Mahwah October 28, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 7 Court sets November date for siren arguments by Frank J. McMahon The Appellate Division of Superior Court will hear oral arguments on the use of Mahwah’s fire sirens on Nov. 17. The appeal, which will be heard in Morristown, concerns a Superior Court judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed against Mahwah by two resident couples who oppose the use of fire sirens in the township. The civil lawsuit was filed in April 2007 by plaintiffs Christopher and Dawn DiLeone, the neighbors of Fire Company #3 on Rozanski Lane near Masonicus Road, and Emilios and Dr. Vasiliki Saitas Kokkinos, the neighbors of Fire Company #2 on Island Road. During the trial held last July, the plaintiffs claimed the sirens are a nuisance and sought to stop their use in the township. Two counts of the lawsuit pertaining to the current use of the sirens and the level of noise they emit, and the use of reliable alternate alert systems that do not disturb the public, were dismissed by Superior Court Judge Robert P.Contillo in September 2008 without prejudice, which means a subsequent lawsuit on the same cause of action is not prohibited. Judge Contillo explained the reason for permitting a future lawsuit, saying that, in this case, advances in technology could obviate the need for sirens in the future. A third count, however, claiming the noise levels of the sirens constitute noise pollution that causes the impairment of the environment was dismissed with prejudice, which bars a subsequent lawsuit on that same cause of action. In the appeal, the plaintiffs raised several issues. They claim the evidence at trial conclusively demonstrated that in no instance where pagers were the sole means of notification was there ever a failure to adequately respond to an emergency call. They also claim the trial court judge held that Mahwah failed to prove by even a preponderance of the evidence that the sirens were reasonably necessary. In addition, they claim the evidence at trial was insufficient to show that anecdotal “dead zones” have ever affected complete and timely response via pager notification alone. The plaintiffs also claim the Mahwah police chief’s testimony was sufficient to clearly demonstrate that sirens could be eliminated without unreasonable risk to residents, businesses, or firefighters. They further claim their expert’s opinion that any of the dead zones in the township could be overcome by directional antennas or repeaters should not have been rejected by the court. They said sirens are not audible throughout township and have been left inoperable for extended periods of time. They added that the court ignored the fact that no evidence of pager failure was presented to the mayor in response to the mayor’s request, and that the court ignored evidence of adequate firefighter response to emergency calls absent sirens. During the trial, Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli testified on behalf of the plaintiffs, saying the fire siren system is unnecessary in the township and can be safely eliminated. Mayor Richard Martel testified that, while he can sympathize with the people who live near the sirens, he has to consider the township’s overall population and provide the maximum effort to notify the volunteer firefighters in the case of an emergency. He said he believes the best way to do that is by the use of pagers and fire sirens. Mahwah Township Attorney Terry Bottinelli argued during the trial that sirens are exempted from the state noise regulations, but that the sirens in Mahwah meet the manufacturer’s standards for the decibel level they are allowed to emit. He told the court that pagers are not 100 percent reliable because there are dead spots in the township due to its topography, and the population in Mahwah increases during the daytime while the number of volunteers decreases, and he claimed that the use of pagers and sirens provide the best means of notification of those volunteers. He also argued that cell phones are not reliable because of dead spots, and the Reverse 911 system requires a firefighter to be near a phone, unlike ambulance corps volunteers who are scheduled to be on-call. In his decision, Judge Contillo noted that the township has been using sirens to summon firefighters since the 1930s. 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