The West New York Department of Public Works should not oversee the local crossing guards, that responsibility should be given to the police department, according to a letter sent to the town by the state Department of Community Affairs.
Carol Durrant, a West New York crossing guard, claimed at Thursday’s board of commissioners that the morale has been down due to inefficient management from DPW Superintendent Silvio Acosta – who received a $20,000 raise to become the crossing guard supervisor in July.
“There was supposed to be more of us crossing guard here tonight, but the problem is there’s a rumor going around that if we showed up, we were going to be fired. It’s a rumor going around,” Durrant began.
She further explained that during last month’s bomb threat in Guttenberg, where surrounding communities such as West New York put their schools on lock down, Acosta, and therefore the crossing guards, were unaware of what was happening – creating a widespread state of panic and disarray.
“I’m just saying that, I can only talk for myself, I was scared, okay? Because we could’ve been out there, something could’ve been going on, and we didn’t know what was going on,” Durrant added.
She also recounted another incident where an off duty police detective, in his civilian vehicle, berated her for not allowing him to drive past while she was helping someone cross the street.
Durrant believes that if Police Officer Teddy Martinez was still the supervisor at the crossing guards at this time, the incident could have been easily avoided.
Despite both Mayor Felix Roque and DPW Commissioner Gabriel Rodriguez praising the work of the crossing guards, which is why they approved a new contract for them at last month’s meeting, Durrant pressed on about whether or not Martinez could get his old job back.
“Can you tell me how we are gonna resolve this problem, sir?,” asked Durrant.
“It’s already been resolved Carol,” responded Roque.
“No, I’m talking about, not the contract, I don’t know what’s going on with the contract,” said Durrant.
“With Teddy Martinez?,” clarified Roque. “Yes,” Durrant immediately answered.
“As the Director of Public Safety, I am leaving the present supervisor: I am saving the taxpayers money. Instead of having a police officer, which I’m paying … more than $100,000, I’m saving the taxpayers money and crime is down, according to my director,” said Roque.
Police Director Robert Antolos confirmed from the back of the room that crime is down 17 percent from 2015.
“And that’s basically it. If you’re not happy, the majority of people are happy, we can sit down and discuss it afterwards,” the mayor added.
When Hudson County View asked the state Department of Community Affairs for comment on the matter yesterday, an agency spokeswoman forwarded an October 17 letter on the subject.
“N.J.S.A. 40A:9-154:1 requires that every adult crossing guard be under the supervision and direction of the police chief or other chief law enforcement officer of a municipality, who must ascertain the eligibility of the applicant and make a report to the governing body, mayor, or chief administrative officer (as appropriate to the form of government,” Timothy Cunningham, the director of the Division of Local Government Services, wrote to Roque.
“If the town has in face placed its school crossing guards under the Department of Public Works, they should instead be under the police department as is required by law.”
Roque said that in response to the letter, a measure will be placed on the agenda for next month’s board of commissioners meeting to have the crossing guards moved under the supervision of the Department of Public Safety, where the mayor is the commissioner, as opposed to the Department of Public Works.
He also added he had not yet seen a copy of Cunningham’s letter as of this morning, asking Hudson County View to forward him a copy.
Town Administrator Jamie Cryan added that while the town awaits “legal guidance” on the matter, they are of the opinion everything is being down properly since crossing guards are still vetted, finger printed and trained by the police department.
Board of Education candidate Ron Scheurle, a relentless Roque administration critic who accused the town of violating state statutes last month, threatened to sue the town on Thursday if they did not rectify this matter immediately.