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Thursday, July 25, 2024


News Digest 2.22.2006

By Rick Racela

Jetty Accident
SEA ISLE CITY – Police Chief William Kennedy’s wife Phyllis accidentally slipped off the 47th street jetty and into the ocean Feb.12, police said. Kennedy called 911 and jumped into the ocean to rescue her. Phyllis Kennedy was hospitalized and treated for frostbite. Kennedy said that his wife was suffering from a “nervous breakdown,” but was not trying to harm herself. He cited his family’s struggles with the city school district as a catalyst for the accident. The Kennedy family had sued the school twice regarding special education for their autistic child.
Oppose Amusements
SEA ISLE CITY – Apparently some residents aren’t too amused about a proposed amusement park. Kathryn Doyle and Alex Alexander sent a letter to city officials opposing the building of the park on Landis Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets. Their reasons include: increased traffic on Landis Avenue, noise pollution, increased trash and a negative impact on property value. A month ago The Atlantic Pier Amusements Company expressed an interest in opening a park on a parcel formerly used as a landfill. If the amusement park is approved, the land would most likely be leased for 30 years or longer.
Evacuation Plan
OCEAN CITY – The board of education agenda promised a police department presentation on “emergency and evacuation procedures and updates” at the meeting Feb. 15, but it didn’t happen. Instead, the board met in a closed session with police for just a few minutes. Sgt. Jay Prettyman updated new board members on police response to school emergencies out of public view. Prettyman claimed that he wasn’t hiding anything, but didn’t want to give anything away either. Fire Chief Joseph Foglio Jr. said that new plans call for the fire department to respond to emergencies right away, even if only in a supporting role.
Fourth Grade Move
OCEAN CITY – Due to declining enrollment in the intermediate and primary schools, the board of education proposed moving the fourth grade Feb. 15. The grade would make the move from intermediate to the primary school this fall. The fourth grade would have the same kind of class model as K thru 3, in which students remain in one classroom with the same teacher for the majority of the day. The board might also increase class size by reducing the number of classes per grade. Whether the current fourth-grade teachers would make the move to the primary school or absorb the new classes is still undecided. Parents and teachers, who were in attendance, lobbied to keep the school programs as they were.     
Tax Increase
SEA ISLE CITY – City commission released a $15.1 million budget last week. The new budget will mean a 2.8-cent tax rate increase and a local purpose tax rate increase of 11.9 percent over last year. Homeowners with a house worth $1 million would pay $2,640 in municipal taxes. Last year, they paid $2,360. The city plans on raising about $1.1 million more in taxes. A hearing on the 2006 budget will be held at the Public Safety Building on March 14 at 10 a.m.
Crash Death
GOSHEN – Nathan Allen, 22, of Goshen died when his vehicle veered off the road and struck a tree Feb. 13. Allen was driving west on Swainton-Goshen Road around 7:30 p.m. when he lost control of his car. The Middle Township Rescue Squad, Goshen Fire Company, and Medic 9 responded to the scene. Allen graduated from Middle Township High School in 2001 and worked as a chef.
Drugs=Four Years
COURT HOUSE – Patrick Wilcox, 26, of Erma was sentenced to four years in state prison on drug possession and theft charges Feb. 17. Under a plea agreement, Wilcox was offered four years due to his criminal history. He was arrested at the Wawa on Wildwood Avenue June 29, 2005 for possessing drugs. In August he was charged with theft when his employer at a North Cape May gas station reported him for running credit cards through and then taking the money.
Kingpin Hearing
COURT HOUSE – Jose Casanova, 36, of Wildwood is charged with being a drug kingpin and will be arraigned this week. His hearing was postponed Feb. 16 and rescheduled for a time that his attorney, Jeffrey Zucker, will be available. Casanova faces first-degree drug kingpin and drug-distribution charges. The Prosecutor’s Office offered a 20-year prison sentence with 10 years of parole ineligibility if Casanova pleads guilty. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Rob Johnson said that a Sept. 28 search of Casanova’s home on East Rio Grande Avenue uncovered 344 grams of cocaine along with $11,000 in cash and drug paraphernalia. Casanova’s arrest came after wiretaps and drug sales to undercover officers as part of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Narcotics Task Force, and North Wildwood and Wildwood police departments.
To Prison for Drugs
COURT HOUSE – Donnie Moore, 35, of Wildwood was sentenced to four years in state prison for drug possession Feb. 16. He was charged after Wildwood police officers found a marijuana cigarette containing cocaine. Moore’s attorney Dara Paley said her client had credit for 287 days served in jail.
Sex Offender Accused
VILLAS – Paul Alexander, 31, was arrested Feb. 17 for fondling a girl in December. Alexander was charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child. He is already a Tier 2 Megan’s Law registrant. Alexander is in county jail with bail set at $50,000. 
