Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cedar Bonnet Island resident says Route 72 Bridge construction damaged his property

Photo by Tim Hart
Construction equipment was on Tim Hart's
riparian grant for his dock in July.
Tim Hart, who lives on Cedar Bonnet Island adjacent to ongoing construction of the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge, has asked the state Department of Transportation for $14,000 to repair damage to his dock. Although the dock was already damaged by Superstorm Sandy, he said Schiavone Construction Co., the contractor hired for the current project, went onto his riparian rights without his permission and knocked down poles on his dock while workers cut out a drainpipe last summer that had been put in place by Stafford Township prior to construction.
The DOT recently denied Hart’s request for compensation because the dock was in disrepair before the start of the bridge work.
“The damages to Mr. Hart’s dock were the result of Superstorm Sandy, which he has stated, and not caused by work associated with the Route 72 Project,” said Steve Schapiro, DOT communications director. “NJDOT sympathizes with the losses homeowners and businesses suffered due to the storm and any claims for damage resulting from the hurricane should be directed to the Governor’s Office on Recovery and Rebuilding, or his insurance company.”
Photo via NJDOT
His dock was in severe disrepair prior to
the start of bridge construction last year.
Hart, a Stafford Township native who is Ocean County’s official historian, noted the pipe at the end of the street had helped rainfall drain into the bay. Now that it has been removed, he stated, water gets backed up in front of his house. He said he recently received a $400 electric bill because Atlantic City Electric refused to read his meter because his property was flooded.
“I’m trying very hard to cooperate, but I’m getting really irritated,” said Hart.
He is concerned that future upkeep of the drainage system will have a harmful impact on his home and dock.
Schaprio noted the DOT is improving the drainage system as part of the bridge project.
“The original outfall pipe is susceptible to clogging and difficult to maintain,” he stated. “NJDOT determined the best course of action was to remove the pipe and replace it in a location farther away from Mr. Hart’s property.”
The pipe is expected to be put in before the completion of the project. But work cannot restart until July due to state environmental rules that bar work in the water between Jan. 1 and June 30, Schapiro said.
Because his house is not built on pilings, Hart added, vibrations during bridge construction have been substantial. He said he will need to have an evaluation after construction to assess the long-term damage.
“I’ve been to every meeting that (the DOT) had for the last eight years. I told them they should buy my house because I was in the way, and they refused,” Hart stated.
Schapiro said the DOT has been in contact with Hart about his desire to have the agency purchase his home since 2011 and has met with Hart several times in the past year to discuss his concerns.
“He was informed years ago there was no need for the department to acquire his property because the work being done is within NJDOT right-of-way (ROW) and not on his property,” Schapiro stated. “As a policy, the department attempts to limit the ROW acquisition necessary for our projects to minimize the effect on residents and businesses as best as possible, and to use our limited resources in the most cost effective manner.”
Hart said he plans to continue pursuing the issue by hiring a lawyer.
“I think it’s a reasonable solution to have them pay for my dock,” he stated.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Surf City farming expert invited to help cultivate the Stafford Community Garden

Lifetime farmer Robert Walker, who was turned down by Surf City Council in his quest for land to begin a small farm for his fellow Islanders, has been “working his butt off” the past couple weeks at the Stafford Community Garden at Manahawkin Lake. Volunteers who have been tending to the mainland garden, which was cultivated last June with the hope of growing into a flourishing town epicenter, recently invited Walker to lend a skilled hand.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
The Stafford Community Garden is
maintained by local volunteers.
“He’s going to bring to the community garden what we’re really lacking, which is somebody who really knows farming,” said Mark Reynolds of Reynolds Landscaping, who created the garden with help from the Stafford Township Recreation Department and other community members. “We’re all willing to build a garden. We’re all willing to be involved. I have my expertise, and we’re looking for people for their expertise. So that’s what he’s bringing to the table, and he has a vast knowledge.”
Walker, who has been in the farming industry since 1946, has been working in the garden practically every day by himself, from morning to night in rain or shine.
“Farmers don’t stop just because it rains. You got a job to do, you get out there and you do it regardless of what the weather is. If you don’t, you run out of time,” Walker said.
The garden has an established footprint, which is being expanded to include a bunch of linear, low to the ground, raised beds for all different types of crops, Reynolds said. Walker’s main focus is on correcting some of the issues, including altering the soils to make them more conducive to vegetable gardening.
“Most of the soil in a lot of the planters, as far as I was concerned, was wrong,” Walker stated. “You can’t feed plants stones and sand. It needs the silt, which is the fluffy powder from the soil that plants live on.”
To carry out the work, Reynolds is providing Walker with all the necessary materials and equipment. Reynolds recently delivered a truckload of soil that had been pushed up from Jablonski’s Farm, the biggest farm formerly on Beachview Avenue in Manahawkin from the 1920s through the late ’70s.
