BECK CHATS IT UP WITH WESTSIDE GROUP

jen-beckState Senator Jen Beck talked with residents at the West Side Community Group Wednesday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

For months, Patrick Hussey has looked out from his Catherine Street home and wished for pavement. The asphalt was torn up as part of the Cedar Crossing construction project, he said, and he’s been told by contractors that there’s no plan to repave the section of road until later this year.

“I’m ready to plant a garden right there in the street in front of my house,” Hussey said.

He hasn’t been able to get a straight answer from local officials about when his street will be repaved, he said, so he took his grievance a couple steps higher up the chain Wednesday night, when State Senator Jen Beck visited the Westside Community Group for her first time since serving on the borough council.

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RUMSON’S SPENDING DOWN, TAXES UP

rumson-councilFor the second year in a row, Rumson’s tax rate will increase. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Rumson officials told department heads earlier this year to hold the line on expenses, and they did. The council, too, reined in spending for 2011, costing a police department employee a job.

But despite a budget shrinkage of about $250,000, taxes, for the second straight year, are going up in Rumson.

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RED BANK SCHOOL BUDGET RAISES TAX 1.9%

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Board of Education unveiled its 2011-12 budget last week, a plan that includes difficult decisions but avoids drastic ones, said Superintendent Laura Morana.

Sports, fields trips and capital projects are, like last year, off the table, and a handful of positions will be eliminated under the $19.45 million spending plan.

That doesn’t necessarily equate to job losses, though, Morana said.

“I am positive everyone will be absorbed” somewhere else in the district, she said.

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BROOKDALE PREZ PUT ON UNPAID LEAVE

hot-topic rightBrookdale Community College President Peter Burnham has been put on unpaid leave amid questions about “questionable spending,” the Asbury Park Press reports.

Burham, who has been in the spotlight recently over a pay-and-perks package some elected officials consider exorbitant, was replaced Thursday morning on an interim basis by an acting president “who is both an educator and fraud investigator,” the newspaper says.

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FAIR HAVEN TRASH IS GOING PRIVATE

fh-trash-can1The cans will stay, but the people picking up the trash in Fair Haven will be different next month. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

New faces may be pulling up to curbs in Fair Haven to pick up the trash next month.

At the Fair Haven council’s next meeting, on March 14, the council is expected to open bids for private contractors to handle the borough’s trash and recycling. The move to private collection is estimated to save anywhere between $100,000 and $200,000 a year, said Mayor Mike Halfacre.

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CURLEY TAKES AIM AT COLLEGE PREXY’S PERKS

curleyMonmouth County Freeholder John Curley, right, has turned his sights on a raft of generous perks being paid to Brookdale Community College President Peter Burnham, according to a report in today’s Asbury Park Press.

It turns out that in addition to his annual $216,000 salary, Burnham gets a country club membership, a housing allowance, a car and up to $40,000 a year of tuition coverage for two his children.

Curley, a Republican who served as a Red Bank council member before moving to Middletown and in 2008, calls the package “an extravagance at a time and place when there’s no room for extravagance,” the Press reports.

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M’TOWN: ANOTHER TENSE ONE OVER SURPLUS

mtown-libLibrary officials will meet with the town today to try and hammer out an agreement to help balance Middletown’s budget. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Officials from both sides of Middletown’s Great Library Debate will get going on discussions today aimed at possibly allowing the township to balance its budget with a chunk of the library’s $1.2 million surplus.

Elected officials and library representatives, in somewhat clenched-teeth fashion, said Tuesday night they hope to come to an amicable solution to an impasse that last week descended into personal attacks.

Just a week removed from a painstaking public meeting at the library last week, where lines were drawn between the two entities with accusations and factual disputes, the topic was still bubbling Tuesday night, as residents took their turns at a township committee meeting to get their comments on the record and ask more questions about the committee’s request for the library board to hand over nearly $900,000 of its surplus to avert another wave of layoffs.

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DuPONT’S NEW GIG CAUSES CLASH

dupontRed Bank Councilman Mike DuPont at a council meeting last month. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

While Councilman Mike DuPont’s appointment as attorney for another town was the unmentioned reason behind his request last Monday that Red Bank change its bimonthtly meeting schedule, up in Sayreville, the appointment was an occasion for political theater.

In a dramatic council meeting in the Middlesex County town that same night, DuPont’s appointment prompted the mayor and two Republican council members to storm out because, according to local paper The Suburban, they wanted a different law firm representing the governing body and argued that the appointment circumvented the mayor’s authority.

That left the remaining four on the council to vote on whether to hire DuPont, who is a partner on Broad Street with former Red Bank Mayor Ed McKenna in the McKenna, DuPont, Higgins and Stone firm. Which they did, handing.

Can you say awkward?

“Yes it was,” DuPont told redbankgreen.

