Sunday, October 1, 2023

News Digest 1/18/2006

By Rick Racela

Clemente Files Suit
SEA ISLE CITY – It’s Act III in the dispute between gazebo owner Louise Clemente and the city’s zoning board. After once again denying her request for a variance to keep the gazebo as is, even though it is taller than allowed by city code, the board is now named in a lawsuit Clemente filed Jan. 9. Ellen Nicholson Byrne, zoning board attorney and Patricia Urbaczewski, one of the board members, are also named as defendants. Urbaczewski was the only one who voiced objection to the variance. Clemente’s suit claims that, among other things, Byrne, who allegedly represented Urbaczewski in a personal zoning matter in Middle Township during this same time period, violated Clemente’s civil rights and the state municipal land use law. In addition to a reversal of the negative decision on her variance request, Clemente is seeking damages and attorney’s fees and is also asking that Bryne be required to repay all fees paid to her by the zoning board on this matter.
Knight Won’t Run
OCEAN CITY – Mayor Bud Knight who has served Ocean City for close to 40 years and has been mayor since 1992, announced Jan. 12 that he will not seek reelection in May.  He was easily reelected mayor in 1994 and 1998 but almost lost to Councilman Jody Allesandrine in 2002. Allesandrine presumably will run this year, but Councilman Frank McCall is the only one was has filed a petition so far.
Hike Ocean City Taxes?
OCEAN CITY – If council goes along with Mayor Bud Knight, Ocean City residents will see an 8.3 percent increase in the tax levy. The mayor introduced a $54.4 million budget Jan. 12, which is 5 percent over last year’s of $51.79 million. The increase would mean a 2.1-cent increase in the tax rate, bringing it to 45.3 cents per $100 of assessed value or $453 for every $100,000 of assessed value. Tax on a half-million dollar property would be $2,265. The city’s ratable base grew by 3 percent over the past year and is now valued at more than $8 billion.
Trailers Vandalized
ERMA – Lower Township police are investigating reports of burglary from trailers parked at the Lake Laurie Campground here. At about 5 p.m. Jan. 15 police arrived at the campground and found that at least three trailers and been entered and that extensive damage had been done to the interiors. Anyone with any information should contact the township’s Detective Bureau at 886-1619, ext. 157, or the county Crimestoppers at 465-2800. All information will be kept confidential and those calling may remain anonymous.
Question and Answer
WILDWOOD – Parents and members of the public who are interested in recent developments within the city’s schools are invited to attend a question and answer session with Wildwood School Superintendent Dennis Anderson. Concerned Citizens for a Better Wildwood will be hosting the event Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Wildwood High School auditorium.
Funds for Centennial
NORTH WILDWOOD – The city was awarded a $3,000 regrant to help fund its upcoming 100th anniversary celebration, said Mayor Bill Henfey. The state Council on the Arts contributed a portion of the funding. The county Cultural and Heritage Commission, under the authority of the county library commission for the freeholders, administered the regrant. Plans for the centennial event include a parade on May 12, featuring anyone born at Margaret Mace Hospital; a procession of the city’s mayors riding in cars of their corresponding era; and a re-creation of a John Philip Sousa concert later that night.
Cycling for a Cause
WILDWOOD CREST – Borough Commissioner Don Cabrera is planning to participate in the Sept. 10 Philadelphia LIVESTRONG Ride. The 100-mile bike ride, benefits the Lance Armstrong Foundation that strives to provide advocacy, public health, and research programs to those affected by cancer. According to Cabrera, $500 is needed to participate in the event, but he hopes to raise $2,000 and a team goal of $20,000. For those interested in doing more than donating, Cabrera is also is looking for riders of any cycling ability to ride with him as part of “Team Wildwood.” 
Faulty Heater
NORTH CAPE MAY – Residents of the Victorian Manor Nursing Home, many in beds and wheelchairs, were moved to a safe wing of the complex after staff members reported smoke coming from the ceiling in the B-wing section of the building on Jan. 14 at 4:50 p.m. Lower Township Police, Town Bank Volunteer and Erma Volunteer fire departments responded and assisted staff members in helping residents to an area that was not affected by smoke. According to the investigation, the smoke came from a faulty heating unit. There was no fire. Firefighters shut down the unit, vented smoke out of the B-wing, and assisted residents get back to their rooms.    
Have a Seat
CAPE MAY – A total of five seats will be available on the Cape May Elementary School Board of Education in the April election. The board accepted a letter of resignation from Rob Gleason, who is moving out of Cape May. The board seats of Myra Kurkowski, Mark LeMunyon, and Joseph McKenna are up for reelection. In addition, the seat of Jack Lord, who filled an unexpired term, is also up for reelection. Deadline for filing petitions to run is Feb. 27 at 4 p.m.
