SCHOOL BUDGETS PASS

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Spending plans from the school board overseeing Red Bank’s K-8 programs and the regional high school were approved by voters yesterday, according to today’s Asbury Park Press.

The newspaper reports that the Red Bank Board of Ed’s $11.34 million budget was approved by a vote of 187 to 165.

Lone candidate Ben Forest drew 352 votes, the Press reports in a separate story, winning re-election to a three-year term. But because of multiple spellings of names of write-in candidates, officials had not yet sorted out who might have won the two seats that went unsought on the ballot.

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MTOWN NORTH GRAD AMONG VA. VICTIMS

The Asbury Park Press and the Star-Ledger are reporting that a Middletown North High School graduate was among the 32 people shot and killed by a gunman in yesterday’s carnage at Virginia Tech.

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The student was identified by Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger as 23-year-old Julia Pryde, a graduate student in Biological Systems Engineering.

Pryde, Scharfenberger told the Press, was an “outstanding academic student,” as well as an athlete. She’d been on the school swimming team.

“I’m in complete and utter shock over it, and I can’t begin to fathom the enormity of the loss,” Scharfenberger said. “We’re going to do everything we can to pull together for the family. Anything we can do for them will be done.”

The Ledger has posted a heartbreaking account of how Pryde’s parents learned of their daughter’s death. Separately, the paper posted a profile of Pryde.

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PILOT PROGRAM BYPASSES 12TH DISTRICT

New Jersey’s 12th legislative district, which includes of much of Monmouth County and a small portion of Mercer County (map), won’t be part of a pilot program to test an expermental approach to financing “clean elections” in November.

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A special state panel headed by former Gov. Jim Florio yesterday chose the 14th district, which covers parts of Mercer and Middlesex counties, as the third of three venues for the test, whereby candidates who agree to raise set amounts of campaign cash in small increments will get state aid.

The aim is to minimize the big-money influence of special interests.

Previously, one solidly Democratic district and one solidly Republican one had been chosen. The 14th was chosen by the panel, in a 3-2 vote criticized by Republicans, as a model for a “split district.”

The choice disappointed Red Bank’s Jennifer Beck, the 12th-district Assembly Republican who said the district “would have been ideal because so much special interest money has been poured into the district in the past,” according to the Asbury Park Press.

The decision was “as expected,” Beck told PoliticsNJ.com

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STORM NOT SO BAD. HERE’S WHY

This morning’s dailies are today mulling over why the storm that caused so much havoc elsewhere in New Jersey went so easy on the Shore.

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Citing the state Department of Environmental Protection, today’s Asbury Park Press reports that the storm caused some erosion at many beaches in Monmouth and Ocean counties, including Sea Bright, where waves “cut into a 1,000-to-1,500-foot stretch of dunes.”

However, a fairly calm storm season and the lack of erosion this winter left many area beaches prepared to withstand the high winds and big waves from the storm, the DEP said.

Mark Mihalasky, director of research at the Coastal Research Center at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, said he and an assistant walked on many of the beaches on Long Beach Island and found minor erosion in spots.

“Our assessment is that this (storm) was fairly overblown with respect to . . . the hype,” particularly on the part of TV, Mihalasky said.

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AND NOW, THE WINDS

The National Weather Service has a wind advisory calling for gusts of 45 to 50 mph until 6p.

From the posting:

THE COMBINATION OF THE VERY WET GROUND…DUE TO THE HEAVY RAINS
YESTERDAY WILL MAKE SHALLOW ROOTED TREES SUSCEPTIBLE TO TOPPLING.
ANY WEAK TREE LIMBS OR FALLING TREES MAY CAUSE SCATTERED POWER
OUTAGES.

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STORM CURTAILS FERRY SCHEDULE

Continuing fallout from the storm:

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SeaStreak has canceled some of its ferry runs between Highlands/Atlantic Highlands and Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the Asbury Park Press is reporting that Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright has been reopened to traffic. A 12:22p posting on the newspaper’s website says:

The road was closed around 8:25 a.m. when the tidal Shrewsbury River overflowed. High tide hit between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., and the flooding has now subsided.

And Jersey Central Power & Light says about 4,000 of its customers are without electricity, according to the latest from the Star-Ledger, but no widespread outages in Monmouth County are mentioned. Statewide, about 12,000 customers of the state’s largest utilities, JCP&L and Public Service Electric & Gas, are without power, the newspaper says.

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LEDGER: SEA BRIGHT DODGED ‘BULLET’

Plans for a possible evacuation of Sea Bright have been called off because expected flooding did not occur, the Star-Ledger is reporting.

