McCARTHY ON CRIME: 2010 NOT SO GOOD

mccarthy-chief-steve-2Red Bank Police Chief Steve McCarthy, commenting on Thursday’s report of a drop in crime in the borough in 2009, says next year’s report will show the opposite.

“Obviously, they’re encouraging,” McCarthy says of the 2009 results, which showed precipitous declines in the number of both violent and nonviolent crimes. “But I have to say, it’s one year, and I can tell you that comparing last year to this year, we’re up.”

Through October of this year, there have already been 21 robberies, up from the full-year 2009 total of 10, McCarthy says. The number of reported burglaries, too, is up, to 29 through October, from 22 in all of last year, he says.

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A ROOM FULL OF GARBAGE IDEAS

rumson-dpwA public works employee picks up recycling in Rumson last week. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

If you ask the residents who filled borough hall Tuesday night, there are plenty of ways to keep Rumson’s half-dozen trash collectors employed in the face of tight budgets.

Make cuts across every department, hold annual fundraisers, reduce collections to once a week, work out a deal to pick up trash in Fair Haven, which plans to outsource its collection.

Or, instead of soliciting bids to demolish the old police headquarters, sell the property as-is and use the money to bankroll public works, said “Uncle” Bob Fazzone.

“Then you get the $200,000 for the boys,” he said.

The input residents gave the council will be part of the borough’s research on whether to privatize its garbage collection, a move that’s anticipated to save between $200,00 and $350,000 a year, Council President Shaun Broderick said.

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BYRNES: FORM A FINANCE TASK FORCE

mt_byrnes

NAME: Sean F. Byrnes (Democrat, incumbent)

AGE: 47

OCCUPATION: Attorney

LENGTH OF RESIDENCE IN TOWN:
10 years

General Questions:

1. What do you see as the top three issues
in town?

a. Constantly Increasing Taxes.

b. Poor Governance Structure

c. Marginal Transparency

2. What specifically are you planning to do to address those issues?

The Township’s steady tax increases are the product of poor planning and a refusal to make difficult decisions. We had an increase in our municipal tax levy in 2010 that exceeded 13%. By my calculation, our municipal tax levy has jumped approximately 45% in the last 5 or 6 years. We have no published, agreed upon plan for attacking the categories of spending that drive these increases. We need to create the Finance Task Force I have been calling for since my election 2007, include some of our extremely competent residents who have financial backgrounds and develop a written plan to bring our spending in line with our available revenue. This will mean a reduction in services, but so be it. We can do this without cutting the core services that our citizens need. Non-essential services will be reduced. I have recommended the following measures for the last two years, and I will continue to advocate for their implementation:

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SETTEMBRINO: CUT NON-ESSENTIAL SERVICES6

mt_settembrinoNAME: Kevin M. Settembrino, (Republican)

AGE: 40

OCCUPATION: Architect, AIA, LEED AP

LENGTH OF RESIDENCE IN TOWN: 3 Years

General Questions:

1. What do you see as the top three issues in town? Property Taxes, Property Taxes, Property Taxes

2. What specifically are you planning to do to address those issues? Reduce the size of local goverment to a “Needs Based Government” and eliminate all non-essential local government services.  Increase employee heath care contributions to match the private sector.

3. What will be the challenges in getting these goals accomplished? The Mayor’s Toolkit needs to be passed by the State Legislature to allow municipalities to opt out of the civil service stranglehold and to reduce the burden of binding arbitration.

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LOCALS TRASH RUMSON GARBAGE PLAN

rumson-garbageMore than 30 people turned out at borough hall Tuesday to speak out against an idea to privatize garbage pickup in Rumson. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The guys who pick up trash on Mondays and Thursdays in Rumson aren’t your average garbagemen, apparently. In fact, the term ‘garbageman’ is one that Lennox Avenue resident Teresa Connor finds unfit for the group of “smart young men” assigned cleanup duty of the borough’s 2,500 or so properties.

They provide security, they know most people by their first name, she said. One woman said they give her dog biscuits in the morning.

