Monday, December 21, 2015

Mike Wolfschmidt taking over as chief of Surf City Fire Co. & EMS

Mike Wolfschmidt, who aspired to become head of the Surf City Volunteer Fire Co. & EMS since joining as a junior member 17 years ago, has been sworn in as chief of the department for the new year. He is taking over for Brian Stasik, who led as chief for the past 10 years.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Mike Wolfschmidt wanted to become chief of the
local fire department since he joined 17 years ago.
“I am extremely grateful and very honored to be given this opportunity,” Wolfschmidt said. “I was inspired to do it by the leaders who came before me. This new position will be a great learning experience. I am not perfect, but I will give it my all and do what is best for our organization and the community we protect.”
Wolfschmidt, who grew up in Surf City, attending Long Beach Island Grade School as well as the Southern Regional School District, is a fourth-generation firefighter. His dad, Scott, is a life member of the Surf City Fire Co.
“I was initially inspired by my father to join the fire company,” Wolfschmidt said. “I spent a lot of time around the firehouse with him on fundraisers and drills, and loved every minute of it.
“The Wolfschmidt family has been fighting fires in southern New Jersey for over a century, which is amazing,” he added, rattling off a list of other relatives, from his brother Andrew, who recently became a Surf City firefighter, to descendants of his great-great grandfather who were all life members of the Riverton Fire Co.
Having moved up the fire company ladder through “hard work, dedication, ability and perseverance,” Wolfschmidt said he loves volunteering in the community where he grew up.
“A few years ago, I responded to a car accident in which an elderly couple was entrapped in the vehicle. As the other firefighters started working to extricate them, I climbed in the car to check on them, introduced myself and e
Photo by Ryan Morrill
The LBI native trades in his assistant chief hat.
xplained everything that was going on around them,” he recounted. “The gentleman then asked me, ‘Hey, aren’t you Scott the plumber’s son? Were you the Eagle Scout that painted all the fire hydrants in Surf City a few years back?’ I was amazed he remembered that, especially given the situation. Surf City really is a great community with awesome people.”
Wolfschmidt also serves in Burlington County, where he was recently sworn in as a full-time career firefighter/emergency medical technician for Westampton Township.
“Prior to last week I worked for Westampton Township on a part-time basis since 2012. I absolutely love my job,” he said.
Wolfschmidt spent the last few years as a full-time deputy fire marshal for the Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office, and also worked for a few years as an EMT for the Galloway Township Ambulance Squad in Atlantic County. He continues to work part-time with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and also volunteers as an instructor at the Ocean County Fire Academy.
“I am very fortunate to have gained a lot of experience and training from those great organizations, which I have been able to bring back to Surf City,” he said. “I love making an aggressive fire attack, and I love helping other people. It’s hard to explain, but it gives me great satisfaction helping others and solving problems. It’s something that truly is a calling, and it requires dedication and courage.
“We don’t just do fires anymore. Firefighters today are involved in a wide variety of situations when we are called upon,” he added. “We provide emergency medical services, rescue extrication, water rescue when the lifeguards are off duty, respond to hazardous materials spills and much more. It all comes down to one thing: we love helping other people, no matter how big or small their problem is. I also love the tradition and brotherhood in the fire service. Being a firefighter is my passion in life.”
In 2003, Wolfschmidt received a valor award from the 200 Club of Ocean County for attempting to save a victim’s life in a Surf City house fire. In 2014 he was named the New Jersey First Responder of the Year by the New Jersey Grand Lodge of Freemasons.
He has also been awarded two CPR saves by the Galloway Township Ambulance Squad. Both people made full recoveries after being in cardiac arrest, Wolfschmidt noted.
Encouraging other local residents to join the Surf City Fire Co. as firefighters and EMTs, he is looking forward to continuing to move the department in a progressive direction through teamwork.
