The Week in Union County: Dog Rescue, Fire and MLK
This week was more than just snow. Here's your roundup of the region's top stories.
This week, firefighters responded to a massive fire in Westfield on Sunday, a nonprofit organization saved China the Chihuahua from a puppy mill in Georgia and brought her to Berkeley Heights, and volunteers spread their help in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Read on to see what else you missed this week across the region.
Fire departments from across Union County worked to battle a blaze in downtown Westfield Sunday afternoon. While the cause of the fire is unknown, it is believed to have begun in a small loft. The four-alarm fire required agencies from across the region to assist.
In other Westfield news, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day was commemorated throughout town. The federal holiday began with the annual pancake breakfast at the Westfield Community Center. The Presbyterian Church in Westfield hosted the 25th annual Interfaith commemoration service at 1 p.m. Winners of the town-wide essay, poetry and art contest were recognized at the service.
Patch profiled Westfield's newest Board of Education member Gretchan Ohlig.
Residents once again asked the Town Council to consider moving the pedestrian activated stoplight on Central Avenue and Clover Street at Tuesday evening's meeting.
Savory Spice Shop is serving up cooking classes for those looking to try some new recipes.
Westfield Board of Education members commented on Gov. Chris Christie's comments in his State of the State address regarding tenure reform and school funding.
In Berkeley Heights, the Home For Good Dog Rescue helped bring China the Chihuahua to a loving home. The rescue matches dogs with foster homes so the dog is in a family environment and not in a kennel, and then sets up adoptions.
China, who is 15 years old, was shaking when she was taken out of her cage for the first time after years of forced reproduction in a Georgia puppy mill. It was partially because she was scared, partially because her legs couldn't support the weight of her body.
She has a tumor the size of a deck of cards on her back leg. She doesn't have teeth after years of malnutrition. Her eyes are gray and cloudy. She's basically skin and bones.
The rescue has a network of 40 foster homes throughout the area who take dogs out of their cages and let them into their homes until they can be adopted. The Home for Good rescue receives two to three transport shipments of dogs a month, with 30 dogs coming in for adoption. Most are coming from mills and are in need of a good home.
Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso sworn in seven officers for the Clark Volunteer Fire Department at Tuesday night's council meeting. T.J. McDonald will take over as fire chief. Later in the meeting, fire department liaison Alvin Barr read some of the statistics regarding the department this year, reporting that the department responded to 652 calls in 2011, which is the most calls on record for any year.
The grand total from this year's Clark UNICO Italian Feast was a whopping $41,000, according to a report UNICO Chapter President and Clark Recreation Director Ralph Bernardo presented at Tuesday night's council meeting. The audience clapped and cheered hearing the grand total as Bernardo explained that all of that money is donated back to the community and to the national charities UNICO supports.
The Clark Pop Warner Midget Large Novice team gathered at council chambers on Tuesday night for a special awards ceremony to acknowledge their historic achievement: For the first time in Clark Pop Warner history, a squad earned the privilege of competing in the National Pop Warner Cheer Championships at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. “You made history,” Mayor Sal Bonaccorso said to the 27 Clark Pop Warner Midget Large Novice team. “No matter who goes to Disney after you, you all were the first.”
The 2012 Union County Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee announced that Bill Dugan of Clark has been named Grand Marshal of the 16th Annual Union County Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Dugan, an Elizabeth police lieutenant, has been involved with the Union County St. Patrick’s Day Parade since its inception and leads the skilled motorcycle officers of the traffic unit that have been instrumental each year assisting the parade committee with logistics.
Police are looking for the public's help in solving a slew of burglaries that occurred in Berkeley Heights and New Providence neighborhoods between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13. Two burglaries occurred at residences on Fox Run off of Possum Way in New Providence, while the three additional houses were burglarized in Berkeley Heights in the Murray Hill Farms section of town, near the New Providence border. Anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activities in these areas are asked to contact Berkeley Heights Police Department at (908)464-1111 and the New Providence Police Detective Bureau at (908) 665-1111.
In school news, as a part of their lessons about the Civil Rights Movement, Mrs. Joanne Catlett's sixth grade class at Salt Brook Elementary School learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., what he stood for, and about his 17 minute "I Have A Dream" speech on Friday, Jan. 13. Catlett and her students gathered in a large circle as each student read one of the 22 parts of MLK’s speech. In between parts, Catlett asked the students to examine his words further, looking for the deeper meaning to what he was saying, all the while asking them to point out the figurative language they found. Later, they were able to watch MLK deliver his speech. Several students said he was very powerful and convincing, while others said it seemed like he really wanted freedom. One student acknowledged that he had a very strong speaking voice, while another student said King gave people the courage to stand up for what they believed in.
