Monday, July 18, 2005

Bomb scare empties City Hall and YMCA

Watchung Avenue between 5th and 6th Streets is blocked at 10:15 am.

According to our first report, there is a suspected bomb in the mailbox in front of City Hall.

City workers wait patiently behind the building.

Children evacuated from the YMCA across the street stand in line along Cleveland Avenue.

--Barbara Todd Kerr
[UPDATE - Bernice reports:] A mid-morning bomb scare emptied City Hall and the YMCA Monday (July 18,2005) and drew a swift response from city and county public safety agencies.
The huge Union County Bomb Squad truck, with its round blue container and its robot, dominated the scene as police held people back from City Hall. Smoke from a mailbox led to the investigation and officials found charred letters and a watch inside.
Plainfield police and fire personnel, postal officials and Union County Haz-Mat and Emergency Response trucks converged on the scene at 515 Watchung Avenue.
Plainfield Postmaster Richard J. Firstmeyer said the evidence collected by police will be turned over to U.S. Postal Service inspectors to check for fingerprints.
About a dozen singed letters and a yellow greeting card envelope with charred corners were strewn on the brick plaza in front of City Hall as the bomb squad left. A gloved police officer put the damaged mail into a large, clear plastic bag and a Public Works employee swept a small pile of ashes into a dustpan.

The buildings were evacuated around 9:45 a.m. and people were allowed to return to City Hall and the YMCA about an hour later.
The event disrupted a normally very busy day for City Hall staffers.
“It‘s a Monday - I was banging off my tasks right and left,” Deputy City Administrator Pat Ballard Fox said as she stood outside waiting for the all-clear. “Productivity is shot.”
But in light of current security concerns, Ballard Fox said, “They had to do it.”
Bicyclist Michael Moore, 21, found his way blocked on Watchung Avenue but was less perturbed by the bomb scare than by the city‘s rash of 11 homicides.
“They still ain‘t doing nothing out here,” the lifelong resident said.
At the YMCA, front desk supervisor Annie Williams-Crouch said , “The evacuation went well. We got the children out of the building in less than two minutes and the residents less than three minutes.”
The building houses children’s programs as well as a residence for single men and a homeless shelter. Williams-Crouch said maintenance worker Patrick Smith alerted staff to the emergency and she and administrative assistant Theresa McCoy led the evacuation

--Bernice Paglia
KEYWORDS: City Hall, bomb, police