In the past 12 months, Fair Lawn has endured historic natural disasters, faced a slew of lawsuits from police officers and elected a Republican council for the first time in over a decade.
The year ahead should usher in a wave of significant changes to the borough, but let's look now at the year that was 2011.
Deputy Mayor Joe Tedeschi began the new year by touting the $1.3 million in savings the borough had accrued since it switched from private insurance to self-insurance. Policemen's Benevolent Association President David Boone questioned the merit of the switch to self-insurance and Tedeschi's savings calculations in a letter to the editor.
On the schools side of things, the Board of Education announced that it would take $1.5 million from its surplus to fill a $6 million budget gap.
Fair Lawn High School football coach Stan Myles resigned for "family reasons," following a 3-7 season.
February got off to a frightening start when a borough man was bit by his poisonous pet albino cobra. After the incident, a Fair Lawn Animal Control Officer leaked photos of the cobra to the press, which got him sent packing by borough manager Timothy Stafford. About a week after the attack, the snake and two other snakes owned by the man, were put in the care of a wildlife educator in Massachusetts.
Newly released census data showed that over the past decade Fair Lawn had become a much more racially diverse community. Since 2000, Fair Lawn's African-American and Asian populations have more than doubled, while its Hispanic population has grown by 89 percent.
The slates for the November election started taking shape, as the Republicans announced a ticket of John Cosgrove, Pamela Coles and Joan Fragala. Lisa Swain, the new mayor, announced she would seek re-election and Stuart Pace entered the borough council race as an Independent.
The borough's state municipal aid remained steady at $3.74 million, while the board of education received an increase of $800,000 in state aid from the year before.
A Fair Lawn Avenue home was destroyed by a fire that also damaged two neighboring houses. The home's residents were displaced and its landlord was fined for not having had recent inspections made to the home's smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. A former emergency responder stopped that morning to provide assistance.
Fair Lawn High School's Girls Basketball team went on a surprising state playoff run as the 16th seed, after initially being left out of the state tournament. The Cinderella squad knocked off top-seeded North Bergen and rival Ridgewood before falling in the state semifinals.
The Board of Education passed a $83,673,140 school budget that included a $73,158,200 tax levy—an increase of 1.75 percent from 2010—and cuts in custodial staff.
The Borough Council adopted a 2011 municipal budget with $45,586,520.11 in total general appropriations and a zero-percent increase for Fair Lawn taxpayers.
Fair Lawn High School's Boys Volleyball team capped off a dream season with a state championship that resulted in the team earning a top 25 national ranking by ESPN.
The Borough skate park, which opened earlier in the summer, closed following an outcry from residents living nearby.
In mid-August, Zak Koeske became the new editor of Fair Lawn Patch.
One natural disaster was soon followed by another, as Hurricane Irene blew through Fair Lawn. Patch provided up-to-the-minute coverage of the hurricane and subsequent historic flooding for four days (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4). In all, the flooding displaced 315 residents and affected nearly 1,200.
The extensive flooding caused by the hurricane forced Memorial Middle School to close down temporarily while repairs could be made to the school's boiler room. During the school's forced closure, students were dispersed across the borough and attended classes at different buildings. In all, the flood-related damages came to $1.2 million, which Superintendent Bruce Watson said would be reimbursed in full.
A controversy at the high school began brewing in early September when senior students reported that their teachers were refusing to write college recommendation letters, presumably as a job action to speed up contract negotiations. By the end of the month, however, after a harsh public backlash, most teachers began writing recommendation letters again.
In late September, a suspicious man was spotted wandering the halls at Lyncrest Elementary.
At a council meeting in mid-October, borough manager Timothy Stafford told residents to avoid Memorial Park's playground because of possible contamination issues related to severe flooding brought on by the hurricane. The next day, he backtracked, saying the park was safe for play. A week later, at the request of Mayor Lisa Swain, the playground was closed again barring additional testing.
The borough finalized its acquisition of the historic Naugle House.
The suspicious man allegedly seen wandering Lyncrest Elementary in September returned to the premises and was arrested by police for trespassing. Police said he was not considered a danger to the children, but instead was looking for items to steal. A few days later, police added a burglary charge to the man's trespassing charge.
After absorbing a month of stinging criticisms from parents and the Board of Education for their decision not to write college recommendation letters, Fair Lawn teachers took a stand at the October Board of Ed Meeting. At the meeting, union president Gene Kuffel called out the BOE for delaying contract negotiations.
A freak snowstorm in late October closed roads, downed trees and caused thousands of power outages across town. As a result, all Fair Lawn Schools were delayed the next day and Radburn and Edison Schools were closed. It took days for power to be restored entirely.
The borough received test results that confirmed the Memorial Park fields, pool and playground were indeed safe.
Fair Lawn took to the polls on November 8 for election day, with the choice of seven candidates to fill three empty seats on borough council.
Voter turnout was down more than 20 percent, but in the end, incumbent Mayor Lisa Swain, Democrat Kurt Peluso and Republican John Cosgrove won the three open council seats. With Cosgrove's win, the Republicans took control of Fair Lawn borough council for the first time in more than a decade.
After the election, councilman-elect Kurt Peluso called on sitting Republican councilmembers Jeanne Baratta and Ed Trawinski to resign their positions because of what he considered a conflict of interest that stemmed from their having county jobs. Baratta and Trawinski responded that they would not give up their seats.
Stuart Pace, who ran as an independent, called it a political career after the election, but Democrat Cristina Cutrone, who narrowly missed out on a seat, vowed to run again.
A Patch analysis found that index crimes in Fair Lawn hit an all-time low in 2010. Police advised residents not to jump to conclusions about the findings.
Some 5,000 Fair Lawn residents lost power on November 29, due to a supply line failure at a substation in Wayne, according to PSE&G. Residents went without power most of the afternoon and into the evening, until power was finally restored.
Sam Leigh broke the story that Fair Lawn High School grad Lauryn Kahn sold her movie script to Will Ferrell's production company for $1.5 million.
Another police officer sued the borough. This time, it was 31-year veteran Hiram Taylor.
After 18-plus months of working under an expired contract, Fair Lawn teachers reached a tentative contract agreement. Teachers will head into 2012 without a new contract, but should be moving forward to finalize the tentative agreement in January.
The borough council decided it was in its best interest to shield the police chief and captain from the myriad of lawsuits they face from officers. Detective David Boone wrote an op-ed disagreeing with the council's decision to indemnify the chief and captain.
Jeanne Baratta is expected to be Fair Lawn's next mayor. She will replace current Mayor Lisa Swain after council re-organizes on Jan. 3.