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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

Is this a sign of what a litigious society we live in?

Last week’s shot, showing a drop box for a courier service to the legal profession, attracted a respectable number of responses, all but one of them correct. (The wrong one, curiously, was submitted by a lawyer.)

First in was Charlie Bierly of Madison Avenue, who correctly identified the box’s location as Bergen Place just a few steps west of Broad Street. Charlie was joined by Jenn Woods, Robert Clark, Johnystuf, Alex Turoczi and bluesman extraordinaire Chuck Lambert.

Congrats to all our players, and thanks for playing.

This week…

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SCHOOLS WINDFALL MEANS NEW BUDGET

The state-leading 18.6-percent increase in aid to Red Bank schools disclosed Monday put the Board of Education in a pleasant position a day later: having to rework a preliminary budget to accomodate an additional $2.36 million $367,871 in funding for literacy programs, preschool and full-day kindergarten, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

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Board member Ben Forrest would also like to see some relief for borough taxpayers.

From the story:

“One of the things on the table should be tax relief for the taxpayers of Red Bank, they’ve carried a heavy load,” Forest said. “I want to improve programs, but I want to help people as well.”

[Schools superintendent Laura C.] Morana said that would be one of the district’s goals.

“We keep in mind that it is not a blank check,” she said.

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OVERDUE: COUNTY LIBRARY REMODELING

The $10.1 million renovation of the Eastern Branch of the Monmouth County Library is now expected to be completed in June, four years after work began and two years later than originally expected, according to a story in today’s Asbury Park Press.

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The article reports on the reopening if the of the Route 35 facility two days ago, following a monthlong shutdown:

The closing was initially supposed to last two weeks, but delays occurred with Internet and telephone rewiring work and other tasks related to inspections, Eastern Branch Chief Librarian Janet Kranis said.

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FLORIDA STINKING UP HOV RESULTS

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Contract cancellations like crazy in a particular Florida market are dragging down earnings at Hovnanian Enterprises, officials of the Red Bank-based homebuilding company say.

The builder said it expects to take a $90 million hit from writing down the value of inventoried land and cancelled contracts in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral region, according to a report at TheStreet.com.

Before factoring in those charges, the company is forecasting earnings per share of 20 cents, up from the 5- to 10-cents forecast in the company’s earlier “guidance.” The impact of the Florida writedowns on net earnings per share was not included in TheStreet’s report, but MarketWatch says it will result in a loss.

An analyst quoted by MarketWatch said the $90 million charge represents “nearly the entire purchase price” Hovnanian paid to acquire a homebuilder in the Fort Myers market in August, 2005.

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RED BANK ‘WINNER’ OF STATE AID BOOST

Gov. Jon Corzine’s proposed budget includes a more than 18-percent increase in state aid to Red Bank schools.

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From today’s Star-Ledger:

Details of Corzine’s state budget proposal released yesterday show the first significant, across-the-board increases for schools since 2000, with double-digit increases in some middle-class towns.

The biggest winners were places like Red Bank, Cliffside Park and West Orange, where increases as large as 18 percent were based mostly on large numbers of low-income students.

In 50 such towns, school aid will rise at least 10 percent, after a virtual freeze that lasted more than half a decade. The budget proposal now moves to the Legislature for review.

“I thought I read it wrong,” Red Bank Superintendent Laura Morana said. “I saw 18.6 percent (increase) and thought it must be an error.”

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AND THEN THERE WERE TWO

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Local Republicans Monday night disclosed the names of three possible replacements for Kaye Ernst, who quit her council seat earlier this month after little more than a year in office.

But by the time Councilman John Curley identified the three at a regular council meeting, one of them had already bailed.

Curley identified his party’s choices as Grace Cangemi, who narrowly missed winning a seat in the November election; Stephen Fitzpatrick, a regular at council sessions who has been critical of the Democratic majority’s campaign fundraising and record-keeping; and Anthony Tamburri, a son-in-law of the late mayor and Judge John Arnone.

Curley described all three as “articulate, intelligent and passionate.”

It turned out, though, that even before Curley spoke, Tamburri’s passion had faded, and he’d decided he didn’t want the job after all.

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SOUTHIE ALERT: HERE’S YOUR CHANCE

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Remember last September’s mini tax rebellion, the one led by residents of South Street ticked off about their property tax bills?

Well, the Southies and anyone else with gimlet eye for government fat and waste will get a chance to help shape the Red Bank borough budget in a way not previously available to the citizenry, elected officials say.

The borough council’s finance committee will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, March 6 at 5:30p to discuss the budget outlook and to solicit input from taxpayers.