Park and Shop
CAPE MAY – The city has been awarded two grants from the state Department of Community Affairs-Smart Growth Program. A state ReStore grant in the amount of $20,000 was awarded to prepare plans to revitalize the Washington Street Mall including new paving, landscaping, lighting, and seating areas. The second granted entitled “Park & Go,” also $20,000, will be used to prepare a parking assessment to identify how to improve the capacity of existing parking areas and how to meet future parking needs. City Manager Luciano V. Corea Jr. said a proposal is being prepared to initiate a parking assessment including that of a potential parking garage.
Wag and Purr
CREST HAVEN – The Cape May County Animal Shelter Alliance (CMCASA) has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Norman E. and Gwyneth L. Staats Foundation. The grant will be used to fund CMCASA spay/neuter programs. A “Senior Pets for Senior People” program, a “Double Adoption” program, and other incentives to encourage people to adopt more than one pet will also be funded by the grant.
Vance’s Property
CAPE MAY – The city’s Planning Board tabled an application Jan. 10 from developer Steve Jemal to build 24 condominiums on the former site of Vance’s Bar. The property is in an area once occupied by a coal-gasification plant that left behind contaminants. Ground water samples in the neighborhood collected by Jersey Power and Light showed excessive levels of benzene and naphthalene and eight other compounds. Ground water is flowing west towards Cape Island Creek, which flows past the rear of the Vance’s Bar property. Board member William G. Gaffney questioned how much contamination was under the bar and parking lot. Jemal’s attorney, Jack Plackter, said he would bring an environmental impact statement to the next meeting. The planning board was also concerned with the impact on wetlands on the property. 
House Saved
ERMA – Erma and Townbank firefighters extinguished a fire underneath a vacant home on Seashore Road near Breakwater Road Jan. 12 about 1:30 p.m. The fire was started by fuel oil from a heater under the floor. The house suffered only minor damage. More than 20 firefighters responded.
Shorter Trips
CAPE MAY – The MWW Group, a public relations firm hired by the city’s Tourism Commission to promote the city has found travelers are taking shorter vacations but are not turning up their noses at expensive destinations. MWW found several misconceptions about Cape May including shared bathrooms in bed and breakfast inns, many elderly residents, and the city is a difficult place to reach. MWW Group will emphasize Cape May’s beaches, Victorian architecture, and special events. The firm met with many tourist and non-profit groups in late December.
Benefit Expanded
SWAINTON – The county MUA has changed its retirement benefit that provides lifetime, fully-paid health insurance to persons age 55 who retire after 25 years, according to Executive Director Charles Norkis. It added another category clearly written with some persons in mind: Employes age 65 with 20 years with the authority and 25 years in the state pension system.  Norkis said there are “three potential employes who could take advantage of that over a 10-year horizon.”
MUA Promotion
SWAINTON – County MUA Engineering Manager Manley C. Solheim has been promoted to chief engineer, a position vacated when Charles Norkis became executive director of the agency this month. Solheim, with the  MUA since January 1984, received a pay hike to $118,000  from $109,440.
Spending Delayed
CREST HAVEN – Hopefully thousands didn’t take our advice and storm the county Administration Building here yesterday afternoon to watch freeholders spend about $125 million as they prepared a 2006 budget. The board cancelled that public meeting without explanation and is gathering at 3:30 today for the same purpose.  And 3:30 tomorrow if they don’t get done today, which they probably will.
Come See Beats Love
TRENTON – Gov. Richard J. Codey liked it best, but the slogan offered by Anthony Fulginiti of Ocean  City – “New Jersey: Love at First Sight” – finished last among five entries voted upon by  11,277 by phone, fax and  e-mail. Winning slogan: “New Jersey: Come See for Yourself” which, like all the slogans, was entered by a number of people.  But Jeffrey Antman, 50, of Passaic was first and got the glory, plus some sports event tickets and a free trip to a golf resort.  Antman works for New Jersey Transit and writes slogans for a  living. His slogan got 3,373 votes, Fulginiti’s 1,142. No indication if the new governor, Jon Corzine, will make use of the slogan.
No More Independents
COURT HOUSE – One thing that changed Jan. 1 was that voters registered as “Independent,” of which there were about 365 in the county, are now considered “unaffiliated.” A Jan. 6 letter was sent to independents from the county Board of Elections that detailed the new law. Voter registration will include an option to affiliate with a political party or declare an “unaffiliated status.” A voter will be able to be designated unaffiliated even if he or she was previously affiliated with a political party or group. Prior to the law’s enactment, an affiliated voter could not go back to an unaffiliated status. There were only two parties plus the independent status. Provisions are available for those who want to switch, in general, that must take place by the 50th day prior to a primary election.
