Thursday, February 25, 2016

Request to expand The Ketch’s liquor license to The Boathouse denied

Beach Haven Council members unanimously voted against an application to expand The Ketch’s liquor license across the street to The Boathouse on Dock Road. Just before voting at the public meeting, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, council presented a formal resolution rejecting the request.
Photo by Ryan MorrillBeach Haven Council members voted against
the liquor license expansion to The Boathosue.
The general consensus of council was that approving the license expansion would have given developer William Burris and his partners “an unfair advantage” that could have been detrimental to the existing establishments in the area that compete for the same customers during a short season.
If the expansion had been approved, it would have allowed The Ketch and The Boathouse to operate as one full-time entity. Burris had plans to purchase both locations this coming November. He no longer plans to buy The Ketch. But he is purchasing The Boathouse, which will become the new Black Whale Bar & Fish House and run by his partners, the local Nugent and Magaziner families. The Black Whale’s current building will be torn down.
“We’re buying The Boathouse, and we’re going to close The Black Whale and take the license from The Black Whale to The Boathouse. So everything that everybody stood up and talked about is going to happen anyway,” Burris stated after the meeting. “The Boathouse is going to have a liquor license. The Ketch is going to have a liquor license. The only difference is The Ketch is going to be run by Mike Battista the way he’s been running it. You’re going to still have your teen nights.”
Burris said he is “frustrated” by the denial of the project, especially considering the quality of life issues that stem from The Ketch, which he had planned to diminish.
Based on the testimony at a Feb. 8 hearing (which was held after council received four letters from people who disapproved of the plan) as well as reports from the local police and first aid squad, Councilman Don Kakstis said, the history of The Ketch has been a strain on municipal resources. In the last two years, the police have responded to dozens of calls at the location from theft and simple assault to liquor violations and disorderly conduct, according to the council’s resolution.
“One can’t help but question, ‘So what?’ Michael Battista won’t be running the new business,” Burris stated. ”I am licensed along with Eric Magaziner and Robert Nugent. It should have been our experience the expansion was based on, as it was requested the permitted transfer be in November when we do a change in corporate structure to acquire the stock of The Ketch, and close on the acquisition of The Boathouse we currently have under contract. What license history do we have? Look very hard because my guess is nothing.”
Burris had hoped to turn The Ketch and The Boathouse into “an extraordinary wedding venue” that would operate throughout summer as well as the shoulder seasons.
“My partners have clearly demonstrated their ability to stretch the season at their mainland compound (Mud City Crab House and The Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House),” Burris said.
An ordinance limiting the number of tents in the residential area was recently introduced by council, which Burris said his idea of creating a significant wedding venue played into.
The plan had originally also included the creation of a “maritime village” along the bay, an idea Burris has had for 10 years, which would also include saving Surflight Theatre. But those ideas have been withdrawn.
During a presentation to council this past November, the applicant suggested adding a bridge connecting The Ketch and The Boathouse. Closing Dock Road to vehicular traffic was discussed as well, though Burris’ attorney George Gilmore later said Burris never intended to vacate the area. The road, which is often traveled by pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles in the summer, leads to a community parking lot where municipal boat slips and public fishing areas are often accessed.
“We’re simply just really hoping that you will give us an opportunity,” Jean Cipriani, the attorney covering for Gilmore on Wednesday, stated to council prior to the voting.
Cipriani said Burris and his partners were willing to accept any conditions on the license that council felt the need to impose.
“We fully believe that, if we’re given the opportunity to proceed, that we’ll be able to show that it is a benefit to the community,” Cipriani stated. “Simply by allowing it, there are certain existing situations, like the teen nights, that would immediately be able to be stopped. You do not lose your power to control the activities and to control the license by giving us that opportunity.”
If the project were approved, she said, council could enact additional conditions and even revoke the expansion in the future.
“There are a lot of opportunities that you have if we don’t come through with what we’ve guaranteed and (that) are not a benefit to the community,” Cipriani stated.
At the Feb. 8 hearing, some concerned citizens said they believed the expansion would serve only the applicant and not the town.
Councilman Robert Keeler, who told the public on Wednesday that council did not have any discussion concerning the application since the hearing, noted Burris has done “some great things” for the area in the past and is a “very forward thinker.” Keeler said he is supportive of anybody who wants to benefit the town.
“Regardless of how much money they can make, if the town benefits, too, I think that’s a plus for everybody,” he stated.
But looking at the situation objectively, after talking to some of the town’s citizens and business owners, he said, he felt many thought the idea “went a little far” and were uncomfortable having the liquor license granted to two buildings.
Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis said she had put a lot of thought into the application, from introducing “strict conditions” to not supporting it at all, but ultimately believed it would give “an awful lot” to the applicant.
