CLAMMERS BLAME RED BANK FOR WOES

ClamsBushels of clams await transport from a dock in Sea Bright earlier this summer.

A lawsuit filed in federal court last month by local clammers names Red Bank as one of several “culprits” responsible for pollution that has cut their earning power in half, the baymen claim.

Today’s Asbury Park Press has a story about the lawsuit.

As Dennis Kavanaugh sees it, pollution in the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers is the reason Monmouth County clammers only make half the pay they should, and is a cause of decline in the region’s other fisheries, too.

Now, a lawsuit filed by Kavanaugh and other fishermen in U.S. District Court has invoked the federal Clean Water Act, alleging that the towns of Red Bank and Colts Neck and the Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport should pay for the effects of bacterial pollution in the rivers.

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NO COUNCIL RAISES; EVALS FOR ALL OTHERS

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A slate of 3.5-percent pay raises for non-unionized borough employees approved last night will be the last across-the-board increase, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna pledged last night.

He said he had instructed Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels to implement and complete performance evaluations for every borough employee by the end of this year. The goal, he says, is to identify those employees most deserving of raises starting next year.

“We have never had that, but we will,” Menna said at last night’s bimonthly council session. “Equity and fairness dictate that employees who are doing a good job deserve a decent raise. This is the last year that there are going to be blanket, uniform raises.”

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RED BANK TO BOOST SALARIES 3.5 PERCENT

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On tonight’s Red Bank borough council agenda are measures to eliminate at least two salaried positions and boost the pay of all non-unionized employees by 3.5 percent.

One job, the now-vacant position of deputy chief, would be eliminated as part of a police department restructuring. The position carries a base salary of $111,335 before longevity enhancements.

At the same time, the number of captains would be doubled from the present two, and the number of sergeants would drop by one, to seven. The ordinance calls for the number of lieutenants —the rank above sergeant and below captain — to remain at five. Salaries for those ranks were not disclosed.

Also up for 3.5-percent raises: the mayor and council. Mayor Pasquale Menna’s salary would rise to $7,301, and pay for each of the six council members would increase to $3,650.

Missing from the salary ordinance up for approval is the job of assistant director in Parks & Rec, a position most recently held by Tomora Young. Last year, the job carried a base salary of $37,435.

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PRESS SHRINKS AGAIN

Citing “deteriorating business conditions,” Gannett Co, the owner of the Asbury Park Press, eliminated 120 positions at six New Jersey newspapers yesterday.

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Among the affected publications are the Press, the Home News-Tribune in East Brunswick and the Daily Record in Parsippany.

No breakdown of the impact on each newspaper was provided in the five-sentence report of the layoffs posted in the online version of the Press. Reporters employed there told redbankgreen prior to the announcement that 50 jobs were on the line there.

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FAIR HAVEN SAVES BIG IN-HOUSE

Img_5649Hatless at the moment, Rich Gardella wears several at his Allen Street office.

By SUE MORGAN

He’s been on the job little more than seven months, but Rich Gardella, 35-year-old, spike-haired Fair Haven employee, is saving the modest-sized bedroom community big bucks and giving the town tighter control over construction than its had in years, officials say.

He’s doing it the old way: by wearing multiple hats. As the Borough Engineer, Public Works Supervisor and planning board engineer, Gardella draws up schematics for sewer basins, reviews plans for every home and business addition, and makes sure the leaves get picked up on time and ballfields get mowed. He also pulls duty inspecting construction sites.

In fact, he’s saving the town so much money that it just gave him a raise.

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CROWD EXPECTED FOR CONSULATE VISITORS

Large numbers of undocumented Mexican immigrants are expected to begin lining up outside the Red Bank Charter School as early as this evening for a five-day visit by employees of the Mexican Consulate in New York beginning tomorrow.

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Thirteen consulate employees will be on hand from Wednesday through Sunday to process requests for Mexican passports and consular ID cards, says Diana Litwin, a volunteer who’s helping organize what’s billed as ‘the Mexican Consulate on Wheels.’