Helicopter Rescue
HEREFORD INLET – A Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued two fishermen when their boat ran aground on Champaign Island near Hereford Inlet at approximately 9 p.m. on Feb.17. Their 26-foot fishing vessel, Hadraine, was reportedly in water too shallow for waterside assistance and was experiencing 8-foot waves over the back of the boat. According to the Coast Guard, a rescue swimmer was lowered and helped the crew of two into the rescue basket. The two fishermen were taken back to the Air Station Atlantic City where they were treated for mild hypothermia. 
Hit and Run
WILDWOOD CREST – A toy-sized black dog helped lead police to a Wildwood woman suspected of a Feb. 17 hit and run. Kelly Lord, 35, of Bennett Avenue, was accused of striking a man who was getting into his dump truck at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Morning Glory Road, police said. According to reports, she walked over to him and then fled the scene in a Ford Explorer. However, witnesses say that a small black dog jumped out of the car before she pulled away. On Feb. 19, two children inquired about the dog in Police custody and provided information that led to Lord’s apprehension, said police.
Condo Fire
WILDWOOD – A fire damaged condominiums located at 109 E. Hildreth Avenue at approximately 8 p.m. on Feb. 14. The city’s Fire Department arrived to find the third floor apartment engulfed in flames. The blaze was put out with the aid of paid and volunteer firefighters from Wildwood, North Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest. The condo’s residents were not home at the time, the building’s other occupants were evacuated, and no injuries were reported. The county’s Fire Marshal’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Wildwood Police and Fire departments are still investigating the cause of the fire.
Final Revals Sent
NORTH WILDWOOD – Following a round of hearings in January between property owners who disagreed with their new assessed values and Tyler Technologies/CLT Division, the city sent out final revaluations last week. The next step for taxpayers would be to take any disagreements to the county level. Tax Assessor Joseph Gallagher suggested that homeowners ask three real estate companies to come up with an independent value for their homes. If they are in the same range as the revaluation, an appeal may not be necessary. Gallagher said a professional appraiser could be hired for a more formal evaluation. He encouraged property owners to talk with him before filing the formal appeal. The deadline to appeal to the county Tax Board is April 1.
Incidents Reported
NORTH WILDWOOD – This city’s police department reported 2,628 incidents for the month of January. Among the calls reported, police responded to 134 disorderly persons offenses, nine animal complaints, six thefts, four motor vehicle accidents, three drug offenses, and one incident of fraud. According to police, 61 persons were arrested which included 50 adults, and five drunken driving arrests. The police department assisted the fire department at 10 fires. No robberies, weapons offenses, or aggravated assaults were reported for the month.
Four Years for Theft
COURT HOUSE – Owen Shelton, 19, was sentenced Feb. 16 to four years in prison for theft by Superior Court Judge Carmen Alvarez. Shelton, already on probation for drug possession and conspiracy, was charged on Oct. 22, 2005. According to Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Infusino, Shelton reportedly stole from another person during a fight in Lower Township.
Rags Caused Fire
CAPE MAY – A fire that caused minor damage to a home under construction at 1321 Maryland Avenue was reportedly caused by oil-soaked. Deputy Fire Chief Rick Lundholm said the fire, that occurred in the early morning of Feb. 18, would have been much more devastating if a neighbor had not immediately reported it. All four companies south of the Cape May Canal, including Cape May, West Cape May, Cape May Point, and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to the structure fire. The blaze was under control in minutes and caused only minor damages, according to reports.
Drug Charges
WOODBINE – Police charged Charles Daniels, 21, Nelson Rivera, 21, and Anthony Revak, 22, all of Wildwood were charged Feb. 13 with possession and intent to sell drugs. Police made the arrest during a traffic stop at 3:52 p.m. at milepost 18 of Route 47 near Route 83. The three men were also charged with hindering apprehension for allegedly providing false names. They were lodged Feb. 14 in the count jail in lieu of $100, 000 bond. 
Condo Confusion
NORTH WILDWOOD – Bill DeMesquita has owned his 17th Avenue condominium for three years. Last week, he joined the ranks of approximately 500 owners in Wildwood and North Wildwood identified as being in violation after an audit by the state Department of Community Affairs. “The letters are confusing. I really don’t know what they want us to fix or how to go about fixing it,” DeMesquita said. “JCOW has been completely unhelpful. They don’t return phone calls and can’t answer questions.” DeMesquita maintained that his builders didn’t know anything about misdesignation in the permitting process. The Joint Construction Office of the Wildwoods has reportedly filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to determine the responsibility of its office, property owners, condominium associations, developers, and designers regarding fire code violations at 79 island properties.  JCOW also didn’t return this newspaper’s phone calls.   