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CURLEY TRIES REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY

Jammed up by a Democratic majority at odds with his demand for a reduction in the $38 overtime parking fine, Councilman John Curley last night offered a compromise plan, and then agreed to wait and see about its feasibilty.

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Curley asked the council to consider a six-month ramping up of meter enforcement at the present fine rate to include the hours between 4p and 8p six days a week — hours, apparently, when the meter patrol is off-duty, despite signs all over town suggesting otherwise.

“If nothing else, I’m sure it will give us additional revenues,” said Curley.

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WE HAVE A NEW MAYOR…

Which is to say that the Red Bank borough’s official website is finally catching up to reality.

Eight weeks after he was sworn in, Pasquale Menna’s name is now listed on the site in the place where Ed McKenna’s name still stood as recently as Monday afternoon. Michael DuPont is listed as a councilman. And there’s a calendar for the year 2007.

OK, so the calendar doesn’t yet list council meetings scheduled for coming months. But borough officials, and particularly the Demoratic majority, say they’re working on putting more data on the site in an effort to meet a campaign promise for more “transparent” government.

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JCP&L TO BE SCORED ON RESPONSE

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The state Board of Public Utilities is planning to review electrical utility JCP&L’s response to the Feb. 14 ice storm that cut power to about 120,000 homes, in some cases for days. Many of those homes were in the Red Bank area.

At the moment, though, some factors appear to favor the “grade” the BPU will give the state’s second-largest utility, a BPU spokesman says in today’s Star-Ledger.

From the story:

One measure of success or failure is a comparison of a utility’s performance from storm to storm. By that measure, JCP&L seems to have done a better job than it did during a big summer storm in 2002, when 175,000 customers lost power.

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ZAZZALI BRINGS HOME BACON FOR JUDGES

State Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali, who’s been agitating lately for better pay for judges, appears to have made a persuasive case to Gov. Jon Corzine.

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The Star-Ledger reports today that Corzine’s budget proposal, disclosed this week, “includes money to raise the pay of state judges, the first installment of a three-year plan to bring them up to parity with the federal judiciary.”

More from the story:

During a meeting with the editorial board of The Star-Ledger, the governor said he has agreed to a request by Chief Justice James Zazzali to begin boosting the pay of state judges. A Treasury Department spokesman later explained that the budget includes language authorizing the Judiciary to raise salaries a total of about $10 million over the next three years.

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MAYBE THEY LIKE THE SCHOOLS

Today’s Asbury Park Press has a fascinating story today about a study in which fish tagged with tracking devices were released into the Navesink River as part of a study to understand their wanderings.

From the article, by reporter Kirk Moore:

Dozens of bluefish, striped bass and weakfish implanted with electronic tags last summer surprised scientists by staying in the Navesink River for an average three weeks or longer, showing how important the suburban river remains to marine life, according to preliminary results from those 2006 experiments.

“What amazed us was how long some of these animals stayed in the system,” said John Manderson, a scientist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s James J. Howard Laboratory here. “So even though it’s small, a lot of these fish are using the system quite intensively.”

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KA-CHING: DEMS SPENT BIG TO WIN

The Asbury Park Press has a story today on campaign spending in last year’s council and mayoral races in Red Bank showing that the Democrats — who won all three open seats — outspent the Republicans by more than four to one.

According to reporter Larry Higgs, the Dems, led by Mayor Pasquale Menna, spent $51,378, or $30.50 for every vote cast in their favor, versus $12,100, or $7.65 per vote spent by the GOP.

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STATE HANGS UP ON CELL TOWER SWAP

Those dead spots you keeping hitting in Fair Haven when talking on your cell phone? They’re no closer to being filled, thanks to a decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection that the borough may not use Green-Acres funded land as a site for a cell tower.

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And Mayor Michael Halfacre says he thinks the DEP officials who heard the borough’s hourlong presentation on the request had made up their minds in advance, according to a story on the Asbury Park Press website.

From the story:

The application, which could have set a statewide precedent if it had been approved, was denied after Fair Haven officials made an hour-long presentation to about five state officials.

“When we were through, they left the room and came back after two minutes and said, “we’re not doing this,'” said Mayor Michael Halfacre, who was at the meeting. “It was clearly a predetermined denial.”

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STUDENTS DECRY DARFUR ‘HOLOCAUST’

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Forget Lindsay Lohan and fence-plowing and occasionally topless amateur hour contestants. There is hope for the next generation.

