A Knollwood Elementary Flashback

First grade with Mrs. Kamin at Knollwood in 1966 Photo/School picture
First grade with Mrs. Kamin at Knollwood in 1966
Photo/School picture

It all just seemed so simple then. Going to school and living in Fair Haven.

We were neighbors and friends. We walked and rode our bikes to school. And we couldn’t wait to find out who our teacher would be. We always found out in time to talk about it at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair.

So, back in 1966, a class of familiar community faces found out that they had Mrs. Kamin for first grade at Knollwood School.

That year was the beginning of a lot of longstanding friendships and neighborhood bonds. Treasured time.

Treasured time that warrants a look back in our Retro Pic of the Day and an anecdote about remembrance and gratitude. Remember where and how it all started and how lucky we all were to have had one another in our lives, many for a long time.

Mrs. Kamin still lives in Fair Haven. Some of these kids are grownups still living in town. Some have, sadly, passed. Some still have family here. Some are running businesses here and live one or a few towns away.

Recognize anyone? What did you learn from them or your time in that first grade class in Rumson or Fair Haven? What stuck with you most?

Rewind to Rumson Mayor, Oceanic Bridge Reopening

Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl gives a speech at the 2012 opening of the Oceanic Bridge. Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl gives a speech at the 2012 opening of the Oceanic Bridge.
Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl takes a tour of the gatekeeper's quarters of the Oceanic Bridge in 2012. Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl takes a tour of the gatekeeper’s quarters of the Oceanic Bridge in 2012.
Photo/Elaine Van Develde

Yes, the Oceanic Bridge is going to need some new imminent, unexpected repairs.

And, yes, that means the bridge will be closed to all vehicular traffic for about three weeks, from the day after Memorial Day to June 12, Monmouth County officials have announced.

The much-needed complete replacement of the historic bridge is slated to happen within the next 10 years.

But, about this time three years ago, in 2012, major repairs thought to have taken care of safe travel for the interim, were completed.

The bridge, after being completely closed for a time, reopened to much fanfare.

Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl was up close for the official reopening of the drawbridge section. And he got a tour of the gatekeeper’s quarters.

So, the Retro Pic of the Day takes a look back on that day.


Oceanic Bridge to Close Before Summer Takes Hold

Just when they thought the temporary fixes to the Oceanic Bridge were coming to an end, and traffic could proceed as usual, Monmouth County officials have announced that the bridge needs more major work and will be closed from May 26 to June 12.

The April structural steel and concrete deck repair work to the bridge that spans the Navesink from Rumson to Middletown revealed the need for more significant repair work critical to safe traverse.

Two of the bridge’s four main bearings are in imminent need of repair and the other two will be fixed as well, Monmouth County Engineer Joseph Ettore said in a release. The bearings are part of the mechanism that supports the bascule and flanking spans on the bridge approaches, he explained.

The $653,650 needed for the additional repair work on 100-foot bascule span of the 2,712-foot historic drawbridge was authorized by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders at its April 24 meeting.

The Board of Chosen Freeholders authorized $653,650 for the repairs to the 100-foot bascule span of the 2,712-foot historic drawbridge at its April 24 meeting.

“It is prudent to lift the bridge spans and perform the repairs to all four of the bearings,” said Ettore. “The bearings in need of immediate repair are on the eastern side of the bridge, but the county is also going to repair the bearings on the western side of the bridge.

“The nature of the work repair requires that the bridge load be relieved by lifting the bascule and approach spans off of the bearing. To accomplish this, the Oceanic Bridge must be closed to motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic.”

During the period of complete closure, the bridge will still be open for marine traffic, seasonal rules and scheduling will be in effect, the release said.

The hold-off of the total closure until after Memorial Day weekend was scheduled to accommodate the holiday traffic, officials said.

Working around the clock will make it possible to open the bridge to all traffic just a few weeks into the start of the summer season, they added.

Preparation for the bearing work will start immediately and continue weekdays through May 21.

That work may require full overnight closures of the bridge from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. from May 13 to 15 and May 18 through 21, the release said.