“I am extremely fortunate to have dedicated and skilled members and officers to work along side with,” Wolfschmidt stated. “I take what we do very seriously, and it is my goal that we are the best trained, skilled and prepared fire company and emergency medical service possible.
“I made some mistakes and learned some hard lessons over the years, but it has made me a stronger person having learned from them. Most importantly, I couldn’t have done it without the guidance from my dad, the chiefs, fire academy instructors, Scout leaders and mentors who taught me along the way. I wouldn’t be in this position today without them.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Beach Haven Fire Co. has busiest year on record since 2012

From Dec. 1, 2014 to Nov. 30, 2015 the Beach Haven Volunteer Fire Co. responded to the highest number of calls on record since 2012, when Superstorm Sandy hit and bumped total calls up to approximately 400, said Fire Chief Matt Letts.
Photo via Facebook
The company's new fire truck, picked up
in September, is the first out on all calls.
This year’s total calls reached 330, with the bulk consisting of 115 fire alarms, 40 arcing wires/pole fires, 33 water rescues and 20 carbon monoxide alarms. Additional calls for the year included 13 odor investigations and 13 unattended cooking calls, among others.
The “only thing I can think is (there were) more people on the Island,” said Letts said.
Calls were answered in Beach Haven, Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom, Surf City and Harvey Cedars as well as Stafford Township and Little Egg Harbor.
Department volunteers put in 3,177.5 man hours for calls, and logged 4,779.8 man hours overall, including 989 hours for functions and fundraisers, 508 training hours and 105.3 hours on stand-by.
“The members did an awesome job,” Letts said. They were “always there when the calls came in. Through storms, heat and cold, middle of the day or middle of the night, they were professionals.”
On average, the fire company responds to about 250 to 280 calls annually. Last year, volunteers answered 260 calls, just 56 calls fewer than the previous year’s total, which was the second highest year in calls after 2012.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Beach Haven School administration plans to help students reach higher levels on PARCC tests

Photo via Google
None of the school's students opted out
of the the new PARCC tests.
Last spring, all of Beach Haven School’s students in third through sixth grades took the new Partnership Assessment for Readiness of College and Careers tests, which measure whether students are on track for future success. According to the recently released results, the district’s overall scores have room for improvement.
However, other schools and, in some cases, entire districts in New Jersey and other participating states opted out of the assessments, which means the outcomes are skewed, stated Richard Starodub, acting superintendent of the Beach Haven School.
“I don’t think we know yet the full effect of how that impacts the results,” he said at the board of education’s regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 15. “This is where we start from, and hopefully next year we’ll see growth with all the students. Where they are is not as critical as how much growth you can accomplish with this new test, this new format, in one year. That’s really the measurement.”
Because of the school’s small enrollment, its scores alone are slanted, he added. Only 32 of the students took the PARCC.
“Any one student here, if they perform at a maximum level or a minimum level, can skew the overall performance at the grade level versus Southern Regional, where there are hundreds of kids in one class,” Starodub said.
Ideally, students should be meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations. But there are many questions about the tests and the validity of some of the scores, especially in the math section, said Linda Downing, the school’s interim principal.
“We’re looking at this as a baseline,” she stated. “We’re taking it where our kids are now, and we’re going to move them to higher levels. That’s our goal.
“While the previous state test was looking for the right answers, these tests are also looking for evidence that the student understands and can apply concepts,” she added, noting the school’s third-grade class exceeded the state level in English language arts.
Although it took longer than expected to receive the scores, Starodub noted the test’s electronic feature allows for quicker feedback.
“It used to be we’d have to analyze paper-and-pencil tests and try and give the teachers tools to work with to improve. This gives it to us faster, and it’ll be faster as time goes on,” he said. “There’s a lot of good here, and I think it’s a good place to start. Once we get some of the controversy behind us and get our teachers cued up to it, I think we’ll be OK.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Second lane in each direction on Causeway Bridges reopens in April

Photo by Ryan Morrill
On-going construction on the northside of
the bridges will be completed in February.