Councilman Charles Maschal added that enforcing any conditions of the license could be “very difficult.”
“I think that our police have done a good job of doing that before, but I see it as problematic,” he stated.
Kakstis said that, based upon the size of the community being less than a mile and having no increase in population, the borough has more than a sufficient number of establishments with a liquor license, including seven plenary retail consumption liquor licenses, one club license and two plenary retail distribution licenses.
The public weighed in on the outcome following council’s decision.
Beach Haven native Gene Pharo, who had strongly opposed the project from the start, thanked the council “for listening to the people of Beach Haven” by denying the application.
“I think you stopped a very dangerous precedent,” he said.
Barb Cona, former executive director of Beach Haven Future, who had been in favor of the project, said she is thankful to live in a community where people can have “open, respectful conversation” on both sides of an issue. But she is “concerned deeply” about the business district’s many vacant storefronts.
“I know that there’s no easy solution to this, but, as a town, I would like to be able to pull together and brainstorm and see what we can do to give people a leg up and not throw roadblocks in the way of people doing business,” she stated. “I’m not suggesting that that’s what’s currently happening at all, but a lot of times people feel as though it’s not worth it to try to open up a new store or pursue a new idea or their dreams. I’m just concerned about more and more empty storefronts, and I don’t see builders or people lining up to take the risk to start a new business.”
Resident John Harvey, who had pushed Burris as well as council for solid information regarding the project’s benefit to the municipality, felt the overall process was symbolic of a larger town issue, which he said is the lack of a master plan.
“The fact that we have to make those decisions on an individual request is not the way to define the future that we want to have,” Harvey stated. “I would encourage (the council) to really take a step back this year, and if there’s a master plan, dust it off. I think Mr. Burris could be a partner with some other developers and bring that to fruition. He is a visionary,” he added.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Beach Haven closes window to amend excessive water charges

An ordinance adopted by Beach Haven Council in December to allow borough property owners to seek a one-time billing adjustment due to an unusually high water charge is expected to be rescinded because the town is implementing a mandatory water usage monitoring system. Residents will be automatically enrolled in the program and can receive text message, phone or email notifications. Every account in the Beach Haven Water Conveyance System will be billed $1.50 quarterly for the implementation and maintenance of the monitoring system.
Photo via Google
Bill adjustments for the water charges
became labor intensive for the town.
Councilman Jim White initially voted against the AquaHawk monitoring system due to the adoption of the relief ordinance. He had suggested repealing the regulation 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.
Due to last winter’s extremely cold weather, a number of seasonal homeowners received excessively high water bills when their pipes burst or began to leak. While some residents asked for reprieve from the charges, the local government could not provide forgiveness because the ordinance did not include such a provision, according to Borough Clerk Sherry Mason.
When the relief ordinance was later adopted, it became an issue for town employees handling the requests.
“We were advised not to do this by our town manager, but we disregarded his advice because we didn’t want to hurt the people in town,” Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis stated at a public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 17. “But it has become somewhat of a nightmare because a lot of people with very small bills, we’re not talking about people with huge water leaks, are coming forth. It’s involving a huge amount of work for our borough employees.”
The regulation to repeal the relief ordinance is expected to be introduced by borough council at its regular monthly meeting in March. If adopted, it would take effect May 11.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Shuttered Surflight Theatre could be saved by Long Beach Island taxpayers

Residents and officials of Long Beach Island together could help save Surflight Theatre. Mayors Nancy Taggart Davis of Beach Haven and Joseph Mancini of Long Beach Township have been discussing a plan proposed by a local group of people interested in leasing Surflight and running it as a community theater. The group is comprised of some of the same people who previously ran it, though names have not been disclosed.
The proposed continuation of the theater would also depend upon its purchase by the Island’s municipalities.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Surflight Theatre sits empty as its fate is decided.
Surflight had a long history of financial problems before $4 million of debt forced management to close its doors last February and file for bankruptcy, after 65 years of entertainment. It was ultimately bought by TD Bank with a $100 bid at a December auction.
The bank is willing to sell Surflight for $2.1 million, said Taggart Davis, who discussed the idea with other council members at a public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 17. But the mayor expects there is some room for price negotiation since TD, which is a for-profit company, is currently paying property taxes on the 0.61-acre property, which includes the theater proper, a cast house, residential home, the Show Place Ice Cream Parlour, a scenery shop, offices and other living quarters.
The proposed plan would make Surflight an “Island theater,” which would require Beach Haven to pay for half and the Island’s other municipalities to pay the other 50 percent.
“In a way, this is kind of better for Beach Haven because Beach Haven would really have control over Surflight,” Taggart Davis stated.
She said Mancini initially suggested Beach Haven and Long Beach Township each pay 30 percent and the rest of the Island towns pay the remaining 40 percent.
