MOTOR HOME INVOLVED IN GAS LEAK

Cimg7131Little Silver firefighters at the scene of last night’s propane leak on Branch Avenue. Behind the Winnebago and supply tank are the tracks of the North Jersey Coast Line.

The propane leak that shut down NJ Transit rail service south of Red Bank for about 90 minutes yesterday afternoon involved a motor home that was refueling a tank.

According to the Asbury Park Press:

The leak developed as propane was being pumped into a Winnebago at the Citgo Station at 697 Branch Ave., Detective Lt. Joseph Mazza said.

Police were forced to block off streets and New Jersey Transit had to delay train traffic traveling through Little Silver beginning at 3:40 p.m., according to police and NJ Transit.

Firefighters worked to cool the propane tanks as a precaution, and a hazardous materials response team from NJ Transit police also responded to the location, Mazza said.

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RAIL & ROAD UPDATE: INCIDENT OVER

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Just_in_2Bridge Avenue in Red Bank at 5:35p. Trains were moving through the station and traffic was clearing after a brief downpour.

We’ll post further updates on the Little Silver propane situation and the resulting rail and traffic tie-ups here.

5:12p: Traffic at the Broad Street rail crossing near Newman Springs Road reported to be a “mess.”

5:14p: train reported to be leaving the station northbound. Crossing at Bergen Place (Drs. Parker Boulevard) is open, according to police radio transmission.

The fire alarm on Shrewsbury Avenue turned out to be a non-event.

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WHEELS COME OFF PENINSULA COPS IDEA

Fh_cop_carThis is how we roll: Fair Haven, like Rumson, prefers to go it alone, thank you.

An initiative touted as having the potential to be the first-ever merger of three New Jersey police departments appears to have crashed and burned less than two months after it was introduced.

Last night, Rumson officials made clear that they want nothing to do with a proposal that might lead to their police department merging with those of Fair Haven and Little Silver. Today’s Asbury Park Press has a full report.

Rumson’s rejection came just 24 hours after the governing body in Fair Haven approved a resolution calling for the borough to participate in a “joint management committee” with the other two towns to look for ways to save money, such as on the purchase of a breathalyzer machine they could share. Rumson adopted a similar resolution.

The measures, though, were dramatically watered-down versions of a recommendation unveiled in July to have the cop shops from all three towns begin to share detectives, traffic safety and other personnel, with a long-term goal of a possible all-out merger. The police chiefs in all three towns opposed the plan, saying it would decimate their staffing.

Today, Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre says the findings of a study that led to the twin rejections is a sharp rebuke of Gov. Jon Corzine’s push for increased sharing of services to curb soaring property taxes at the local level. The consultant’s analysis forecasted savings per Fair Haven household of just $242 a year in taxes.

“The message out of all this is, ‘Hey, Governor Corzine, the savings aren’t there, so don’t cram consolidation and shared services down our throats,'” Halfacre told redbankgreen this afternoon. “The report says our local police deparments are doing a good job, and that the savings from consolidation would at best be minimal.”

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COMBO-COPS PLAN HITS THE RUMBLE STRIP

Ekdahl_lehnertRumson Mayor John Ekdahl, left, and Fair Haven Councilman John Lehnert.

A proposal to create a unified police department for three peninsula towns appears headed into a shallow ditch as it faces two public hearings this week.

Last week, Rumson residents received a letter from the mayor and council outlining a host of reservations about a plan for a limited combination of services between their police department and those in Fair Haven and Little Silver. Rumson plans a public hearing at its regular session Tuesday night.

The letter, which Mayor John Ekdahl describes as an expression of consensus, says the governing body cannot support the proposal. The anticipated savings would be too small — $192 to $256 per Rumson household annually — without any enhancement of present service levels, the letter claims.

That plan, outlined in a reported completed last month by Patriot Consulting Group, had been touted by backers, including Ekdahl, as a go-slow approach that was far short of, and would not necessarily lead to, a full consolidation of the departments. But as the letter makes clear, Rumson won’t be supporting even the limited plan. Already, the police chiefs in all three towns had expressed misgivings about the plan.

Meantime, tonight the borough council in Fair Haven plans to discuss what it heard from residents at a public hearing last month —little of which has been favorable.

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LITTLE SUPPORT VOICED FOR JOINT POLICE

TritowncopsAbout 100 people turned out for Monday night’s meeting on consolidating police work on the peninsula. According to a show of hands, most were officers or their relatives.

You’re not showing us any real savings. You’re creating a new bureaucracy, one that will be saddled with huge costs when the political wind inevitably shifts in Trenton. You’re ruining the “sacred relationship” between residents and cops small-town cops.

