Category Archives: the Independent

Dec 19th Hearing on the Ordinance Adding Two Additional Trustees to the Library Board: M’town Patch & Independent articles contain inaccuracies

By guest blogger Linda Baum

If you are a regular to Mike’s blog, by now you are well informed about the Library’s $500,000 transfer to the Township this year and the Town Committee’s plan to increase the number of Library trustees from 7 to 9 in 2012.

A public hearing on the Ordinance increasing Board membership was held at the Town Committee meeting on Monday, December 19th. Several reporters were present at the hearing. Mike Davis’s article in the Independent and Sue Morgan’s in the Middletown Patch were posted within a day or two. While they get points for timeliness, they lose some for accuracy.

Sue Morgan misstates the amount of the Library’s annual budget as $700K – it is $3.7M – but that is a minor error compared to the second to last sentence of her article. She wrote:

“Under an agreement hammered out by both the board and the committee, the township is now carrying the debt service on the library’s parking lot which recently underwent extensive repairs, the mayor added.”

The statement is inaccurate in two ways. As far as I know, there was no major work done to the lot recently, and the Library did not proceed with its lot expansion. Further, per the agreement this year between the Library and the Township, the Library has only two options for covering the cost of its capital improvements – they can pay cash or they can make the debt service payments on bonds (or notes) issued by the Township.

I don’t recall Mayor Fiore making the statement as it reads in the Patch article, and I think it can be attributed to an intentionally misleading comment he made, as quoted in the Independent, about encompassing “some of [the Library’s] capital projects into [the Township’s] capital program, including their parking lot and solar projects.” That made it sound like the Township is paying, but there is no cost to the Township for either the lot expansion or the solar project, which is a power purchase arrangement that involves no capital outlay.

Both the Independent and Patch articles included comments made by both Melanie Elmiger and myself. Melanie presented her comments very well at the hearing and I think they were captured fairly accurately in the articles. However, I think some of what I said was misrepresented in the Independent.

I would like to set the record straight, so here is a recap of my comments at the hearing along with excerpts from the Independent where I feel Mike Davis missed the mark.

Mayor Fiore has been framing the increase in Library Board membership as just an increase in public participation, with no other motive. So if more participation is a good thing for the Library Board, I questioned why that isn’t also true for the Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) Board and for the Town Committee itself, both with just 5 members each controlling budgets of $9 million and $60 million, respectively. In contrast, the Library Board currently has 7 members, soon to be 9, overseeing a budget of $3.7 million.

My point was that the Town Committee’s stance about the need for more public participation on the Library Board runs counter to their stance about the participation levels on other boards & committees. (Keep in mind the Town Committee has resisted the formation of a finance committee that would increase public participation and oversight of its own activities.)

Mayor Fiore replied that TOMSA has 7 board members, and I was quick to correct him that it is a 5-member board with 2 alternates, where only 5 vote at any time. Fiore again insisted, incorrectly, that there are 7 members.

Besides the inconsistencies in board size, there are also inconsistencies in oversight. I compared the Township’s scrutiny of the Library’s budget and operations to its hands-off approach to TOMSA and said that a consistent policy was needed. Fiore said that they do oversee TOMSA and that the money TOMSA gave to the Township – $730K over the last two years – is proof of that. Ridiculous. As I see it, that handout could just as easily be interpreted as a concession to avoid scrutiny. Regardless, it certainly can’t be construed as proof of oversight.

(An aside: If the Town Committee is really overseeing TOMSA and is so gung ho about public participation, how is it the TOMSA Board was able to avoid the public’s eye recently by ignoring a legal mandate to publish notice of their budget hearing? And shouldn’t oversight of TOMSA’s budget entail elimination of unwarranted expenses, such as medical and pension benefits for Board members? The Township has sanctioned these costs!)

Mike Davis’s article contains some partial quotes, inaccuracies, and re-ordering of comments that, combined, miss the point I was trying to make. He describes my comments as follows:

“Public participation is a good thing. You see [that] nine members are needed to oversee a $3.8 million budget,” she said, also citing the seven members who make up the Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority.”

The Township Committee was not exempt, she said.