House Fire
VILLAS – Villas and Erma fire companies responded to a house fire at 25 Evergreen Avenue here Feb. 11 about 7:42 p.m. Firefighters found heavy smoke coming from the house. The fire was under control by 8:15 p.m. Fire scene investigation showed the fire was accidental and started in a west bedroom where oxygen bottles were stored. Several bottles ruptured causing minor explosions. The cause of the fire was determined to be accidental.
Don’t Con a Cop
ERMA – Lower Township Police Detective Chris Lambert stopped to investigate a car parked on the side of Breakwater Road here Feb. 14 at 10:15 a.m. He was approached by Susan A. McCullen, 40, of Wildwood Crest, who stated she was working for the county prosecutor’s office and was trying to get the driver to make a drug buy. According to a police report, McCullen asked Lambert to leave, so she could finish the sale. The detective discovered she was lying and McCullen was found to have six bags of heroin, under 50 grams of marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. She was lodged in county jail under $15,000 bail. The car’s driver, Jose M. Cruz Jr., 45, of Woodbine was charged with possession of four bags of heroin. He was processed and released under his own recognizance.
Show Scam
COURT HOUSE – Debbi Fitzpatrick of Ocean City pled not guilty Feb. 16 on two counts of theft by deception and three counts of uttering a forged instrument. She is charged with duping investors who thought they were funding a Las Vegas staging of Phantom of the Opera. Despite receiving $567,000, which must be returned to investors, the show was never produced. Fitzpatrick is also charged with providing forged documents indicating the show would be staged at the Tropicana Casino Resort. She could face more than 10 years in prison. Fitzpatrick returns to court March 2.
Let the Dog Out
COLD SPRING – Lower Township police observed what they believed to be a drug transaction taking place at a commercial fishing facility off Ocean Drive Feb. 17 about 1:45 p.m. Police had been conducting undercover surveillance of the location. Detectives approached a vehicle one of the participants had entered. The car contained a pit bull that was acting aggressively. An occupant of the car yelled to another occupant to “let the dog go.” Detectives drew their handguns in case the dog was released. Investigation led police to believe that the car the alleged participant entered was not involved in a drug transaction. The participant was identified as Charles Ham III, 30, of Wildwood. He was found to possess 20 bags of suspected heroin, 20 bags of suspected cocaine, and a small amount of marijuana. Hamm was charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute. He was lodged in county jail under $75,000 bond.
Assault Charge
WHITESBORO – Police arrested Anselmo Anderson of this community Feb. 19 on charges of aggravated assault, criminal restraint, and terroristic threats along with various weapons offenses. According to Middle Township police, Atlantic City Police reported a domestic violence victim was admitted to Atlantic-Care Hospital Feb. 19. Investigation revealed Anderson reportedly threatened her life, punched her several times, and attempted to stab her with scissors while she was at his residence on Route 9. He reportedly refused to let the victim leave his residence, holding her against her will for four hours. Anderson was lodged in county jail under $25,000 bail.
PETA Contacts Taylor
OCEAN CITY – The world’s largest animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a plea to County Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor urging him to vigorously prosecute James Kelly IV, 18, of Somers Point, who faces charges of allegedly fatally attacking an 11-month old Chihuahua owned by his girlfriend. According to police, Kelly allegedly beat the dog and stuffed it into a portable toilet. The dog was found barely breathing four hours later and was euthanized due to severe injuries. PETA is recommending incarceration of Kelly, if he is convicted, along with a thorough psychological evaluation followed by counseling at his expense. In a letter to Taylor, PETA notes repeat crimes are common among animal abusers and urges any animals owned by Kelly should be confiscated.
MUA Talks to Resume
SWAINTON – Negotiators for the county MUA and its new employes union, Teamsters Local 331, are slated to resume contract talks March 7 and 9, according to MUA Executive Director Charles Norkis.  Some 100 employes have  been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2004, or a raise  since Jan. 1, 2004. They unanimously turned down a contract endorsed by their  negotiators in March 2005. It provided for pay increases of 4 percent a year for four years, and increases in employe contributions to their health insurance. 
Insurance Contract
CREST HAVEN – The county has awarded a $1.25-million contract for liability insurance to St. Paul Mercury Insurance Company. NIA Group Associates, the county insurance  broker, recommended St. Paul’s price quotation as “the lowest responsible…received.” The firm had the contract last year.
Older Adults Funds
CREST HAVEN – The county has received its annual grant to fund the social services delivery system for older adults. It totals $661,642, almost evenly divided between the federal and state governments.
‘Complete’ Route 55
CREST HAVEN – Freeholders Feb. 20 approved a resolution urging the county’s state legislators to support the completion of Route 55 “into Cape May County” as well as funds for rail lines. Although citing “gridlock conditions” on summer weekends, it said the need was “particularly” in the event of a hurricane when it would be necessary to evacuate “local residents and visitors, many of whom have one or more disabilities and/or are older, mature adults.”