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RBR NAMES EX-PRINCIPAL AS NEW SUPER

mr-s1By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Jim Stefankiewicz (right) is returning for Act II at Red Bank Regional High School, this time to take the reins as superintendent.

Stefankiewicz, RBR’s former principal, was appointed Wednesday night as superintendent, filling a gap left by Howard Lucks, who left the post earlier this month to tend to his ailing wife.

Former superintendent Edward Westervelt will keep Lucks’s seat warm until Stefankiewicz, who is currently assistant superintendent for the Middletown school district, steps into the new role sometime in April.

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M’TOWN LIBRARY DEBATE GETS PERSONAL

gabrielan-settembrinoKevin Settembrino, left, and Randall Gabrielan, far right, got into a tiff within the open minutes of Wednesday night’s library board meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The line of cars backing up in both directions on New Monmouth Road Wednesday night was the first sign that the Middletown library board meeting starting in a few minutes was going to be a departure from the humdrum of the trustees’ typical monthly session.

“Good evening, everybody, and welcome to the combat zone,” board president Randall Gabrielan quipped at the opening, and he wasn’t far off.  Before it was over, one citizen had invoked invoked the name of the world’s foremost terrorist in challenging an elected official’s suitability to even sit on the board, and Garbrielan himself had been accused of lying.

But after more than three hours of heated debate, finger-pointing, name-calling and innuendo, the issue of whether the library board would grant a request by the township committee for $898,000 of the library’s $1.2 million surplus to help balance the town budget moved toward a possible resolution.

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DuPONT: CAN WE DO THIS SOME OTHER TIME?

dupont-010111Councilman Mike DuPont at Red Bank’s government reorganization meeting on January 1. (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank’s borough council is mulling a change in its bimonthly meeting schedule to accommodate a recurring conflict on Councilman Mike DuPont’s calendar.

The problem? He has to be at another council meeting, in another town, at the same time.

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M’TOWN LIBRARY CENTER OF BUDGET BATTLE

hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A plan by  Middletown’s governing body to raid the public library’s $1.2 million surplus in a bid to save police jobs  has set off an  imbroglio in which officials are taking hard-line stances on each side.

With the township committee well into its 2011-’12 budget process, the hunt for savings and more revenue is on, and officials have zeroed in on the library for much-needed dollars to save jobs, says Mayor Tony Fiore.

That has pitted elected officials against the library’s manager and some patrons.

On Wednesday night, the two sides will try to hash it out in a public meeting at the library.

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M’TOWN BUDGET: 10 COPS COULD LOSE JOBS

mtown-cruiserThe axe may fall if the PBA doesn’t make significant concessions, the township committee said. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Faced with the state’s new two-percent property tax cap and a drastic revenue shortfall, Middletown’s township committee has drafted what Mayor Tony Fiore calls a “doomsday scenario,” which includes laying off 10 police officers and effectively dismantling the town’s recreation department.

“It’s not news we like to share,” Fiore said of the plan, filed with the state Civil Service Commission on Friday, which anticipates the elimination of some 26 jobs.

Layoffs could take effect as soon as April, Fiore said, if the committee doesn’t get significant concessions from the library board and the handful of unions that represent township employees.

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SURF’S UP: TACO CHAIN TO OPEN NEXT MONTH

surf-taco-hiringSurf Taco held open interviews for its Red Bank location Saturday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

rivers-edge-cafeRob Nagel had Red Bank on his wish list for seven years, but few opportunities to expand his wildly successful Surf Taco chain to this end of the Jersey Shore arose.

“It’s always been a goal to get up here,” Nagel told redbankgreen. “It’s high-energy, an urban feel. There’s always something going on in Red Bank, and I think it’d be a great fit for us.”

Nagel’s chance to get into town came when Bob Guido, owner of River’s Edge Cafe, packed it up and moved out to Ocean.

“Once I walked into here, I felt the vibe,” Nagel said. “We knew we had the right location.”

A month after signing a lease for the 3,000-square-foot space at 35 Broad Street, Nagel is shooting for a March 1 opening, and appears to be on track.

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RED BANK EVENT DROPS WISDOM ON WOMEN

career-wiseHigh School girls take notes at Saturday’s Career Wise for Young Women seminar at the Oyster Point Hotel. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Shannon Belforti, a freshman at Red Bank Catholic, had been thinking about her future, wondering what she could do with her interest in math and science. Forensics appealed to her, but when she started asking her mother, Diane, questions about the field, mom couldn’t really help.

“I felt a little limited,” said Diane, who’s background is in marketing.

So she reached out to the Girl Scouts and a long list of other sponsors and put together a daylong agenda of seminars, culling about 50 women from various professions, thinking there were other young women, like her daughter, who had plenty of questions and not enough answers.

She was right.

On Saturday, Belforti hosted a sold-out crash course on breaking into different fields of work, called ‘Career Wise In A Day.’