Causeway Closed
OCEAN CITY – The Route 52 causeway was closed Jan. 14 so that repairs could be made to its bridges. The bridges over Elbow Thorofare and Rainbow Channel will be restriped, reducing the travel lanes from four to two. It restricted to four tons or less the weight of vehicles, except for emergency vehicles. The causeway will reopen today, but the two lanes will be closed permanently.
Shooting Sentences
COURT HOUSE – Daniel Edros, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y. was sentenced to five years in prison for taking part in a shootout Oct. 24, 2004 in Wildwood. Several 9-1-1 calls were placed around 3:40 a.m. that day that complained of gunshots in the 100 blocks of East Davis, East Burk, and East Andrews avenues. Edros pleaded guilty Oct. 6 to second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose. He will have to serve three years before being eligible for parole, and has credit for 202 days in jail. Other New Yorkers involved, Joel Gonzalez and Sharod Thomas, are currently doing time in New York on several state or federal charges. The other man involved, Tahiem Howell, will likely be going to trial for his role in the shooting. He is also charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance from an arrest this October in Wildwood.
Up In Smoke
WEST ORANGE – Come April 15, smoking will be prohibited in just about every public place in the state. Gov. Richard J. Codey signed the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act Jan. 15. He also signed separate legislation raising the age in which a person can legally buy tobacco from 18 to 19. New Jersey is the 11th state to ban smoking in public places.
Contract Dispute
BEESLEY’S POINT – The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 210, which represents workers at the B.L. England Generating Station, made its contract dispute with Atlantic City Electric public Jan. 5. The union sent letters to towns throughout southern New Jersey warning of possible power interruptions for residents. The letter also warned of potential safety hazards for emergency workers if there were to be a strike. Some 540 Atlantic City Electric employes’ contracts expired Dec. 10, but was then extended to give negotiations more time.
Robber Sentenced
COURT HOUSE – Ismael Peters, 18, of Somers Point was sentenced Jan. 12 to three years in prison for being the lookout during a robbery in Ocean City. Peters was allegedly walking down an Ocean City street July 18, with others identified as Darrell Kelly and Francisco Torres, on their way to a bus stop. Peters then alleged that Kelly and Torres robbed two men on the street, taking cigarettes, money, and a cell phone. Peters was charged with armed robbery, which was later reduced to robbery and finally, conspiracy. Peters also faces a robbery charge in Atlantic County, where he is likely to receive a seven-year sentence. He will be sentenced from both March 24.
Stabbing Charge
DEL HAVEN – Christine Kennedy, 50, was charged with aggravated assault for stabbing William Smith, 43, in the chest late Jan. 9. Smith was flown to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center for a non-life-threatening injury. Kennedy, a resident at the North Eighth Street home where the stabbing took place, was held in county jail on bail set at $50,000 cash.
Child Sex Charge
NORTH WILDWOOD – An indictment was filed against Anthony Mark Bianchi, 44, of North Wildwood Jan. 12 for engaging in illicit sexual conduct overseas. Charges include one count of conspiracy to engage in illicit sexual conduct, two counts of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, two counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, and one count of using a facility in foreign commerce to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity. Bianchi was arrested Jan. 11 at his home here. Ion Gusin, 28, of the Republic of Moldova, was arrested Jan. 11 as well and charged with serving as Bianchi’s translator.
Vandals Strike
ERMA – Lower Township police responded to a report of criminal mischief at a construction site Jan. 14 at around 8 a.m. There was extensive damage to heavy machinery owned by Garden State Dredging. The site had been vandalized in the past. Owner James Hemingway informed police that he is offering a reward for any information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of those responsible. Anyone with information on these incidents should contact the Lower Township Police Detective Bureau at 886-1619 extension 157 or Cape May County Crime Stoppers at 465-2800.   
Contract Awarded
SEA ISLE CITY – The Board of Commissioners held a special session yesterday to award the contract for design and installation of the playground at Dealy Field on 59th Street and Central Avenue to Burke Premier Play Environments. The 14,000-square-foot, $161,923 project will provide separate systems for 2 to 5 year-olds and for 5 to 12 year-olds. The park will include an elaborate playground, a gazebo, and a jogging path, among other items. The heavy-duty plastic equipment is expected to arrive within the next five weeks. The new tennis and basketball courts will not be finished until next fall. The park has yet to be named.

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