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From the Editor – Joe Zelnik – 6.14.2006

By Rick Racela

I get a pay check here (yes, they pay me for this) every two weeks and each time I scan it for combat pay or something extra for going to bimonthly county MUA meetings.
Not that there is anything wrong with the MUA. The staff is competent and professional and the commissioners are nice folks, if you like hanging around with Republican activists. Four of the seven, plus the wife of another, are GOP committeepeople, for example.
I just feel that, as the only reporter there – and it’s at night half the time when I could be watching TV- I deserve special compensation.
Sewage, sludge, and trash are not very sexy, but they are important.  Where would we be without them?  More accurately, if it weren’t for the MUA, where would we be with them?
My problem is that I usually don’t know what the heck they’re talking about. I pretend to take notes and then the next day I call Charlie Norkis (executive director) and say, “What did they do?”
Norkis has the ability to make complex things understandable. And he has found that, with me, there is no such thing as too simple. Talking to me last week about towers, he explained that “they stick up in the air.”
It was with considerable relief and anticipation last week, that I noted Wastewater Program Manager Bill Cathcart was reporting to the commissioners on “The Joint That Failed.”
I leaned back in my chair –  the chairs are very comfortable – and waited to hear about why some bar in Wildwood went broke.
Unfortunately, Cathcart was reporting on a hunk of a rotating biological contactor (honest) at the Seven-Mile Middle Sewage Treatment Facility that fell apart.  Or something.
Words can often be misinterpreted. I should know. I’ve been stringing them together since high school.
For example, there’s a sign in Stone Harbor that reads DaVinci Code Over the Edge/ Break Up the Omen.
One might expect this to be the sermon at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, but actually it’s on the marquee of the Harbor 5 Movie Theater.
Cathcart had other exciting news.  The MUA has been selected by the EPA to participate in a study of raw sewage sludge. The results will show where we stand in comparison to other places.
I’m sure all of us know some people who think their sludge doesn’t smell.
Cathcart said the sludge study should show “where all the pharmaceuticals people are taking now are going.”
That information, presuming it shows half the people in this county are on drugs, could have helped the Prosecutor make his case for more staff, but it will be too  late.
If our sludge is better than anybody else’s, which is likely, it’s yet another pitch for the county Chamber of Commerce and, possibly, the tourism industry. No tourism pitch is too crass, if it works.
For example, it will be denied, but that two-month episode of the 150-ton excavator stuck in the sand on the Avalon side of Townsends Inlet was strictly a stunt to attract visitors at a relatively quiet time. 
Many who came to gape stayed on to buy donuts or get haircuts.  A number of realtors and business people actually argued, privately, that the thing  be left in the water as a tourist attraction, one that would gain appeal as the concrete ship slowly vanishes off Cape May Point.
There’s a certain larcenous attitude prevalent in Avalon.  They stole the county’s library services. They stole Stone Harbor’s egrets and herons. And some would steal the appeal of a sunken anything.
Stone Harbor would never steal anything. It just copies, or imitates. Avalon had a skateboard park, Stone Harbor built a skateboard park.  Avalon redid its downtown streets; Stone Harbor came up with a new gateway.  Avalon has a senior center and community center; Stone Harbor wants to build a multigenerational recreational center. Marty Pagliughi buys a pair of shoes; Suzanne Walters buys a pair of shoes.
Probably the most useless thing Stone Harbor is about to copy from Avalon is spending money to hire a p-r firm. Seven Mile Beach needs a p-r firm like I need styling gel.
In answer to a question from MUA Chairman George Betts about the agency’s “hurricane plan,” Cathcart said the message is pretty simple: “Shut down and get out.”
“Winter storms” are worse, he said, because people don’t leave and the MUA has to keep operating and dealing with the problems.
Among things that aren’t always what they seem is Frank LoBiondo’s race for congress. He reportedly thinks he’s a shoe-in against the unknown Viola Thomas-Hughes, and is planning to spend only $200,000 of his $2-million war chest.
What he doesn’t know is that Thomas-Hughes intends to drop her maiden name, Thomas, and campaign as another Hughes.
Second Congressional District voters loved Democrat Bill Hughes and Viola Hughes intends to confuse the voters on that issue and win their votes.
Some will say this is a ridiculous plan because Viola Hughes is an Afro-American and Bill Hughes is not.
But 2nd District Democratic chairmen recently gathered to view an advanced computer program called “Morphing.”  It provides instant makeover analysis and, lo and behold, the Dems concluded that only a few simple procedures applied to Viola Thomas-Hughes could produce a Hughes to whom voters will flock.
LoBiondo will have to spend a heckuva lot more than $200,000 to put this one away.

Spout Off

North Wildwood – Great job by those resurfacing North Wildwood Boulevard.

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