“Right now you have five people on the Township Committee controlling a $60 million budget. It seems to me you need a consistent policy here. If you’re going to watch one closely, watch them all closely,” Baum said.

I think that anyone reading that would have trouble following my logic. Also, he makes it sound like I’m arguing in favor of the two additional appointees to the Library Board, which I wasn’t. I’m against it given the current political environment, but I admit I may not have stated that outright. I didn’t organize my comments as well as Melanie did, so I can understand if there was confusion.

Leave a comment

Filed under Board of Directors, Board of Trustees, budget surplus, guest blogger, Linda Baum, Middletown Library, Middletown NJ, Middletown Patch, public hearing, the Independent, TOMSA, Tony Fiore

The Independent’s Election 2011 Middletown Profile : Independent runs for Mid’twn Township Committee seat

For those that are unaware there is a Middletown Republican turned Independent who is running for a seat on the Middletown Township Committee this year, his name is Richard Morrill.

After last night’s Meet the Candidates forum sponsored by the Oak Hill Association, which turned raucous at times over some of Morrill’s responses, it was a clear case of room-packing and planting adversaries against a former Middletown GOP insider.

Below is his Q&A that appears in this week’s Election 2011 Candidate profile published in this weeks edition of the Independent.

Q. What do you believe is the main issue facing Middletown? If elected to the Township Committee what specific steps would you take to tackle this issue?

MORRILL: Taxes. I would like to look to re-engineer how the township operates by analyzing all departments one at a time. I would bring a fresh pair of eyes and ears with experience in re-engineering departments.

Q. What are your qualifications to serve on the Middletown Township Committee?

MORRILL: I feel I am qualified to serve on the Middletown Township Committee due to my success in re-engineering numerous departments at Barclays Bank, saving in excess of $10 million per year. I also managed multiple construction projects in multiple buildings and multiple states, including one valued at $27 million. All came in on time and under budget. I managed an average of 150 people at a time.

Q. Are there any issues facing Middletown that you specifically want to address?

MORRILL: The other issues that I want to specifically address are the spending in Middletown, the supervision of employees, the pricing for professional services and the appointments of individuals to committees and boards in Middletown so that all residents are represented. I would like to encourage new businesses to come to Middletown by assisting and courting them to create jobs in the township.

Leave a comment

Filed under candidate Q and A, Independent Candidate, Middletown GOP, Richard Morrill, the Independent

Letter: Middletown needs balanced Twp. Committee

The letter below appears in this weeks edition of the Independent.

I ’ve heard so many people say with defeat, “It didn’t used to be like this.” They are talking about our town officials’ apparent disregard for the residents they serve.

Middletown has been ruled for many years by a Republican majority. Our five-member Township Committee is all-Republican this year, and many residents would agree that things seem worse than ever .

There is a saying: If you keep doing the same thing, you can expect the same outcome. If we want to make things better in Middletown, we need to choose better representatives who put residents above all.

OnNov. 8, we fill twoTownship Committee seats. It’s our chance to put some balance back on the dais. But we need to vote in both Democratic candidates, not just one. We need two people who together guard our interests in order to make a real difference.

One reason is because it takes two votes to get any issue discussed — one committee member to make the motion, and another to second it. Without that critical second vote, an idea — no matter how good — dies on the vine.

There is a long list of issues that our Republican officials refuse to have a conversation about. And right now, they don’t have to. We can’t force them. They can do just exactly as they please, without any justification, no matter what it costs you. And if you’ve been paying attention to your tax bills, I don’t need to tell you what the price has been.

There’s another reason why having two Democratic representatives is so important. It takes four votes out of five to approve new debt. Three alone can’t do it, certainly not without having a real conversation about it first.

Paul J. Jansen
Middletown

Leave a comment

Filed under Democrats, letter to the editor, Middletown Township Committee, Republican Majority, the Independent

The Independent’s Election 2011 Middletown Profile : Grenafege and Fowler’s Repsonses

Last weeks edition of the Independent had the first of it’s political profiles of candidates running in local area elections, starting of with Middletown.

There’s nothing new or informative listed within the profile’s of Tony Fiore or Stephanie Murray.