Photo by Rebecca Gee
The garden produced a plethora of
vegetables in its first year.
“Not only is it a better soil, but it also has some connection to gardening and farming,” Reynolds said. “The soil I initially bought was more geared toward what I do for a living and not so much for a farm.”
Mushroom soil as well as pig manure, which Walker said is the most valuable manure on the farm because it is the only type that has phosphorus, which plants need to grow, should be arriving soon. Another volunteer will be raising worms, which Walker said make “super, super fertilizer.”
“Everyone's been so helpful, trying to make things as easy as they could for me,” Walker stated. “It’s great because I have a lot of support working up there, and they pretty much give me a lot of freedom to use my own imagination and do what has to be done. I’m really excited with it.
“They put a lot of work into everything they were doing, and I’m trying to get a lot of things straightened out,” he added. “They had a lot of minor mistakes that are going to be easy to correct, and hopefully I can get everybody on the right foot and get them started.”
Walker is working to get many of the “hard, difficult things out of the way,” before two garden cleanup days on March 30 and April 3 at 1 p.m.  He hopes volunteers will be able to retie the fruit trees and even do some planting then. White potatoes, which prefer cooler weather and take about five to six months to produce, should have been planted on St. Patrick's Day, but the garden was not yet ready, he said.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun trying to educate people in the dos and don’ts of gardening,” Walker stated. “I’ll try to walk along as softly as I can with everybody and try to keep everybody as happy as I can and try to set them on the right track to understand why it is you have to do certain things.”
Ideally, Walker said, everything should be planted by the movement of the moon. Vegetables that bear their fruit below ground have to be planted on the downward of the moon, and vegetables that bear their fruit above ground need to be planted on the upcoming of the moon, he explained.
“It’s unbelievable what the difference a day or two makes, when the moon changes from full moon to half-moon,” Walker stated. “When I was young, I didn’t believe in it. Unless you can see something like that, it sounds like folklore. There are things that you only learn by being with experienced farmers and being on the farm.”
The Island resident is also concentrating on creating more space in the garden. He removed four pine trees to make room for a shed that was set on cinder blocks when it was donated in the fall. He hopes to add decks and a pavilion-type canopy to it so volunteers can take a break from the sun.
The overall mission of the garden is to raise awareness about the many people in the local area who are struggling for food. It is being led by the Hunger Foundation of Southern Ocean County, formerly known as the Southern Ocean County Community Foundation, which raises money for the area’s food banks.
“We built this garden so it’s visually appealing. You look at it, and you want to be involved,” said Reynolds. “Then when you get there, we start to educate you about the plight of the hungry within our community. The two things coincide with one another, teaching people about healthy eating and also that there are people in the community that don’t have enough to eat.”
While Reynolds believes a portion of the produce will be given to the food banks, he said perishable food is not as valuable as providing funds to purchase canned goods and other packaged groceries.
“We’re not trying to raise food in the garden to feed everybody in the community because it’s too small of a garden, but if we can raise awareness, then we can raise monies and feed people that way,” he said. “We don’t want to cancel the concept of giving food to the food banks because people just think that’s a great idea, but the true understanding of a garden and how much food you can produce out of it doesn’t always work for a food bank because they’re perishable products that you’re growing. But I can imagine that some of this food will make it to a food bank.”
Volunteers plan to have events and fundraisers at the garden. Walker hopes to use it as a training center to teach people how to can food and preserve spices and herbs.
“A lot of it is not that complicated,” Walker said. “It’s surprising how many people don’t know what a turnip or a beet is, or even how to use them. There’s a couple generations now that are living from McDonald’s to Burger King to Wendy’s to Wawa, and they don’t know that much about vegetables.
“We hope that in training people, they’ll go home with the knowledge and produce a garden for themselves,” he added. “It will help people to be healthier. We have more health problems in the United States than the rest of the world, and that’s a shame.”
Walker hopes the community garden will also become a place for seniors to hang out, which he believes the area really needs.
“Unfortunately the Island doesn’t do a lot for seniors, and many of the other coastal towns really don’t have a whole lot either,” he said. “You’ve got to have something for all types of people. The person that wants to garden is not the kind of a person who wants to hang out on a golf course.”
Walker has been invited to meet with Ship Bottom Council to discuss his ideas for an Island farm. If they come to an agreement, he plans to work in both gardens. If they don’t, he said he will keep himself busy at the Stafford garden.
For more information or to get involved in the mainland garden, visit the Hunger Foundation’s Facebook page at
The group is also looking for garden donations since most of the supplies are being provided by Reynolds.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Route 72 Bridge shuttle suspended due to decrease in ridership

Photo via Google
Ridership decreased from 174 in
December to 42 in February.