The documents, says Litwin, in no way change the holder’s citizenship status. Rather, they provide Mexican nationals with basic identification for use in everything from banking to healthcare, and enable holders to obtain federal taxpayer ID numbers from the IRS so they can pay taxes.

“They’re already here, so tax them,” says Litwin. “When they work in restaurants and they have tax ID numbers, their bosses can put them on the payroll and hey can begin paying taxes.”

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GANNETT CUTS JOBS AT PRESS, 3 OTHERS

The Asbury Park Press is among four Gannett Co. newspapers in New Jersey that laid off a total of 55 employees yesterday, the Press itself reports.

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The axe fell after half of 166 workers offered early retirement three weeks ago accepted the packages, the paper reports.

In addition to the Press, the affected newspapers are Home News & Tribune in East Brunswick, the Courier-News in Bridgewater and the Daily Record in Parsippany.

No breakdown of layoffs at each paper was given. Gannett describes the Press, which is still the dominant daily in Monmouth and Ocean counties, as the ‘flagship’ among its six New Jersey papers.

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MORANA LOCKS UP JOB FOR FIVE YEARS

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The Red Bank Board of Education last night ratified a five-year employment contract with Superintendent Laura Morana that will pay her $155,000 this year, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

The pact includes annual four-percent raises. It replaces a three-year contract that was to have expired in 2009, and carried a base salary of $143,000, the newspaper reports.

From the article:

Board members cited Morana’s fiscal management and improving the district’s academic reputation as some of the reasons for signing her to a new contract.

“When I first came on the board, I said with the size of the district, this should be a model district,” said Janet Jones, former board president. “I believe that under Laura Morana’s leadership, we’re on our way.”

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CRUNCHY HIPPIE EARTH MAMA TALKS DIRTY

Img_4102Simon Rainey in the window of Little Willow, the store his conception inspired.

Kristin Cooper Rainey is passionate about reusable diapers.

One might reasonably ask: ‘Why?’ After all, they have what you might call an image problem, starting with the fact that they’re diapers, and, unlike their throwaway brethren, not exactly the most convenient solution to a problem as old as human heinies.

Truth be told, they also don’t really generate much profit for Rainey’s White Street business, Little Willow, which sells children’s clothing, baby carriers and toys.

But Rainey sees non-disposable nappies as a key element in a life lived with respect for the fragility of the natural environment. Simple as that. So she and her husband, Paul Rainey, have made natural-fiber, reusable diapers a part of their business, just as they’re a part of their everyday lives, thanks to their son, 19-month-old Simon.

redbankgreen visited Rainey recently for what turned out to be a pleasant chat about one of the most disgusting topics imaginable.

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MORE PARKING WOES FOR POSTAL WORKERS

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Already caught in a tightening squeeze on parking, employees at the Red Bank post office may now be facing a crackdown on the time they take from their posts to feed meters and move their cars, redbankgreen has learned.

A notice posted at the facility earlier today (that’s it at left; click to enlarge) informs postal workers they “must fill out a 3971 and have it signed by a supervisor” in order to leave the premises during work hours.

It’s not clear whether parking-related requests will be allowed. Darren Rose, the official who signed the notice, declined to comment when contacted by redbankgreen this afternoon. Rose’s notice also addresses timeclock and break issues.

But a postal employee says Rose is simply cracking down where enforcement of Postal Service rules has been lax in the past.

In part, the employee said, the USPS is concerned about liability in the event an employee is injured while away from his or her post. “Something happens to you outside, [officials will ask] ‘Did you check with the supervisor?”

But the crackdown is likely to make the workday that much more stressful for workers who say they can’t find cheap, long-term parking nearby, and must leave the post office every two hours to move their cars or feed meters.

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CAMP COUNSELORS WANTED

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For those recent high school and college grads wondering how to catch one last low-pressure summer, or those underemployed everybody-elses pining for a summer gig with lots of fresh air, this just in from deputy borough clerk Pam Borghi:

Red Bank is looking for counselors for its Summer Fun Camp program.