Two lanes in each direction will be restored in the Route 72 Causeway Bridge construction area when work on the north side is completed in April, said Stephen Schapiro, New Jersey Department of Transportation communications director.
The center median temporarily removed on the last bridge heading onto Long Beach Island will also be reinstated at that time. This is good news for those who are concerned for their safety while driving through the area, where a head-on car collision occurred after the Ship Bottom Christmas Parade on Dec. 5.
However, traffic will be shifted to the north side of the bridges with work commencing on the south side in February.
To alert drivers about the road conditions, the DOT has added a few additional safety components, including signs indicating that in some areas left turns cannot be made, or there is a hidden driveway.
“The department also added signs to alert LBI traffic that Route 72 westbound is a single lane, and we have added VMS boards on Route 72 eastbound to alert oversize loads entering LBI to contact the police before proceeding, due to narrow lanes,” Schapiro said.
No work is anticipated on the project on Christmas and New Year’s Day. But bridge work may persist between the holidays behind barriers on a closed portion of the roadway, where there is no effect on traffic, said Schapiro. The DOT is expected to restrict lane closures between Thursday, Dec. 24 at 6 a.m. through Monday, Dec. 28 at noon and from Thursday, Dec. 31 at 6 a.m. to Monday, Jan. 4 at noon.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Replenishment in Beach Haven expected to begin in March

Despite Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.’s recent announcement to move its barges to Georgia for environmentally sensitive, military-related projects, stalling beachfill on Long Beach Island until springtime, Beach Haven will receive replenishment just a few weeks later than its anticipated January start.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Dredges were moved from LBI to Georgia
for environmentally sensitive, military projects.
The Liberty Island barge, “which is the big one we’re counting on for here,” is expected to return to Area 6 March 15, dredging north to south, starting at the North Beach Haven/Beach Haven border, Borough Manager Richard Crane announced at the town council’s regular, monthly meeting Monday, Dec. 14. The Dodge Island/Padre Island barge should return to Area 6 April 1 and begin pumping south to north from the Holgate refuge.
Area 6 should be completed by May 19, after the two barges meet in the middle. Although borough officials would like to have the project completed before the start of the summer season, especially since getting beach entrances ready for the public has been an issue in other towns that have already received replenishment, mechanical issues and inclement weather could delay the project further.
While Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis said officials are “sort of between a rock and a hard place” since there are only a few companies that do dredge work, she encouraged residents to write to Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) in hopes of getting the project moved up earlier.
As Great Lakes moves to Georgia, Crane noted, officials are discovering that the situation is constantly changing with the shifting of the sands and there is more sand than was originally anticipated, which should to allow them to move a little sooner, weather permitting.
In other meeting news, the council approved the execution of an $8,000 agreement with American Conservation & Billing Solutions for Aqua Hawk Alerting Software Managed Services, to help residents keep track of their water usage. Residents will be automatically enrolled in the program and can receive text message, phone or email notifications.
Because an ordinance allowing property owners to apply for a one-time billing adjustment, “due to unusually high water use attributable to a leak, mishap, or accident, in or outside the billed premises,” was adopted by council last week, Councilman Jim White voted against the Aqua Hawk agreement. He suggested repealing the ordinance for anyone other than for those seeking relief from a bill issued in 2014 and 2015, which must be submitted no later than April 1, 2016.
The council also adopted an ordinance amendment for stormwater management, increasing the monetary penalty from $1,250 to $2,000.
Shared service agreements with the Long Beach Township Police Department to obtain license plate recognition data as well as mobile data terminal look-up services were authorized as well.
A $294,577 contract was approved for Mathis Construction of Little Egg Harbor for the restoration and improvement of the 300 block of Engleside Avenue. The project will begin when the new borough hall is near completion.
When finished, “we will have a brand-new road in front of the building,” Crane said.
The demolition phase of the Superstorm Sandy-damaged municipal building is almost finished, and bids will open Dec. 29 for the installation of the new pilings.