The bridge will be open to all traffic from May 22 through Memorial Day on May 25.

Detours will be posted. But, standard alternatives are: from Rumson to Middletown, motorists should travel east and north through Sea Bright and Highlands to Middletown; and, from the Navesink and Locust sections of Middletown, motorists are advised to travel east and south through Middletown, Highlands and Sea Bright to Rumson.

Built in 1939, the Oceanic Bridge has deteriorated due to decades of exposure to saltwater and from accommodating heavier vehicles and traffic volumes than for which it was designed, the release said.

In 2012, extensive rehabilitation work was done to the bascule span, or drawbridge portion, in the center.

It is slated for total replacement within the next 10 years. Area residents have rallied to maintain the original design of the drawbridge.

Monmouth County received notification from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) Board of Trustees in January that $600,000 in federal funding was available to perform a Concept Development Study for the replacement or rehabilitation of the Oceanic Bridge.


Police: Local Man Arrested, on Heroin Dealing, Possession Charges; $41.5K Bail

An area man is being held in jail on heroin dealing and possession charges.

Ronald Scott Newell Jr., 47, of Route 36 in the Leonardo section of Middletown, was arrested on April 28, by Middletown police officers Stephen Greenwood and Thomas Hughes of the Anti Crime Unit, and charged with: possession of heroin, possession of heroin with the intent to distribute, possession of heroin within 500 feet of a public park, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a hypodermic syringe, a release from Middletown police said.

The arrest came after an investigation by Middletown police into alleged narcotics activity, police said.

Newell was transported to Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold.


Fair Haven Faces Proposed Tax Hike

By Elaine Van Develde

It’s not yet set in borough books, or even officially been introduced; but, if there are no cuts from the draft, Fair Haven property owners could be facing an average hike of roughly $102 in municipal taxes in 2015.

Average means what quantifies as the current average assessed property value in the borough of $720,900, up from $688,540 last year, Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande said at Monday night’s Borough Council meeting. It actually means a lower tax rate per $100 of assessed value, but the rise in average assessed value naturally raises the rate on the average home.

What it boils down to is that “the conceptual average home will pay 101.83 more than it did in 2015,” Casagrande said. “I want to make it clear that this is not 1-2-3 Main Street. I could sit here and tell you that our tax rate is going down, but (the reality is that) as your average assessed value increased what we did was we calculated what an average assessed home paid this year versus what the average assessed property paid in 2014.”

In the grander scheme of budget talk, it means that spending plan in the borough, with its budget rough draft, went from about $8.3 to $8.4 million, or roughly a 3 percent increase.

The amount to be raised by taxation, or “appropriations minus revenue,” has been drafted at $6.1 million for 2015, calculating an increase of $231,591.

The number is arrived at from figuring the “combination of a slight increase in appropriations with a reduction in anticipated revenue,” which Casagrande said is down this year by about $148,000. That loss is largely due to the borough not being able to calculate in the $117,000 it got from FEMA last year for Hurricane Sandy damage.

A portion of the tax hike blame rests with unavoidable standard raises in employee health care costs and pensions, which, this year, will cost the borough $437,696.

“It’s a good budget. We have to maintain a level of affordability with quality municipal services,” Council President Jonathan Peters, liaison to the borough Finance Committee, said. “We don’t want to be a high cost, low service town.”

And while most council members at Monday night’s council meeting called the spending plan, in the works since January, a “good budget,” Councilman Robert Marchese said he “cannot stomach raising taxes. This gives me pause. Period. We need to care about seniors and those living on a fixed income. Taxes just can’t keep going up.”

And all that has been considered, Casagrande said, mentioning that there is a senior tax abatement program via the state dubbed Senior Freeze for which many have already applied. The income limit for the program is $85,553.

And, Mayor Ben Lucarelli said, when considering per capita expenses, or municipal services offered, Fair Haven is beyond the high end, comparatively, at about $1,397 on an average per capita spending of $1,295 to $1,350 in small versus large towns. But, he said, the services provided are much better than those in larger towns with lower taxes.