The shuttle service offered when the north sidewalk on the east and west thorofares of the Route 72 Causeway Bridge closed for demolition and reconstruction in November was recently suspended due to a decrease in ridership. The number of riders dropped from a high of 174 in December to 42 in February. The sidewalk should reopen in about three weeks.

Until that time, the few pedestrian commuters are able to walk through the closed portion of the bridge,” said Kevin Israel, a New Jersey Department of Transportation public information officer.

The free shuttle service, operated by Greater Mercer Transportation Management Associationhad cost $1,200 a day and was being funded as part of the $350 million Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges project. It was available to individuals who normally walk or bicycle to and from Long Beach Island and the mainland via the bridge.

— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Local wedding officiant crafts ceremonies ‘everyone will remember’

Weddings are a time-honored tradition, but they don’t have to be conventional. Having the ceremony officiated by a friend or loved one can make the experience much more memorable. While a judge, court clerk, justice of the peace or any recognized member of the clergy can perform marriages lawfully in most states, the privilege also extends to individuals in New Jersey (and elsewhere) who can be ordained via the Internet.
Photo via Joe Mangino
Joe Mangino performs a wedding as
Reverend Willy Wonka.
Stafford Township resident Joe Mangino, who is ordained as a non-denominational minister, has probably performed around 100 weddings, as well as a number of beach baptisms and one funeral, since obtaining his license over six years ago.
“Even though all the research I did about the online certifications indicated it was legal in New Jersey and most other states, I chose to get ordained as a non-denominational minister by two different churches, the Universal Life Church and the Universal Life Church World Ministry, as a sort of extra protection. You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet,” Mangino said.
His ordination is recognized in 48 states. Virginia, with the exception of Spotsylvania County, and Pennsylvania, excluding Bucks County, do not recognize ULC ministers, he noted.
The certification process is rather simple. Many websites allow a person to be ordained for free through an online application with a printable receipt. The license recognizes the holder as a wedding officiant, who can also perform funerals and baptisms. The minister is allowed to form his or her own congregation as well. Certificates, handbooks and instruction materials can be purchased.
Mangino decided to get into the business after learning about it on the news.
“I thought to myself, ‘I can do that. Why let the mayors and judges hog all the work and have all the fun?’ Also, my dad was a deacon in the Catholic Church, and he officiated my wedding,” Mangino said. “It was something that I was familiar with and thought I would enjoy doing it.”
Photo via Joe Mangino
The Stafford Township resident
leads a wedding at the beach.
The first wedding he officiated was for his aunt in 2009. Since then, he has performed a handful of weddings each year for other family and friends, which “are always extra special,” he said.
“My sister’s wedding was definitely the most emotional,” Mangino said. “My dad should have been the one doing it, but he passed away a few years before. Having to fill his shoes by walking her down the aisle, and then performing the ceremony, was an emotionally tall order.”
After Superstorm Sandy left him without full-time employment, Mangino decided to really push his officiating services. He credits having a creative business card as well as help from Ann Coen Photography and LeAnna Theresa Photography for his quick expansion. Getting involved in the LBI Wedding Road Show, which he plans to attend this year, is also a “big boost to business.”
“With the exception of one nightmare couple, I have enjoyed every wedding I’ve ever officiated,” Mangino said.
One of his absolute favorites was a theme wedding he performed as Reverend Willy Wonka in a venue decorated as a chocolate factory.
“There were even oompa loompas on hand,” he said. “I asked the couple how Wonka could I get? And they gave me the freedom to go full Wonka. I created a ceremony that contained many lines from the movie. It was an epic ceremony that everyone loved.”
Mangino’s style is based on “energy, more energy and creativity.” He speaks loudly so everyone can hear. He likes to make sure the couple is the focus, but also tries to include their family and friends in the ceremony.
“I’ve been to many forgettable weddings where ‘minister mumbles’ can barely be heard and his energy is so low that you begin to wonder if this is a wedding or a funeral. I try to be the opposite of that,” Mangino said.
“When it comes to creating a wedding ceremony, I have very few rules. I’m up for almost anything. When I meet a couple for the first time, the first question I ask them is ‘How much God do you want in your ceremony? A lot of God, a little God or no God?’ Then we build off of that.”
Although Mangino likes to share a rough outline of the ceremony with the couple, he prefers to surprise them. He encourages couples to write their own vows “because it makes the ceremony that much more personal.”
He once had an emotional couple’s vows read aloud by their guests at the Spray Beach Chapel.
“It was the first time I ever tried this, and I had no idea what to expect,” he said. “The results were amazing. Everyone felt included, and I gave the couple a special moment they will never forget.”
Mangino said there is “so much” he likes about the job because it is “an honor” to participate in such a special day. Getting invited to the reception is “a really nice perk,” too.
