TRANSIT VILLAGE, STIMULUS FUNDS SOUGHT

Img_624772Mayor Pasquale Menna.

In the face of an historic economic downturn, Red Bank is trimming pay for its planning and zoning board attorneys, looking at a five-percent, across-all-departments budget cut and trying to hold the line in contract talks with its two public employee unions, says Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna.

The borough will also soon unveil measures aimed at making it easier for small businesses to set up shop in town by eliminating red tape, he says.

But the local government will need a hand from the state and federal governments if it is to keep pace with necessary road, sewer and other capital projects, Menna told a packed-house audience at Thursday’s annual borough government reorganization.

In particular, he says the borough will be angling for a slice of the Obama administration’s stimulus program.

And a key piece of that would be a “transit village” designation and the construction of a commuter parking garage at the train station, Menna says. He told reporters after the meeting that he had reached out to NJ Transit officials and encouraged them to build a garage at the station, but that the idea so far has been a non-starter.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Where Have I Seen This?’ returns this week after taking a Christmas holiday — it’s first break since we launched redbankgreen on June 1, 2006.

So where does ‘Where’ go on vacation? We’ll never tell. It’s a secret. Let’s just say noWhere and everyWhere…

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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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SLEDGER, ‘ON LIFE SUPPORT,’ MAY BE SOLD

Img_5587New Jersey’s largest daily is “losing a battle to survive,” its publisher says.

The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, has to shrink its payroll by 200 jobs and retool two union contracts by October 1 or it will have to be sold, the Newark-based paper reports its publisher told staffers today.

Amid an historic disruption in the newspaper industry as advertisers and readers flock to the web and cable TV for information, the newspaper is “on life support,” publisher George Arwady is reported to have told a stunned meeting of employees this morning.

The paper, he said, is “losing a battle to survive.”

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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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RED BANK BUDGET DRAFT: $311 INCREASE

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Red Bank officials last night introduced a proposed 2008-’09 budget that would increase the local portion of the typical homeowner’s property taxes by $311.20 per year.

The figure is just a starting point for several weeks of refining and public comment, borough officials said. But the $19 million spending plan — $10.4 million of which would be raised by taxes and fees — lands at a time of statewide fiscal turmoil not seen in several years.

It also reflects a quadruple whammy:

• a $362,000 spike in the borough’s state-mandated contribution to pension costs for public employees;

• the elimination of $182,000 received as state aid from Trenton last year;

• the full impact of debt service costs not felt in the last three years, even as the borough was racking up $6.38 million in bonding costs for infrastructure repairs;

• and a slowing economy, which has cut into fees from builders and other sources.

“There are no sacred cows in this budget. We have to make some rather difficult decisions — they’re going to be painful decisions this year,” said Mayor Pasquale Menna. “We’re going to have to make some very difficult, politically charged decisions with regard to some employees.”

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O’HERN REVIEW CLEARS CORZINE-KATZ

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A two-man state ethics panel headed by former Red Bank Mayor and Associate Supreme Court Justice Daniel O’Hern has ruled that Gov. Jon Corzine’s relationship with ex-girlfriend and labor leader Carla Katz should not have barred him from participating in contract negotiations with the one of the state’s largest public unions earlier this year, the Star-Ledger reports.

In its 37-page report, though, the panel warns that relationships such as Corzine’s and Katz’s “can easily lead to the appearance of conflicting interests” when the principals become involved in matters having to do with the governor’s official duties, the Ledger reports.

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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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POSTSCRIPT

At redbankgreen, we correct our mistakes and issue clarifications where warranted.

Through an attorney, Aldo Gallelli, president of A.G. Electrical Contractors Inc., has pointed out an error in our January 9 article headlined “Pickets negotiate a fence.” The article, about labor picketing on Wallace Street, mistakenly confused Gallelli’s company for another business carrying a similar name.

In the interest of fairness, we have appended the full text of the attorney’s letter to the original article. It is available by clicking here. redbankgreen regrets the error.

PICKETS NEGOTIATE A FENCE

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Rich Volpe (in blue hat) of IBEW Local 440, which is picketing the Metropolitan building site on Wallace Street, talks Tuesday morning with construction manager Scott Thomas about where the picketers are permitted to walk. The question arose because the sidewalk is enclosed by construction fencing.

Local 400 doesn’t have a contract on the Metropolitan, a 37-unit residential complex now rising on the former site of Dorn’s Photography. Union Business Agent Jim Gervolino tells redbankgreen that the picketing was prompted by the failure of the electrical contractor on the job, A.G. Electric, to pay area-standard wages. (Aldo Gallelli, owner of the Metuchen-based firm, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.)

[PLEASE SEE ‘POSTSCRIPT,’ BELOW]

The worksite was the subject of a number of phone calls to police early Sunday because of noisy pile-driving. Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels says that work was conducted without proper permission from the town, though no citations were issued.

Postscript, February 7, 2007:

The following is the text of a letter received by redbankgreen on Feb. 7, 2007 by email from Eric C. Stuart of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stuart PC of Morristown:

“This firm is counsel to A.G. Electrical Contractors Inc. and its President Aldo Gallelli. I write to bring to your attention certain inaccurate information contained in the January 9, 2007 edition of Redbankgreen. At this time we are simply requesting that Redbankgreen issue a correction to prevent damage to our clients’ business and reputation.

The article entitled “Pickets Negotiate a Fence” stated that labor picketing of a 37 unit residential construction project “was prompted by the failure of the electrical contractor on the job, A.G. Electric, to pay area-standard wages”. It was also reported that the work was “conducted without proper permission from the town” and that Mr. Gallelli is the President of this Company. The article was brought to our clients’ attention by a potential customer. As a small local family business in Metuchen, Mr. Gallelli is very concerned that both he and his Company are being portrayed in a false light.

The reason for our clients’ concern is that A.G. Electrical Contractors, Inc. and Mr. Gallelli have no connection whatsoever with this construction project, never bid on this project, never performed work on this project and were not even aware of its existence. I understand there may be an entity called A.G. Electric, but Mr. Gallelli is not involved in that Company in any manner. In any event, because I understand you take pride in and emphasize “shoe leather reporting” kindly take a moment to publish a correction in your next edition.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Very truly yours,

(signed) Eric C. Smith

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stuart, PC

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