; prosecution continues against Mowell.

Hartnett meanwhile succeeds an earlier-appointed ED who resigned in February. That was the same month the State Comptroller's Office released a report blasting NWCDC's operations and hiring practices.

East Orange General's auxiliary awards scholarships to four high school seniors

EOGH_Scholarship_WinnersEast Orange, NJ - The East Orange General Hospital Auxiliary recently awarded $1,000 scholarships to four deserving high school seniors at a luncheon held in their honor. The scholarships will help defray college costs as the students continue their education in the fall. Receiving the awards were area residents: Schania Anderson (Seton Hall University), Alexis Beverly (Cheyney University), Khadidiatou Seck (Essex County College) and Shane Hartley (Rutgers University).

A project of the hospital's Auxiliary since 2005, the scholarship program recognizes students' academic accomplishments as well as their leadership and contributions to the community. The Auxiliary's strong belief in education and its role of enriching the communities that the hospital serves is the reason why these scholarships are important, not only to the students but to the hospital as well, according to program organizers.

"By honoring such academically-driven students, the Auxiliary, under the leadership of President Mrs. Joyce Harris, recognizes that education is vital to success in life and encourages students to become the best they are capable of becoming," said East Orange General President and CEO Kevin Slavin.

Keynote speaker was Antonio Thomas, MD, a pediatrician from South Plainfield who was born in Newark and graduated from East Orange High School. He encouraged the students to remain determined and dedicated to their goals despite whatever challenges they may face. He also urged them to become leaders in whatever they chose to do with their lives.

In addition to the scholarship program and other community outreach efforts, the Auxiliary plays a vital role in supporting the hospital's mission, growth and evolution as a multi-faceted healthcare resource. Auxilians are a dedicated group of women and men who volunteer their time and support to raise funds so that the hospital can continue its mission and services.

82 degrees of separation

Orange_Public_LibraryORANGE - The Orange City Council intends to settle the 2014 Calendar Year Municipal Budget's departmental allocations and approve an $8.7 million bond issue at a special meeting set for City Hall here at 7 p.m. June 26.

Council's resolving the budget before July 1 cannot come soon enough for the Orange Fire Department, Orange Police Department, Department of Public Works and the Orange Public Library.

All four departments, like other municipal functions, have been operating on monthly temporary or emergency appropriations since Jan. 1 while Mayor Dwayne Warren's administrators and the council resolve a final budget. All four department heads, who made their own presentations last month, have been lobbying the council for either the bond issue's passage or for an increased allocation.

Respective OFD Fire Director Michael Dowd, OPD Director Hakim Sims and DPW, Engineering and Planning Director Marty Mays were in the City Hall Council Chamber June 17, joining two public speakers in passing the bond issue.

Dowd and Sims left, however, after the council voted to table the bond ordinance for eight more days at 10:35 p.m. Mays, representing the Warren Administration, stayed until the meeting's 11:30 p.m. adjournment. The council, in a 4-2 split vote, decided to table the ordinance again until the city's bond counsel can weigh in on June 26.

OPL Director Timur Davis, while not at June 17's meeting, is also pressing the council to increase its library line item allocation to beyond the state formulated $503,000 minimum. Davis, speaking at the OPL Board of Trustees' monthly meeting June 12, is concerned that the library may have to close on 82-plus degree days should a High Volume Air Conditioning chiller unit is not replaced.

"We have had old estimates of $81,000 to replace the chiller," said Davis June 12. "Air conditioning is one of the reasons people come to the library. If we don't get that replaced, we may have to close the library on days when the temperature goes above 82 degrees by state law."

Davis, in his monthly report, praised the library staff for their efforts and programs since OPL's Jan. 14 reopening. He listed getting appropriate computer software soon so the library can retrieve payroll and accounting from the city government.

Davis noted, however, that the $503,000 proposed minimum would prevent the library from replacing the chiller or to hire additional needed staff. The director added that there appears to be a communication gap between library leaders and council members.
"We gave them every document they requested," said Davis, "except one; that was a personnel item."

Davis and the four trustee meanwhile agreed that he should make a new round of chiller replacement cost estimates; the $81,000 quote goes back to 2011.