“It’s something I take very serious,” he said. “I love to meet these couples who are about to embark on an amazing journey and craft a ceremony that everyone will remember.”
Mangino said he really enjoys performing outdoor weddings such as at the beach and along the bay, as well as at parks, farms and even on rooftops. He is scheduled to perform a service on top of a Ferris wheel in Wildwood this summer.
He plans to continue performing weddings and beach baptisms for as long as he can. “It’s too much fun to give it up.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Additional safety features proposed for Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges Project

The New Jersey Department of Transportation is proposing extra work on the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges Project to help safeguard the many people who travel to and from Long Beach Island and the mainland via the corridor.
Route 72 is the only highway access to Long Beach Island. During peak summer weekends, as many as 150,000 people travel along the corridor to LBI, according to DOT information.
Photo via NJDOT
The proposed work will be outlined during
two public information meetings.
In case of a major storm, additional scour protection is proposed at each of the existing Hilliard, West and East Thorofare bridges, which are structurally deficient due to use and aging. This will help protect against hurricanes or large coastal storms that could create erosion around the bridge foundation and compromise the structural dependability of the thoroughfare bridges.
The DOT is also proposing additional improvements to accommodate public access to the waterfront, including location changes of two parking facilities. The layout of previously approved pedestrian and bicycle access improvements will be adjusted with the shift. The DOT also plans to replace an existing bulkhead adjacent to one of the parking lots, on the northeast corner of the existing bay bridge, that is deteriorating due to recent storm damage.
No alteration to proposed traffic patterns, especially during peak summer months, are anticipated as a result of the proposed action. Access to all residences and businesses will be maintained during construction. Possible temporary and localized impacts to residences and businesses located immediately adjacent to the project may occur due to construction noise, temporary construction access requirements and traffic pattern changes.
Two public meetings on the proposed plans will be led by DOT representatives on Wednesday, March 23. The first session will be held at Ship Bottom borough hall from 2 to 4 p.m. Another session will take place at the Stafford Branch of the Ocean County Library in Manahawkin between 6 and 8 p.m.
An addendum to the environmental assessment detailing the proposed plans can be reviewed at The public is encouraged to submit comments on the addendum to Bruce Hawkinson no later than April 7. Comments can be emailed to or sent in via regular mail. Written comments will also be accepted at the meetings.
The overall bridge project includes the construction of a new bridge parallel to and south of the bay bridge as well as rehabilitation of the existing bay bridge and thoroughfares. Sidewalks and bicycle accommodations are being implemented on the bridge with connections to communities within the project area. Construction of the new bridge began May 3, 2013 and is expected to be completed this spring. Traffic will be shifted to the new bridge in stages in the coming weeks.
Improvements to the Route 72 and Marsha Drive intersection in Stafford to reduce seasonal traffic delays as well as to the intersection along Eighth and Ninth streets in Ship Bottom to enhance traffic flow and alleviate flooding are also being executed.
The project also allows for the construction of five new parking lots along the corridor, improvements to the bulkhead at the manmade island for recreational purposes and restoration of a portion of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge on Cedar Bonnet Island as a passive recreational facility.
The entire project is anticipated to be completed in 2020.
For more information about the project, visit the DOT website at
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Boom on Surf City Fire Co.’s new rescue engine will help with crises at raised homes

The Surf City Volunteer Fire Co. and EMS’s newfangled fire truck, a rescue pumper design with a 20-foot boom on top, has been customized for the area’s post-Superstorm Sandy needs. It is due to arrive next week.
The fire company’s truck committee, encompassed mainly of former and current fire officers, did not want to get just another new pumper, said Lou McCall, fire captain and vice president, who has chaired the committee since its foundation nearly two years ago.
Photo by Lou McCall
The boom on the truck can reach 28 feet.
“Instead, we wanted an apparatus that would replace and combine both Surf City’s oldest pumper and its only rescue truck that were both exclusively used in, and victims of, Hurricane Sandy into one easy to use truck,” McCall stated. “It was also a high priority that we also considered the increasing amounts of homes being raised on pilings.”
The committee invested thousands of hours into getting the perfect truck. Members even visited with the Union Township Fire Department, which has the only other boomer in the state, McCall said.
“They were outstanding, allowing us to take quality time to show us and have some hands-on experience with their truck,” he stated. “We are grateful to them for that opportunity as it sold us on its capabilities.”
The boom on Surf City’s new truck, which can reach 28 feet, has a master stream nozzle on the end that can flow 1,000 gallons per minute and lift up to 1,000 pounds. The boom end also has a 6,000-watt light tower. Hose connections can serve as an elevated connection pipe to a raised residential structure, if needed, McCall said.
