RBR TEACHERS, BOARD RESUME TALKS

Teachers and board members returned to the bargaining table Thursday night. (Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

More than two years into a drawn-out negotiation process, including almost a year-and-a-half of slow-paced mediation, Red Bank Regional High’s teachers’ union and the board of education were once again face to face Thursday night.

The first bargaining session in months, held behind closed doors following a regular board meeting, capped a rather dramatic couple of weeks in which teachers gathered several times in silent displays of unity at morning drop-offs of students.

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STATION OWNER TO PAY $3M IN WAGE CLAIMS

The owner of Red Bank’s Shell gasoline station has agreed to pay current and former employees of 72 New Jersey filling stations $3 million in overtime back wages, the federal Labor Department reported Thursday.

Waseem Chaudhary was also fined $91,000 in civil penalties “because of the repeat and willful nature of the violations,” the agency said in a news release.

Investigators from the department’s Wage and Hour division found that attendants at Chaudhary’s stations “often worked up to 84 hours per week, but did not receive earned overtime pay. Instead, many employees were paid partly on the payroll and partly off the books, sometimes in cash, to disguise the improper payment of overtime.”

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SEA BRIGHT: OPERATION SHEETROCK TRIMMED

The rebuilding of a public access stairway over the sea wall is among the projects in the scaled-back volunteer outreach, says coordinator Frank Lawrence, below. (Photo below by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Last month, Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long offered college students an altruistic alternative to the traditional debauchery-laden spring break: come help residents hang wallboard and make other repairs to their storm-battered homes.

Operation Sheetrock,” she dubbed it.

But with spring break now underway or rapidly approaching, few residences are ready for wallboard hanging, and won’t be for at least a few more weeks, according to borough volunteer coordinator Frank Lawrence.

“So many homes don’t have heat or electricity yet,” Lawrence said, “so a lot of the walls inside these houses are holding moisture. If we hang sheetrock over the walls right now, the moisture will be trapped inside, and when the weather warms up, mold will inevitably grow inside the walls. It’s the perfect environment”

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RED BANK: SCAFFOLD TO THE HEAVENS

A workman adjusts the protective netting on a scaffold surrounding the steeple of Saint James Church on Broad Street in Red Bank Wednesday.

He and his colleagues from Arthur Vincent & Sons Contracting have been at work on the steeple since early January. Among their aims: replacing the cross, which was blown off in an August windstorm, a church official says.  (Photos right and below by Dan Natale. Click to enlarge)

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RED BANK SEALS BLUE COLLAR PACT

The contract applies to public utilities workers, seen here clearing snow on Broad Street last Saturday, as well as some clerical staffers at borough hall. (Click to enlarge)

By JOE FISHER

A revised contract between Red Bank and borough employees represented by the Communications Workers of America ends a request for mediation sought by the union.

Salary “steps” will be adjusted for both 2012 and 2013, meaning some of the borough’s 71 CWA Local 1038 employees will receive pay raises retroactive to January of last year.

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RUMSON: REAL MAN CLIMBS FAKE TREE

Way up there, in a cell tower disguised as a ginormous tree, an unidentified utility worker made repairs Monday to telecom equipment damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

The tower adjoins Rumson’s public works yard on Avenue of Two Rivers. (Click to enlarge)

SEA BRIGHT REOPENS TO OUTSIDERS

As seen in two views along Ocean Avenue Wednesday morning, passenger vehicles must share the road with earth movers, backhoes and dumptrucks. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

After more than two weeks in lockdown to everyone but residents and restoration workers, Sea Bright took down the barricades Wednesday morning.

With the opening of checkpoints at the Rumson Road entry to town and the northern and southern borders on Ocean Avenue, traffic was trickling through the narrow sandbar borough shortly after dawn.

The Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge drawbridge was also back in service, having had its electricity shut off as a precautionary measure in advance of Hurricane Sandy.

Now, officials are bracing for a possible influx of gawkers eager to eyeball the destroyed beach clubs and downtown up close.

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DIGGING FOR ICE CREAM?


11:04 a.m.
A crew hired by the borough digs out the worn curb on Peters Place in Red Bank. (Photos by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)

The borough has been trying to get the sidewalk replacement and repaving job started for a week, but coincidentally, to the dismay of these construction workers, it didn’t begin until the hottest day so far this year.