Mancini declined to discuss the proposal on the record until there is a more definitive plan.
Beach Haven Councilman Don Kakstis, who attended Wednesday’s meeting from Florida via video chat, said he believes it is a “relatively low risk” plan since, according to the proposal, the principal and the interest would be covered by the lease agreements. He commended the mayor for pursuing the idea and said it could be a “huge benefit” to the town, even if the lots had to be sold off.
“Whenever you go to any municipality conferences, the idea of giving up a theater is like a mortal sin in church, and we ought to do everything we can to try to keep it going,” Kakstis stated.
But other council members are not sold on the idea. Robert Keeler agreed it “would be nice” to go forward with the deal but said Surflight is “extremely difficult” to run.
“The one thing we never had a shortage of at Surflight is creative talent. They put on great shows, but they just didn’t have a really good handle on how to run a business,” he stated.
Keeler believes it would be better handled as a private enterprise.
“If it was an opportunity to really make money, if it really was a slam dunk, I would love to see somebody in the financial sector come in and do it, and they could be secured by the land,” he said. “But to just come to us and say, ‘Hey, you guys get the building and we’ll run the shows and if it doesn’t work you can sell it,’ I don’t know if the council has the responsibility to do that.
“Look at our businesses in town. Unless you’re selling food or liquor, even if you paid no rent, it’s hard to make any money because the seasons are so short,” he added.
Councilman Jim White said he is concerned about putting taxpayers’ money into something that has failed financially numerous times. But if there is a good plan, he said, he would support it.
Taggart Davis noted the group is interested in running a community theater, not an equity theater, which would “cut the costs drastically.”
“I do know, because I go to theater a lot and I do send some money to theaters, that theaters in general are not money-making,” she stated. “It’s something that the community supports, and hopefully they make enough money with donations and grants to enable them to meet the bills and keep the place running. That’s critical.”
Jeff Wells, a local resident and architect who granted money to theaters, including Surflight, while serving a few years on the state Council on the Arts, said all theaters need subsidy. Committed contributions from financial partners for the lifetime of Surflight’s operation would be vital, he noted.
“If you want to get together with Joe (Mancini) and the other towns and save the Surflight, which really has to happen, don’t think about a capital expenditure. Think about an operating expenditure,” Wells suggested. “There’s not a single theater that stands on its own, especially one that has a 10-week season. You’re in a whole different animal, and this is something I don’t think you guys are going to be able to take on.”
Wells said he would hate to see Surflight turn into “another developer’s housing project, because it’s one of the things people come down here for.”
One of the reasons Taggart Davis believes commercial developers have not purchased Surflight is because three of the buildings have restrictions, and the property is in the town’s historical district.
“You would have to wait at least a year to rip down three of the buildings,” she said. “You’d have to meet all the approvals of the historical area, and to knock down all those buildings, particularly the theater, would be costly because there’s a lot of cement there. I heard figures like $1.3 million would be about the most a developer would pay to develop it into homes.”
The mayor noted she has talked to many bankers, who suggested the town sell bonds and any revenue generated from leasing and running Surflight would pay the bondholders. But Richard Crane, borough manager, said it is too small of a deal for bonding.
“This isn’t just my decision here,” said Taggart Davis. “This is up to the whole council, and we don’t know if we can even afford to pay 50 percent. A lot depends on what TD’s willing to sell the place for, which is hopefully less.”
The mayor said other groups of people have also presented plans to help save Surflight.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Surf City introduces 0.75 cent tax rate increase for 2016 municipal budget

Surf City’s proposed 2016 budget, introduced by council members at a public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 10, decreased $65,000 from last year’s adopted plan. The projected budget is $6,487,400.
The town used $1,332,000 of surplus in support of the budget, which is $260,000 less than last year.
The amount to be raised locally by taxation is $4,190,500. The municipal tax rate is an increase of 0.75 cents per $100 assessed valuation over 2015, when it was 26 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
Photo via Google
Last year's tax rate was 26 cents per
$100 assessed valuation.
“The amount to be raised by taxes is just one of many revenue items,” said David Pawlishak, borough chief financial officer.  “Some revenue items go up, some revenue items go down.”
Prior to the introduction of the municipal budget, council introduced an ordinance to exceed the municipal budget appropriation limits and to establish a 3.5 percent cap bank, amounting to $190,964.90.
This year’s proposed water and sewer budget is $2,268,400, which is $55,600 more than last year.
“We’re not raising any water or sewer fees because the increase in the budget, in this case, all came from operating surplus that we already have on hand,” said Pawlishak.
