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2012 Year in Review

Here's a look back at all the biggest stories from the past year in Westwood, Hillsdale and Washington Township.

2012 was a big year in Westwood, Washington Township and Hillsdale. State officials approved a plan to reopen the former Pascack Valley Hospital. Gov. Chris Christie visited Westwood twice. State Assemblyman Robert Schroeder came under fire for alleged crimes. There were fires, arrests, elections and a "super storm."

Hillsdale residents should note that we did not begin covering the borough until June.

January

The year started with a kitchen fire at Bacari Grill shortly after midnight January 1. Customers and staff were evacuated, but a quick response from firefighters allowed the restaurant to reopen the next day.

There was another fire in Washington Township just days later at the Washington Town Center.

February

State Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd approved the plan to reopen the former Pascack Valley Hospital as HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley. A few days later, Gov. Chris Christie visited Westwood to praise the decision in a speech at the Community Center.

Westwood Police arrested an 18-year-old man and his father for an alleged hit-and-run attack against a jogger after an argument.

The Westwood Regional Board of Education unanimously voted against reappointing long-time baseball coach Joe Yurko to his position and later picked Kristofer Izzo as the new head coach.

The school board also voted to move their elections to the general election in November.

March

The Iron Horse reopened less than five months after a fire gutted its kitchen. Later that month, the popular Westwood restuarant celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Washington Township Police arrested two people who were allegedly stealing mail from residents.

A group of Washington Township residents proposed artificial turf as a solution to the problems at Memorial Field.

Washington Township residents raised money for a reward for "Eileen," the township's unofficial one-legged turkey mascot who went missing. The bird was later found at an animal sanctuary, treated and released back in the township.

April

Graffiti in a bathroom at Westwood Jr./Sr. High School led to an evacuation as police searched for a bomb at the school. The threat was found to not be credible.

HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley held a ceremonial "wall breaking" to officially start its renovations. The hospital is due to open in 2013.

May

Lots of police and fire activity happened in May. An Immaculate Heart Academy teacher was charged with having sexual relations with a male student at Wood-Ridge High School, where she was also a softball coach. A father-son team who were previously charged with a hit-and-run against a jogger were arrested again for allegedly assaulting a Westwood Police officer. Westwood and Hillsdale firefighters extinguished a burning trailer parked behind KMart. Washington Township Police responded to a home where a resident found a masked intruder. After a brief scuffle, the intruder locked himself in a bathroom and fled out a window.

Rumors also circulated that a mountain lion had been spotted in Washington Township, with similar stories coming from Westwood and Ho-Ho-Kus residents. Wildlife officials said they believed the animal may have actually been a coyote with mange.

A group of parents and police saved the life of a lacrosse referee after he had a heart attack while officiating a game in Westwood. Parents performed CPR on the man until police arrived with a defibrillator. It took four shocks to make the man alert again.

In government news, a controversial plan to expand 5 Star Gas in Washington Township was approved. A plan for a five-unit strip mall in Westwood was denied. The Washington Township Council voted to the deal.

June

Patch began covering Hillsdale news this month.

The Westwood Regional Board of Education hired a district science advisor and principal for the high school. The board also approved a new five-year superintendent contract.

The mayors of Hillsdale and River Vale vowed to fight a plan from Montvale and Woodcliff Lake to withdraw from the Pascack Valley Regional High School District.

The Pascack Valley Superintendent said he was being requested by Hillsdale for a $1.8 million project to add more classrooms to Pascack Valley High School.

The Washington Township Council decided to resod Memorial Field, despite the wishes of a group of residents who wanted artificial turf.

July

A road rage-induced race up the Parkway led to a crash in Washington Township, killing a 63-year-old Teaneck woman riding in one of the vehicles. Both drivers were charged with vehicular homicide and numerous motor vehicle violations.

Westwood received more than $2 million in aid from FEMA and the DEP to use for buyouts of flood-prone homes.

Hillsdale officials decided to keep their emergency dispatching in the borough's police department after months of investigation and deliberation.