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PRELIMINARY: AVERAGE RED BANK TAX UP $94

The spending plan includes debt service on the estimated $1 million cost of a replacing 25-year-old Ladder 91, above.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Still a work in progress, the 2012 Red Bank budget calls for a $94 tax increase on property assessed at the borough-average $401,393, officials said Wednesday night.

The figure  reflects a 4.5-percent increase in the municipal rate, to 53.2 cents per $100 of assessed value, from 50.9 in 2011, said Chief Financial Officer Colleen Lapp.

Driving the increase is an unexpected $464,000 spike in insurance costs, “the majority of it health insurance;” tax-appeal refunds, which in the first two months of the year have already rung up to $135,000; and a contractual $118,000 increase in pay for police, said Lapp.

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LIBRARY TO FETE LIFE OF SIGMUND EISNER

Local-history librarian Elizabeth McDermott, below, with a custom-branded Eisner lightbulb in the second-floor New Jersey Room of the Red Bank Public Library, once the home of industrialist Sigmund Eisner. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

On April 15, 1937, the Red Bank Public Library – for decades an itinerant but growing collection of books and archival material – finally found a permanent home, relocating from a downtown storefront to a mansion at 84 West Front Street.

Three months earlier, the heirs of Sigmund Eisner – mass-manufacturer of uniforms for the Army, the Boy Scouts and other organizations  – had donated their late father’s mansion overlooking the Navesink River to the library.

The shared hope of H. Raymond, Monroe and J. Lester Eisner was that the house would provide a warm and dry place for reading, but also that it would function “as a bit of a museum, too,” says local-history librarian Elizabeth McDermott.

Next month, the library will celebrate its 75th anniversary in the house with museum-like displays that highlight Eisner and his transformative impact on Red Bank as an industrialist and philanthropist.

The event, says McDermott, “is completely about” Eisner.

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PRESS: AVERAGE RUMSON TAX BILL UP $3

Rumson’s council approved a 2012 budget that calls for a $3 increase to the local property tax for the owner of a home assessed at the borough-average $1 million, the Asbury Park Press reports Wednesday.

The $14.93 million budget approved at a Tuesday afternoon session of the governing body marks a $67,486 decline in overall spending, Press reporter Larry Higgs writes.

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POLICE ADD THREE, PROMOTE THREE OTHERS

rb_police-promos_112211Getting promotions were, from top left, Wendy Samis, Juan Sardo and Robert Clayton. Newly hired were, from left, Jhonatan Quispe, Stanley Balmer and Garrett Falco Jr. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Three new police officers joined the ranks of Red Bank blue Tuesday night at a packed-house council meeting that also saw three veterans of the force elevated to new positions.

The new hires were touted by elected officials as an exceptional bargain for the town: unlike many of their predecessors, all three already have worked as officers in other jurisdictions. Which means they also “have already been through the police academy training, which saves the borough quite a bit of money,” said Councilman Art Murphy, who doubles as police commissioner.

The trio were culled from an applicant pool of 500 that was swollen with experienced cops who’ve been laid off because of budget issues, Chief Steve McCarthy tells redbankgreen.

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BRIDGE OPERATIONS PRIVATIZED

rumson-sb-bridge-100511 The control room of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge will be staffed by employees of a private firm beginning next year following action Thursday by the Monmouth County Freeholders. (Click to enlarge)

The Oceanic Bridge and the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge are among the four movable Monmouth County bridges whose operations will be run by a private contractor starting next year, according to a report by the Asbury Park Press.

Reporter Joe Sapia writes that the Monmouth County Freeholders “voted 5 to 0 Wednesday to turn over the operation of the bridges to a Florida company, which a county analysis shows can do the job at an annual savings of $572,270.”

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PICKETS TARGET ATRIUM CONTACTOR

20111028-123633.jpgFor the fifth time in recent weeks, members of Carpenters Local 254 in Edison picketed a Pennsylvania-based concrete contractor on the Atrium at Navesink Harbor addition job in Red Bank Friday over what they said is a failure to pay area wages. The picket was peaceful, though police issued summonses a week ago over an alleged spitting incident.

RUMSON BIZ OWNERS TRASH GARBAGE PLAN

dumpsterStarting in July, Rumson will no longer collect trash from Dumpsters, leaving some businesses to hire outside contractors to do the job. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

After howling from residents and business owners last year over a plan to lay off a handful of employees and  privatize trash collection in Rumson, the borough council scrapped the idea — for this year, at least — and instead came up with cost-saving measures within the public works department.