Local resident Eugene Pharo, who said he rented a boat slip at the public dock during the 1960s through the ’80s, asked that the slip auction be held again at the site instead of online.
“The way it stands right now, anybody in this town who wanted to take every one of those boat slips, if they had a lot of money, could sit there and out-bid every single person on every single slip,” he said.
Calling himself “computer-illiterate,” Pharo said he would prefer to see the slips in person rather than in a photo on the Internet.
“It’s kind of like buying a cow,” he said. “When you’re at the auction, you get to look at the cow. You get to see it right there; you get to stand in front of it. ... You don’t see a picture of the cow.”
Pharo suggested the auction be limited to one slip per person. Taggart Davis and other council members liked the idea and said officials would certainly sit down with anyone who needs help with the online auction.
“Believe me and the rest of council, we do not want to deprive the local taxpayers in Beach Haven of the ability to get a boat slip, and we don’t want somebody monopolizing the boat slips,” Taggart Davis said.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Surf City awaits replenishment until completion of North Beach, which has outstanding easements

Photo by Ryan Morrill
An aerial view of Surf City highlights the location
where the completed beachfill starts and stops.
During Surf City Council’s regular meeting Wednesday, Dec. 9, Councilman Peter Hartney expressed concern over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ latest announcement regarding suspension of beach replenishment on Long Beach Island until springtime, pushing the town’s remaining beachfill even farther down the line.
After recently being told Surf City would not receive replenishment until the completion of North Beach, which still has outstanding easements, the councilman said he felt the town was being penalized “for doing the right thing.”
“As they laid out the project, we got all our easements without going to court, by maintaining good relationships with the property owners. Now they’re saying, ‘It really doesn’t matter because we’re going to do what we want to do,’” said Hartney, who noted that, until a few weeks ago, he had received assurance from the Army Corps that Surf City would not be affected by the acquisition of real estate in another municipality.
“We’re an after-thought, even though we were all ready to go prior to when they started this part of the project in the spring. They could have possibly come up here in May, set their pipe, pumped their sand, got our beach done and then left North Beach on its own. But they chose to begin in Ship Bottom.”
Steve Rochette, Army Corps public affairs officer, told The SandPaper the expectation is to receive the real estate in time for the contractor, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., to proceed with remaining work.
Surf City’s beaches were partially replenished during the original project in 2006. The blocks between 12th and 22nd streets were also repaired after the nor’easter in 2009. After Superstorm Sandy, the whole portion was restored. The town is currently waiting for the remaining area, from 22nd to 25th streets, to be completed.
Although Hartney said he understands it is not fiscally sound for the contractor to prioritize such a small area in Surf City, he noted the town’s beaches north of 17th Street that were replenished after Sandy already have significant weather damage.
“Hopefully we can convince whomever to allow some of the Sandy monies that were allocated to the beach to repair those beaches as they continue north into the part of the beach that still needs to be done,” he said.
Hartney noted he had successfully reached out to Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). All agreed to push for Great Lakes to continue the work in New Jersey, he said, rather than Georgia, where the company was awarded three contracts, one of which is environmentally sensitive with U.S. Homeland Security concerns. However, he was told they had “no real stick to hit them with” because there are only a couple of companies that do dredge work.
“The one thing we have going for us is that Congressman LoBiondo chairs the committee that controls the money for the Army Corps of Engineers,” Hartney stated.
In other meeting news, the council appropriated $50,000 for the removal of an underground storage tank, replacement of the fuel system and continued ground monitoring and related expenses.
The council also approved the installation of two sewer laterals on South First Street by Lafayette Utility Construction of Egg Harbor Township for approximately $12,860.
To be able to communicate with a number of the Island’s police departments that are changing their radios to a digitally encrypted frequency, the council approved the appropriation of about $5,000 for upgraded radio gear as well as approximately $10,000 for upgraded computer equipment.