“Literally, we are sold out,” she said Saturday. “I’ve turned people away.”

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FAIR HAVEN TAPS POLS’ AUNT FOR ADMIN JOB

cell-phoneTo make a quorum, two Fair Haven council members voted via cell phone to approve a new administrator Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In less-than-typical fashion, Fair Haven’s borough council voted Tuesday night to hire a new administrator to replace Mary Howell.

The surname should ring a bell. Theresa Casagrande, aunt to Assemblywoman Caroline Casasgrande, steps into the job today.

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FAIR HAVEN TO NAME NEW ADMINISTRATOR

m-howell1Fair Haven Administrator Mary Howell’s last day is expected to be Tuesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It took a little longer than expected, but Fair Haven is ready to appoint borough administrator Mary Howell‘s successor.

The council will hold a special meeting Monday night to vote on a contract for Howell’s replacement, whom Mayor Mike Halfacre would not yet identify.

“We haven’t voted on it yet and the contract terms are not quite finalized yet,” he said, “but we’re very excited to have the search done.”

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A DAY OF WISDOM FOR WOMEN

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

oyster-pointListen up, young ladies. It’s time to start thinking about the future, and the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore and a slew of volunteer organizations are here to help.

On February 5, they’ll host “Career Wise In A Day,” a medley of seminars geared towards high school women to give them a comprehensive rundown of the possibilities ahead of them post-graduation.

There are plenty of options to choose from. Seminars, to be held at Red Bank’s Oyster Point Hotel (above), include speakers on the ins and outs of being an artist, politician, doctor and, — gulp — journalist, among others.

And if you sign up by the end of the day, there’s a discount.

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LIBRARY TURNS THE PAGE ON DIRECTOR

griffin-sadelDeborah Griffin-Sadel is out as Red Bank’s library director. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank library board has closed the book on its library director.

Deborah Griffin-Sadel, who oversaw a major overhaul at the library, is apparently on her way out, although nobody really wants to talk about it right now.

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WESTERVELT BACK AT RBR AS INTERIM CHIEF

dr1By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

As Red Bank Regional‘s school board continues to search for a replacement for Superintendent Howard Lucks, right, a familiar face will step back into the main office.

Edward Westervelt, whom Lucks replaced last year, will resume superintendent duties on an interim basis when Lucks leaves the school on February 1, the district announced Thursday.

“Dr. Westervelt was just here last year, so the board thought it would be a smooth transition rather than bringing an interim superintendent who didn’t have much experience,” said Business Administrator Tina Galvao.

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REPORT: HOV LOSS LARGER THAN EXPECTED

HovHovnanian’s headquarters on West Front Street.

Red Bank-based homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises closed out its fiscal year October 31 on a larger-than-expected net loss, according to a news report.

The company’s fourth quarter produced an after-tax net loss of  $132.1 million, or $1.68 per common share, compared with a net loss of $250.8 million, or $3.21 per share, in the comparable 2009 quarter.

The New York Times, citing Thomson Reuters, said analysts had been expecting a loss of 66 cents a share.

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BOOKKEEPER BUSTED

authorities3Middletown police say they have arrested a bookkeeper on charges of defrauding a Lincroft dermatologist.

Here’s the announcement, provided by department spokesman Lieutenant Steve Dollinger:

On March 4, 2010 police received a report from Doctor Diana Trusky’s Dermatologist Office located in the Lincroft section of Middletown in reference to forged checks and missing cash receipts. Dfc Lawrence Hall was assigned to the case and conducted an eight month investigation into the matter which entailed obtaining and reviewing numerous documents.

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BASIE PUTS MARQUEE MAN’S NAME IN LIGHTS

basie-marquee1The Basie is giving an electronic shout-out to Roy McCurdy now that it’s completed the marquee. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Roy McCurdy spent 19 years taking an extended pole outside the Count Basie Theatre to change the names on the theater marquee. And he’s proud to say he did it with few misspellings.

“‘Engelbert Humperdinck‘— try spelling that without it written down letter by letter for you,” McCurdy said. “That’s a difficult one.”

When theater fired up a new digital marquee this week, so ended McCurdy’s days in front of it. But for the moment, he’s on it.

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RUMSON OUTSOURCING SCRAPPED FOR NOW

trashTrash collection will remain a borough operation in 2011. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Rumson officials have canned the idea of outsourcing trash collection in 2011.

That doesn’t necessarily mean jobs are safe in future years, though.

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RUMSON NEARS POLICE CONTRACT THRU 2013

rumson-pdThe borough and its police union are poised to finalize a seven-year contract, ending a three-year deadlock in negotiations. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Rumson officials and police are expected to finally come to a new contract agreement, ending a three-year impasse while avoiding a potentially budget-crushing decision by a state arbitrator, Mayor John Ekdahl said.

“As far as we’re concerned it’s a done deal,” he said.

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