When that per capita number is lowered, “the level of services drops dramatically,” he said. And, he added, Fair Haven is known for providing a premium of municipal services that most people, in his experience, do not want to do without.

With this budget, officials said, a lot of the debt service in the borough, or $189,00, was wiped out, bringing the total debt down to $3 million.

“We’re now at the same level we were at in 2008,” Lucarelli said. “The budget has been chopped down and creeped up since then, but has never exceeded the 2008 number.”

For six years straight, from 2008 to 2013, Fair Haven boasted holding the line on municipal taxes, which comprises a little more than 20 percent of the tax bill, with no municipal tax hike (and one minuscule decrease) until last year.


Fair Haven Baseball: A Sign of Contention

By Elaine Van Develde

It’s a sign of baseball times in Fair Haven and something that officials think is a foul ball thrown onto the borough’s fields.

Officials discussed at Monday night’s Borough Council meeting what amounted to the latest microcosm in a longstanding quandary over donations to the baseball program in the borough with corporate sponsorship strings attached — most recently, a donated scoreboard that comes with a large corporate sponsorship plaque.

“We were told about it when it was en route,” Mayor Ben Lucarelli said. “Now it’s at the DPW (Department of Public Works). The kids want the scoreboard. It’s a nice donation. But it should be just that — a donation. It’s not proper to have what amounts to a commercial ad sitting on public fields. There should be no strings attached. They should be coming to us on things like this and asking our permission. I don’t vote, but, I move that we allow the sign to be erected without the sponsorship plaque.”

Council members agreed. But the agreement didn’t end without a  recount of what they called an uncooperative history of Fair Haven Baseball, a separate non-profit (501c3) entity, taking corporate sponsorships and advertising on banners in the public fields without any communication with borough officials.

The fact that “Fair Haven Baseball just threw up sponsorship signs against our will is just bad behavior,” Councilman Rowland Wilhelm said. “These fields rely on borough resources to maintain.”

It’s a matter of public versus private interests, Council President Jonathan Peters said.

“It’s been a bone of contention,” the mayor said. “Back in the day, things were simple. There were no sponsorships, no separate organization, just volunteers.”

The teams organized and played ball wherever they could. Then came a non-profit baseball organization and Fair Haven Fields. The fields are maintained and improved by the borough — to the tune of about $.5 million most recently.

They are public property, by virtue of not only the fact that the fields are owned and maintained by the borough, but that they were purchased with NJ Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres funds. As such, in accordance with Green Acres parameters, they must be kept open to the public and preserved as recreational open space.

Herein lies the dilemma. Since the old days, Fair Haven has decentralized its Recreation Department. So, Fair Haven Baseball has become the separate organization that it now is — a non-profit.

Commercial sponsorship donations are garnered to support the organization via various advertising methods like the banners. A large chunk of the funds that that they do receive, officials noted, do go toward Fair Haven Fields’ maintenance.

But, there is a conflict of interest when commercial entities advertise on a public property. Yes, officials said, you see it all the time on major league baseball fields. But the ownership of those fields is a different story. There’s a corporate investment from the onset.

“In the end, the goal is to have a good season and get the kids to Cooperstown,” Lucarelli said. “These are good volunteers. But, they forget that they’re in Fair Haven and the ballfields are owned by the borough.”

And, the Fair Haven Baseball gets exclusive use of the fields. No one else can play when they are scheduled.

“At the end of the day, the scoreboard is here,” Lucarelli said.

Council voted to erect it without the sponsorship plaque.

As for the future, “Can we give them a scathing letter that says, ‘If you do this again, the answer will be no?’ ” Councilwoman Susan Sorensen, liaison to the Recreation Department said. “Enough is enough.”

The board will take about three days to install, officials estimated. When, exactly, it will be erected has not yet been determined.



A Little Knollwood Chamber Music

The following is an edited press release from the Fair Haven School District:

Did you make it to the Knollwood School Chamber Music Recital?

If not, here’s a look back at the March 23 evening:

The performances were based on the definition of the original 18th century chamber music — music played by a small ensemble, with one player to a part.

