SEA BRIGHT BATTENS DOWN FOR WALLOPING

Residents crowded the downtown bus stop and shopkeepers boarded up windows Sunday afternoon in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by Rebecca Desfosse. Click to enlarge)

By: REBECCA DESFOSSE

Most or all of the Sea Bright residents who were leaving town had complied with a so-called mandatory evacuation order or were in the process of doing so, Mayor Dina Long told redbankgreen shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday.

But among the town’s 1,800 residents are some who refuse to leave, and town officials said they have no legal wherewithal to force them to do so, even with a hurricane expected to inflict historic damage tracking northward.

“That’s what they do – they ride out storms,” said Long. “I’m hoping an praying that they don’t have to be rescued.”

Councilman and emergency services liaison Read Murphy said police and volunteers ran a check of the streets in town after a 4 p.m. evacuation horn was sounded, marking the departure deadline.

“We just let them know, if you get in trouble, we’re not going to come get you,” he said of the holdouts.

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BELLHEADS PICK UP A SIGNAL FROM THE PAST

It was an evening of I-thought-I’d-see-you-heres as an overflow crowd of more than 100 attendees – a preponderance of them white-haired, and many once employed by Bell Labs – turned out in Little Silver Thursday night to hear author Jon Gertner discuss his book, “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation.”

The unexpectedly strong turnout necessitated the relocation of the event from the borough library to the nearby municipal courtroom, where it was still SRO. (Photos by Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge)

RBR STUDENTS WALK TO PREVENT SUICIDES

Thirty members of the Teen Outreach Program at Red Bank Regional High completed a two-day Out of the Darkness track walk in the school gym Wednesday morning to promote awareness of suicide prevention as part of Children’s Mental Health Week. 

The idea for the walk came primarily from two proactive freshmen, Grace Rumph and Adam Canterbury, above, each of whom has lost a friend to suicide within the past two years.

“This is affecting our generation and there’s so much a person can do to help, but maybe they feel afraid to reach out,” said Rumph. “People need to know how important it is.” (Photos by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)

COPS WARN OF FAKE EMERGENCY ALERTS

just_in1Red Bank police and other emergency personnel are warning of a false emergency text message received Monday by numerous cellphone users.

The text messages warn of a civil defense emergency and advise recipients to “take shelter,” said police Captain Darren McConnell.

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RED BANK COPS TO TARGET CELL SCOFFLAWS

hot-topic rightRed Bank police will be going after violators of a “largely disregarded” state law that bans driver use of cellphones without hands-free devices, according to a department announcement issued Monday morning.

The announcement says the crackdown will last a week and will entail  road stops and checkpoints.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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This week’s Where Have I Seen This commingles our weekly appetite for the visual details of our community with a fascination over the endless recycling of the English language.

‘Comingle,’ by the way, appears not to be a misspelling; according to the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, there’s a precendent for rendering it with a single ‘m,’ though it is far more commonly spelled ‘commingle.’

It is, however, a verb, not a noun, as suggested by the above.

Anyway, email us, please, if you know where all this mingling takes place.

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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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FAIR HAVEN MULLS CALLING IN THE SHERIFF

Officials in Fair Haven are weighing whether to route all emergency calls from the borough to the Monmouth County Sheriff’s office as a cost-saving measure, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

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Under the proposal, all police, fire and first aid calls originating in the borough would go through the dispatcher’s desk at the sheriff’s office. At present, only calls dialed to 911 go through the county, which relays information to Fair Haven dispatchers, according to Mayor Mike Halfacre.

The possible change is being pitched as a cost-saving measure — one with a deadline. The sheriff’s office handles all dispatch duties for seven towns and can only take on two more. If Fair Haven wants in on the service, it will have to act soon, Undersheriff Shaun Golden, who runs the communications center, told the borough council last month.

But in a faint echo of the highly contentious last summer’s exploration of a limited merger of the police departments in Fair Haven, Little Silver an Rumson — an idea eventually shot down by all three — a police union representative has raised questions about the impact on jobs and service.

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VERIZON DISCONNECTING ON LOCAL TAXES

VerizonredbankVerizon’s facility at 183 Broad Street.

Citing a 1940 law, phone services giant Verizon is telling New Jersey municipalities it is not liable for taxes on utility lines and other equipment because of its shrinking share of the telecom market, the Bergen Record reports today.

The company has a significant presence on Broad Street in Red Bank, where it maintains a large switching station. While the specific impact on Red Bank is unclear, towns with switching stations are among those that “could lose the most,” the Record says.

The Record says the move by Verizon could force cash-strapped towns to shift millions of dollars in tax liability to other property owners.

From the article:

The company is using a provision of a 1940 state law to argue that utility poles, wires and other landline equipment should no longer be on tax rolls. They claim traditional usage has slipped significantly as more people turn to cable and the Internet for telephone service.