A Warren administrator meanwhile provided a two-sided "2014 Bond - Anticipated Use" document in the council chamber's fourth floor lobby.

Dowd, on one side, listed $1,475,500 worth of "right-now" vehicle and equipment replacement. The breakdown comes out to $950,000 to replace the 1991 Pierce Ladder One truck, $475,000 to replace the 1990 Pierce Engine Three and $50,000 worth of high-pressure fire hose.

"The (1990 Pierce) engine is serving as a front line piece and is over the 15-year National Fire Protection Association replacement recommendation by eight years," stated the handout. "The 40-gal, gas tank has been replaced on numerous occasions; the 750-gal. water tank was welded in numerous spots to slow the water leaks. There is body and frame rust throughout the entire apparatus.

"This' the department's only Ladder Company with no spare," said the statement of the 1991 Pierce ladder truck. "The city doesn't have the ability of reaching heights above three stories. (It) is over the NFPA replacement recommendation by seven years. The body, frame and most importantly the stabilizers/outriggers've obvious signs of rust throughout."

Sims, on the other side, lists $1,000,682 worth of vehicles and equipment. That "Vehicles and Critical Accessories" amount includes 14 Ford SUV Patrol vehicles at $36,549 for $511,683, a $38,335 Ford F-250, 15 radios at $13,950 for $209,250, 15 touchpad in-car laptop computers for $68,368 and 15 dash camera systems at $173,046. The $294,411 worth of "Communication Systems and Equipment includes $88,567 for portable radios.

"What I've allocated in the bond issue is what's necessary," said Sims in response to North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason's questions on speed radar guns. "We can get the radar units through other means."

Mays, as DPW Director, wants four vehicles for $460,000. That breaks down to two street sweepers at $180,000 each and two $50,000 senior buses.

"We've gone over many iterations of this bond issue and its line items," said Mays. "We've answered all questions that have been brought to us and we received unanimous approval from the (state) Local Finance Board. I've had residents come to us over the winter saying their streets haven't been plowed; that's because we're at the limit of our equipment and we would've to outsource."
William Hathaway, speaking as a DPW employee, also urged bond passage. Hathaway opined that the equipment is needed in all departments, "even with the TV 35 equipment."

TV 35 has carried live-only council meetings for almost two years. Technical difficulties left only the camera facing the public speaker lectern throughout the scheduled 4.5-hour session. Live viewers were otherwise treated to the "Local Talk" reporter taking notes on screen for two hours.

Mays was referring to the June 11 New Jersey Department of Community Affairs' board hearing on the $8,772,000 bond, including $8,333,400 worth of notes. The LFB approved the bond issue before Warren, Mays, Finance Director Adrian Mapp and Chief Financial Officer Joy Liscari. Council Budget Consultant Deitier Lerch sent a letter of recommendation to the LFB.

Mays was also responding to an alternative to bonding presented by resident Katherine Gordon. Gordon, citing the $439,100 in interest the city would have to pay bankers, suggested paying for the said equipment through a capital spending schedule.
"Just think of what that $400,000 can be put to instead of interest," said Gordon during the public hearing's public speaker portion. "It could mean getting that fire engine in a year or the ladder truck every other year."

What prompted a majority of the council to table the bond issue one more time, however, is the lack of a bonding document as indicated by hardware store owner Jeffery Feld.

"I want to know what the bond counsel says about this," said Feld. "I don't know if the bonds are going to be privately sold to a bank or the state - or offered to the public. The last time we had a bond issue, in 2009, it started as a private sale to a bank but the state bought the bonds at a lower interest rate."

Council President Donna K. Williams suggested tabling the ordinance until the bond counsel appears June 26. At-Large Councilwoman April Gaunt-Butler moved for tabling, which outgoing East Ward colleague Linda Jones-Bell seconded.
Gaunt-Butler, Jones-Bell, Williams and at-large Councilman Elroy Corbitt voted to table. Eason and outgoing South Ward Councilman Edward Marable, Jr. voted against tabling. Outgoing West Ward Councilman Hassan Abdul-Rasheed was absent from his last scheduled council meeting.

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