With the help of a social studies teacher, two Rumson-Fair Haven High School seniors, Nikki Schneider and Kellie Donovan, organized Wednesday night’s “Night for Darfur” with the aim of informing the community about “another holocaust” underway in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

“What’s going on affects us all,” said Schneider. “We made a promise after the Holocaust. It’s unacceptable.”

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REASSESSMENT MAGIC NUMBER

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The Hub reports today that the total value of Red Bank properties under the latest reassessment was $2.2 billion, up from $968 million at the time of the previous revaluation, which was in 2000.

By our math, that’s an average multiplier of 2.27.

Did your assessment increase by more than the average, or less? The answer might give you guidance on the direction of your tax bill this year, and whether you’ll want to sit down with Realty Appraisal Co. for a chat.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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One thing Erin Visalli wanted to accomplish — and who among our readers doesn’t identify with this? — was to win a ‘Where.’ Ever since her neighbor, multiple ‘Where’ champ Jenn Woods, turned her onto redbankgreen, Erin’s wanted a piece of the action, too.

Erin’s sense of urgency was heightened recently when she and her husband starting planning a move to South Jersey so he could be nearer to a new job in Philly.

And then last week, just as she was packing up her things, a big plum of a ‘Where’ landed in her lap, digitally speaking.

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SEA BRIGHT FIRE VICTIM DIES

Sad news: the Asbury Park Press is reporting that Debra Yuhasz, the Sea Bright woman badly injured in a fire that destroyed much of the Fountains condo complex on Feb. 5, has died.

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She was 47 years old and had been hospitalized in critical condition at St. Barnabas Medical Center’s burn unit in Livingston since the blaze. Citing a hospital spokeswoman as the source, the Press says she died around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Yuhasz had been pulled off her balcony by firefighters in a dramatic rescue after having been seen on fire herself.

From the story:

All of those emergency workers were very upset when they learned that she died, said Police Chief William S. Moore.

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‘NIGHT FOR DARFUR’ AT R-FH

It’s long been kind of an orphan among international issues, crying out for a solution. But the genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan continues.

Indeed, there was this last week, from a New York Times story on efforts by the United Nations to put a fact-finding team on the ground there:

Andrew S. Natsios, President Bush’s envoy for Darfur, said Wednesday [Feb. 14] that pro-government Janjaweed militias blamed for most of the killing, raping and pillaging were planning new actions — a threat, he said, that could drive out aid workers and close camps, producing a “bloodbath.”

This Thursday WEDNESDAY night, a teacher and some students at Rumson-Fair Haven High School hope to call attention to the crisis. They’re hosting an event that’s free and open to the public at which a Darfurian will provide eyewitness accounts to what’s going on there. There will be other speakers, too, as well as photos from the refugee camps and means for participants to make relief contributions.

The event was the idea of two students who helped organize it with social studies teacher Megan Arnone, we’re told.

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FUN WORTH THE WAIT

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After four years of waiting, ice boaters, skaters and riverwalkers have been enjoying great conditions on the frozen Navesink River lately. The glory continues today, with forecasted wind-chill temperatures of -5 degrees before a warming trend moves in tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service.

STILL NO JUICE FOR HUNDREDS

Today’s Star-Ledger has a story on the residual power outages from Wednesday’s storm, most of which are concentrated in this corner of Monmouth County.

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And the Asbury Park Press reported at 7:30a that between 501 and 2,000 customers still had no electrical power in Fair Haven, Red Bank, Highlands and Tinton Falls, with outages also in Atlantic Highlands, Middletown and Rumson.

From the Ledger story:

Few areas were hit harder than a swath of Shrewsbury, where traffic lights on busy Route 35 remained out and icy tree limbs littered the side streets. Every limb seemed to have a wire under it…

For the majority in the cold, power was expected to be restored by early this morning, said Ron Morano, a spokesman for JCP&L, the utility hit hardest by the storm. Most others would be reconnected to the grid later today, Morano said.

For an unlucky few who lost lines that had been attached to their houses, however, the wait could stretch into tomorrow.

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POWER OUTAGES LINGER

Plenty of homes and businesses in our area remain without electrical power this frozen morning.

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Here’s a 9a update from the Asbury Park Press:

Thousands of Monmouth County residents are still without power this morning, and some area roads remain closed because of downed wires.

Around 8:30 a.m., an estimated 2,001 to 5,000 JCP&L customers in Atlantic Highlands, Fair Haven, Farmingdale, Howell and Tinton Falls remained without power, according to that company’s Web site.

Another estimated 501 to 2,000 customers in Colts Neck, Eatontown, Freehold, Highlands, Little Silver, Red Bank, Rumson, Jackson and Shrewsbury were also without power.

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