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RUMSON FUNDS NEW BOROUGH HALL

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Rumson officials last night put money behind their desire for a new lookalike version of Memorial Borough Hall, authorizing the issuance of debt to cover the $5.5 million cost, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

Financing for the job is included in $7.9 million in bonds that the borough council unanimously agreed to issue last night. Groundbreaking is planned for the fall.

The move came even as borough Historical Society President Michael Steinhorn continued to object that the borough hadn’t sufficiently explained what it would cost to renovate the century-old former residence of Mayor W. Warren Barbour. The house was donated to the town in 1927 and has been used as its municipal center since 1929.

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BAUER HEADED INTO PORT

Virginia S. ‘Ginny’ Bauer, New Jersey’s Secretary of Commerce and the widow of a man killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, is Gov. Jon Corzine’s choice to fill a seat on the board of the powerful Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Star-Ledger is reporting.

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The Red Bank resident, then living in Rumson, vaulted into the public eye by helping secure tax benefits for the families of attack victims in the weeks immediately following the attacks. Nearly two years later, she was picked by then-Gov. Jim McGreevey to head the state lottery. A year ago, she moved to the commerce department at Corzine’s request.

Since the attacks, the Ledger says,

she has become a leading advocate for families of 9/11 victims and has been actively involved in the redevelopment plan for the site, which the Port Authority owns.

Bauer would be the first 9/11 widow from New Jersey to serve on the Port Authority’s board.

Corzine called her the “perfect choice” to fill one of the state’s six seats on the 12-member board that oversees operations of the financially self-sufficient public agency.

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BLOOD, GUTS & A CHRISTMAS STORY

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

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Veteran illustrator and author Elise Primavera, creator of the best-selling “Auntie Claus” picture book series, was giving readings in local schools when she hit upon some startling information about her market.

“I’d be doing a charcoal sketch, and they’d shout out, ‘Have a skeleton! ‘The wolfman!’ ‘A gravestone with RIP!’” says the Red Bank resident. “Then, ‘Put [in] an old tree, with a noose hanging off it, with a dead guy, and a hand coming out of the ground, dripping blood.’”

Primavera knew she was onto something.

“How can you ignore that?” she says. “This is what I keep hearing — ghosts, monsters, blood and guts.

“That’s what they want,” she says with a mischievous laugh. “There’s a need for this. Not enough nooses with dead guys.”

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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If the question was “What is it?” this one would be too easy. Obviously, it’s a Red Bank residence assessed at the townwide average of $404,981.

Kidding. That unpainted door’s got to knock a couple of hundred bucks off the curb value, right?

What is it, and more important, where have you seen it? Answer via email, please.

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LONGING, ON GALLERY WALLS

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Photogallery impressarios Liz & Bob McKay discovered José Castillo Pazos last May at their alma mater, Brookdale Community College, where Castillo was a student. They were awed by his work.

Starting Friday night, Castillo — an native Ecudoran now living in Lincroft — will have his first solo exhibition.

“Each fiber print, skillfully created in the darkroom, is, like a painting, a one-of-a-kind record of a momentary vision; one that will never be reproduced because the artist prefers moving forward with his work to resting in the past,” the McKays say in an announcement for the show.

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CHEWING ON SMART CARDS

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Red Bank RiverCenter officials are mulling the purchase of vending machines that dispense debit cards usable in borough parking meters, according to a story in today’s Asbury Park Press.

The so-called smart cards are available for sale at borough hall in $20 increments. But two years after the cards were introduced, there are still no machines selling them, and many shoppers and merchants aren’t familiar with them.

From the story:

The card is like a Metro Card — used aboard New York subways and buses — for parking meters. When inserted into a parking meter, a light on the meter flashes with each 25 cents deducted from the card. Shoppers who return early can reinsert the card in the meter to be credited for time they haven’t used.

Because the technology enables users to get refunds for unused meter time, a motorist with enough credit on the card can overbuy time on arrival and avoid a $38 parking ticket more assuredly than someone paying in advance with coins.

The vending machine is one of several potential uses for $75,000 earmarked for parking improvements in RiverCenter’s proposed 2007 budget of of $604,000. That’s up from the present $434,000, and reflects the recent expansion to part of the West Side of the Special Improvement District that RiverCenter oversees, director Tricia Rumola told redbankgreen recently.

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DISTRICT SPENDING UP, AND UP FOR VOTE

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Only four of the 88 kindergarten-through-8th-grade school districts of its size in New Jersey will outspend Red Bank on a per-pupil basis this year, the state Department of Education says.

But that unwanted distinction is a reflection of a familiar reality here in town, says schools Superintendent Laura Morana: the district’s obligation to provide bilingual instruction to a great number of its 800 students, as well as the costs of special-needs students and a $1.8 million obligation this year to the Red Bank Charter School.