After hearing that the six-man crew was on the employment chopping block, about three dozen residents filed into borough hall Tuesday afternoon to give an earful to the council.

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LOOKING FOR SAVINGS IN GARBAGE

fh-trash-canFair Haven and Rumson are looking into privatizing its garbage pickup. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fair Haven and Rumson are looking at ways to save money, starting with the trash.

And in one town, the savings would cost jobs.

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POLICE PAY IN SLEDGER SPOTLIGHT

hot-topic rightSunday’s Star-Ledger had an eye-opening article on police salaries in New Jersey.

Analyzing 2009 pay data from police departments throughout the state, the Sledger concluded that

the average municipal cop in New Jersey is paid 80 percent more than the average resident, and three of 10 made at least $100,000 last year. In addition, police tend to be paid the best in small towns with little crime.

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SEA BRIGHT TO DPW: YOU’RE SAFE, FOR NOW

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

hot-topic right

Officials in Sea Bright hope to quell a rumor that the borough intends to outsource its public works operations at the beginning of next year.

Yet members of the borough’s council — who approved a shared service agreement with Rumson to perform mechanical repairs for its DPW and police vehicles — don’t deny its validity.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, resident Cristine Sinnott confronted the governing body about a confidential email that she received — and, she says, has been seen by many others in town — saying that Rumson will take over the seaside town’s public works responsibilities on January 1. The source of the email is unclear.

It’s a move that, if it happens,  wouldn’t sit well with her. If she’s paying taxes in Sea Bright, she wants to keep the money flowing in Sea Bright, she told the council.

“I have an issue with that,” she said of the possible shared service. “The taxpayers should know.”

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RUMSON TO APPEAL ARBITRATION AWARD

rumson-pdRumson’s police union and the borough council have been at an impasse since December, 2006. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

For nearly four years, Rumson officials and its police union have been at loggerheads on a new contract. Earlier this week, a state arbitrator delivered a decision that has the council shocked and disappointed.

The governing body will appeal the decision given by arbitrator James Mastriani, said Mayor John Ekdahl. The terms Mastriani proposed, he said, create a “privileged class” of employees.

The award calls for 3.5-,  3.5- and 3.25-percent pay increases retroactive to when the union’s contract expired at the end of 2006. For 2010, officers would get increases of 3 percent, and 2.75-percent next year if Mastriani’s award holds up.

But given the state’s economic turmoil — plus a pending 2-percent tax cap — Ekdahl finds the terms of the police contract unfair to the borough and its taxpayers.

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GRIEVANCE FILED, AND OTHER COUNCIL NEWS

kevin-tauro-grievanceKevin Tauro, right, delivered a formal grievance to borough Administrator Stanley Sickels Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Upset with the unilateral implementation of a blanket furlough program, a representative from one of Red Bank’s two government employee unions delivered a formal grievance to the borough council Monday night, and vowed there’d be more to come.

Kevin Tauro, who represents the blue-collar Communications Workers of America union local, filed a policy grievance with the borough, saying that it violated terms of its collective bargaining agreement. He also said he’ll file an unfair labor practice lawsuit with the state.

“I’m very disappointed in the mayor and council. I thought you’d have a little bit more respect for your workers,” he said.

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FINAL BUDGET HANGS ON CWA FURLOUGHS

art-murphy

Council President Art Murphy conferred with Attorney Tom Hall during Tuesday night’s special meeting on the budget. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Council introduced amendments to its $19.2 million proposed budget at a special meeting Tuesday night that was over so quickly it was as if the six council members were double-parked out on Monmouth Street.

Of course, the meeting might have been prolonged by input from the public, but there wasn’t any.

Instead, the council will likely adopt the spending plan, which carries a 2.3 cent tax increase per $100 of assessed home value over last year’s rate, on June 14. That means for a property assessed at the average $405,522, tax bills will go up by $93, said Frank Mason, the borough’s financial officer.