Fiore talks about how he cut $4 million from the Township budget and how he negotiated a 25% heath and benefits contribution from the Township’s police union, but fails to mention that the tax rate didn’t go down; it went up by 3%.

Stephanie Murray doesn’t seem to have an original idea in her head and just parrots much of what Fiore and her republican handlers have told her about taxes, affordable housing (COAH) and open space.

If you want to read about them you can go to the article at the Independents website but below are the Independent’s questions to the candidate’s and the responses from just the Middletown Democratic Candidates Jim Grenafage and Carol Fowler

I only list their responses because they are the candidates that are speaking about changing the status quo and stating that Middletown can do better for it’s residents :

Q. What do you believe is the main issue facing Middletown? What specific steps can and will you take to tackle this issue?


GRENAFEGE: The main issue facing Middletown is the lack of elected and appointed two-party representation. The lack of twoparty representation allows the majority to avoid accountability and in-depth substantial discussion of a basket of issues that Middletown faces. This allows a lot of items to be discussed in public more than they are now. I’m an advocate for small, open representative government focused on local tax relief. I position myself as a champion for fiscal responsibility, government accountability and open access to public information.

FOWLER: The main issue facing Middletown is tax increases. I would eliminate wasteful spending. Let’s get rid of what we can’t afford in this town. The Middletown Arts Center and the swim club are just a couple of examples. Our township cannot sustain such frivolous spending when we have seniors who can barely afford to purchase food and homeowners who lose everything when a tropical storm sweeps through, with no solution in place for their longtime flooding predicament. I truly believe in spending within our means.

Q. Why are you qualified to serve on the Middletown Township Committee, or what have you done during your committee term that qualifies you to serve again?

GRENAFEGE: I’m a critical thinker and I really do take an outside the-box approach when exploring an issue or a problem. I really try to look at it differently. Most importantly, I really care about the quality of life for all the residents in Middletown. I have regularly attended township meetings since 2005 because I do care, I do show up and I do speak out. I see that as a qualifier. I’ve been at this for years now as a citizen. I’m engaged in the process.

FOWLER: We’re at a critical point now where people no longer see Middletown as livable. Homeowners are really in a crisis, and I really want to help these people. My children went all through Middletown public schools and cannot afford to buy a house in Middletown. It’s my vision to restore this town to what it was — a reliable and affordable place to live and for tomorrow’s generation to enjoy quality education and to be free of excessive debt burden.

Q. Are there any other issues facing Middletown that you specifically want to address?

GRENAFEGE: I think it’s critical to create a bipartisan finance committee. I would look at revitalizing the recreation program. We made a $400,000 investment in a master plan a few years ago that is collecting dust. I would advocate for a strategic planning committee, a vision and a mission from a longview perspective. I would advocate televising Township Committee meetings. We also need to start looking at how we can create a revenue stream, which means having a lot of conversations with the business community.

FOWLER: I would explore more shared services opportunities between the township and the Board of Education, like consolidating all maintenance of public property in the town under one body. Money could be saved by eliminating health benefits for appointees to our sewerage authority. Law firms that make money on public work but also direct work that is very valuable to other professionals can be put on notice that Middletown deserves to not be fleeced by hourly fee attorneys and engineers


Leave a comment

Filed under candidate Q and A, Carol Fowler, Democratic Candidate, Jim Grenafege, Middletown Township Committee, the Independent

Middletown Board of Education Gets Their Man; George Lured Away From Hazlet

In a press release issued by the Middletown Township Board of Education earlier today, it was announce that the board of education finally found their new Superintendent of Schools.

The Middletown Board of Education was successful in luring Hazlet’s current school superintendent William George away to take over the Middletown school system.

According to his terms of employment contract William George will be compensated handsomely for agreeing to come to Middletown. George will be paid the equivalent of $187,500 a year for the next 4 years, 9 months of the contract length.

In order to pay Mr. George such a large sum of cash, Middletown needed to get the approval of the Commissioner of Education in order to exceed the cap on Superintendent salaries that Governor Christies implemented earlier this year, as I stated in a previous post .