Continue reading A Little Knollwood Chamber Music

Arresting News: Contempt, Non-Support

The following arrests on contempt of court charges were reported by the Middletown police.

• Daniel Hayes, 32, of Johnson Avenue in Matawan, was arrested on April 19 by Patrolman Charles Higgins on a contempt of court warrant issued by the Middletown Municipal Court and on a non-support warrant issued by the Monmouth County Superior Court.

He was held pending a court date.

• Jesse Ballard, 24, of Birchwood Lane in Middletown, was arrested on April 20 by Patrolman Jason Andrews on a contempt of court warrant issued by the Middletown Municipal Court.

He was held on $258.00 bail.

• Kevin Finnegan, 54, of Walter Street in Keansburg, was arrested on April 19 by Patrolman Jason Andrews on a contempt of court warrant issued by the Middletown Municipal Court.

He was held on $1,000 bail.

• Robert Difortuna, 35, of Normandy Court in Middletown, was arrested on April 20 by Patrolman John Soltysik on a contempt of court warrant issued by the West Long Branch Municipal Court.

He was released after posting $500 bail.

Stacy Milanes, 27, of South Hope Chapel Road in Jackson, was arrested on April 20 by Patrolman Ricardo Cruz on a contempt of court warrant issued by the Middletown Municipal Court.

She was released after posting $250 bail.

• Jose Padro, 18, of 7th Avenue in Long Branch, was arrested on April 22 by Patrolman Joshua Midose on a contempt of court warrant issued by the Eatontown Municipal Court.

He was released after posting $200 bail.

Rewind: FH Chief Breckenridge’s Police Unity Tour Ride

Fair Haven Police Chief Darryl Breckenridge and daughter Witney at the Police Unity Tour 2013 Photo/courtesy of Chief Breckenridge
Fair Haven Police Chief Darryl Breckenridge and daughter Witney at the Police Unity Tour 2013
Photo/courtesy of Chief Breckenridge

It’s the time of year for police officers to “ride for those who died” in the Police Unity Tour.

And at Monday night’s Fair Haven Borough Council meeting, Mayor Ben Lucarelli took a moment to recognize that Chief Darryl Breckenridge would be embarking, once again, on the tour set to depart for Washington D.C. on May 9 and arrive on May 12.

“Good luck Chief,” the mayor said at the meeting. “And thank you for all you do.”

So, the Retro Pic of the Day offers a glimpse back to 2013 and the chief’s ride, his daughter Witney by his side then.

The chief said she would not be joining him this year, but he’s set for the roughly 350-mile ride on his bicycle.

In addition to creating awareness, the ride raises funds for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.

The event, which started in 1997 with 18 riders was designed to bring “public awareness of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty and (to) honor their sacrifices,” according to the Unity Tour’s website. It garnered $18,000 then.

The Unity Tour, as of last year, had raised $16 million. About 20,000 officers who died in the line of duty are memorialized at the Washington memorial.

Good luck to the chief and all other area police officers riding in this year’s tour!

Author Offers Writer’s Insight to Fair Haven Students, Parents

The following is an edited press release from the Fair Haven School District:

“Nothing in the creative process comes out absolutely beautiful the first time around,” children’s books author Lester Laminack recently told a group of Fair Haven parents. “If you focus on what your child did well – rather than what went wrong — then he or she will be encouraged to add more good things to the piece.”

Continue reading Author Offers Writer’s Insight to Fair Haven Students, Parents

Police Report: Marijuana Possession, DWIs & More

The following arrests were made between April 17 and 27 and reported by the Middletown police. An arrest does not constitute a conviction.

• Richard Torres, 24, of Brook Forest Drive in South Toms River, was arrested on April 19 by Patrolman Richard Belmonte and charged with possession of under 50 grams of marijuana.

He was released pending a court date.

• Ronald Ahlholm, 51, of Second Avenue in Atlantic Highlands, was arrested on April 21 by Patrolman Scott Davis and charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI).

He was released pending a court date.

Continue reading Police Report: Marijuana Possession, DWIs & More