Councilman William Hodgson also suggested the town look into purchasing a police car in the new year.
Hartney noted construction to raise one of the fire company’s doors 7 inches will begin shortly, to make way for a new truck, which is due to arrive in the beginning of the year.
The council’s first regular meeting of the year will be held Wednesday, Jan. 6, at 7 p.m.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Veterans Park in Beach Haven technically doesn’t have a name

Photo via Beach Haven Library
People gather at Veterans Park 
on July 4, 1946
to honor those who fought in World War II. 
The significance of a park name can have a lasting impression on a community that is rich in history, especially when a clear title does not technically exist. Looking over Beach Haven borough’s resolution and ordinance books dating back to the incorporation of the town in 1890, borough officials found that no name for the park located between Amber Street and Engleside Avenue was ever formally adopted by local government.
“There were ceremonies at the park over the years naming it certain things,” said Sherry Mason, borough clerk. “There were plaques put there. They had festivities there for the Bicentennial, and they created a Bicentennial Committee. But the name of the park was never adopted by ordinance, or resolution, or proclamation. So it kind of has never been formally named. Back then people just thought, ‘If we have a celebration, and we invite the mayor, and we have a big party, and it goes in the paper, then it’s official.’ But there was no act of the governing body naming that.”
Since the lot used to house the Engleside Hotel, which was built in 1876 and then demolished in 1943 after owing the town $15,000 in back taxes, many year-round residents originally referred to it as the Engleside lot. After World War II in the late 1940s, Beach Haven Mayor Lester Parker honored returning veterans when, as a tribute to their service, the park was recognized as Veterans Park, said Jeanette Lloyd, town historian.
“It was a big event where not only local officials attended, but also county and some state representatives,” Lloyd said.
When the town’s Bicentennial Committee was formed to plan a celebration for the United States Bicentennial in 1976, members created an activity center on the western portion of the grounds, which they dedicated as Veterans Bicentennial Park in May of that year, said Charles Moffett, who chaired the committee.
The entire park was rededicated that year in November, and a monument marked “Veterans Park” was installed on the premises.
“It became really a park within a park,” Moffett said.
The “Bicentennial” name remained for the next 25 years as the committee, which became the Beach Haven Bicentennial Park Association, continued to support park events and improvements before turning it over to the Beach Haven Community Arts Program, Moffett noted.
About two years ago, however, borough officials began to refer to the location as Veterans Memorial Park.
“We thought it was a more timeless and fitting name to call it Veterans Memorial Park,” said Mason. “We never changed anything because it’s never been named anything.”
Moffett, who was president of the now inactive BPA, believes the “Bicentennial” name should remain. In 2014 he went before the council to urge officials to keep the title.
“I just think that’s not right, and they’re denying the existence of the previous Bicentennial effort and the fact that the park was created to be a lasting reminder of the Bicentennial,” he said, noting a billboard recognizing the area as Veterans Bicentennial Park was never replaced after it was destroyed in a storm.
Lloyd, who believes the park should be known as Veterans Memorial Park “to honor not only the soldiers who sacrificed their lives but also to all those who have served,” said 1976 was simply a year to celebrate the nation’s birthday.
“It is important, but Bicentennial was only a date in time whereas veterans are dedicated individuals who have sacrificed for us. There will always be soldiers to be recognized,” she stated.
Although there are no plans to name the park officially, Mason said, “Another governing body after us could change it to something else.
“We didn’t feel that’s necessary. It is what it is,” she stated.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Head-on car collision causes closure of Route 72 Causeway Bridge Saturday evening

Photo via Surf City Taxpayers
The crash occurred after just after
Ship Bottom's largest Christmas parade.
