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. Among the top stories last week a New Providence school has been selected as a national school of character, Westfield's battling a 911 system that's on the verge of breakdown and Cranford Cougars captured their second straight crown in the baseball finals.
Students and staff learned late last week that Salt Brook Elementary School has been selected as a National School of Character, along with 37 other public schools, three charter schools, two private schools and one school district from across the nation. The recognition comes on the heels of the school being recognized as a State School of Character. Both honors are centered around the yearlong Salt Brook Character Education Program, which encompasses a new theme each year.
The girls' varsity track and field team took home first in the Conference Championship last weekend, with stellar performances from senior captain Caitlin Toner, who won the 800 and took second in the 1600 and 3200; Madison Ricks, who took first in the shot put and discus; and Alexandrea Schlobohm, who took first in the 400. The boys' team also finished strong in third place, with strong performances from Everett Price, who took first in the 1600 and 800, and Ken Damis, who took first in the high jump.
The Westfield Town Council was briefed Tuesday night on the need to install a new 911 system by September to prevent the entire emergency response system from becoming permanently disabled. The current system will end then, when Verizon will stop their service contract with the town. The 911 system crashed three times last week, but came back with service from Verizon.
The Westfield Board of Education voted 5-4 Tuesday night to permit posting board members’ email addresses on the district's website. The vote followed a contentious 15-minute debate that pitted members of the board’s "new guard," who were calling for increased transparency, against members of the board's "old guard," who said the disclosure of the email addresses could lead to issues with the state's public records law.
The gym at Westfield High School was transformed into an art museum this week, as the annual school district art show took place. Artwork from students of the town's 10 schools was on display at the show.
Whispered Words and Heaving Bosoms, All Researched and Fact-Checked: Romance novelist Danielle Steel's longtime research assistant, Nancy Eisenbarth, delivered a talk at the Fanwood Memorial Library on Thursday evening. In anticipation of the event, Patch sat down with Eisenbarth, a Fanwood resident of 22 years, for an illuminating question-and-answer session.
Borough Breaks Ground in Next Phase of Redevelopment: Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr and Elite Properties of Warren held a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday morning for what's been heralded as the next step in the borough's downtown redevelopment: a three-story mixed-use building at the corner of Martine Avenue and South Avenue, built in a vibrant Victorian style to match the Fanwood Train Station. The structure, named "Fanwood Crossing," will feature retail space on the first floor, apartment complexes on the upper levels, elevator service and other amenities. If the properties are filled and prove successful, the building could inject millions of dollars into the local economy, Mahr stated.
A nearly four-hour debate raged at the latest Planning Board of Adjustment meeting in Cranford, as officials discussed the proposed a fourth-floor addition to Riverfront Redevelopment area on South Avenue across from the train station. The project includes 127 apartments, up from 108, and provisions to provide parking. The new units have drawn harsh criticism from members of the Cranford Planning Board and residents alike. Many said they were concerned about how this might exacerbate downtown’s already problematic parking situation.
In sports, the Cranford Cougars captured their second straight crown in the baseball finals.
Clark council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution authorizing the county to extend the Brant Avenue paving project to include a portion of Westfield Avenue. The county will continue the paving from Brant Avenue up Westfield Avenue to the Clark Police Station.
Johnson softball's high hopes for a Union County Tournament run were cut short in their second-round matchup against Westfield. The Blue Devils beat the Crusaders, 3-1.
After having been previously vandalized in March, fives pieces of a seven-piece sculpture on the lawn of Summit High School was stolen Monday afternoon, police said. One Summit juvenile has been charged with third-degree theft for having two of the pieces in their possession. Three pieces remain missing as of Friday afternoon and the investigation remains open. Police do not know if there is any connection to the previous vandalism incident which was thought to be random and never solved.
In Springfield, members of police union PBA #76 faced off against Dayton Seniors in a high-energy game of flag football last weekend. The officers who played in the game weren’t able to spend Sunday resting their sore muscles, though. Cops responded to a Sunday afternoon call from Springfield’s Hotel 304 West, where a man posing as a room service attendant reportedly robbed a female guest at gunpoint in her hotel room.
Police weren’t the only public safety figures in the spotlight. This week was EMS week, and Springfield’s First Aid Squad marked the occasion with an open house and by partnering with area restaurants for fundraising deals throughout the week. Plus, they made a snazzy video featured on Springfield Patch and Youtube.