Mayor unveils new structure for Office of Emergency Management



IRVINGTON, NJ — Mayor Tony Vauss graded the township’s recent response to the record-breaking snowstorm on Saturday, Jan. 23, as a “B.”

Vauss also said that “B” stood for “better than the recent past,” but not as good as it will soon be. He said the improved public response to bad weather, accidents, acts of God and other unexpected emergencies is thanks to a departmental reorganization within the new Public Safety Department that merged the Police, Fire and Parking departments into one coordinated entity.

Vauss said this means the mayor is automatically in charge of the Office of Emergency Management whenever there is a townwide emergency.

“The head of Emergency Management has been the fire chief for years. Now it goes over to Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers,” said Vauss on Tuesday, Feb. 16. “The mayor can coordinate things but, in my opinion, it’s better to have the Public Safety Department in charge. Then Department of Public Works would be next in line.”

Vauss said the goal of the revamped Office of Emergency Management and Public Safety Department is to be more prepared. He said leaders always have to assess, then make necessary improvements.

But, Vauss emphasized, “The mayor has to be in charge. When it comes to having uniformed personnel do it, the thinking is the mayor can tell him what to do, but he needs to be the one with his finger on the trigger. What we’re striving to do is have a snow-removal plan published that we can put online, so people can go and see what we have done.”

Since January, Vauss said his administration has taken steps to improve all snow-plowing, removal and cleanup operations. He said 31 inches of snow fell on Irvington on Saturday, Jan. 22, and the town will be ready for it if that should ever happen again.

The mayor said getting better also means having to do things in new and different ways to make sure people have access to the services they need. After all, he said, Irvington’s taxpayers and voters are his boss.

“Kim Williams said that we have raised the bar so much that people are literally expecting miracles,” said Vauss. “It’s always a complaint about something. We’re a victim of our own success. But that’s actually a good problem to have. We have to stop automatically thinking that other communities are better than their own.”

Department of Public Works Director and Assemblyman Jamel Holley seems to have embraced Vauss’s new paradigm, saying it’s all part of the administration’s ongoing effort to be safer and better than they have been in the past and he is aboard with the Mayor vision for a cleaner and safer Irvington.

“I’ll get that done for you,” said Holley in response to a request from at large Councilwoman Renee Burgess to do something about potholes on Springfield Avenue and in other parts of town at the Municipal Council meeting Monday, Feb. 8. “We’ll temporarily use the gravel, until we get the real stuff in. The county is responsible (for) maintaining some of our roads in town, but we work with them.”

Vauss said taking care of potholes caused by the recent winter snowstorm, in addition to the normal wear and tear of cars, is always a challenge. He said it was a good thing Irvington recently received a $749,000 streetscape grant from the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. The roadwork is set to begin in the spring.

“The money will fund work to be done to the streetscapes of Irvington by Zenith Construction Services,” said Vauss on Friday, Jan. 29, when the grant award was announced. “I wish to thank our Essex County Freeholders Board for their great support of the township of Irvington. With this funding of Zenith Construction Services, the streetscapes of the town will be modernized and beautified. It will be a great enhancement to our town.

“It will also add to the cleanliness and safety of our town, two of my primary goals.”