Due to the timing of the introduction and pending adoption of the 2016 budget, council passed a resolution authorizing $28,400 in temporary emergency funds in addition to the $1,782,255 in temporary budget funds passed in January. Pawlishak said the council is allowed to appropriate 26.25 percent of last year’s adopted plan for the temporary budget while the town awaits approval from the state for the new budget.
“We had to put a little extra money in some of the line items because we’ll need more than the amount that we appropriated in the beginning of the year,” said Pawlishak. “In some cases we need more than 26 percent of a particular line item where we might not need 26 percent of another line item. For example, we’re not going to be spending any money on lifeguard salaries in January, February and March. But we might need 26 percent for liability insurance, for example,” he explained.
“We can’t transfer among items in the temporary budget. We have to pass temporary emergency funds, and then when we adopt our regular budget, which is the big $6 million, that will take into account all the temporary appropriations that we put in there already,” Pawlishak added.
A public hearing on the budget and tax resolution will be held at borough hall during the council’s regular meeting on Wednesday, March 9, at 7:30 p.m.
In other meeting news, an ordinance was introduced to raise the fee for weekly beach badges from $17 to $18.
Two anonymous contributions in the form of $2,000 and $5,000 were donated to help fund the town’s lifeguard and emergency services.
To better respond to crises in the area, Councilman William Hodgson noted two military Humvees with “low mileage” were donated to the town from Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst. Exercise equipment for police as well as tire mounting and balancing machines for the public works department were also provided.
The town is seeking $45,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program for the installation of automatic doors for handicapped access at the firehouse.
The borough approved a shared services agreement with Long Beach Township for utilization of its certified recycling specialist, as required by law. It is being provided at no cost to Surf City.
A $94,491 contract was awarded to Gen II Contracting Co. of Millstone Township for repairs to the public works garage. The five other project bids ranged in price from $104,461 to $189,823.
The borough complex was dedicated as the Leonard T. Connors Jr. Municipal Complex in honor of the former long-time mayor.
“We should name the whole town after him, but we can’t do that,” said Mayor Francis Hodgson.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Surf City Council has no land to offer resident interested in starting small farm for local community

Surf City resident Robert Walker has been in the farming industry since 1946, and he is looking to share his expertise with the area. He propositioned borough council members for a piece of land to start a small farm for the local community, but was turned down.
“We actually don’t have any space,” Mayor Francis Hodgson, who suggested the resident try the mainland, said during a public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Robert Walker shows off some of the
equipment that he restored himself.
The project, Walker said in an interview, would not be a community garden where participants each get a section to grow their own plants or food. He said those projects do not work because everyone starts taking each other’s produce.
Instead, Walker would like to lead the work and then turn it over to somebody else in a few years.
“I’ve done this all my life, and I can do it without any effort,” he said. “We did this when I was a kid with a wooden hand (water) pump in the yard. That’s how I learned. Today it’s nothing. With technology and everything, its easier and easier.”
Walker grew up on a truck farm in Mercer County that raised vegetables and produce. He has maintained his own garden since he was 8 years old.
By the time Walker was 18, he was farming full-time, raising 60 acres of commercial field corn and soybeans and also selling produce at a roadside stand and to small stores. He used his own equipment, which he restored himself.
“I was really successful at it,” he said. “By the third year, the big farmers were raising field corn 12 inches long. I was raising field corn 18 inches long.”
A few years later, Walker moved on to other trades and started many other fruitful businesses, despite not having a “proper education,” he said. The White House even asked him to join the National Small Business Association, which he declined because he was too busy.
Throughout the years, Walker has always kept a garden, which he also uses for canning food and drying herbs. He even raised plots in other people’s yards while living in a motor home for five years, working for General Motors.
“I would pull up in their driveway and say, ‘How would you like free vegetables for the year?’” Walker recounted. “I said, ‘You let me use that little plot of land over there, and I’ll give you all the vegetables you can eat.’ Most often they would go with it.”
With his extensive knowledge in farming, the local resident said a small farm in Surf City would cost the borough “next to nothing.” Participants would be charged a nominal fee to help purchase seed and other materials.
“It can help so many people,” Walker stated. “Most of the people that I’ve talked to about the concept want to know how soon I’m going to start it.
“As I walk around here in the evenings, I see more and more houses occupied through the winter months. All these houses are filled with senior couples. There’s nothing to do, and I think it’s a crime. That’s what community is all about, to work with the people and do things for the people,” he added.
When Walker asked council about the nearly 3 acres of land at the end of Third and Fourth streets, at Lazy Point, Hodgson said the area is already dedicated for municipal authority use only. Many people use it as a dog park as well as to play volleyball and baseball in the summer, he noted.
“I’ve been here for 24 years, and I’ve never seen anybody play on it,” Walker stated. “I think it’s a total waste for the couple people that use that property. I think there would be many, many more people that would use it as gardening than the few people that use it to throw a volleyball around. There are many places they could play volleyball.”