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UNION FURLOUGHS, SATURDAY PARKING OK’D

tauroKevin Tauro, who represents borough employees, gives the Red Bank council an earful Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

[Editor’s note: This article was updated at 12:50p to include a comment from the PBA and a copy of the PBA press release, below]

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

On a night that the borough’s budget was to be adopted, Red Bank officials instead made other financial news by announcing that free Saturday parking will become a thing of the past and police will take furlough days in order to fill a wide budget gap.

And despite the borough’s other union refusing to accept furlough days, the council will impose them anyway in order to avoid laying workers off, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.

In all, the borough will see a savings of $33,000 a day by furloughing its 178 or so employees for three days each, said Councilman Michael DuPont.

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M’TOWN TEACHERS REJECT FREEZE REQUEST

mtown-workshopMiddletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger discusses the “jousting” between the town and district teachers’ union at Monday night’s committee workshop. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

At the eleventh hour, Middletown’s teachers’ union responded to Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger’s request that teachers accept a one-year wage freeze.

Nope.

Scharfenberger said the Middletown Township Education Association rebuffed his request for the freeze, which he estimates would save about $3 million in the failed $140.3 million education budget.

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RESIDENTS SWEAT BUDGET DETAILS

rb-budget-042810Participants in last night’s Q&A on the Red Bank budget pick up info packets. (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank officials held a marathon budget walk-through before a standing-room crowd at borough hall Wednesday night, laying out the rationale for a plan that calls for a property tax increase and the possibility of furloughs for government employees.

Over the course of three and a half hours in an increasingly stuffy council chambers, they also addressed every one of 90 suggestions put before them by former GOP council candidate Kim Senkeleski, who had gathered the ideas for submission.

Given their opportunity to speak, though, audience members most wanted to talk about wringing some tax money out of the borough’s outsized population of nonprofits.

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TAX HIKE, FURLOUGHS IN RED BANK BUDGET

stanley-sickelsBorough Administrator Stanley Sickels gave an overview of Red Bank’s budget Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In an effort to shrink its budget, Red Bank won’t pick up the cost of police overtime associated with the annual KaBoom! fireworks show this year, officials said Monday night.

They’re also looking at imposing 10-day furloughs for all borough government employees except crossing guards, leaving a vacant police captain’s job open and withholding raises from non-union employees.

Still, all that won’t enable them to hold the line on taxes.

As proposed Monday night, Red Bank’s $19.2 million spending plan will carry a 2.3 cent increase per $100 of assessed property value — from 46.2 cents in 2009 to 48.5 cents this year. The 2009 budget totaled $19.5 million.

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GROUP SEEKS FAIR TRADE CERT IN RED BANK

fair-trade-bagBags like this one, and Fair Trade products, may become more prevalent in Red Bank. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank has held several appellations in its storied century-plus on the Navesink, both flattering and blunt. The infamous ‘Dead Bank’ comes to mind, but has since been supplanted, in many circles, by ‘Hip City.’

It’s also known, if you pay close enough attention to the signs when entering the borough, as a Tree City USA.

Amber Graves wants to add another tag to the borough.

“Red Bank should not only be known as Hip City, but also as a Fair Trade town,” she told the borough council on Monday, as part of an effort by a group to win national certification from a group called Fair Trade Towns USA.

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LONGEVITY PAY STAYS… FOR NOW

longevity-pay-crowdBorough employees turned out Monday night to voice their concerns over the council’s proposal to freeze longevity pay. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Just when it appeared that the Red Bank Council was set to pass an ordinance freezing an incentive program for borough employees, those same employees banded together Monday night to try and get the council to buckle.

It worked.

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MURPHY: BRING THE CONTRACT — AND A PEN

art-murphy-082409Murphy stewing at the August 24 council session.

Red Bank’s council is expected to introduce a proposed labor contract with the Police Benevolent Association at tonight’s meeting.

It had better, lest it risk the ire of Councilman Art Murphy III. The council’s liaison to the police department was furious that the tentative pact wasn’t ready for a vote last time the governing body met, on August 24.