In sum, the message and tone of the second public hearing on whether to begin consolidating the police departments of Fair Haven, Little Silver and Rumson: bad idea.

“As far as I’m concerned, this whole thing is kind of the demise of three small-town police departments,” former Rumson police chief Bob Zerr told the Fair Haven council at a special meeting in the Knollwood School auditorium last night. “We’re being asked to buy something without a bottom line. I think in the long run, the taxpayers will be cheated.”

Much as it was at the first meeting on the topic last month, the audience was dominated by police department employees and their relatives. Some who spoke said they were on board with the idea of curtailing property taxes, but said the police departments shouldn’t be the first on the chopping block. The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was uttered more than once.

But when one man claimed that “it’s broke,” as evidenced by soaring property taxes and the fact that the police are the biggest single expense for the three town, he was met with cool silence.

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REPORT: COPS SHOPS ‘TOP-HEAVY’

Breckenridge_2Fair Haven Police Chief Darryl Breckenridge expressed reservations about the Patriot plan at a public hearing in Little Silver last month.

An all-out merger of police forces from Fair Haven, Little Silver and Rumson could save taxpayers $1.5 million in 2011 and $2 million in 2017, in part because they’re top-heavy with supervisors to a “striking” degree, the authors of a widely anticipated new study contend.

As expected, though, the Patriot Consulting Group, the governmental services advisory firm hired to explore the feasibility of a merger, does not recommend full regionalization of the peninsula departments for now.

Instead, it recommends a phased approach toward possible consolidation, adding that:

significant observation and recording of how law enforcement officers are deployed, how efficiently they operate while deployed and what functions they are forced to perform during deployment must be earnestly and honestly executed before such a regionalization can be fully assessed and implemented.

Still, the recommendation is likely to be the subject of spirited debate in all three towns as the mayors of each push for shared services to curtail soaring labor and benefits costs while their own police chiefs resist elements of even the limited approach.

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SHARED POLICE SERVICES REPORT OUT

Peninsula residents, here’s your weekend homework assignment, and no, it can’t wait until Labor Day:

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The final report of a consultant hired to look into the viability of merging the police departments of Fair haven, Little Silver and Rumson is out, just in time for a town meeting on it in Fair Haven Monday night.

We haven’t even cracked open the 52-page doorstopper yet; we just wanted to get it posted ASAP.

Clicking on the image here won’t take you to it. To download the report, click here: Download finalreport8-13-08.pdf

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LITTLE SILVER ‘NO PARKING’ SIGNS VANISH

Today’s Press reports that newly installed ‘no parking’ signs on an out-of-the way residential street in Little Silver have disappeared — every last trace of them, including the posts they were attached to.

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The signs were installed just last month along the west side of Borden Place, the newspaper reports. The street is off the eastern end of Little Silver Point Road and terminates on Town Neck Creek.

From the Press:

“They went up a month ago — the second week of July. DPW put them up, and they lasted a couple of days,” said Howard Ostran of Borden Place. “They were taken down by the residents, posts and all.”

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NEW PRINCIPAL CHOSEN IN LITTLE SILVER

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A 31-year-old Bordentown vice principal has been hired as the new principal of the Markham Place School in Little Silver, today’s Press reports.

Dennis Morolda, who starts in the $108,000-a-year job on Friday, succeeds Don Merce, who was killed in a car accident in Oceanport in May.

From the report:

“One of my strengths, in my opinion, is being a motivational leader and building a community in a school, and I felt like I was able to do that in Bordentown,” Morolda said. “I figured that with the situation such that occurred in Little Silver, I would be a good person to come in and build the school back up from such a terrible situation.”

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COMBINED-COPS ON AGENDA FOR AUG. 18

Img_3917Img_3923Area residents came out in force July 9, when consultant Brian Valentino, left, described the preliminary findings of his police-consolidation analysis.

Round two of discussions about a proposal to merge the police departments of Fair Haven, Little Silver and Rumson has been scheduled for Aug. 18, Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre reports on his blog today.

By that time, a consultant’s final report on the proposal should be complete and available for public review, writes Halfacre, who has pledged to make it widely available.

He writes:

This report is supposed to be available prior to the meeting, so that it can be debated on its merits, not on speculation of what it might or might not contain.

Hard copies will be available at borough hall, and Fair Haven will post the report on its website. Needless to say, redbankgreen plans to do the same.

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CHOWDOWN: LOCAL EATERIES ON ‘BEST’ LIST

Img_9842Believe it, Mike, you’re on the list. No Joe’s proprietor Mike Tierney welcomes customers during the Sheehan Classic in June.