So far, five towns, including Dover and Victory Gardens in Morris County, have been informed that they will not receive their 2009 equipment taxes.

Verizon officials say that 150 towns will lose the tax by 2011, and the company predicts this number will continue to increase.

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CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW???

Fh_cell_tower

OK, we plead guilty to a clunker of a headline.

But we suspect a lot of Fair Havenites may be using that catchphrase in coming days, now that the long-debated cell tower is up and running.

The fact that the slogan belongs to a company whose antenna is not yet on the pole is another matter.

T-Mobile, the first of three wireless carriers expected to install equipment on the tower, has gone live, Mayor Mike Halfacre reports on his blog.

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TOWER MAY RISE FRIDAY

Cell_tower_sections_2Christ_church_signThe three sections of the tower are ready for assembly on the site leased by the borough from Christ Church United Methodist on Ridge Road. The author of the church’s signs, though, has a higher level of communication in mind. (Click to enlarge)

Less a communications black hole than a large, annoying pothole in space that almost can’t be avoided, a gap in phone service has nettled Fair Haven residents and passersby pretty much since the dawn of the cellular phone service.

But the purported fix is nearing a milestone on a 60-by-60-foot patch of land leased from the United Methodist Christ Church on Ridge Road.

Pending positive results on the hardness of a newly poured concrete base, erection of a 140-foot-tall monopole tower could be complete as soon as the end of the day Friday, says Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, in his private capacity as the borough’s consultant on the project.

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VERIZON TAX APPEAL BACK ON AGENDA

Img_9639File photo of the Verizon building at 183 Broad Street, Red Bank.

A proposed settlement of a tax appeal on Verizon New Jersey’s Broad Street switching station — a deal that got derailed last December amid questions about an apparent conflict of interest between the borough attorney and the telecom — is back on the Red Bank council’s agenda for tonight.

The latest terms appear to be identical to those proposed earlier.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

Where041008

Just one response came in for last week’s ‘Where.’ Mark Molzon guessed that it showed a pay phone near the Red Bank recycling yard.

It was a pay phone, of course — a member of a vanishing technological species. But this one is in the parking lot at Meadow Ridge Park on Ridge Road in Rumson.

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O’SCANLON: NO MORE CONTRACTS FOR POLS

Oscanlon_declan_2Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.

Six months ago, Declan O’Scanlon was a contender for state Assembly fighting political accusations of cronyism for his work on the Fair Haven cell tower deal.

You might think that the last thing O’Scanlon would want to do now is to remind the public of the flap. But yesterday, as a rookie member of the Assembly, O’Scanlon introduced legislation that would ban people in his new shoes from getting the kind of work that led to all the static.

O’Scanlon’s bill, A2585, would prohibit state legislators or companies they own as little as one percent of from entering into contracts with local, county and state government entities in their districts.

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‘OMG — IM BNG PLLED OVR!’

Celldom1_ir

Let it go, people.

Your cellphone that is, while driving.

Until now, the state of New Jersey’s law against holding your cellphone to your ear while operating a motor vehicle has been easy to flout. Police, if they were to cite you for it, first had to find another reason to pull you over, such as a busted tail light.

That changes on Saturday, March 1, when text-messaging or using a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving becomes a “primary” offense. Meaning you can be pulled over and cited for that alone.

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VERIZON TAX PACT TABLED, FOR NOW

Img_0200File photo of the Verizon building at 183 Broad Street.

A measure that would have settled a tax appeal by Verizon Inc. on its Broad Street switching station was tabled by the borough council last night after a debate that saw some unusual political splits.

The matter appeared to put the Democratic majority in an uneasy alliance with Republican John Curley and at odds with the attorneys they’d appointed.

At issue was a resolution to approve a negotiated settlement of a tax appeal by Verizon on its four-story building at 183 Broad Street. The deal would reduce the assessment on the property from $3.25 million to $2.8 million.

Annual taxes on the property would drop from about $122,00 a year to about $107,000. Of the difference, about $4,000 goes into Red Bank’s coffers.

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NO DEMS, BUT OOZING SARCASM, IN FH

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In one of the odder entries in the annals of local governance, the Fair Haven Borough Council met yesterday with the stated purpose of blowing off steam.

And vent its members did, giving voice to everything from disappointment to indignation to oozing sarcasm.

The catalyst? Suggestions by 12th-district Assembly Democratic candidates Mike Panter and Amy Mallet that “cronyism” had tainted the town’s recent cell tower deal.

With Panter and Mallet no-shows at a hastily assembled special session held expressly to refute their allegations, Mayor Mike Halfacre at one point pretended that Panter was there, asking and responding to questions that the Dems had told supporters via email they thought needed answering. Download panter_mallet_email_100807

“Let’s move forward with Mr. Panter’s questions, because I know he’s busy and has to get out of here,” Halfacre said, addressing an empty chair.