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CONTRACT UPS WAGES, IMPOSES FURLOUGHS

council-sessionCouncil members Michael DuPont, Ed Zipprich and Juanita Lewis heard details of the contract in a closed-door session Monday night before approving it in open session.

Red Bank officials last night approved a collective bargaining agreement that will boost the hourly pay of blue-collar and clerical workers  by three percent.

Because the raises will be paid only for the second half of this year, Mayor Pasquale Menna said the bump was effectively 1.5 percent for the 70 or so affected workers.

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BOROUGH BUDGET ENACTED

Taxes
Red Bank’s municipal budget for the coming fiscal year sailed to approval Monday night despite the misgivings of several residents.

Kim Senkeleski of John Street questioned increases in salary and health insurance costs. Harrison Avenue’s Jim Willis bemoaned the “increasing cynicism” he said
he detects among his East Side neighbors about local government. And Stephen Hecht of Branch Avenue took aim at tax-appeal settlements, which he suggested were eroding collections.

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BOROUGH HALL GOING TO FOUR-DAY WEEK

Hot TopicRed Bank employees who work in borough hall at 90 Monmouth Street will have to start packing their workweeks into four days starting in June as part of an effort to cut utility costs.

The move, approved by the borough council on Monday, is expected to save up to $3,000 a month in air conditioning and heating-related expenses, says borough Administrator Stanley Sickels.

The effort is envisioned as a trial for the summer but may be continued if the savings materialize as expected without adversely affecting the delivery of services, Sickels says.

“If it works out, we’ll keep doing it,” he says.

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RAINY DAY FORECAST

TowerclimberIt was all blue skies Monday for technician working on a tower 160 Newman Springs Road in Red Bank, home to Colorest Art Supplies and Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Not today, though.

Expect a day of rain Tuesday and possibly Wednesday, says the National Weather Service.

Today: Rain, mainly after 8am. High near 48. East wind between 7
and 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts
between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

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RAT WATCH

RatwatchSebastian Sokolowski of Laborers Local 78 stood outside
Red Bank Corporate Plaza with
a large, inflatable rodent on West Front Street for the second day Tuesday.

The union is protesting the hiring of a non-union asbestos abatement contractor on a job in Long Branch by PRC Group, co-developer of the Red Bank office building, according to a union flier.

Sokolowski’s proximity to the rat wasn’t solely a matter of solidarity, he told redbankgreen. “I’ve got to stand on the foot, because it keeps flying away in the wind,” he said.

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BOROUGH TAX UP AVERAGE $134 FOR YEAR

DuPontCouncilman Mike DuPont says the finance committee that he heads is still looking for places to cut.

Higher pension costs and an expected increase in tax delinquencies are the main drivers behind a potential increase in Red Bank's local tax rate, borough officials said last night.

They unveiled a 2009-2010 spending plan that would boost the bill on a home assessed at the average $407,000 by $134 for the year, or three-quarters of one percent.

At the same time, they said they're considering steps that could soften the impact on taxpayers, including a one-day-a-week summer furlough for borough employees.

The $19.4 million budget, does not reflect the savings — estimated at $35,000 to $40,000 annually — from layoffs of six part-time employees who will be let go this week, said Councilman Mike DuPont, chairman of the borough's finance committee.

"This is not the final document," said Mayor Pasquale Menna.

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CARPENTERS LEAFLET MOVIEGOERS

CarpentersAntonio Godinho, an official with the Residential Carpenters Local 119 in Edison, hands out fliers in front of Clearview Cinemas on White Street Saturday objecting to what he says is the hiring of out-of-state carpenters by Clearview on a project in Hoboken.

The leafletting effort was replicated at the movie chain’s venues elsewhere in New Jersey, he said. In a statement, Beth Simpson, a spokeswoman for Clearview, which is owned by Cablevision Systems, said the general contractor for the Hoboken project “equally considers both union and non-union subcontractors.”

In the background are John Sorensen and Curtis Corral of Carpenters Local 2250 in Red Bank.

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