New Jersey Monthly magazine’s annual list of the state’s best restaurants is out, and the Red Bank area is represented, scoring in the upscale, bar, raw bar, coffee and other categories.

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Whether it’s underrepresented or perhaps even overrepresented we’ll leave to our commentariat to say.

First, a couple of non-surprises, as the Springsteen and Bon Jovi of the local restaurant scene — David Burke Fromagerie in Rumson and Nicholas in Middletown — are included in among the state’s 25 best, as rated by the magazine’s critics and dining editor. Both places are near shoo-ins on these sorts of rundowns.

Of bigtime chef David Burke‘s place, the magazine says (somewhat inscrutably, we must admit):

Once a bastion of Old World French cuisine, Fromagerie is now a stage for Burke’s whimsical design sense and imaginative food. Tongue on rye is deli, but tongue-in-cheek ascends to cuisine under Burke.

Um, OK, we’ll have the tongue on wry…

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PARKER HOMESTEAD PLAN ADVANCES

Img_6417The Parker house, on Rumson Road, dates to 1667 and is the borough’s oldest home.

Little Silver officials took steps last week in their effort to preserve the 341-year-old Parker house, home of the borough’s founding family.

The Asbury Park Press reports that the borough hired Farewell Mills Gatsch Architects of Princeton

to perform a historic analysis and an operational feasibility plan to show that the borough can operate and use the homestead. The borough will pay $14,875 to match a grant for the work.

“They’re going to get it put on the historic register and apply for state historic grants,” said Michael Biehl, borough administrator.

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VOTERS & CHIEFS SCORE TRIBORO COP SHOP

Fh_ls_rumsonImg_3899Img_3889The standing-room crowd watches a power-point presentation on the merger proposal; Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, left, who initiated the idea, addresses the crowd, and Fair Haven Police Chief Darryl Breckenridge listens.

Elected officials exploring the idea of merging the police departments of Fair Haven, Little Silver and Rumson got off with a series of stern warnings from their constituents last night.

A crowd of about 150 squeezed into Little Silver’s borough hall to demand that the mayors of the three towns provide greater transparency on the process and hold a referendum before consolidating the three departments, which now employ a combined 46 officers.

And in a public display of dissent that’s rare for the three cozy bedroom communities, the police chiefs of all three departments said that even a take-it-slow approach proposed to test a possible merger would hamper their ability to provide adequate coverage of their towns.

“We would lose manpower” even in the first phase of the plan, under which existing, informal sharing of police resources would be fomalized, Little Silver Chief Shannon Giblin told redbankgreen at the conclusion of the two-hour meeting.

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TRI-TOWN COP SHOP ON THE TABLE

A proposal to consolidate the police operations of Fair Haven, Little Silver and Rumson will be up for public discussion July 9, Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre reports on his blog today.

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The governing bodies of the three towns will meet at 7p that night at Little Silver Borough Hall to hear a presentation by Patriot Consulting of Monmouth Beach, the consultant hired last August to look into the efficacy of a merger of the three peninsula departments.

A $40,950 grant from the state paid for the work.

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MARTHA STEWART.. AND BOBBY FLAY!

Bob_sickles_2Bob Sickles

Bob Sickles and some of his employees from Sickles Farm Market found themselves on a television sound stage in the Chelsea section of Manhattan a couple of months back when who should walk in but Martha Stewart.

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Before they’re sellers, Sickles and his crew are buyers — both of food and garden products, the store’s two lines of business. And when the producers of “The Next Food Network Star,” a reality show, went looking for people who apprise and buy food products wholesale, they invited the Sickles team in to join colleagues from Balducci’s, Whole Foods and others on the show.

Their role? To do what they do at trade shows and on the loading docks of their businesses: hear pitches from sellers of new food products, taste the goods, ask questions and give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

Superstar chef Bobby Flay is the show’s host, and on this episode, the contestant had to come up with a product using a simple russett potato.

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BRIEFCASE STIRS CONCERN IN LITTLE SILVER

A briefcase left next to a dumpster prompted the use of a bomb-sniffing dog at 200 White Road in Little Silver this morning, the Asbury Park Press is reporting.

The presence of the unattended briefcase was reported to police at about 7:30a, and after an investigation, the bag was deemed safe and the scene was cleared at about 8:45, the Press says.

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BODY IN RIVER; NO CRIME SUSPECTED

State Police investigators don’t suspect foul play in connection with the death of a man whose body was found in the Navesink River Sunday, the Asbury Park Press is reporting.

The corpse of 71-year-old James Roffler of Little Silver was discovered on a sandbar behind the Rumson police station by kayakers. The case was turned over to the State Police because of the location of the body.