Westwood firefighters and county HazMat cleaned up four containers of acid that were dropped and leaked in borough streets.

August

State officials to a pair of investors. County Democrats called for Schroeder to resign as he became the target of several lawsuits, including seven from Washington Township's Oritani Bank and one from township Council Vice President Joseph D'Urso.

The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice found that Washington Township Police were justified in fatally shooting a 48-year-old Ridgewood man in 2011. The man had been firing at the officers and hit their patrol vehicle.

A sudden rainstorm wreaked havoc, flooding local streets and knocked down power lines. Four cars got stuck in flood waters on Wierimus Road in Hillsdale. Near the ShopRite, a truck snapped a utility pole and caused a small fire. An area of Westwood near the hospital also flooded in the storm.

September

The first two attempted lurings in what would become a string of the incidents across the county happened in Washington Township. A couple in a car first asked a pair of young girls if they wanted a ride, then tried a group of young boys after the girls rejected the offer.

An 11-year-old girl was hit by a car after the first day of school outside Westwood Regional Middle School. The girl had reportedly ran back into the street to return to the school and was struck by a car making a turn. She reportedly had only minor injuries.

Atlantic Stewardship Bank sued State Assemblyman Robert Schroeder, claiming he failed to make payments and committed fraud by failing to report other loans he had received.

In government news, a plan for a cell phone tower above the Westwood movie theater was approved. A proposed apartment building in downtown Hillsdale was rejected. A developer whose plan to build a strip mall on Kinderkamack Road was denied filed a second application.

October

Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to thousands of residents. State officials ordered the Woodcliff Lake Reservoir to be lowered due to expected heavy rain, but the storm mostly brough high winds and there was no flooding.

Another luring incident was reported, this time in Westwood. A man in a car reportedly offered a Westwood Jr./Sr. High School student a ride, but she declined. Westwood Police set up roadblocks and distributed drawings of a man they sought, but he was never found.

Lakeland Bank sued State Assemblyman Robert Schroeder over a loan he allegedly failed to repay.

More than 900 people applied for jobs at HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley during a job fair at the hospital.

November

As residents slowly recovered from Hurricane Sandy, lines for gas grew to hours-long waits. On two dead-end streets in Hillsdale, residents were trapped for days behind a tree which fell and brought down power lines across the road.

Gov. Chris Christie visited Westwood for the second time this year to praise school leaders for holding "combined sessions" in schools with power to get students back to class faster after the storm.

The governor's visit came just days before it was revealed that Superintendent Geoffrey Zoeller had . Zoeller later apologized, but some residents called for him to resign over the incident.

Hillsdale Police recognized an 8-year-old boy who saved the lives of two other boys and ran for help to aid a woman who were all having trouble swimming in a pool over the summer.

In local elections, Hillsdale Democrats swept all four seats on the borough council. Westwood Republicans won the two seats up for election there.

The Washington Township Council voted to pursue a shared emergency dispatching agreement with Westwood, but Mayor Janet Sobkowicz said she would not sign the contract.

December

A grand jury indicted State Assemblyman Robert Schroeder on charges that he stole $1.8 million and wrote bad checks valued at more than $3.4 million. The Attorney General's Office also filed to seize funds and property from Schroeder. The U.S. Army has sought to ban him from doing business with the federal government. He was also sued by another bank.

The Westwood Regional Boad of Education appointed district Director of Elementary Education and Technology Rory McCourt as the acting superintendent for the rest of the school year. No decision has been made about Superintendent Geoffrey Zoeller.

A Westwood Jr./Sr. High School student was arrested after he allegedly made threats against other students. Police seized items from the student's home and charged him with possession of an imitation firearm.

A Washington Township man was sentenced to seven years in state prison for receiving kickbacks for referrals from his business as a chiropractor and for failing to report income on his taxes.

Hundreds of Hillsdale residents signed a petition opposing a proposed sober living home for former addicts near George G. White Middle School.

Thousands of area residents came to downtown Westwood for the annual holiday parade and lighting ceremony.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Jim Leggate at Jim.Leggate@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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