Other lessons about MLK were integrated into the curriculum at Salt Brook throughout the last month. The lessons fit in well with the school's Character Education Program theme this year, which is "Stand Up," a "call to the entire Salt Brook community to take responsibility and stand up for what is right in everything we do," according to the school's web site. In celebration of MLK, third grade students recently showcased their own dreams in their classrooms and the hallways at Salt Brook. Students and staff members across the school were also asked to send letters to their friends and family members to learn how they "Stand Up" in their own communities, just as MLK stood up for what he believed in. Check out our photo gallery to view some of the "Stand Up" letters and "Dreams" showcased at Salt Brook.
A contractor working with flammable liquids sustained serious injuries and a second victim is being treated for possible smoke inhalation as a result of a fire that broke out in a home located at 28 Hamilton Avenue just after 1 p.m. on Jan. 19. According to Cranford Fire Department Chief Leonard Dolan, the contractor was using a chemical to strip the finish off woodwork in the living room/dining room area of the residence when the fire started. Dolan believes it's possible that a spark from a nearby outlet may have ignited the vapor from the flammable liquid.
The Cranford Police Department reported that, in accordance with state, county and local requirements, "Cranford has been advised by Cranford Development Associates LLC, a subsidiary of the S. Hekemian Group, that starting today, CDA will begin sorting landfill material at 215 Birchwood Ave. and removing the materials discovered on site, which includes construction materials and other miscellaneous debris previously buried at the property." The township will have an Engineering Department representative on site during all removal activities, according to Interim Township Administrator Eric Mason, and will be checking all departing trucks and loads to insure compliance with all permit requirements.
Several residents in Springfield have contacted Springfield Mayor Ziad Shehady with requests to look into unpleasant odors they say are emanating from the Union County quarry facility near the Summit border. Earlier this month, several Springfield residents complained about a smell they believe is caused by leaves at the former quarry site the Union County department of public works uses as a compost facility. The County said they would address the odor problem by treating the leaves with lime.
With four votes needed to pursue a proposed bond, Springfield’s Township Committee is split on pursuing a turf field for township athletics. While the three Republicans on the Township Committee are eager to pursue plans to fund and build a turf athletic field at Dayton, Democrats urged caution. Republican Springfield Mayor Ziad Shehady introduced the turf field into a discussion about the Recreation Department at the Township Committee’s goal setting meeting earlier this month. Shehady urged immediate action. Democrat David Amlen countered Shehady by saying that the $3 million projected cost for the field is substantial and that the Township needs time to make an informed decision.
About 1,000 local volunteers came together on Monday to participate in the third annual Martin Luther King Day of Service. Volunteers performed in a variety show, baked apple crisp for local food pantries, participated in volunteer training sessions, wrapped gifts for Liam's Room, made Valentines for Vets, and so much more. Patch produced two photo galleries and and ten videos chronicling the days events.
The Deer Management program began at the Ash Brook Reservation in Scotch Plains on Thursday. Seven hunters from the Oak Ridge Sportsmen Association were chosen by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders to hunt white tailed deer until February 11. Based on an April 2011 spotlight count of the overpopulation, as many as 151 deer could be removed, but a goal has been set to remove 60 given the amount of time and man power dedicated to the project. As of Friday, Patch readers are somewhat divided on the issue of deer management with 66 percent of readers for the hunt, and 34 percent opposed. Vote in the poll here.
As part of an ongoing series on the upcoming SPFHS Repertory Theater production of Anything Goes, Patch sat down with Rachel Naugle, who plays the supporting starring role of Hope Harcourt. Keep an eye out for more interviews with the stars of the show, key players in the success of the production, updated photo galleries of the set design and more!
Fire investigators are still working on the cause of a house fire on Twombly Drive on Thursday. Summit firemen forced entry into a one-story ranch style house that was filled with smoke and shooting fire out of the back, no one was home, except for about three pets.
Six rescue crews responded to support Summit Firefighters, including Millburn, Springfield, Cranford, Plainfield, Roselle and Westfield fire departments.
The call for the 2-alarm fire came in at 3:29p.m. on Thursday. “The entire structure was filled with smoke,“ said Battalion Chief Erick Evers who was one of the first to respond on the scene. His fire crew cut holes into the roof to ventilate the home. Evers said there was fire coming from the rear of the house upon arrival.