Now, as the borough prepares to implement one of those measures, some local merchants are bristling at the plan that they say digs further into their pockets.

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SPRING 2011: LAYING DOWN THE LINE

alert-linesA worker from Red Bank-based Alert Traffic Lines, contracted by the borough, does striping to curbs and asphalt downtown Tuesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

RUMSON DPW GETS SOME LOVE AT WORK

mark-wellner1Privacy and mobility have not been at a premium at the public works building, but that’s going to change, says director Mark Wellner. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

There isn’t much to Rumson’s Department of Public Works building — a narrow, bland concrete stretch of garage bays with a couple of offices behind borough hall.

One of those offices belongs to director Mark Wellner, where warmth is generated by a space heater next to his desk. When he steps out, he’s in the department’s conference room, which also happens to be the kitchen — consisting of a microwave and small counter — and, during snow emergencies, a bedroom for a dozen or so on-call employees who try to catch z’s on one of a few used couches picked up curbside over the years.

“Sometimes, you’ve got a guy laying on the table with a blanket trying to get some sleep,” he said.

Attached to the conference room is a closet of a bathroom, with one toilet and a sink behind a rickety door.

“No room for the guys to even wash their hands,” Wellner said.

There’s not much in the way of comfort and privacy for the DPW guys, that’s for sure. So it must’ve been frustrating to watch last year when the borough built its pristine, $5.77 million government offices building right in front of the public works structure that went untouched in the 56 years since it was built.

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BOSS BUSTED FOR EMPLOYEE BENEFIT THEFTS

authorities2bMiddletown police say they arrested a township-based employer Tuesday for theft of his workers’ Individual Retirement Account benefits.

David Crosby, 56, of Murphy Road in the Port Monmouth section, was arrested at his home by police and agents of the United States Secret Service. They allege that Crosby,  owner of Crosby Site Work and Utility in Port Monmouth, knowingly withheld $17,000 in company contributions to his employee’s IRA funds.

From MTPD press release:

The Middletown Police Department was contacted by the New York Field Office of the United States Department of Labor who informed them of the complaints they had received from employees of the business. Det. Daniel Sullivan conducted a joint investigation with the United States Secret Service and determined that Crosby had withheld approximately $17,000.00 in contributions to his employees IRA funds.

Crosby was arrested at his residence and processed and released on a summons pending a court
appearance.

Here’s some other recent Middletown activity, as provided by the police department:

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SNOW GETS SOME BLAME FOR TAX HIKE

plow-stuckA borough plow stuck in the snow on Mechanic Street on December 27. The cost of the storm is about to sock Red Bank property owners. (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank property taxes may rise again this year.

Blame the usual culprits of climbing health insurance and pension costs. Add in a steep increase in refunds for tax appeals. But don’t forget the snow.

Yes, the bill for the blizzard of December 26 & 27, which paralyzed the region for days afterward, has come due.

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WAY DOWN IN THE HOLE

manhole1A Red Bank public works employee assists in sewer line maintenance work at the intersection of Broad and Wallace streets late Sunday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

FAR-LEFT PEACENIK AL STRASBURGER DIES

al-strasburgerAl Strasburger, a lifelong Red Banker widely recognized for his presence at antiwar, antinuke and pro-labor demonstrations, died early Thursday, redbankgreen has learned.

An affable and unrepentant “revolutionary socialist ” who considered Castro a hero and thought Stalin had been judged too harshly, Strasburger could often be seen leading protests at the gates of Fort Monmouth or outside the post office on Broad Street.

In between, he cut he lawn of his Oakland Street house with a sickle and made regular visits to unemployment offices, where he handed out anti-capitalist literature, often to the bemusement of job-seekers.

“I’m pretty far to the left,” Strasburger told redbankgreen in an interview in September, 2006, when he was 74 years old.

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FAIR HAVEN MERCHANT MIFFED BY ROADBLOCK

shuttersThe parking lot at Shutters was opened up Monday afternoon, after eight days that put a dent in business. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

If there were a week that the Fair Haven decor shop Shutters Cottage Home needed its parking lot open, it was the one following Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately for owner Christine DeVincens, the start of her Christmas-season shopping rush was muted — a direct result, she says, of construction work being done on River Road.

As contractors take on biting weather while trying to wrap up Fair Haven’s River Road streetscape project, there’s frustration mounting within the business district related to parking and safety.

What’s more frustrating to DeVincens, though, is the lack of communication between the borough and its businesses.

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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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