Applicants must be 18 years or older and clear a background check. The jobs run Monday through Friday from June 19 though August 15. Hours are 8a to 3p, with additional hours available for aftercare.

Hourly wages depend on levels of experience.

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ACTORS’ HOUSE GETS TEPID APPROVAL

Img_4134_2Two River Theater founder Bob Rechnitz apparently can’t believe what he’s hearing as zoning board members detail their objections to his proposal.

Bob Rechnitz thought he had a can’t-miss idea.

Buy a single-family house on the West Side of Red Bank and rent it for a dollar a year to the nearby Two River Theater Company, which he founded, for use as temporary lodging for up to five visiting actors. Provide assurances about the character of the people who would stay at the house, and under what circumstances. Underscore its importance to the future of the $15 million theater in its drive to attract professional talent to its intimate stage, and to the cultural and economic vitality of Red Bank.

Through his attorney, Rechnitz repeatedly asserted that the boarding-house-like use would be in effect only as long as the house, at 81 Shrewsbury Avenue, was employed by the theater exactly as described.

Still, over the course of three hearings, Rechnitz’ proposal met resistance from the borough zoning board, from which he needed a variance.

While praising the theater itself, members of the board raised concerns about who would police the behavior of the actors; whether the property might be used a boarding house by a future owner; and whether it might someday end up owned by the non-profit theater itself, thus taking it off the tax rolls.

Last night, the plan won unanimous, if lukewarm, approval after a last minute stipulation by Rechnitz that he variance would only be in effect for two years. But the process appeared to have left the college-professor-turned-stage-director with a sour taste.

“I thought it was a slam-dunk,” he told redbankgreen afterward, clearly frustrated by the ordeal.

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MERCHANTS DOING THE REVERSE-COMMUTE

Today’s Asbury Park Press has a feature on reverse commuters — people who come to the Shore from Manhattan to work. And all three people cited as examples happen to own stores in downtown Red Bank.

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Interviewed are Mike Buess of Bodega Shoppe on Mechanic Street, Jill Dente of Rok + Lola on Broad Street and Meghan Del Priore of the Bees Knees, also on Broad.

Del Priore commuted via the Seastreak ferry from the time the store opened in 2002 until she and her husband moved to Fair Haven last August.

How does Dente feel about the commute from New York’s Penn Station?

“It’s awful,” Dente said. “It’s really long. It makes so many local stops. It’s rough. It adds almost four hours to your day.”

Dente is a rarity: A New York resident who commutes to a job at the Shore, managing to combine New York’s high cost of living with New Jersey’s more modest pay. All the while enduring grinding hours en route to either home or work.

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BECK OFFERS CORZINE TOLL PLAN BYPASS

More than 100 area residents turned out last night at Mahala F. Atchison Elementary School in Tinton Falls last night for a discussion on Gov. Jon Corzine’s effort to balance the state budge using steep toll-road fare increases, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

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State Sen. Jennifer Beck of Red Bank and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon of Little Silver, both Republicans, organized the event and presented an alternative plan to Corzine’s, which one poll out this week shows has generated widespread opposition. (Democrat Sen. Raymond Lesniak tells the Star-Ledger today that the plan “is dead as we know it.” And Cozine says he’s willing to consider the first detailed alternative to his plan, offered by Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski.)

From the Press:

Veronica Cozzi, a borough resident, wanted to know why the state couldn’t sell New Jersey’s horse racing tracks to private corporations. And Christopher Cast, also a borough resident, just wanted to know how he could continue to drive 40,000 miles a year on New Jersey’s toll roads without going broke trying to make a living.

Beck and O’Scanlon said they have a solution: no increase in the state budget this year, make cuts in future budgets and restructure the way government business is done.

“If we do these three things, we think, we’re going to come real close to solving our problems,” O’Scanlon said.