I hope all works out well for Mr. George when he finally takes over the reigns of Middletown School system sometime in December ( he must give Hazlet 60days notice before taking over in Middletown). God knows that the school system needs some stability to bring back a little credibility after such a turbulent year thus far that has seen 3 Board of Education members resign there positions and 4 Superintendent presided over the school system by the time George takes over.

Middletown Patch has posted William George’s resignation letter to the Hazlet Board of Education, it’s interesting and worth the read for anyone that wants to know a little bit about Mr. George and his accomplishments in Hazlet.

________

Update: The Independent also has an article published today on the hiring of William George as Middletown New School SuperIntendent – check it out

Leave a comment

Filed under Hazlet NJ, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Patch, school superintendent, the Independent, William George

Letters To The Independent Expressing Outrage Over Cancellation Of Fall Brush Pick-Up

This letter appearing online today and in print tomorrow in The Independent sums up how some residents feel towards the notion that Middletown has decided to suspend the fall brush collection and fine anyone putting debris curbside this year.

It just happens to be a nice and coincidental accompaniment to my earlier post.

I have been living in Middletown since January of 2003 and have a totally different view of the brush collection than what was described in the Aug. 11 issue of the Independent (Brush collection at issue in Middletown).

The leaf collections in my district have usually been designated around Nov. 1 of the year. The leaves don’t start falling until Oct. 30 and aren’t finished falling until Dec. 1. I don’t have anything to put out on Nov. 1. It’s unrealistic to think that a leaf pickup can be made around Nov. 1; in general, the leaves haven’t fallen and been gathered until around Thanksgiving.

As long as I can remember, there has been a brush pickup around the third week in August. No one is even thinking about pruning anything during the dog days of August, but since it’s been that way for the past eight years, I started to work in my yard around Aug. 1. I didn’t put anything out, because I was waiting to get the flier in the mail giving the dates. When it didn’t arrive, I checked the Middletown website and it was frozen for about two weeks because a new website was being initiated.

When I didn’t receive my tax bill in the mail, I decided to check for tax information on the Middletown website. While I was looking for the tax deadlines, I saw there was a notice that the brush pickups had been completed and as of July 20, the pickup was suspended until next spring. It came as a complete surprise to me.

As I walked around the area, I mentioned the pickup suspension to neighbors and friends, and no one knew there was going to be a suspension of the brush pickup until the spring.

Your article mentions that some people have put brush out. Of course they have; after all, they’ve been living here for years and there’s always been a brush pickup around the third week in August. No notices have gone out to state otherwise. Surely they could have put a notice in with the tax statements and bills.

The winter of 2009-10 was particularly brutal — ice storms, heavy snow, high winds. There was a tremendous amount of damage in Middletown; it seemed no one escaped it. Our property had huge pine limbs down, from my yard, from neighbors’ yards, blocking sidewalks; everywhere you looked therewere problems. In late February as soon as the snow melted, my husband and I started to make some progress to fix fences, cut limbs and pile up debris on our property. Then on March 13 we had a horrendous wind and rainstorm and that morning when we opened our garage door we had a huge pine tree come down. Thankfully there was no one harmed, no damage to the property, but still a huge tree down.

A leaf pickup had been scheduled for March 18 because the leaf pickup in this area had been in early November and no one had leaves out then because there wasn’t much down at that time. Most of the leaves had been crushed and frozen, so there wasn’t much to put out. Then on the night of March 17, as my husband and I returned from dinner out, there was a message from the township on our answering machine. It was 8 p.m., March 17, and there was a message on my phone that the pickup for leaves and brush would begin on the morning of March 18. We couldn’t believe our ears. The next morning my husband left for work at 6 a.m., and at 7 a.m. I started hauling the logs, limbs, leaves, brush, you name it, out to the street.

By 10:30 a.m. I was exhausted, and there they were, doing the pickup. Maybe 10 percent of it was out. What was I to now do with the 90 percent that remained, including a huge pine tree that needed to be chopped up? That Saturday morning, some friends came to help us and they had a truck and helped us get the debris to the dump. We had gotten a huge 14-hour notice on the pickup — someone must have gotten a big laugh out of that, but believe me, it wasn’t me.