Considering those factors, Morana says the district has come up with a “major achievement” with a budget slated for a vote tonight by the Board of Education that raises the local schools levy by just $40 a year for the average-value home in town, now set at just under $405,000.

“We really do a great deal with a lot less” than other towns that don’t have the same constraints, Morana tells redbankgreen.

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SCHOOL SPENDING: CHARTER COSTS SOAR

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Only five of New Jersey’s 54 charter schools expect to spend more per child this year than Red Bank’s, according to the state Department of Education’s Comparative Spending Guide, released last Friday.

The Red Bank Charter School ranked 49th in a low-to-high sorting of costs per pupil, planning to spend an average $13,344 per student in the current school year, the state reported. The statewide average among charter schools is $10,365 per student.

The latest ranking continues a recent trend. The Red Bank school ranked 42nd in per-pupil spending for the 2004-05 school year, and in 43rd last year, according to the state data.

In that time, the gap between what the charter school spends and what all charters schools statewide spend on average has been widening. In 2004-05, Red Bank’s costs were 24 percent above the state average of $9,569; last year, the charter school was 27. percent above the average of $10,017. The year, Red Bank is nearly 28.7 percent above the average.

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STATE’S BEST DOWNTOWN, RIGHT HERE

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It’s turning into a break-out-the-Champagne kind of week for downtown Red Bank.

First came news last week that Tiffany & Co plans to open one of its high-end emporiums on Broad Street.

Now there’s a poll released Monday by Monmouth University and New Jersey Monthly magazine that finds Red Bank is the ‘best downtown’ in Central Jersey.

The poll of 801 adults found that six percent considered Red Bank the best downtown in the state, tied with Newark. In the central swath of the state, Red Bank won the ‘best’ designation from 28 percent of respondents, widely outpolling Princeton, New Brunswick and six other towns.

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CANGEMI, MENNA’S GAVEL MAKE DEBUTS

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Republican Grace Cangemi’s first two hours as Red Bank’s newest council member Monday night were marked largely by the air of civility that has dominated the governing body’s meetings this year.

“I have a great deal of respect for Mayor [Pasquale] Menna, and I look forward to being part of his administration,” Cangemi said in her opening remarks as she filled the seat left vacant by the January resignation of Kaye Ernst.

“I think we’ve made the right decision, and I think you’ll be a credit to the residents of Red Bank,” Menna replied, as a packed council hearing room looked on.

Later, though, came the first, brief burst of verbal fireworks since Menna took the gavel from his predecessor as mayor, Ed McKenna. And he had to use it, too — not that it did any good.

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INTRODUCING THE RUMSTONES

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Today, redbankgreen embarks on an exciting new venture. The Rumstones, a family of four that recently moved to our area, is allowing us to fully document their lives as they set up house and weave their way into the community. It’s warts-and-all reality television, minus the television and the faux reality.

Before we jump in, though, we thought we’d give you some 411 on each of the key participants. And only because he’s the source of the family name (and the largest of the four), we begin with Larry.

(Click on Larry to make him even bigger. If the image exceeds the size of your screen, try saving it to your desktop — start by right-clicking it — and then opening it.)

NATURE AREA UNDER ASSAULT

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To the untrained eye, the nature area at Fair Haven Fields looks as otherwordly as it ever has. A compact little wetland forest at the edge of a suburban bedroom community, “it’s sort of our micro-wilderness,” says neighbor Dick Fuller.

But it is not the same place it was just a year ago. That’s when Fuller and other members of Fair Haven Fields Advisory Committee noticed something amiss.

Large swaths of the forest and meadow areas were in a chokehold. An invasive plant known as the Asian Bittersweet vine, or Oriental Bittersweet, had begun enveloping trees throughout the 40-acre refuge, blocking out sunlight and killing the underlying plant life.

Today, there are estimates are that the vine has overrrun 15 percent of the area.

“Some areas look like they were hit by a nuclear bomb,” says committee member and former borough councilman Rich Magovern.

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CLARIFICATION

Robert A. Herold, owner of The Fence Guys in Highlands, has asked redbankgreen to clarify the identity and employment of the suspect named in our March 16 story about the theft of borough-owned fencing on Locust Avenue in Red Bank.

Charged in the theft was Herold’s 29-year-old son, Robert F. Herold, who is known as Frankie. Contrary to what the younger man told Red Bank police, he was not an employee of The Fence Guys at the time of the arrest, the older man says. Though Frankie Herold has worked for the company in the past, he has not done so for several months, according to his father.

In no way way the younger Herold acting on behalf of The Fence Guys at the time of his arrest, says Robert A. Herold.

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TIFFANY COMING TO TOWN

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After months of rumors, it’s official:

Tiffany and Company, the 170-year-old icon of what was once known as the carriage trade, is ready to sprinkle some of its glitter on Broad Street.