He said he tried a few times to fly kites at the location but the insects were so bad that “within minutes we had to get out of there.”
Councilman William Hodgson, who lives in that area, said the lot floods on a regular basis and the wind makes it hard to grow anything.
Walker also asked about the fenced-in lot in front of the water department “that’s been empty for years,” which Mayor Hodgson noted is used for vehicle impounds.
“I've never seen any vehicles there,” Walker stated.
When the resident inquired about land next to the library, Hodgson said the library wants to use it for parking. Walker is meeting with library staff to discuss the options.
“I really don’t think they’ll turn the lot into parking for the simple reason they have the lot on the other side, they have Central Avenue they can park on, and they have two side streets,” he stated. “Parking is really not an issue there at all.”
If he gets turned down, Walker said he will seek land in Ship Bottom.
“I’m going to keep on going with it,” he stated.
A member of the Garden Club of Long Beach Island who attended the Feb. 10 meeting said she had tried last year to open a community garden at the Ethel A. Jacobsen School in Surf City but was turned down due to the uncertainty of the school’s future. She invited Walker to join the community garden in Beach Haven that the garden club contributes to. Walker said he had checked it out, but it is “not at all” what he is looking for.
“I want to offer each person the produce that they need and also the drying and preserving of the food and everything,” he stated.
Hodgson noted a man had a garden on a borough lot a few years ago that caused trouble for neighboring residents.
“The guy had the garden going; they didn’t want him to have the garden there. He was putting cement blocks up to protect the garden; they didn’t want the cement blocks there,” Hodgson recounted. “Then they said, ‘What right does he have to be there when it’s borough property?’ They were right, so we sold it and got rid of it.”
Hodgson told Walker he would keep him in mind if something comes up.
“We just have no land. Sorry,” the mayor stated.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine’s Day heats up at The Gables in Beach Haven

Firefighters had to be called when things got a little too hot at The Gables Inn and Restaurant in Beach Haven on Valentine’s Day. The exterior wall behind the fireplace at the romantic bed-and-breakfast caught fire just before dinner.
“It’s sort of a non-event,” said Sondra Beninati, owner of The Gables. “We had smoke go from the fireplace to the wall, so nothing particularly topical or anything like that.”
Photo via WOBM
A fire at The Gables on Easter Sunday
in 2012 began outside the building.
The fire caused “very minor” damage, according to Brian Mount, deputy fire marshal of the Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office, which deemed the fire accidental.
Beach Haven Fire Chief Matt Letts said about 13 of the department’s members responded to the scene with three fire trucks around 5 p.m. The crew had to extinguish small flames before cutting into the wall to put out the fire.
Members of the Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Co. also arrived on scene, but Letts rerouted them to the Beach Haven firehouse in case of more calls.
This was the Beach Haven department’s third call of the day. It came in as members were responding to a water leak at the New Jersey Maritime Museum on Dock Road. Before that, crews responded to a residential fire alarm.
On Easter Sunday 2012, The Gables suffered a major fire starting in brush in the back yard that resulted in extensive damage to the exterior and top floors. The restaurant and inn were closed for months.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Concerned residents ask Surf City Council for help with constant flooding

To help curb what some people see as more frequent flooding in Surf City, Mayor Francis Hodgson said Barnegat Bay and the channel must be dredged. Although he acknowledged the tides and the full moon “have always caused trouble,” he said the back bay flooding has been a major issue since Superstorm Sandy.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Bay Avenue in Surf City remains
flooded after a storm.
“Nobody wants to say it because they’re afraid of somebody coming out and saying, ‘You’re going to kill the bay,’ but they have to dredge the bay and dredge the channel to make room for that water to stay there,” he told concerned residents at a public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 10. “There’s no place for the water to go in the bay. Sandy brought in a lot from the ocean. The back bay is full, and the channels are full.”
John Klose, council president, noted the state has finally awarded a contract to dredge Double Creek Channel and other areas of the bay, due to Sandy, in the fall.
“That’s inconceivable that all that amount of time has gone by,” said Sixth Street resident Mary Franchaise, who told council members the flooding is a serious problem for her and her neighbors.
“As a taxpayer, what can I do to help? What can my family do?” she pleaded. “We would really like to keep the family legacy of my parents by keeping the house for our own families to enjoy. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”
Franchaise has been living on North Sixth Street in her parents’ former home. The house was originally built in the late 1950s before it was torn down and rebuilt. But the original garage is still very low, she stated.
“I can’t get the water out of the garage. I’m constantly wearing my wellies,” Franchaise said, adding that garbage also comes with the water.
Councilman William Hodgson said the only thing to do to avoid flooding is to raise the property. But local resident Robert Walker said all the grant programs for raising properties he has checked are exhausted.
