Daily Archives: October 3, 2011

Taxpayers First ??? Not in “Your Middletown”

by guest blogger Linda Baum

If you’ve been driving anywhere in Middletown, you can’t miss the big red and white signs that claim Mayor Fiore puts “taxpayers first”. That’s been the line for years now. That the Republican majority continues to use it shows their arrogance. Sadly, they have managed to keep so many of us in the dark.

I suppose they should feel confident. Remember last year when our Republican-controlled Town Committee left you with the impression that a 13.4% municipal tax increase was just 2.8%? They had at their disposal all sources of communication coming out of Town Hall – the town’s own newspaper, press releases, robocalls, and a tax information sheet all delivered straight to your home and paid for with your tax dollars. You were probably scratching your head back then. And I bet, like me, for a while you were uncertain of your own basic math skills. And that was the idea – not to inform, but to mislead. That is not how you serve taxpayers. What they did was deliberate and dishonest, and completely self-serving.

The Republican party’s control over information in Middletown has gone on for years. If you have ever asked a question at a Town Committee meeting, you may have experienced that first hand, and it has never been more true than it is now that an all-Republican committee sits on the dais.

Residents have just two opportunities each month – the first and third Monday — to connect with our representatives, but they don’t seem to want to talk to us. If you’ve been brave enough to stand at the microphone and ask nearly anything, you’ve most likely been made to feel like an annoyance. You’ve got just five minutes – that’s the rule. Use it or lose it, and no second chances after you sit down. If you aren’t satisfied with the answer you get, they may invite you to stay after the meeting when no one else is there to hear them. Or you can always try again at the next town meeting, if you don’t mind being scolded for being repetitive. I was, and my question went unanswered to boot.

It would be downright comical if it weren’t true. If you don’t believe me, then grab your popcorn and come down to Town Hall. You’ll have to catch the live show because town meetings aren’t televised in Middletown like they are in so many other towns. That’s for lack of funds, supposedly, but let’s see what the story is in 2014 when $200,000 in grant money becomes available from Comcast specifically for that purpose. What excuse will our Republican majority give then for continuing to keep us in the dark?

You won’t find much information about what was discussed at meetings in the Town’s meeting minutes, either. If you really want to know what happened, read “It’s Your Town Hall”, newsletter that are written by town resident Don Watson, who took it upon himself to attend town meetings and to keep others informed about what’s going on. If you want to be included in his distribution, send an email to Itsourtown@yahoo.com.

If taxpayers were really first, governmental proceedings would be accessible to all residents no matter what their schedule or ability to attend meetings, including those who are disabled or have limited mobility. And by the way, those folks are still waiting for the Township to fully comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Money is lacking, town officials say, among other reasons given for delays. However, since that law was enacted, our republican-controlled town committee has poured money into a host of costly unnecessary projects when better less-costly alternatives existed – the Pool Club and Arts Center are examples. Taxpayers are not only paying the debt for these purchases, but hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual upkeep as well.

And did you know that the town’s appointed engineer – the same firm now for 40 years –pockets about $1 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds awarded to them as no-bid contracts? Think how much tax relief could have been provided by putting those engineering contracts out to competitive bid. That’s money that could have been returned to you or used for other purposes. If taxpayers were really first, our republican majority would have done just that. Instead, members of that same engineering firm can be seen celebrating with republican candidates every year on election night. If it sounds like pay to play, that’s because it is. And you’re paying for it.

Somebody is first in Middletown, but not taxpayers. Not in a very long time. On November 8th, you can change that.

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Filed under americas with disabilities act, Arts Center, Middletown NJ, municipal tax rates, Robo-calls, Swim Club, tax increase, tax payers first

Pallone Announces Monmouth Beach Replenishment Scheduled to Begin

Long Branch, NJ – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. Monday announced the contract for Monmouth Beach replenishment has been awarded to Weeks Marine in the amount of $12,913,250. Work on beach replenishment is expected to begin by November.

“The wind and flooding during Hurricane Irene proved how important beach replenishment is to the communities that receive it,” said Pallone. “Beach replenishment protected the shore during the storm and as a result of storm damage this project is all the more necessary.”

Work on this project is possible due to Pallone’s requests for funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In May, Pallone announced $7.5 million for beach replenishment in Monmouth Beach. This $7.5 million is in addition to roughly $2.5 million that had been banked for this project through funding secured by Pallone in previous years. The last allocation of $7.5 million allowed the Army Corps to move forward with awarding a contract.

“Now the work can begin. This project will make a significant impact in the community,” Pallone added.

Tight budget constraints and an aversion to targeted funding for all projects nationwide were obstacles that Pallone overcame in fighting for New Jersey funds. The money was approved as part of the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution that funded the government through the end of the year and was approved in April. This is the largest funding allocation to this project in recent years.

In addition to this beach replenishment project, the Army Corps of Engineers in May approved funding for three additional projects. The South River Flood Control Project was allocated $250,000, which will allow the Corps to continue with the Preconstruction, Engineering and Design phase. The Shark River maintenance dredging project was allocated $496,650 for maintenance dredging, which will enable the Corps to dredge the river’s inlet this year. Also, $207,000 was allocated for the Raritan and Sandy Hook Bay, Highlands project, which will enable the Corps to complete the feasibility study.

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Filed under Army Corps of Engineers, beach replenishment, Congressman Frank Pallone, Hurricane Irene, Monmouth Beach, press release, Sandy Hook bay

Middletown Board Of Education Seeking Applicants To Fill Empty Seat Once Again; Deadline Oct 14th

The Middletown Township Board of Education is seeking interested Middletown Township citizens who meet the legal requirements to serve on the Board of Education.

Legal requirements for becoming a member of a local board of education are:

• An ability to read and write.
• Citizenship and one year’s residence in the district.
• No interest in any contract with, or claim against, the board.
• Not hold office as mayor or member of the governing body of the same district.
• Registered to vote in the district and not disqualified as a voter under N.J.S.A.19:4-1.

Interested citizens are required to submit a resume and/or letter of interest to Mrs. Joan Minnuies, President of the Board of Education, 834 Leonardville Road, Leonardo, NJ 07737, or P.O. Box 4170, Middletown, NJ 07748, stating their desire to serve on the board and their ability to handle the position. Submissions must be received by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, October 14, 2011.
The Board of Education will make the appointment for the balance of the 2011/2012 school board election year.

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Filed under applications, Middletown Board of Education, vacant BOE seat

Letter – Grenafege & Fowler Support Open Government and the Broadcasting Public Meetings

To the Editor,

Late one weekend night I was flipping t.v. channels to view my new expanded line-up, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a lively meeting of the Howell township committee. Enthralled, I watched for over 45 minutes. Howell’s public service channel carries videotaped committee, planning and zoning meetings, repeated often and available for download.

My own township officials in Middletown adamantly refuse to offer videotaped meetings, which would be helpful for all, especially older people, workers, and people with disabilities. Are the officials fearful that they could not compete with :”Dancing with the Stars”? Committeeman Scharfenberger said that it would cost $100,000 to tape meetings, a gross exaggeration, then asserted that even at no cost he would not approve.

Candidates Jim Grenafege and Carol Fowler support open government, including videotaped meetings. It’s time for a change in township committee members.

Sincerely,

Carolyn Schwebel
Leonardo, NJ

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Filed under Carol Fowler, Carolyn Schwebel, Democratic Candidate, Jim Grenafege, letter to the editor, Middletown NJ, Public meeting, Video taping or recordings