The retailer announced today that it has leased a portion of the vacant Garmany building, next door to Garmany’s present business location. Tiffany said it will open a 6,000-square-foot emporium in November.

Red Bank, the company says in a press release, is “a jewel among Jersey shore communities.”

“With its vibrant arts community, fine restaurants and luxury shopping, Red Bank is an increasingly popular destination and a natural setting for a TIFFANY & CO. store,” said Beth O. Canavan, executive vice president of Tiffany & Co. “We’ve secured an ideal location, and we think the many residents and visitors who enjoy shopping on this charming street in the center of town will appreciate Tiffany’s exceptional quality, craftsmanship and superior service.”

The addition of Tiffany to the downtown retail mix, however, is also likely to bolster the argument that district has moved too sharply upscale in terms of prices and merchandise.

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MARQUEE MAN

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Andrew Malecki is kind of a hard case for high school guidance counselors and anathema to parents struggling to convince their kids of the value of a college education.

Smart enough to do well in most of the subjects thrown his way, Malecki’s someone who badmouthed high school as an obstacle to his real education and says, in categorical terms, that college is an utter waste of time and money. For himself, he emphasizes — though his critique is broad-brush.

He’s verbally and artistically gifted, unshakably confident, and — less than a year after graduating from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School — doing exactly the kind of cool stuff he dreamed he’d be doing ever since he decided, mid-sophomore year, that no way was college in the cards for him.

Circumstance may someday prove, to others, that Malecki made the right choice in deciding to pursue a career in filmmaking right out of high school. It could even turn out that the teachers who knew him best at R-FH and tried to dynamite him off his chosen path grudgingly agree.

For now, though, his alma mater is more likely to hold a “Bong Hits for Jesus” rally than point to Malecki as a role model.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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For the first ‘Where’ of Spring 2007, we present what could be the final snow scene for the next nine or ten months. Yes, we know how broken up you are about this. Us, too.

But the cold hasn’t kept you indoors so much that you don’t know where this shot was taken. Are we right? Email us your ‘Where’ answers, please.

Now, turning to last week’s photo, which obviously showed a cityscape reflected by glass doors…

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WEB ACCESS HURDLE REMOVED

A provision that required seekers of online information about Middletown government to identify themselves has been removed from the township’s newly refurbished website, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

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Likewise, a similar feature included in Fair Haven’s website also appears to have been taken down.

The Press reports that access to Middletown Township Committee agendas, minutes and ordinances was opened up Monday after complaints that a registration provision constituted an invasion of privacy. Before the change, users were required to provide a name, email address and telephone number.

From the Press:

Township Clerk Heidi Abs said the registration requirement was changed because of an upcoming shared service agreement between the township and Monmouth County for a records management system. That service will not make users register to view meeting agendas and minutes, she said.

The Web site has been a work in progress, shaped by input from users, Abs said.

“I think we were always moving in that direction” to change registration requirements for a portion of the site, she said.

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O, NATURE

We’ve got our bald eagle. In Red Bank, Tenn., the news today concerns coyotes.

From News Channel 9, WTVC, in Chattanooga:

A problem is brewing for homeowners in Red Bank who say they’ve seen a number of coyotes near their homes.

Vice Mayor Joe Glasscock says the city has three trappers lined up to help rid the area of wild coyotes.
Glasscock says they’ve found four dens, with dozens of coyotes inside.

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ANYTHING WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

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How many of Red Bank’s 3,326 homeowners does it take to cover the cost of healthcare insurance for the 23 elected and appointed officials who use it?

+ Thirteen, in the riverside enclave of Hubbard Park, where the average property assessment is $1.19 million. Collectively, the municipal tax receipts (excluding school and county levies) from every house on Hubbard match the $59,400 cost of insuring elected and appointed officials almost exactly.

+ Thirty-eight, going by the proposed townwide average local property tax bill of $1,556, which is based on an average assessment of $404,981 struck earlier this year.

+ Sixty-nine, on Bank Street, where properties are assessed at an average $224,350, according to Monmouth County records. Except that there are only 55 properties on that three-block street. So even after using every penny of local tax paid by Bank Street property owners to cover this cost, the borough still would need to come up with another $12,000.

That’s the math. Whether or not the spending is appropriate is a political matter — and a hot one, it would appear, judging by a flurry of recent comments posted on redbankgreen. (See the comment trails beneath our stories on the budget, the appointment of Grace Cangemi to the council and elsewhere.)

As Mayor-elect late last year, Pasquale Menna appeared to agree that the issue of healthcare benefits for elected officials was worthy of serious reconsideration. But with a new budget moving forward and no changes to the coverage in evidence, the topic has yet to get a full public airing at the council. Where does Menna stand on it today, and what do each of the sitting council members have to say about it?

redbankgreen invites the mayor and council members to post their opinions on this site, just as all readers are encouraged to do the same.