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NEWLY ELECTED, NEEDS A REAL JOB

MennabeckState Senator Jennifer Beck and Mayor Pasquale Menna after Red Bank’s government reorganization meeting last week.

Her last two jobs, as a lobbyist and executive at a health insurance company, were used as cudgels against her by her opponent in the 12th district state Senate race.

But now that she’s been elected, Republican state Senator Jennifer Beck has opted not to go back to work at Qualcare Inc., the health maintenance organization from which she took a sabbatical last March.

Problem is, with a house in Red Bank to maintain and other expenses, Beck says she can’t make it on the $49,000 salary of a state legislator (it’s the same for both the Assembly and the Senate).

So while she took office today, Beck was also looking for a job. And that means navigating not only conflicts of interest, but anything that might look like one, she tells redbankgreen.

“It’s an interesting dynamic right now,” she says. “Any newly elected official, because of all the negativity in politics, is being exceptionally careful about the work they do to support themselves professionally — to make sure that there isn’t not only a conflict of interest, but an appearance of a conflict.”

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TGI DON’T WORK FOR THE STATE!

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Bucking Gov. Jon Corzine, Monmouth County is giving its 3,500 employees a day off Friday, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Corzine, of course, has moved to end a decades-log tradition of giving state workers a paid day off on the Friday following Thanksgiving. New Jersey will be one of only 18 state governments open for business that day.

In Monmouth County, as at the state level, the day off is not included among the 13 days off per year guaranteed by collective bargaining agreements. But the Monmouth employees are being “granted” the day off anyway, county spokesman William K. Heine told the Press.

Heine said the county typically followed the state’s lead in setting holidays, but “there has been no change yet on the day after Thanksgiving.”

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FORTY YEARS OF MAKING WHEELS GLEAM

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

The building’s roof is somewhat swaybacked, and the slatted wood walls are fringed near the ground by the ravages of water. But it serves its purpose.

Likewise for the elderly pair who own this place.

Essie Dove may have lost a step over the years, but she still clambers in through open doors of her customers’ vehicles — many of them unimaginably large, by the automotive standards of half a century ago — to reach those awkward places that people a third her age might not bother with. And she keeps a brisk rotation of towels going in an operation that is all about clean terrycloth.

Essie’s husband, Dave, moves a little stiffly across the blacktopped yard and climbs a stepladder to clean the roof of an SUV. Realizing then that the spray can of cleaner he’s using is empty, Dave might find it easier to ask Essie to bring him a fresh one than to make the trek back to the storeroom himself. But he’ll clean that roof right to the center, a spot visible to pedestrians on overpasses but few others.

This is not one of those antiseptic new car washes, where you turn your vehicle over to a a giant machine that pulls it through a storm of soap and chamois while you watch, Starbucks in hand, through a window that might have been part of the flight deck of a Star Wars set.

This is Dave’s Car Wash on Bridge Avenue, where one sign touts the Simonizing and another declares that this is a hand car wash, just as it always has been.

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IN TOWN | IN SEPTEMBER: WEEK TWO

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Having developed an opposable thumb, which gave him enormous competitive advantages over other creatures, early man found that he might like to use it to make something to keep his precious digits from snapping off in the cold.

Thus, gloves, the development of which rivals the combination of beef and onions among the major advances of the species.

We moderns take gloves too much for granted, something we may be reminded of only when we lose one in a bitter chill or try to make that fourth snowball barehanded.

But if you spend much time looking in road gutters while walking or driving, you might come to the conclusion that, every few days or so, gloves rain out of some great tradesmen’s van in the sky.

Rawhide work gloves, wool gloves, fancy leather gloves with deluxe fur linings, Gore-Tex mittens — they’re everywhere, it seems.

Photographer Sandy Johanson has taken notice.

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ON DECK: A TRADER JOE’S AND A GARAGE?

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It is perhaps the single most contentious issue in Red Bank: whether the downtown needs a parking garage.