“The boom maximizes the efficiency of the guys, but it also can swing down and the nozzle turns so we can then get under the houses into the garages,” said Peter Hartney, president of the fire company and a borough councilman. “It just gives us so many more options.”
The truck also includes a 2,000-gallon-per-minute pump, and a compressed air foam system for four hose lines.
“It’s actually a better fire suppressant because you use less water, so you minimize water damage,” Hartney explained.
Almost all compartments have LED lighting, and tools can be recharged on the truck.
Since many of the department’s firefighters are EMTs, the truck also includes an EMS equipment area. This is a fire truck first for the company, which responds to calls from the southern half of North Beach all the way south to 84th Street in Brant Beach.
But the members are not the only ones interested in the truck’s innovative design. Representatives at Spartan Emergency Response, a South Dakota business unit of Spartan Motors that manufactured the truck, will be showcasing it at the international Fire Department Instructor Conference – the largest gathering of fire professionals worldwide – in Indianapolis in April.
During the borough council’s regular meeting last week, Hartney received permission to have the new truck exhibited in front of the world.
“Since it’s not going to be in service right away, the fire company said it was OK for it to go to Indianapolis. But it’s not our fire truck. It’s the borough’s fire truck, which we are eternally grateful for,” he stated.
Hartney noted Gloucester City Fire Department was so impressed with the truck that it is going to buy the same design.
“We should have copyrighted it,” Surf City Mayor Francis Hodgson joked.
Spartan reps will be taking the truck to the conference, and providing $2,500 in equipment mounting as well as a complete oil change upon return. An additional year of preventive maintenance, which is needed annually to uphold the warranty, will also be included.
Although custom designed by members of the fire company, the new truck is being funded by Surf City borough as well as Long Beach Township, which contributed $105,000. It was originally priced at $723,000 through the nationwide Houston-Galveston Cooperative Purchasing Program, but wound up costing $729,000 for necessary safety features. The borough is selling the fire department’s former rescue truck and old fire engine to make up for some of the cost.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beach Haven needs 2.5-cent tax rate increase for 2016 budget

Beach Haven Council has introduced an $11.5 million municipal budget for the 2016 year, which is an increase of $365,534 over last year’s adopted plan. The amount to be raised by taxation is $7,980,499, which is an increase of $417,647 from the 2015 budget. Based on this year’s total property evaluation of $1.684 billion, the local tax rate of 48.42 cents per $100 assessed property value is an increase of 2.5 cents over last year ($25 more per $100,000 assessed property value).
Increases in the budget from 2015 include an additional $188,825 for salaries and wages, $29,639 in insurance and $28,444 for pensions. The debt service increased by $44,775, and the reserve for uncollected taxes increased by $33,863. A Winter Storm Jonas-related expense of $46,000 is also included in the budget, though the town expects to be reimbursed for the cost.
Photo via Pinterest
The minimum appropriation for the town's
public library this year is $675,320.
To balance this year’s budget, the town is using an additional $193,910 in surplus over last year.
Anticipated Sandy disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency decreased from 2015 by $250,000.
The minimum appropriation for the public library this year is $675,320.
The total appropriation for this year’s separate water utility budget is $1,796,000, which is lower than last year. Increases include an additional $37,101 for salaries and wages, $25,149 in operating expenses, $175,000 for the capital improvement fund and $12,750 in statutory expenses.
However, the $250,000 emergency authorization for storm-related expenses has finally been paid off.
“Last year we had budgeted the last of that, so that is not present in this year’s budget,” Borough Manager Rich Crane stated during the council’s regular meeting on Monday, March 14.
All total, there was no change in the anticipated revenue.
In other meeting news, council awarded a $133,513 contract to Earle Asphalt of Farmingdale for reconstruction of the 300 block of Coral Avenue. A $90,811 contract was also awarded to Mathis Construction of Little Egg Harbor for the 2016 stormwater replacement project on portions of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street.
When local resident Edmund Seith asked if anyone noticed that the water tower “that we paid a fortune for” is peeling on the bottom, Crane said officials are in the process of repairing it, which will be an additional cost. The job was done right before Superstorm Sandy for just under $700,000, and the peeling started about a year ago, Councilman Robert Keeler said. Councilman Don Kakstis suggested council look over the contract and methodology and get more of a warranty next time.
Council adopted an ordinance amendment to establish a $1.50 quarterly charge for all accounts in the Beach Haven Water Conveyance System as well as to maintain a water usage monitoring system to notify consumers of excessive usage. An ordinance to repeal the relief ordinance for property owners seeking a one-time billing adjustment due to any unusually high water charges was approved on first reading.
An ordinance amendment was also adopted that in certain residential districts will limit permits for tents or temporary structures to four per year per site.