Meantime, what follows is a Q&A with Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels conducted by email late last week in an effort to establish a basic framework of facts. It’s not an exhaustive review of the topic, but rather a starting point.

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CUPOLA NIP-N-TUCK

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For the second time in 15 years, the cupola atop the Molly Pitcher Inn is getting an overhaul.

Because of exposure, “the wood has become so soft that you can actually penetrate it with your finger,” said James P. Barry, president of J.P. Barry Hospitality Inc, which owns the Molly Pitcher and the Oyster Point hotels. “But hey, that’s what happens when you live at the shore, right?”

This time, the cupola will be be replaced with a woodlike plastic material that’s weather-resistant, while the gold-leaf dome will be preserved.

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BIG BIRD AT RUSH HOUR

The staff of redbankgreen was out for a late-afternoon walk on Tuesday when we were astonished to see a bald eagle flying overhead.

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We were just stepping onto the Cooper Bridge from the Middletown side when we saw the giant brown raptor, it’s head and neck cowled in bright white feathers. Flying east-to-west and pretty much following the northern bank of the Navesink River, it continued for several minutes in the direction of Shadow Lake before vanishing.

OK, so the picture isn’t great. Yanking a camera out of a shoulder bag and capturing a fast-moving animal before it disappears in the setting sun turned out to be a challenge we weren’t quite up to.

But hey: a bald eagle? In Red Bank-Middletown? At rush hour?

“Sure. All the time,” says Bob Henschel, a naturalist at the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center. “You can’t count on them being there” in an urban setting, says Henschel. “But yeah, they’re there.”

The Manasquan center, run by the Monmouth County Park System, is home to one of two known pairs of bald eagles in Monmouth County. The other nests in Colts Neck, on a spit of land abutted by the Monmouth and Swimming River reservoirs. In other words, just upstream from the Navesink.

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R-FH’S HOOPS RUN ENDS

The girls basketball team of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High school came up short last night in its pursuit of a first-ever state championship, falling 48-37 in the semifinal round to Trenton Central.

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The Asbury Park Press has the story.

Rumson (28-5) was by no means overpowered on the boards as Trenton (31-1) held a 40-32 edge, but there were numerous instances when Trenton’s front line of Cintella and Leola Spotwood and Torrie Childs had their way once the shots went up. The three combined for 23 rebounds, 10 coming offensively.

“All those kids are quick and we knew coming in that they were athletic and we had to be able to limit their chances and we didn’t do that enough,” Rumson senior Paige Armstrong said. “We did a good job at times but there were those possessions where we just let down and they were quicker to the ball.”

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THIEF HAD BOUNDARY ISSUES

[CLARIFICATION: Robert A. Herold, owner of The Fence Guys in Highlands, has asked redbankgreen to clarify the identity and employment of the suspect named in the article below. Charged in the theft was Herold’s 29-year-old son, Robert F. Herold, who is known as Frankie. Contrary to what the younger man told Red Bank police, he was not an employee of The Fence Guys at the time of the arrest, the older man says. Though Frankie Herold has worked for the company in the past, he has not done so for several months, according to his father. In no way way the younger Herold acting on behalf of The Fence Guys, his father says. March 22, 2007]

Hey, it’s public property, right? And it’s not doing anything but decorating a vacant lot with a bunch of trees and stuff, so why not just take it?

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That kind of logic was apparently at work earlier this month when someone stole half the fence fronting the Bellhaven Nature Area, a small but enchanting patch of wetlands with an education trail at the western end of Locust Avenue in Red Bank.

But thanks to a nearby resident and basic police work, a suspect was caught with a load of fence sections in his truck.

It turns out he works in the fence-installation business.

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KNITTING TOGETHER INTO THE NIGHT

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“Why do they put clay over the eyes at a Jewish funeral?” someone at the big oak table asks. A reliable answer goes begging, so part-time employee (and ‘Where Have I Seen This?‘ maven) Jenn Woods heads to the back of the store to try to find one on Google. The roundtable occupants continue their knitting, conversation and sipping of white wine.

Shop owner Dori Kershner is helping a customer. “You just need to turn it this way,” she says, momentarily taking the needles and making minor adjustments, redoing a stitch, demonstrating with practiced fingers. Georgia Mangan, in whose hands a pale blue baby blanket is slowly emerging, thanks her. “I just started this two weeks ago,” Mangan tells redbankgreen. “She’s fixed all my mistakes.”

It’s a typical Wednesday evening at Wooly Monmouth, where customers settle in for for several hours of chitchat about everything from American vs. European style knitting to the funeral rituals of Jews and Catholics. There also may be, along with the wine, a heaping pile of Mexican munchies at the center of the table threatening to leave bits of corn chip or salsa in somebody’s next scarf.

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