Volunteer firefighters accept residents with visas

Council adopts controversial ordinance despite previous complaints

Carl Leppin (pictured at stand) and Joseph Schoendorf, fire chiefs for the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department, thank the council for passing an ordinance allowing anyone with legal status to join the department.
Carl Leppin (pictured at stand) and Joseph Schoendorf, fire chiefs for the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department, thank the council for passing an ordinance allowing anyone with legal status to join the department.

The Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department will now be open to residents with legal status – meaning not only citizens, but people who may have a green card or work/student visa — after the Town Council adopted an ordinance at its Jan. 9 meeting to allow them.
The council had previously tabled the ordinance at its Dec. 20 meeting after a few local firefighters showed up to denounce it. Complaints ranged from lack of transparency between department chiefs and firefighters over the ordinance, to arguments that only U.S. citizens should become Secaucus firefighters.
The council had amended the requirements because state and federal laws ban discrimination based on national origin. Officials also said that two probationary hires to the department—one of whom currently works for the town — were legal residents but were not U.S. citizens. They are now allowed to volunteer to serve their community.
On Tuesday night, two department chiefs appeared to speak in favor of the ordinance and to distance the department from comments made at a meeting back in December.
“We’d just like to say, ‘Thank you,’ and we appreciate you amending the ordinance, and that some of the comments that were made at the last council meeting did not represent the Fire Department,” said Deputy Chief Carl Leppin to the council. Joining him was Chief Joseph Schoendorf.
“We even spoke with Mr. [Larry] Marciano and explained to him the changes,” Leppin added. He was referencing Engine 4 firefighter Larry Marciano, who told the council at the Dec. 20 meeting that “I believe, in my heart, that you have to be a citizen to join this Fire Department. If we go into a visa or whatever we’re saying here, that means that anybody can join the Fire Department.”
“This ordinance is recommended for adoption in the interest of inclusion of persons qualified by their skills and abilities and meeting all other aspects of membership, and whom have a current legal status within the United States, in the interest of safety and security,” said Councilman James Clancy, reading from a prepared statement, after Leppin spoke. “The town has a strong and brave volunteer Fire Department [which] responds to hundreds of calls in a year, selflessly and heroically.”
Volunteers receive a small stipend if they respond to a number of jobs within a year.
The Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department received 835 calls in 2017, according to Clancy, who read end-of-year reports at the meeting.
“Every time you see a volunteer fireman, just say, ‘Thank you,’ because they do a terrific job,” he said.

Express shuttle debuts

Earlier this month, a senior citizen shuttle expanded to include any residents 21 and older, for free. It travels among the Xchange at Secaucus Junction development, Walmart at Harmon Meadow, and CVS at Plaza Center.
Pickups will take place three times a day from Xchange at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and 12 p.m., according to newly sworn-in Councilwoman Orietta Tringali. The shuttle runs Monday through Saturday. For more information, contact 201-865-4422.
Lisa Snedeker, who helps run the town’s social service department, told the council that the shuttle is doing exceptionally well thus far.
“We already have it at capacity,” Snedeker said, after Tringali shared the news.

Free skating!

The Secaucus Patriots Youth Hockey Club is hosting a night of free skating Jan. 18 from 7:30 to 9:30, at the town’s ice skating rink, according to Councilman Robert Costantino. The rink is located at 150 Plaza Center. Refreshments will be available.
Speaking of skating, the town will be holding a skating event for elementary school kids to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, according to Councilman James Clancy. The event takes place at Buchmuller Park Jan. 20. Elementary students will be able to skate from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Middle and high school students will skate from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Students and seniors

Secaucus Middle School will be hosting a rock-band performance and continental breakfast for seniors, Jan. 19, at 8:30 a.m., according to Tringali.
Residents can now purchase honey produced from local Secaucus bee hives at Town Hall, according to McKeever. To reserve a jar, contact Amanda Nesheiwat at 201-864-7336.


Costantino took a moment during the meeting to shout out the Secaucus Competition Cheer Team. Launched last year, they won both state and national titles. Earlier this month, they took first place in another competition, Costantino said. The participating kids are ages 12-14, according to Costantino.
“I have a feeling in a few months, they’ll all be up here again,” he said. “This group of kids is just extraordinary.”

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over

Councilman John Gerbasio shared some statistics regarding the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, which ran from Dec. 8 to Jan. 1. The campaign generated 112 motor vehicle stops in town, Gerbasio said. Those stops lead to four DWI arrests and 38 summonses issued.

Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com