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DEMS WANT O’SCANLON CONTRACT PROBE

The Democrats in the 12th-district Assembly race have asked state Attorney General Anne Milgram to investigate the deal that gave one of their opponents the exclusive right to negotiate the Fair Haven cell tower deal with a church and four wireless carriers, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

Hot_topic_2
Incumbent Assemblyman Mike Panter of Shrewsbury and his running mate, Amy Mallet of Fair Haven, “are questioning the compensation package for FSD Enterprises LLC of Red Bank, which is owned by Republican Assembly candidate Declan O’Scanlon and was hired by Fair Haven to negotiate a land lease for the tower and with wireless carriers,” the newspaper reports.

In a letter Tuesday to Milgram, the Democratic duo questioned whether borough officials were aware that FSD would receive a percentage of the first year’s revenue from each carrier in addition to a flat fee of $5,000, which was payable in two installments. Panter said the revenue-sharing portion of the deal could reduce Fair Haven’s estimated annual revenue of $81,000 by almost half.

They’ve also raised conflict-of-interest issues arising from Mayor Mike Halfacre’s role as borough prosecutor in Little Silver, where O’Scanlon is a councilman.

Halfacre says no conflict existed, and that the tower deal negotiated by O’Scanlon brought in far more money than borough officials had anticipated, justifying O’Scanlon’s fees.

He’s also posted, on his blog, a statement “carefully crafted… to be as diplomatic as possible” refuting the Panter-Mallet allegations.

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STATIC OVER O’SCANLON TOWER CONTRACT

Tower_redo1

Incumbent 12th-district Assemblyman Mike Panter of Shrewsbury and his running mate, Amy Mallet of Fair Haven, are questioning how Republican challenger Declan O’Scanlon got the contract to negotiate the recently concluded Fair Haven cell tower deal, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The Democrats “hinted at cronyism between O’Scanlon and Fair Haven Mayor Michael Halfacre, who has been municipal prosecutor in Little Silver for seven years, where O’Scanlon serves on the Borough Council,” the Press reports.

“We want to make sure this is as transparent as possible and make sure the taxpayers understand the terms of the contract,” Mallet said. “We want to make sure everything is up front.”

In response, Halfacre told the Press that potential conflict-of-interest concerns were raised by O’Scanlon himself. He said the Fair Haven council, after awarding O’Scanlon a professional services contract, which requires no bidding process, put the job up for public bid, which O’Scanlon won in April.

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FAIR HAVEN TOWER NETS UNEXPECTED CASH

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Fair Haven’s search for a solution to its dropped-calls cellular woes ended earlier this week with deals that brought in more cash than borough officials had expected.

Now, Mayor Mike Halfacre hopes to use to the windfall to hold the line on property tax increases next year.

“The money is not earmarked, but my goal is to use it for property tax relief,” Halfacre tells redbankgreen.

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“LETTING THE TOWER BE A TOWER”

Tower_redo1

Today’s Asbury Park Press reports that the cell tower planned for Fair Haven won’t be a giant faux tree or, as reporter Larry Higgs puts it, won’t resemble a common bathroom cleaning implement.

Borough Planning Board members only had two suggestions Tuesday night about the design of a municipal cell phone tower proposed for a leased square of United Methodist Church land — make sure it won’t blow down in a gale and don’t make it look like a toilet brush.

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CELL TOWER LAND DEAL SIGNED

Tower_redo1

Looks like the long search for a cellular phone tower in Fair Haven is near its end.

The Asbury Park Press reports today that the borough has signed a deal to lease a plot of land from the United Methodist Church on Ridge Road.

There, the town expects to build a money-making tower up to 150 feet tall. Download map and elevation here.

Next step: enticing cellular carriers, including Verizon Wireless, to become tenants on the monopole.

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AT LAST, A TOWER OF POWER?

Tower1_2

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

After years of grousing by Fair Haven residents about a dead zone of cellphone service, and more than a year of contention over how to resolve it, the borough may at last have hit on a fix.

The borough council this week passed an ordinance this week to lease a landlocked five-acre parcel from Christ Church United Methodist on which the town hopes to build a cell tower.

The plan is likely to be seen as a relief to residents of several neighborhoods that had previously been targeted as the location for a town-owned tower, each proposal for which prompted outcries about property values, aesthetics and safety.

But the plan also creates a new pocket of disgruntlement in and near McCarter Avenue — though no residents spoke out against the plan at the council meeting Monday night.

“Some people are unhappy, and I sympathize,” Mayor Mike Halfacre said at the session, during which the council gave unanimous approval to the plan. “But it’s the best solution of the options we have left. It’s the interests of 5,000 residents over those of 200 householders.”

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