“Any of them that I did get in touch with said, ‘Lots of luck.’ There’s none left, unless you know something that we don’t,” Walker stated.
Although she knows the risks that come with living on a barrier island, Franchaise is worried for her neighbors, especially one who is “incapacitated who really is not ambulatory” and another who is healing after surgery from cancer.
“The demographics have changed a lot, obviously, where you have a lot of senior citizens. That is a concern,” she said. “Something has to be done, and I don’t know what it is. This is a great island; I don’t want to say goodbye to it.”
She also noted “a monstrosity of a house” being built on Sixth Street is allowing the bay water to rush all the way down the street.
“There’s nothing we can do about it. That’s nature,” said Mayor Hodgson. “But the people in Trenton, the people in the county, somebody’s got to know what’s going on.”
He suggested the county get its own dredge.
“The big problem is that the DEP (state Department of Environmental Protection) won’t let you put spoils anywhere. The state stops everything,” said Klose, noting the beaches were filled in with sand from the bay after the 1962 storm.
Hodgson promised to send a letter to Gov. Christie’s office as well as to other state and county representatives. He recommended affected residents do the same.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beach Haven expects to be reimbursed an additional $2.7 million for Superstorm Sandy-related expenses

To date, Beach Haven borough has received more than $1.8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Superstorm Sandy-related reimbursements. An additional $1,333,000 has been received from the town’s insurance carriers.
Photo via Google
Homes in Beach Haven were ravaged
during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
About 14 projects are on the cusp of being closed out, and the town should be reimbursed about $2.7 million, Richard Crane, borough manager, stated at the Beach Haven Council’s regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 8. This includes the direct administrative costs, which is the amount of money the town pays to the Louis Berger Group for its assistance in obtaining the funds, he noted.
The council approved a one-year extension with the group for additional help.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re into year four of the aftermath of the storm,” said Crane. “I remember when they first started talking about it, one of the experienced FEMA people mentioned at the time that it takes a good five years to run through this thing. It didn’t seem possible at the time. It seems possible now.”
Speaking of storms, Winter Storm Jonas created additional expenses for the town when 100 truckloads, or 2,500 tons, of sand had to be brought in to reinforce the town’s southern beaches. Fortunately, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Engineering Department in Toms River covered the $35,000 cost. But the tides have already eroded some of the sand, Crane said.
“If we had been fortunate to get the beach replenishment as was promised back in early fall, we probably wouldn’t be talking about that now,” he added.
Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis confirmed two smaller barges are expected to come back to Beach Haven for beach replenishment in mid-March, working their way south from 12th Street. The larger Liberty barge will arrive later.
Sand is also expected to be taken out of the Little Egg Inlet, which will mostly go to Holgate in mid-June after the migration of winter flounder.
“This is a good thing because we have lost a lot of large-boat business in Beach Haven,” Taggart Davis said. “Our tuna marlin tournament wasn’t as big last year. A lot of people with large yachts can’t get through the inlet, or they feel unsafe with their investments, going through there.”
She also noted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going to fund the town’s crossovers.
“Our public works department is going to remove the snow fence, so the time and the money going into fixing the snow fence is going into the walkways,” Taggart Davis said. “Some of the walkways are very, very simple; there’s hardly anything. Others are longer. But I do not think there’s going to be a problem. People are going to be able to get onto the beach easily from each street end.”
In other meeting news, the council adopted an ordinance for the maintenance of vacant and abandoned properties. Ordinance amendments limiting permits for tents or temporary structures in residential areas to four per site per year, as well as a $1.50 quarterly fee for the implementation and maintenance of a water usage monitoring system, were approved on first reading.
Sherry Mason, municipal clerk, was congratulated for being appointed secretary of the Municipal Clerks’ Association of New Jersey.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Developer wants to expand The Ketch’s liquor license to The Boathouse in Beach Haven

At a public hearing on Monday, Feb. 8, Beach Haven Borough Council members did not vote on local developer Bill Burris’ proposed plan to expand The Ketch’s liquor license to the current Boathouse restaurant across the street, both of which he intends to purchase, at the end of November. A decision will be made by council during another public forum at the temporary borough hall, on Pelham Avenue, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 1 p.m.
Photo via Google
Developer William Burris wants to do
away with teen nights at The Ketch.
The expansion of a liquor license to an adjacent location is allowed by state law. While some residents believe approving the expansion for this particular project would open “Pandora’s box” and require the town to approve all future expansion requests, Bruce Padula, the council’s lawyer, said each application is its own, individual request and the council must view it as such.
“You’re not allowed to treat everyone the same because no two situations are the same,” he stated. “No two locations are going to be the same. The applications aren’t going to be at the same time. So it really is a fact-based, individualized analysis that you have to do for each application. So the argument of precedents really should not factor into your decision.”