Yes, people do put brush and leaves out too early sometimes — it happens. It seems that not too much thought goes into the scheduling of these pickups and there’s a sincere lack of organization and planning. I have registered on the township website and I have gotten alerts about storms and electric problems, and I think I should have gotten a phone message or an email alert about the suspension of the fall brush pickup. Now I’ve been spending my time breaking brush up into plastic bags and bringing it toKane’s Lane and cleaning my car out after every pickup. Thanks a bunch, Middletown!

Now let’s get to the point of fines. I’d like to fine someone for not picking up my spring pickup until the last week of June this year. That was a disgrace! It was a traffic hazard and a pedestrian hazard, especially where there are no sidewalks. Maybe the citizens should start fining government and things will get straightened out.

Anne and Tom Cafiero Middletown



Leave a comment

Filed under brush and leaf pickup, DPW, fallen branches, letter to the editor, Middletown NJ, storm debris, the Independent

Letters To The Independent Expressing Outrage Over The Demotion Of Dr. Shallop Have BOE Members Defending Reassignment of Principal

According to the this weeks edition of the Independent (already posted online), many residents had sent letters to the publisher this past week, expressing outrage over the action taken by the members of the Middletown Board of Education that lead to the demotion of the very popular Principal of Middletown High School South, Dr. Anthony Shallop.

So many letters in fact that the Independent felt compelled to follow-up on these letters of support by contacting BOE members for a response, all of whom defended their decision to reassign Dr Shallop to his previously tenured position as a teacher at High School South via email.
…Board Member Vincent Brand said in an email that his decision was based on the facts relevant to the issue, which by law cannot be discussed in public because the issue remains personal and confidential.

“It would have been easy to vote the popular vote last night, but that would have been, for me, unethical to do so.”

According to Brand and board Vice President Christopher Aveta, the board gave Shallop a chance to address the issues prior to the vote.

“I fought hard for Dr. Shallop to get into executive session so that he would have every opportunity to impact the vote and so that he could hear directly from the board the specific issues at hand,” Brand said.

“He was given that chance and could not positively affect the outcome.”

Board member Michael Donlon was the only board member to vote against the reassignment.

“I had not been totally convinced the decision was correct, therefore I could not go along with it,” he said in an email.

“Granting tenure to someone is not a decision that is taken lightly,” board President Joan Minnuies said in an email.

Minnuies said that the decision was three months in the making and involved discussions with the district’s central office and Shallop.

“I feel that the information provided to the board by both the central office and Dr. Shallop himself has convinced the board that the decision we ended up making was the correct one,” she said….

This vague reasoning by BOE members is a little hard to swallow based on some of their comments. It seem as if the decision to reassign Shallop was made long in advance and no matter what he would have said to the Board in Executive session, his words would not have been convincing enough to change their minds and will remain a mystery until someone decides to break the silence and explain what really went on between Dr. Shallop and the BOE that lead to his reassignment.
Comments left on my previous post on this subject are full of speculation, name calling and innuendo as to the real reason why Anthony Shallop was stripped of his duties as Principal of High School South and reassigned back to his original teaching position that he had held before becoming principal a couple of years prior.
Some of the comments seem to have merit while others are a little farfetched, you can read them and decided for yourself which ones seem legitimate and which ones are bogus. The bottom line however, is that when the truth comes out someone will have egg on their face and will have some explaining to do.
The Independent posted online two letters that were sent them supporting Dr. Shallop in his fight to retain his position. The letter sent by Patricia Wood,Resident heartbroken over Board of Ed. action, was referred to in the article posted by the Independent, while the other written by Judy Krivitzky, Parent urges Mid’twn BOE to reconsider principal’s removal (An open letter to the Middletown Board of Education and Interim Superintendent Patrick Houston), collaborates and supports much of what is contained in Patricia Wood’s letter.
They are both worth reading, as is the article about the BOE defending Shallop’s reassignment. Somewhere in between the three, the truth lies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dr. Anthony Shallop, Joan Minnuies, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown South High School, reader comments, reassignment of duties, school principal, the Independent, Vinnie Brand