Sharing Vets
CREST HAVEN – The county has signed professional services agreements with  seven veterinarians to provide services to the county animal shelter “on an alternating schedule.”  They include Abri Animal Hospital, Baysea Veterinary Hospital, Cape Veterinary Hospital, Parkway Veterinary Hospital, Shore Veterinarians, and South Paw Animal Hospital. No one facility can charge more than $17,500.
Select Appraisers
CREST HAVEN – The county has signed professional services agreements with five appraisers to provide appraisal services, primarily  for the county Farmland Preservation and Open Space Program. They include Daniel Donovan of Cedar Grove, Ronald Hagel of Vineland, Conover Appraisal Associates of Galloway, J. P. Bainbridge & Associates of Court House and Metro Appraisal Services of Marmora.
Nix Development
SOUTH SEAVILLE – The county has approved purchase of a development easement on 29 acres at 357 Fidler Road owned by David Frie and Dana E. Frie. Price was $7,190 an acre or a total of $208,510. This is the farmland preservation portion of the county Farmland Preservation and Open Space Program.
Shipping Sludge
CREST HAVEN – The county MUA has agreed to accept for processing at its sludge composting  facility here sewage sludge from the Lower Township MUA at a price of $300 per dry ton. The one or two loads a week will make up “only a small percentage of the total…” the county MUA said. Exception: the MUA doubts it will have available capacity July 10 through mid-August, the peak summer season.
Sex Offender Objects
COURT HOUSE – Donna Cooper, 38, ranked as a Tier 3 offender under Megan’s Law, protested outside the county courthouse Feb. 14 after being told she would be made to wear a GPS tracking anklet, and would lose her state-supported rental unit March 31. The Villas resident was convicted in 1992, and told this newspaper she had remained out of trouble since that time. She vowed not to eat anything until her case was heard. She seeks to be reclassified as a less dangerous offender, something that would take a court hearing.  Therapist George Ackley, who classified individuals here for Megan’s Law, reportedly stated Cooper had been stable a long time. She also plans to protest the loss of housing through regular channels.
Citizen Leusner
COURT HOUSE – Charles M. Leusner, Middle Township deputy mayor, who previously held the chief executive’s post, made his decision public Feb. 17 not to seek reelection in November. The 58-year-old retired Middle Township High School business teacher also retired from the state Division of Travel and Tourism in December. Leusner has held a seat on township committee since 1983. He told this newspaper he believes it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to serve. Leusner enjoys vacationing in Clearwater, Fla., where he and his wife, Carla, have a condominium. He intends to maintain a home in Middle Township. Three Republicans have indicated an interest in the seat, and Democrat Steve Barry announced his candidacy for the seat Feb. 17. See story elsewhere in today’s edition. Republicans are also gathering petition signatures for a five-member committee as a referendum question on the November ballot.
Crash in Cold
COURT HOUSE – Middle Township police found it puzzling when they arrived at the scene of a one-car crash Feb. 11 about 10:40 p.m., in the area of South Dennis Road and the county Park and Zoo entrance, no people were present. Police initially hoped that Coast Guardsmen in a helicopter could help them, but stormy, cold weather prevented that. Their lead came about 6:15 a.m. Feb. 12 when a woman’s car slid off the road near the Atlantic Cape Community College entrance, and two Hispanic males approached her, wanting to use her cell phone. She refused, but alerted police who tracked the pair to the 4-H Fairground where the ill-clad men spent the frigid night. Police arrested Jesus Costenzega Morales, 28, of Goshen, for leaving the accident scene, being uninsured and careless driving. His passenger was Raul Ocampo Torintino, 28, of Hammonton.
Off to War
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Some 150 airmen, members of the 177th Fighter Wing departed for Iraq Feb 19. The movement brings to over 200 unit members serving Operation Iraqi Freedom at Balad Air Base, Iraq. They are one of three units will provide F-1C aircraft, pilots, and support personnel to aid the 332nd’s Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base.
SEAVILLE – A 12-year-old boy was hit by a minivan while attempting to cross Route 9 just south of Route 50 Feb.16 just prior to 3 p.m. The boy, whose name was not released, was flown to the trauma center at Cooper University Hospital in Camden. The driver, Francis Galle, 83, of Dennis Township was not cited in the accident.
Fire Guts Home
WOODBINE – A water heater was the apparent cause of a 3:03 p.m. fire that destroyed the Robert Rowells’ home on Grant Avenue Feb. 20. The fire was fueled by wood paneling and planking, that caused it to spread quickly. The house was gutted even though Woodbine fire crews arrived on the scene only six minutes after being called. Dennisville and Belleplain crews also responded. Tuckahoe backed up Woodbine volunteers for nearly an hour.

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