From the report:

Asst. Sea Bright Fire Chief Jay Rock said more serious flooding was averted because lower-than-expected winds did not push water over the seawall along the shore. It wasn’t as bad as we expected, Roco said. “We’ve all seen a lot worse.”

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FOREST ALONE IN K-8 DISTRICT RACE

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Ben Forest has an excellent chance of keeping his seat on the Red Bank Board of Education in tomorrow’s election: he’s the only candidate on the ballot.

Unfortunately for the board, there are three open seats; two other members have retired, saying they were too busy to serve again. Unless the positions are filled by write-in candidates, board president Janet Jones will appoint replacements.

Although he doesn’t seem to need a platform, Forest generously obliged us with one anyway: “Great schools run efficiently.”

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CODEY: ‘STAY HOME.’ US: ‘OK’

The storm that dropped five inches of rain on parts of New Jersey yesterday led Acting Gov. Dick Codey to declare a state of emergency and advise residents this morning to stay home today if they can.

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Dozens of stetches of highway around the state are closed by flooding, according to a list published this morning by the Asbury Park Press online. Nearly 19,000 electricity customers serviced by Public Service Electric & Gas are without juice, mostly in Bergen County, the Star-Ledger reported.

None of those roads, however, are in the area we call The Green, the region stretching from Parkway exit 109 to Sea Bright; the nearest appear to be two stretches of Route 36 in Hazlet. And so far, we’ve seen no reports of power outages anywhere in Monmouth County.

This morning’s high tides are the thing to watch out for, emergency officials are warning.

But so far, it appears to be just a whole lot wetter out there than usual in our little corner of the world.

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LADDERECTOMY

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We think that we won’t soon see
another rusting ladder in a tree…

Yes, folks, the dead tree at 236 Broad Street that for many months was home to a rusted ladder is now ladder-free.

The ladder was one of two on the property that prompted complaints by neighbors. The first one, which stood atop a porch roof, was removed late last year. The tree ladder was taken down earlier this week.

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STORM FORECAST

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“A big ole nasty storm” is in the forecast for this weekend, one that could cause “coastal flooding and beach erosion not seen in many years.”

Those quotes are from a story in today’s Star-Ledger, which reports that “a powerful nor’easter is taking aim at New Jersey, promising more drenching rain, high winds and concerns over coastal flooding and beach erosion.”

Even after the storm passes, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing much sunshine before next Thursday.

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HELPING KIDS UNDERSTAND CANCER

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

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Five years ago, artist Nanci Hersh, then 42, was struggling with how to tell her three- and five-year-old boys that she had breast cancer.

“I didn’t want them to hear it from someone else. I had to tell them, but I didn’t want to scare them,” she says. “It’s hard to know how much information to give.”

Hersh shared her concerns with her cousin, Ellen McVicker, a special education teacher in Colorado. McVicker, in turn, wrote a story about a woman telling her young son that she has cancer. She emailed it to Hersh.

“Ellen wrote a beautiful story,” Hersh recounts. “She said, ‘Maybe one day you’ll illustrate it,’ but I didn’t really see that coming. I just said, ‘Well, maybe.’”

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TALKING MONEY WITH THE SUPER

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Need a walk-through on the Red Bank schools’ $13.35 million budget, which is up for public approval next Tuesday?

Schools Superintendent Laura Morana will host a “conversation” on the spending plan the night before at the Middle School.

The budget is to be supported by a tax $11.3 million, up 2.45 percent from the present spending plan. The owner of a home assessed at $404,980, the borough average, would see an increase of $40.50 for the year.

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LIQUOR LICENSE HEARING POSTPONED

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A long-anticipated hearing on the future of the Best Liquors alcohol license was postponed yesterday before it began.

Two members of the Red Bank Borough Council— John Curley and Michael DuPont— were out sick, and a third, RJ Bifani, recused himself because of a business relationship he had with the store’s owner, Sunny Sharma, according to Mayor Pasquale Menna.

No date for a resumption of the case has yet been determined.

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TRAFFIC FIX PLANNED

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For any motorist who’s ever been stuck at the intersection of Newman Springs Road and Broad Street while not one but two trains halt traffic, a smidgen of relief is on the way.

And for any pedestrian who’s tried to make it across Maple Avenue at Broad on one cycle of the traffic light, ditto.

The state Department of Transportation last night unveiled a makeover for the junction of Broad and Maple at the New Jersey Transit tracks aimed at improving traffic flows and pedestrian safety.

At the same time, the plan attempts to ease some of the frustration experienced by drivers on eastbound Newman Springs Road as they try to turn left onto Broad.

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SALARIES OK’D, INCLUDING WATSON’S

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Public Works Director Gary Watson’s $10,000 pay raise was greenlighted by the borough council last night over ‘no’ votes by the two Republicans on the governing body, John Curley and newcomer Grace Cangemi.