Councilmembers could impose conditions on the license, such as limited hours, that Burris would have the option to agree to or not. If the decision is left up to the state, though, it could be accepted without limitations.
Addressing the room’s concerns about the sale of liquor licenses, Burris’ attorney, George Gilmore, assured the audience that no one has the right to sell off half a liquor license, and the transfer would not create an additional one.
“There is only one license, and only one license could be sold,” he said, noting it could be transferred to another location in the future, which would require another application.
Because The Ketch and The Boathouse, which is BYOB, already operate as restaurants, Gilmore said approving the license transfer would not create a major change other than allowing people to order drinks instead of having to bring their own beer or wine. He said it would also fuse the funds together for more improvements.
The license transfer would allow the two locations to operate as one full-time entity. It is expected to have a more upscale feel similar to that of the Black Whale Bar & Fish House, on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is run by Burris’ partners, the local Nugent and Magaziner families.
In November, Burris suggested also adding a bridge connecting the two restaurants. Closing Dock Road to vehicular traffic was discussed as well, though Gilmore said Monday that Burris never intended to vacate the area.
“It’s not required by the law, but it seemed to be just a nice way to, A, connect the two buildings and, B, transport liquor from one location to the other without having to go out to the public right-of-way,” Gilmore stated. “Dock Road is simply that, a public right-of-way. The two property owners, under law, own to the centerline of the street, and therefore we have continuity of ownership between the two premises under our proposed structuring,” he added, noting there would be no liquor consumption in that area.
Burris had also originally intended to create a “maritime village” along the bay, though that was not presented Monday night.
Burris said he wants to do away with teen night at The Ketch and add a bar to The Boathouse building. Proposed modifications to The Ketch, including the expansion of the dining area and the extension of the upper deck to line up with the westerly border of The Boathouse, were approved by the land use board in November.
Monday evening, Burris suggested serving breakfast at the location, to avoid the late-night rush, and said he also wants to expand the wedding season.
Deborah Whitcraft and Jim Vogel, who live just east of The Boathouse at the New Jersey Maritime Museum, which they own and operate, said the project would make better use of the dock area. Local resident Barb Cona agreed the location is “underutilized.”
“I live across the street from this thing, and I see a win-win situation here,” said Vogel. “(I think) teen night is a nightmare, not only because I live there, but I’m also a first aider, and I see the police presence. A well-operated, adult bar/restaurant would be a major improvement, and it would require less police presence than what you have now.”
Whitcraft, a wedding officiant who said she has married thousands of couples, including some in the audience that night, also noted weddings are a major boost to the town, and the expansion of the liquor license would help bring some of the weddings to a “more appropriate site” and out of the residential areas, which has caused issues for residents.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Only kangaroo at Popcorn Park Zoo passes away from deadly parasitic disease

Popcorn Park Zoo’s first-ever kangaroo passed away before the public had a chance to meet him.
Foster was a 1½ -year-old male kangaroo, which could have lived into his teens or 20s. He was brought to the Associated Humane Societies’ zoo in Lacey Township in late November, after he got loose a few times from his owner’s home in Staten Island.
“The owner thought he’d be safer here, where he can’t get hit by a car or something,” said John Bergmann, Popcorn Park Zoo general manager.
Photo via Popcorn Park Zoo
The kangaroo was brought to the zoo after
he escaped a few times from his owner's home.
It is legal to have a kangaroo, with the proper permits, in New York, he said.
“Foster was a great little guy, even through all of this. He was very personable. He wanted to come up to you and interact with you,” Bergmann said.
Foster was in quarantine at the park for only a few weeks, in early December, when staff noticed he was not eating. A blood test confirmed he had toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that is deadly to kangaroos and wallabies. It is mostly passed on by infected cats that shed it in their stool. Bergmann said there are no cats at the park with the disease, and staff are “very cautious” about it when handling cats dropped off at the premises’ shelter.
“I don’t know how he got it, but kangaroos get it very easily if they’re around feral cats or something like that,” Bergmann stated.
There are no feral cats that hang around the zoo, he noted.
“He probably came with it. Chances are he picked it up anyplace. With the move and the new area and new things, his immune system probably went down a little bit. It’s a very opportunistic parasitic disease,” Bergmann explained.
Foster was initially responding to treatment, which included daily injections and oral medication. But his health suddenly deteriorated, and he quickly succumbed to the disease on Jan. 28.
“We were very concerned, and we started treatment right away,” Bergmann said. “He seemed like he was holding his own. He would have good days, and he had bad days. But he wasn’t getting real, real sick with it yet.