All traffic on the Route 72 Causeway Bridge was shut down for about an hour just after the Ship Bottom Christmas Parade on Saturday evening, Dec. 5, due to a head-on car collision. The crash occurred at the last bridge leading onto Long Beach Island, when a BMW driven by Kimberly Hogan of Long Beach Township, traveling westbound, was struck from behind by an F-150 pickup truck trailering a 21-foot boat, driven by Lance Elias, of Langhorne, Pa., causing the BMW to rotate perpendicular to the roadway. The F-150 then continued into the eastbound lane and struck a Subaru SUV driven by Eileen Kane of Tucson, Ariz., head on.
“Westbound traffic at the time of the collision was extremely heavy due to traffic leaving the Island at the conclusion of the Ship Bottom Christmas Parade,” said Capt. Thomas J. Dellane of the Stafford Township Police Dept. “Investigation revealed westbound traffic began to slow as traffic passed through an active construction zone in that area where there is only one travel lane in both the east and west directions. As traffic slowed, it became congested over the crest of the smaller bridge.”
All three of the drivers were checked at the scene and refused medical attention. Two passengers from the pickup truck were taken to Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin for further evaluation.
Due to the crash, the entire roadway was blocked from the concrete barrier to the guard rail.
The Stafford Township First Aid Squad and Fire Co. responded to the scene. Both the Surf City Volunteer Fire Co. and EMS and the Beach Haven First Aid Squad arrived on the scene after fire and first aid units from Long Beach Island were requested for assistance.
The accident is still under investigation, and summonses are pending. Anyone with more information is asked to call Patrolman Ed Kunder at 609-597-1189, extension 8450.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Song of the Sea owner’s traditional chocolate chip cookies win Bay Village competition

When a couple of local store owners suggested hosting a chocolate chip cookie competition in Bay Village, Debbie Mozer of Song of the Sea said, “Bring it on.” The winner of the tasty challenge, which brought lots of sweet-toothed people to the south end of Long Beach Island before the start of the Ship Bottom Parade on Saturday, Dec. 5, Mozer claims there was nothing fancy about her cookies.
The recipe “is one I’ve been making for 40 years. It’s just a chocolate chip (NestlĂ©’s) Toll House cookie recipe. That’s it,” she said. “There’s nothing special in it, no secret ingredients, no cherries or anything like that that the others had. It’s basic. I don’t even follow a recipe. It’s all in my head now.”
Photo by Jack Reynolds
The Hershey's Chocolate shavings in Spice
It Up's cookies  are a big hit with cookie lovers.
Mozer made 140 cookies in her Spray Beach home kitchen at 6 the morning of the competition, and by 1 p.m. (the challenge ran from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) they had all been gobbled up.
“The secret is freshness, I guess,” she said.
Although required to make 50 chocolate chip cookies, many other participants made extra. Still, most ran out an hour into the competition, around noon. A few customers were not too happy about the shortage.
For an extra chocolate-y taste, Country Kettle Fudge added M&M’s, and Surf Shack used Ghirardelli’s extra-wide, milk chocolate chips. Yuletide doubled the chocolate chips and vanilla in NestlĂ©’s Toll House recipe.
Ground oatmeal and walnuts were added to the cookies at Beached, where cookies made with peanut butter were put out as “back-ups.”
The cookies made over at Spice It Up included Hershey’s bar shavings. Any other ingredients used could not be told, according to co-owner Dan Starin, who claimed he “would have to shoot you” if he did.
Indian Summer added extra flavor to its cookies with cherries, and Breezin’ Up’s cookies were made with mint chocolate chips and even had a green tinge. However, Raquel’s Closet & More went the extra mile, serving milk with red velvet, dark chocolate chip cookies with cream cheese drizzle.
“Everybody only took one cookie; I was watching. So it was a big hit, which was wonderful,” said store owner Lisa White.
The entire challenge made for a great holiday treat at no cost to the customers.
“I do believe, because we had such a great response, that we are going to make it a tradition now,” said Mozer. “We thought it would be a great thing to do in the off-season, bring some people down and stir up some interest. We’re grateful that people showed up and supported our little fun.
“We will definitely make more cookies next year,” she added.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.