The increase was part of a slate of 3.5-percent pay raises approved for non-unionized borough employees, from Planning Board secretary, whose pay rises to $2,153, to $104,008 for a construction/fire official.

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PRESS: BIFANI WON’T SEEK NEW TERM

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Red Bank Councilman R.J. Bifani, a Democrat, won’t seek re-election in November, the Asbury Park Press is reporting.

So Council President Sharon Lee will be joined on the party’s ticket by Kathleen Horgan of Branch Avenue, the Press reports.

Bifani isn’t quoted in the item, and no reason for his decision to step aside is given. The Press says he’s been on council since the early 1990s. He’s currently the council liaison to the Public Works department.

Bifani did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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COYOTE ATTACK

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There’s extensive coverage today of the reported attack on a toddler by a coyote in the Chapel Hill section of Middletown Friday night.

So far, just what it was that tried to drag the boy off and left him with scratches is a matter of surmise, at least according to the Asbury Park Press.

The Press account refers to “an animal, believed to be one of two or three coyotes that emerged from the woods.” The attack, the report says, was “probably the first coyote attack on a child in state history.”

From the Press:

And while officials have not yet received independent confirmation, because of Friday’s attack, and based on the description and behavior of the animals, it appears coyotes are roaming in the neighborhood near Normandy Road, the private thoroughfare that connects the main base of the Earle Naval Weapons Station with the weapons station’s pier on Sandy Hook Bay, Township Administrator Robert Czech said.

“They didn’t think they were dealing with a pattern, or series of incidents that related to a pack of coyotes, until we put pieces together (after) Friday evening,” he said.

The other cases include four puppies that were killed and a pet cat that was attacked, he said.

The Star-Ledger, though, is more definitive about the animal:

A 22-month-old toddler, playing with family members in the backyard of a Monmouth County home, became the first confirmed victim of a coyote attack on a human when the animal bit him on the head and neck and then tried to drag the youngster out of the yard.

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MENNA MAY OPT OUT OF HEALTHCARE

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Mayor Pasquale Menna has concluded that the public is opposed to the continuation of healthcare coverage for elected and appointed officials, and will waive the benefit for himself if the council doesn’t eliminate it.

“If the recommendation by the [council finance] committee is to maintain the benefits, something I don’t think is defensible from a public policy standpoint, I will individually opt out,” Menna told redbankgreen last week.

Led by freshman Councilman Michael DuPont, the finance committee recently began looking into why the benefit was adopted by the borough some 20 years ago, how widespread its use is among New Jersey towns, and what it costs.

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O’HERN TO REVIEW CORZINE-KATZ

At the request of Gov. Jon Corzine, former Red Bank Mayor and state Supreme Court Justice Daniel O’Hern Sr. is looking into labor-contract negotiations between Corzine and his former girlfriend, labor leader Carla Katz, according to today’s Star-Ledger.

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A resident of Little Silver, O’Hern is one of two members of the governor’s Ethics Advisory Panel, established under a 2003 executive order that laid out a gubernatorial code of conduct. The other member is former New Jersey Attorney General John J. Farmer, Jr.

O’Hern told the newspaper that the review had begun, but declined to discuss details. “We’ve taken this under advisement,” he told the Ledger. “I do expect we will have something to report fairly soon.”

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MENNA GETS THE ROYAL TREATMENT

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Whenever he got the chance, former Red Bank Mayor Ed McKenna would jet off to Ireland to play golf and maybe have a pint among village locals.

McKenna’s successor, Pasquale Menna, though, takes the idea of global schmoozing to literally another level, preferring to put on a tuxedo and rub elbows with royals and pretenders to thrones, redbankgreen has learned.

Three weeks ago, Menna spent a long weekend in the Italian Alps, where he hobnobbed with Savoy royalty. While there, Menna tells us, he attended “a number of receptions hosted by Prince Emmanuel-Philibert,” heir-apparent to the last King of Italy, Umberto II, who died in 1983, 37 years after the end of the Italian monarchy.

Menna says the 35-year-old prince is “a close friend.”

Last Saturday, Menna was in New York for a banquet given by Crown Prince Nikola II of Montenegro, another would-be king if not for the vagaries of history.

There, hizzoner was among the latest inductees into the Order of Prince Danilo I, a designation bestowed on “prominent champions of the preservation of Montenegrin independence,” according to the order’s website. Past recipients include Queen Victoria and King Edward VII of Great Britain.

By then, Menna had already bagged similar recognition from Italy: admittance to the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, a philanthropic organization for which he’s the New Jersey representative.

“I have a little bit more of a life than Red Bank and the practice of law,” says Menna. “I’m international in scope.”

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