“Thursday morning he was OK, and that afternoon he just crashed. We tried fluid therapy, all kinds of things during the course of that day, but he didn’t make it. ”
Toxoplasmosis can spread to other animals and people, but Bergmann said he and Foster’s other caretaker took precautions when handling the kangaroo.
“I don’t have any other kangaroos or wallabies here, so it wouldn’t be deadly to anything else,” he said.
Bergmann does not know if the zoo will get another kangaroo in the future.
“We don’t go looking for stuff; stuff tends to find us. That’s what we’re here for,” he said.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Beach Haven School dedicated to ‘financial excellence,’ according to annual audit

Photo via Google
The school's reserves will allow for the completion
of some needed facility structural projects.
Based on its available funds, Beach Haven School is in “very good” financial condition without any outstanding debt, according to its 2014-15 comprehensive annual financial report. In addition to the school’s 2 percent unassigned surplus of $250,000, it has $414,710 in maintenance reserve and $18,607 in capital reserve. The reserves will allow for the completion of some needed facility structural projects, according to Brian Falkowski, the school’s business administrator.
The financial audit, which must be provided by all school districts in the state, was submitted without requiring any corrections from the school’s auditor, Robert Hulsart of Robert A. Hulsart & Co. in Wall Township. He provided no recommendations for the board during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
“You can’t get anything better than that,” said Richard Starodub, interim superintendent of Beach Haven School. “That’s the best. That’s an A+ in terms of procedures and practices, and that’s a testimony to the board and the business administrator overall.”
According to the report, the school’s future finances face difficulties as the community continues to expand and state funding is lessened. The bulk of revenues needed to operate the district are obtained from homeowners through property tax assessments and collections. The most crucial aspect affecting the budget is the unsettled situation with state aid, which is currently frozen. The tax levy will need to absorb any increase in budget obligations.
Nonetheless, Beach Haven School has been committed to “financial excellence” for many years, the report states. The school’s system for financial planning, budgeting and internal financial controls is “well regarded.”
“The School District plans to continue its sound fiscal management to meet the challenge of the future,” according to the report.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Beach Haven First Aid Squad responds to more than 60 calls in January

The Beach Haven First Aid Squad, which responds to emergencies throughout 10 of Long Beach Island’s 18 miles, from Ship Bottom to Holgate, has been unusually busy this winter season. Since Jan. 1, members have responded to more than 60 calls.
Photo via BHFAS
The first aid squad is the
oldest in the area.

A few weeks ago, a patient was flown to the trauma center in Atlantic City after he “cracked his head wide open” falling down 13 stairs, said Jack Casella, captain of the Beach Haven First Aid Squad.
Members had their first CPR save of the year on Sunday in Ship Bottom.
“He was dead-dead, and after 45 minutes we got his heart started and got him breathing,” said Casella, who has been volunteering for over 35 years.
The all-volunteer organization, which includes divisions in Beach Haven and Ship Bottom, has about 30 members, with 15 active, full-time riding members in the winter months. Some volunteer on the weekends year ’round.
Calls usually reach around 1,100 to 1,200 annually. Members, who also have other jobs, sometimes have to answer 12 to 17 calls a day.
“Nonsense” calls, such as those regarding a broken finger or toe, are the most frustrating for members, said Casella, who also started Surf City EMS with the fire company in 1989.
“That takes an ambulance off the road for a real emergency,” he stated. “People think if they go by ambulance they’re going to be taken care of faster, and it doesn’t always work that way.
“Our calls consist of a lot of different emergencies: cardiac, respiratory, CVA, diabetic, accidents, falls. We have a variety, and we treat everything,” added Casella. “We also had several fly-outs this summer.”
This past year, volunteers responded to a total of 1,113 calls. Six were CPR calls with three saves that walked out of the hospital.
Ten members responded to over 100 calls each.
Man hours for emergencies alone last year clocked in at 3,009.2.
“As a volunteer organization, we put in many other hours: training, drills, meeting both in-town as well as out of town. We spend many, many hours away from our families,” said Casella. “I figure we’re doing something right because we do attract volunteers who are dedicated. We’re very fortunate. We’ve never had to have mutual aid, and we usually have a rig on the road within five minutes. I’m very proud of the people that I work with. We’re all like a family. We’re not like ships passing in the night.”
The organization is the oldest first aid squad in the area, which was established by just a few people in 1939.
“At that time you only needed first aid and CPR,” said Casella. “The closest hospital was in Lakewood, and they used Cadillac ambulances. There was not a lot of room to move in one.
“Things have changed drastically over the years,” he added. “We are now able to do a lot more for our patients. Our rigs are much bigger, and we have all the latest equipment to better serve our community.”
The squad has five ambulances, two beach trucks and one first responder vehicle, all of which are fully equipped.
“Our goal is to answer all calls in a timely matter,” said Casella.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.