The Week in Union County
Here's what made news around the county this past week.
Each week, Patch takes a look back at the news in Union County for the past week. Among the top stories, the head football coach in Clark was not rehired, teachers of the year were honored in Berkeley Heights and Westfield still works to recover from the major fire at Ferraro's Restaurant.
It was a big week in Clark. News spread quickly regarding the school board's decision not to rehire head football coach and gym teacher Nick Gregorio, police found animal remains and what appeared to be some sort ritual site behind the former Hungarian Club building on Old Raritan Road, at the Garwood borough council meeting on Tuesday, council members unanimously voted in favor of appointing 22-year-old Sara Todisco (D) to fill the vacant seat left by Councilman Jon Linken's early exit, and a 13-year-old Kumpf student suffered a minor head injury after being struck by a sedan on Lake Avenue in Clark Thursday afternoon.
The Berkeley Heights Board of Education held a special ceremony at its May 12 meeting to celebrate the district’s six Teachers of the Year.
Each recipient of the award—one from each of the district’s six schools—was nominated by teachers, administrators, students, and parents throughout the district. The 2010-11 Teacher of the Year recipients are: First grade teacher Eli Quinonez (Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center), fifth grade teacher Carla Pastore (Mountain Park School), music teacher Jacqueline Conti-Rimshnick (Thomas P. Hughes School), fifth grade teacher JoAnne Barton (William Woodruff School), eighth grade English teacher Diane Corley (Columbia Middle School), and English/Journalism teacherDoreen Ladinski (Governor Livingston High School).
The Cranford Municipal Alliance hosted an informational workshop Tuesday detailing the dangers and consequences of legal highs. The session, titled Bath Salts and Emerging Drug Trends, focused on drug trends that have steadily grown in popularity in the area. One such trend is “bath salts,” a phase that became all too familiar to Cranford residents last month, when 22-year-old Pamela Schmidt was found murdered in her boyfriend’s basement. The Cranford man, Bill Parisio, had a history of substance abuse and bi-polar disorder, and had allegedly been using bath salts at the time of the murder. Though devastating, the episode has shed a light on a common, easily obtainable drug, and has been instrumental for both local and government officials in banning the drug for good.
During the public comment portion of the Borough Council meeting on Monday night, resident Mary Donaleck addressed the Council, expressing frustration with the quick dismissal of the Ordinance from the previous meeting.
Ordinance 2011-8, which was voted down by a 3-2 vote at the April 11 meeting and placed back on the agenda by Mayor J. Brooke Hern would allow police officers to enter a private residence where individuals under the age of 21 are consuming alcohol. The current ordinance only includes individuals 17 years of age and under. Before the Ordinance could be discussed again at the April 27 meeting, the council voted to remove the item from the agenda by a 5-1 vote.
After much anticipation, and many delays due to the long winter, Hoboken Farms Sandwich Shop on Springfield Avenue finally opened this week. And to kick things off in style, owner Brad Finkel organized a fundraiser opening week to donate money to the Community Food Bank of NJ. Customers could decide how much–or not–to pay for their sandwich and all proceeds went to the foodbank. Provident Bank matched all donations up to $5,000.
Scotch Plains - Fanwood
Bronze Star for Fanwood Native: The U.S. Army awarded the Bronze Star to Captain Walter Biner, who grew-up in Fanwood and whose parents live in the borough. The Bronze Star, presented to Biner in February for his service in Afghanistan with Company C, 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, is one of the highest awards for extraordinary heroism or meritorious achievement while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States. The citation lauded Biner's leadership through "twelve month of sustained combat operations:"
His judgment, tactical patience and mental agility were repeatedly tested by an adaptive enemy who was able to exploit ties to the population and culture on numerous occasions.... Captain Biner is a true warrior and exceptional officer.
Sunday in the Park With Fido: Local residents and their four-legged friends headed to downtown Scotch Plains on Sunday morning for the Fanwood-Scotch Plains Rotary Club's inaugural "Woof Walk." The 1.5-mile event, which featured music, door prizes and contests for "Amazing Dog Trick," "Look-a-Like," "Face Only a Mother Could Love" and "Best Dressed," raised money for the Rotary, the Scotch Plains Police Department's K-9 unit and the Fanwood Police Department's bicycle patrol.
Moonglowers Shine at State Championships: Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School's renowned jazz ensemble, the Moonglowers, clinched its third straight state title April 30. The group's expert direction and musical cohesion earned it Best Saxophone Section, Best Trumpet Section and Best Soloist awards.
A fatal motor vehicle accident brought I-78 to a halt this week, closing the Westbound express lanes of the highway for hours as emergency services reportedly dealt with a driver found dead on the scene. State police that at about 2:30 a.m. on May 10, a car driving the wrong way on the westbound side of the highway collided with a tractor trailer. Springfield and Union fire fighters had to cut open the car, a VW Golf, to gain access to the two people trapped inside after the crash. A Northstar medical transportation helicopter brought the 35-year-old male driver to Morristown Memorial Hospital. The passenger was pronounced dead on the scene.
A resident who lived in the apartments above Ferraro's recounted his harrowing escape from smoke filled hallways and the needs of him and his neighbors.
Local residents and the head of the firefighters' union continued to press the Town Council for more firefighters, saying it was needed to prevent large scale fires including the one at Ferraro's.
Students from Westfield's elementary and intermediate schools presented a check to the Red Cross for over $22,000 to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.