On first reading, council approved a 2016 salary ordinance, as well as a 3.5 percent cap bank amounting to $282,761 for the 2016 municipal budget.
The members approved a resolution to place a referendum on the November ballot to establish an open space preservation fund and assessment. Such a fund would be supported by a separate property tax.
Before approving a resolution for this year’s vendor ice cream permits, Kakstis said next year he would like to decrease the amount of allowable licenses.
“It’s getting to be a real nuisance on some of the streets with them showing up every 10 minutes,” he stated.
Crane noted that beach replenishment is expected to resume in town on April 9, beginning at 13th Street and moving south.
“We still have our fingers crossed that all goes well,” he said. “The replenishment portion of this project hopefully will be completed before the summer 2016 season gets into full swing.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Surf City’s adopted budget includes tax rate increase despite influx of larger houses

When Surf City Council adopted its new $6,487,400 municipal budget at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 9, a member of the public said residents ought to be getting a rebate rather than paying more taxes since many small homes are being torn down and rebuilt into larger houses.
Photo via ReMax
The homes in Surf City continue to get bigger.
The amount to be raised locally by taxation is $4,190,500. The tax rate is an increase of 0.75 cents per $100
assessment over 2015, when it was 26 cents per $100 assessed valuation. One cent on the tax rate would raise about $156,645.
For purposes of the budget, the town has to use the figure certified as of Oct. 1 of the prior year, which is $1,566,451,000, said David Pawlishak, borough chief financial officer. It is a slight increase over the prior year, which was $1,557,657,000.
“We had a net increase of about $9 million in ratables even though there were more buildings,” Pawlishak said.
If someone buys a house and tears it down, the cost of the improvement when the house was bought is added onto the price of the land and the new building is added to it, Mayor Francis Hodgson noted.
“Who says taxes are fair? Certainly not me, but we live with the numbers we got,” he stated.
The new budget is an overall decrease of $65,000 compared to last year’s plan. Decreases in various operating line items served to offset much of the increases, said Hodgson. The budget anticipates an increase of insurance premiums of $50,000 net of employee contributions. Pension obligations increased by $18,800, and effective contractual cost of living increases have resulted in an increase of $104,800 in amounts appropriated for salaries and wages.
The town used $1,332,000 of surplus in support of the budget, which is $260,000 less than for 2015. Members also adopted an ordinance to exceed the municipal budget appropriation limits and to establish a 3.5 percent cap bank, amounting to $190,964.90.
The separate water and sewer budget is $2,268,400, which is $55,600 more than last year.
In other meeting news, members adopted an ordinance to raise the fee for weekly beach badges from $17 to $18.
In regard to legislation again proposed by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) that would require Long Beach Island’s six municipalities to consolidate for alleged efficiency and greater savings, Councilman Peter Hartney said Gusciora “should try his social experiment out in his own district and remain in his own backyard.” With the help of staff, Hartney looked into four contiguous municipalities in the assemblyman’s 15th District: Hopewell Township, Hopewell borough, East Amwell Township and West Amwell Township. Their current bonded indebtedness is over $60 million. Surf City’s bonded indebtedness is zero.
“How rich that a state legislator is telling us how to save money, with all the problems they’re having,” said Councilman William Hodgson. “Is it a distraction – look over there, don’t look over here?”
In response to comments made in The SandPaper’s Liquid Lines column last week, which Hartney said makes it appear as if the Island has no shared services, the councilman rattled off a long list of the town’s formal and informal shared services, which range from municipal water supply, police dispatching and emergency management to public health services, Superstorm Sandy debris removal and fire department services.
Regarding an increase of flooding from the bay, which had been discussed by council members and residents at last month’s meeting, Mayor Hodgson noted he had sent a letter to state and local officials.
“Now we just wait for the dust to settle and see what happens,” he stated.
Hartney said he had been told a few years ago that the federal government does not dredge the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway because it is not a significant economic maritime waterway.
“They seemed to be focusing their emphasis on large dredging projects for big ships and ports,” he stated. “For them, recreation boating wasn’t a priority in terms of their projects.”
“If they took all the beach resorts and completely ignored them, you know what that would do to their taxes in Ocean County? This is where most of the taxes come from,” Hodgson said. “This a resort area; it’s a tourist area. They’ve got to take care of it.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ketch appeals denial of liquor license expansion to Boathouse

An appeal has been filed to overturn Beach Haven Council’s denial to the expand The Ketch’s liquor license to The Boathouse restaurant across the street. The formal request to the state Department of Law and Public Safety's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control was filed by Ketch owner Michael Battista.
Photo via Google
The Boathouse is currently BYOB.
Since council adopted a denial resolution that had been written prior to voting at the Feb. 17 meeting, the members were required by law to give the applicant at least five days’ notice as well as an opportunity to be heard, the appeal notes.
Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis said a resolution approving the expansion with conditions, such as disallowing the business to have a nightclub or customer bar as well as requiring it to close daily at 11 p.m. and provide extra parking, was also prepared beforehand. She said both resolutions were written by Bruce Padula, borough attorney, and then circulated to the council members. There was no discussion about the project, she stressed.
“Each person looked at the resolutions independently and everybody voted specifically for what they thought was the best for Beach Haven, and it was a unanimous vote not to grant the extension of the liquor license. There was absolutely no coercion of anybody,” Taggart Davis stated. “The other party has a right to appeal to the liquor control board, so the ball now is really in the board’s court. It’s pretty much out of our hands.”
The approved denial resolution, the appeal states, is founded on information that is unrelated to the request or was ignored or not presented in the application or at the public meetings.
That the move would “create competition for the same ‘vacation dollars’ and an ‘unfair advantage’ over other members of the Beach Haven business community ... are not ever valid legal grounds for denying a transfer application for a single license premises operated and managed as a single enterprise in accordance with well-settled law,” according to the appeal.
Developer William Burris and his partners had an agreement to acquire The Ketch from Battista this coming November. However, the contract was contingent on the approval of expanding the restaurant’s liquor license to The Boathouse, which would allow both buildings to run as one operation.
“This arrangement was fully made known to the Respondent Issuing Authority so there was no confusion as to the ownership and operation of the License after approval of the transfer application,” the appeal states.
Council’s resolution notes the road between the two restaurants is regularly traveled by the public. But the applicant had “advised that no alcoholic beverage service or consumption would take place in the right of way,” the appeal states.
Although council had said borough police would provide testimony regarding the quality of life issues that stem from The Ketch, the information was not presented in public and the applicant was not able to cross examine it, Burris noted.
“It’s just not right,” he said.
The Boathouse does not have a license to serve alcohol, though the town has allowed exceptions for some weddings. Burris is purchasing The Boathouse in the fall and turning it into the new Black Whale Bar & Fish House. The local Nugent and Magaziner families will continue running the business using its own liquor license.
The Black Whale is set to open at its current location on March 24. The building will be torn down later.
If the ruling is overturned,  however, “we obviously want it,” Burris said.
“That changes everything, of course,” he stated. “If (Batista) gets the approval, obviously we’re willing to go forward with the deal. But if he doesn’t get the approval, we’re not. That’s all.”
Battista could not be reached for comment.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Traffic soon to be shifted to new Manahawkin Bay Bridge

Construction of the new Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge is expected to be completed by July. Traffic will be shifted to the new bridge in stages, one direction at a time, in the coming weeks, according to Kevin Israel, a state Department of Transportation public information officer.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Construction of the new bridge
is expected to be completed by July.
“The staged shift will allow remaining work to be completed by the summer, including drainage work, creation of a median detention pond, curb, sidewalk, and guiderail installation, and installation of lighting,” Israel stated.
While winter weather has slowed progress for the reconstruction of the original trestle bridges on the east and west thorofares, contractor Schiavone Contstruction Co. had set an accelerated schedule with an earlier completion date than what is in the agreement, Israel said.
Traffic is expected to be shifted to the north side of the trestle bridges with work commencing on the south side in the fall. The restoration of the two trestle bridges is projected to be finished next July.
“While the weather may prevent the contractor from meeting this earlier goal, the project is expected to be completed on time by the summer of 2017,” Israel stated.
Most of the work on the north side of the trestle bridges will be finished this spring, except for the new concrete deck surface, which is the final riding surface spread over the bridge deck, similar to the top coat of highway asphalt, Israel said.
The contractor is expected to reinstate two lanes of traffic in each direction for weekend travel by April. Work will remain throughout the week with daily lane closures until mid-May, when daytime lane restrictions will be prohibited for the summer, said Israel.
The reinforced steel for the center median barrier curb, which was temporarily removed, has been installed. Crews will be pouring the curb sections in the coming weeks, Israel noted. The median is expected to be completed before the reinstatement of the two lanes.
Demolition and removal of the north side sidewalk and parapet are also finished. A section of the north side bridge deck, along with deck joints on both bridges, has been replaced. New concrete approaches have been installed for both bridges, and the corner sections of the bridge abutments, often referred to as the “wingwalls,” have been reconstructed, said Israel. Most of the new drainage inlets and pipes on the north side have been installed as well.
Work is continuing on the north-side roadway curbs, sidewalks, drainage inlets, pipe and other utilities. Construction of the pedestrian walk under the west bridge will begin soon, as well as renovations to the portions that guard the bridge piers for both thorofare bridges. Concrete restoration work underneath the bridges will also persist.