Merchants, in general, say yes. They complain that a shortage of street and lot parking is choking their businesses and undermining broader efforts to capitalize on the town’s sterling reputation as a cultural and shopping destination.

Building a garage that significantly increases the number of parking slots in the central business district is the best thing Red Bank could do to preserve its stature among New Jersey downtowns and stave off threats from Pier Village in Long Branch and other emerging marketplaces, proponents say.

But many residents say no way to a parking deck — not if they have to pay for it with higher property taxes.

Efforts by the Democrat-controlled council to convert the borough-owned White Street lot to a parking deck attracted large, angry crowds in 2001 and 2005. The latter attempt called for a 570-car, $11.8 million structure. Both times, the idea was shelved.

The solution, many agree, is some form of public-private deal in which a developer carries the financial risk and the town gets both revenue and more slots.

Finally, a plan along those lines may be in the works. And it involves a high-profile retailer that has done this sort of thing before elsewhere.

redbankgreen has learned that representatives of Trader Joe’s, a wildly popular chain of specialty food stores with affordable prices, met with borough officials two weeks ago to explore the possibility of building a store with a parking deck above it on the White Street lot.

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BACK TO SCHOOL FOR ARCHITECTS

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Kids aren’t the only ones heading back to school in Red Bank this week.

The nine employees of S.O.M.E. Architects are moving into the former Public School 5 on Drs. James Parker Boulevard.

The firm, having outgrown rented space on Monmouth Street, bought the building from the Community YMCA for $1.3 million in December and began renovations in April.

Among the changes: eliminating a drop ceiling and increasing the size of the windows.

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DROWNING VICTIM IDENTIFIED

Police have identified the Red Bank man who died yesterday while cleaning a residential pool in Rumson as Luis Javier Rojas, of Lexington Avenue, according to the Asbury Park Press. He was 25 years old.

From the story:

Rojas, who is from Mexico City, had been dropped off Wednesday morning at the Somerset Drive residence to clean the pool, according to police. The residents were not home at the time.

Two other employees of the Edgewater Pool Company in Little Silver returned to pick up Rojas later in the morning and found him unresponsive in the pool and called 911, police said. The Rumson First Aid Squad attempted unsuccessfully to revive him.

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COMMUNITY CENTER BACKERS BRING IT

Linda_clarkLinda Clark makes the case for a town center.

The idea of creating a community center at a Red Bank-owned building on the West Side is one that “needs plenty more discussion,” children’s activist David Prown told a crowded Borough Council meeting last night.

Then he proceeded to introduce more than a dozen speakers — including social services providers, volunteers and average Joe residents — who made the case for creating such a center, whether or not it is based in the soon-to-be vacated building at the corner of Drs. Parker Boulevard and Bridge Avenue.

Some invoked the specter of the recent triple homicide in Newark as a warning of what can happen when kids don’t have the kinds of services that a community center can provide.

A woman who volunteers with the Pop Warner football program lamented an absence of activities to engage boys after the season ends. Several speakers said they favored moving the the Parks & Rec Department to the site from its current offices in a trailer on Chestnut Street to boost program visibility and participation, while others envisioned it as a a clearinghouse of sorts for referrals for everything from healthcare to jobseeking.

What was unmistakable in it all was a sense of a void.

“There’s never that one central location where we can all grow,” Linda Clark, of River Street, told the council. “Even if this is not the one, I think we have a lot of people behind you guys to find that one location.”

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BAUER LEAVES STATE GIG FOR PRIVATE ONE

Virginia Bauer, who rallied Congresss to enact tax breaks for families of Sept. 11, 2001 victims after her husband died in the attack, is leaving her post as state Commerce secretary to take a job with the real estate firm Mack-Cali Realty, according to today’s Star-Ledger.

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The Red Bank resident, then living in Rumson, came into the public eye 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, Economic Growth and Tourism Commission at Gov. Jon Corzine’s request. Three months ago, she was tapped by Corzine to become a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. She joined the port’s board just last month.

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