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RED BANK BICYCLIST KILLED

A 75-year-old Red Bank man died after being struck by a car while riding a bicycle on Branch Avenue shortly before noon yesterday, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Ernest Grewe of Ambassador Drive was pronounced dead at 2:27p at Jersey Shore Medical Center, the Press reports.

The accident occurred on the Little Silver side of the Red Bank border near Spring Street.

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REMEMBERING MR. MERCE

Img_6470Students and parents gathered yesterday evening at the Markham Place School in Little Silver to leave tributes to Don Merce, the school’s 58-year-old principal, who was killed in a car accident earlier in the day on Oceanport Avenue in Oceanport.

The Asbury Park Press has coverage of the crash investigation as well as of a memorial held last night at the school.

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YOGA INSTRUCTOR SPOTLIGHTED

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Today’s Star-Ledger has a feature on Little Silver resident Barbara Sager, a yoga instructor who specializes in clients with Multiple Sclerosis and other conditions that limit their mobility.

redbankgreen readers may recognize the name or the face: in March, we highlighted Sager for her participation in 20 consecutive annual MS fundraising walks.

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‘I’M VERY LUCKY’

Grace_dGrace Dilger in what remains of her bedroom.

Red Bank Regional freshman Grace Dilger awoke early this morning to find her bed on fire.

She’d gone to sleep with a heating pad to ease a sore back from playing lacrosse. But the pad overheated and caught fire. As she slept, the fire spread to a nightstand and lamp.

“I woke up because I felt flames next to me,” the 15-year-old tells redbankgreen, pointing to her now-bandaged left forearm.

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GIRL INJURED IN LITTLE SILVER FIRE

A 15-year-old girl suffered second-degree burns in an early-morning fire on Rumson Place in Little Silver, the Asbury Park Press reports.

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The girl, whose name was not reported, incurred burns on her arms and legs that are not considered life-threatening, the Press says, quoting Assistant Little Silver Fire Chief Frank Salerno.

The victim was taken to Riverview Medical Center, he said.

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MARKING ANOTHER CENTURY OF EARTH DAYS

Img_4532Bob Sickles Sr. riding high on his 1948 John Deere MT tractor.

Eighty years old, and with a still-thick crop of hair, Bob Sickles Sr. sits at his son Bob’s desk and picks through a boxful of documents in his lap, many of them bearing the swooping calligraphy of ages past.

There are diaries, certificates, courtship letters — items that, while quaintly formal by today’s standards, convey an astonishing sense of intimacy with people long dead, their times relegated to history lessons.

“I have some letters that are 200 years old in this box,” Sickles says. Though he grew up in the house in whose attic his daughter Virginia collected them two summers ago, he’d never really looked at them, he says, and “there’s still more up there.”

The box came out because redbankgreen had dropped by to get the elder Sickle’s thoughts on the family centennial of the farm in Little Silver.

But in context, that milestone is easily dwarfed by the fact that this is only the latest century of an agricultural endeavor now in its fourth.

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NO ORDINARY HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL

Belle1Cody Kasselman, as Belle, warms up her pipes for this week’s opening.

By TOM CHESEK

It’s a “tale as old as time” in the words of the Oscar-nominated song; an eternal bedtime-story blockbuster that’s been adapted many times over — not the least of which was a nightmarishly dreamy 1946 French film directed by Jean Cocteau.

Ask anybody under 20, though, and you’ll find that the story really begins back in 1991, the year that Disney released its now-classic animated musical version of Beauty and the Beast. A success on every front, the film competed for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and spawned a real live stage musical that proved to be a perfect fit for a newly Disney-fied Broadway.

A whole generation has literally grown up watching the various home-video releases of the full-length toon and its many affiliated sequels, “midquels” and games. As Red Bank Regional High School prepares to stage its spring-musical production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast this week, it’s a fact that hasn’t been lost on the director, RBR faculty member Joe Russo.

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BENNETT WANTS BACK IN VIA RED BANK

After a couple of years of lying low at the local level, it appears that former state Senator John O. Bennett III wants a piece of the political action in Red Bank.

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The Asbury Park Press reports today that Bennett “has filed to run for county GOP committee in the borough, challenging current Red Bank Republican Committee Chairman John Minton.”

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Bennett said he moved to Red Bank about a year-and-a-half ago from Little Silver and is seeking the seat to serve as he did in Little Silver for decades.

“I served on the county committee in Little Silver for 30 years. Having moved to Red Bank, I’d like to serve on the county committee (here),” said Bennett, who is still a member of the state Republican Committee.

But, Bennett says, he is not running for borough party chairman and has no designs on running for elective office again and “getting my brains bashed in.” The one exception, he says, is that he might again like to serve on a school board.

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