Proposed improvements to the Marsha Drive intersection at Route 72 in Stafford Township are currently in the final design stage, according to the NJDOT website. Drainage and traffic issues along Eighth and Ninth streets in Ship Bottom are also in the final design stage and are being discussed with borough and county engineers.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Green Acres tax being considered in Beach Haven

Beach Haven Borough Council wants to include an open space tax referendum in the November election, with the hope of beginning to save money for future projects. If voters prove to be in favor of the idea following the polling, council could impose the tax, which is typically 1, 2 or 3 cents per $100 of assessment, said Bruce Padula, borough attorney. A 1-cent tax on a $700,000 property would cost $70 a year.
Photo via Asbury Park Press
Veterans Memorial Park in Beach Haven is
protected by the state's Green Acres Program.
“It seems to me that it’s a very small tax, and that money would be specified only for either increasing our Green Acres or improving the Green Acres we have,” Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis stated at a public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 17.
The advantage of having this money, she said, is that the town could potentially have the necessary funds to purchase other properties that become available, such as the old Coast Guard station on the bay on Pelham Avenue.
The building was deeded to the borough for $1 in 2005 with restrictions from the General Services Administration that it be used only as the town’s temporary emergency operations center, Borough Clerk Sherry Mason explained after the meeting. She said town officials have approached the GSA about buying out the deed restrictions so the town could use the property for other purposes. But they were told it would be sold at fair market value, which she said “we can’t afford.”
“They’re not going to let us buy out the deed restrictions for anything less than fair market value. This is sitting on the most valuable property in the borough almost,” Mason stated. “If we have an open space trust and we’re collecting the tax for that, not only are we eligible for grants, but we’re eligible for a discounted purchase price. So there are a lot of benefits to that,” she added.
Councilman Robert Keeler told the public that he thinks the town raises taxes enough as it is.
“I’m not for any new taxes, but you can see what happens,” he stated, referencing Ship Bottom’s ongoing battle to save Long Beach Island Grade School from development. “If towns do not have an accessible rate of cash, which nobody really does unless they plan like Nancy wants to do with this, you lose the option of controlling a space. All the other parks we have in town are Green Acres. They can’t be developed; they can’t be turned into houses.”
Barnegat Light has been taxing for Green Acres since the 1990s, which ultimately allowed the town to purchase its former Coast Guard housing facility when it became available, Taggart Davis said.
“If they hadn’t been taxing for Green Acres, they wouldn’t have had the amount of money to be able to put a down payment on that property,” she noted.
When these types of situations arise, a town has to be able to act quickly. Barnegat Light had to come up with $300,000 in order to be in the bid process on a $3 million property, Keeler said.
“In one way it’s paying ahead to get us in the game, so it gives us a financial edge up front just in case,” he stated.
Beach Haven resident Jeff Wells believes the tax for the parks is being mixed up with purchasing the station, which he thinks the town should go to bond for if it goes up for sale.
“You have so many expenditures you need to put into your parks,” he stated. “I’d hate to see us put something out to the public that says, ‘Hey, let’s put some money into the parks, but what we’re really doing is putting a cash reserve aside to buy this property. This really needs to be saved; there’s no doubt we should try to do that. That is a different situation altogether, though.”
Following the meeting, the mayor said there is no discussion of the building going up for sale in the near future, especially while borough officials are working there.
“At this moment in time, I don’t think there’s even any discussion of that until we move into our new borough hall, which is going to be awhile,” Taggart Davis stated.
She noted the borough’s lease would not be terminated unless the town uses it for purposes other than emergency management, or if Beach Haven does not maintain it.
The mayor told the public that what the town would do with the tax money is dependent upon “what is available and what you want to do at that time.” She said the borough may not have the money to purchase the station by the time it goes up for sale, but she hopes to get the process started before her term as mayor is up.
“One of the things that the government would like every town on the waterfront to have is a place for people to access the bay, and we have access to the bay here,” Taggart Davis stated.
The money does not have to be used just to buy more Green Acres space, however. It could also be utilized to improve the parks and make them more user-friendly, the mayor noted, adding that a “very active” master plan committee has put a lot of thought into the town’s parks, “which could really beautify Beach Haven.”
“This would give us the money,” she said. “We wouldn’t get it all at once. It’s a slow process, but over time it would give us a lot of flexibility.”
Resident John Harvey, who said he is “all for” the tax, asked officials to examine the effect it would have on seniors living on a fixed income.
“Seventy dollars doesn’t seem like a lot, but I know there are a lot of fixed-income people and $70 is pretty significant,” he stated. “If there’s a way to skew that where there’s a senior discount or a pass on that, because they may not be around in 20 years to benefit from that, that would be something to consider.”
If council decides it is not a good idea, and people do not want to pay the tax, it can be rescinded, Taggart Davis said.
“Once we do this, we don’t have to do it forever,” she stated.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.