Union County News: The Week in Review
Patch takes a look back at the stories that made headlines this past week in Union County.
School Budget Passes: Residents throughout Berkeley Heights came out and voted in overwhelming support of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education’s proposed budget throughout the afternoon of Wednesday, April 27.
The budget passed with 1432 votes in favor and 884 opposed, a margin of 548 votes.
Seats Filled: On Wednesday, the public also voted to fill two vacant seats on the Board of Education. Both current Board of Education President Paul Beisser and Dr. Gerard Crisonino, who were up for re-election, saw overwhelming public support in defeating challenger Ronald Davison. Beisser received 1414 votes, while Crisonino received 1311. Davison would received 678 votes.
Mountainside Passes School budget for 2011-2012: Educators and many community members alike had reason to celebrate Wednesday evening, as the Mountainside Board of Education’s 2011-12 budget proposal was approved by the voters. The budget, which passed with 591 votes in favor over 395 votes against, seemed to have been generally well-received by Mountainside residents as they took to the polls throughout the afternoon.
The district will now look ahead to the 2011-12 school year having also filled three vacant Board of Education positions with Wednesday night’s election. Incumbent Cathy Jakositz led all three-year term candidates with 582 votes, which was just seven votes more than newcomer Dante Gioia received (575) to take the second three-year seat. Both candidates beat out incumbent Maureen Hess, who received 418 total votes.
Budget News: For the past two years, the school budget has not passed in the borough of Garwood, but in Wednesday's election, with 446 voting in support of the 2011-2012 budget and 191 opposed, it passed. A second question asked if an additional $134,744 should be raised "to be used exclusively for extra-curricular activities including athletics; additional periods of art, music and full day kindergarten and the transportation and benefit costs associated with these programs" which did not fit under the state-mandated two-percent cap and also passed. The budget's resulting tax levy will translate into an approximately $34 decrease for the average household, while the second question will raise taxes approximately $72 per household, leading to a net average increase of $38 with both approved. Also, the two uncontested Board of Education candidates on the ballot, Aaron Watkins and incumbent Christine Guerriero were elected, as was write-in candidate Linda Koenig, to fill the three open BOE seats.
The Clark 2011-2012 school budget also passed in Wednesday's elections, with 885 of residents voting in support of the budget and 388 opposed. The budget's resulting tax levy translates into an approximately $33 increase for the average taxpayer and a hike of three tax points. In addition to the budget, Clark elected to keep current Board of Education members Michael Bonaccorso, Carmen Brocato and Laura Caliguire, whose terms were up and who ran unopposed.
Local Store Owner Arrested: Cranford Police arrested Cranford resident Peter Baker on April 27 for allegedly issuing checks to customers that bounced at the bank totaling $4,850 over a two-month-period, said Det. Sgt. Gerard Quinn of the Cranford Police Department. He has also been charged with taking $5,600 from customers by deception.
Baker was released from Union County Jail after posting $7,500 bail pending a first appearance in Union County Superior Court on May 2.
Baker is the owner of Cranford High School athletics-themed store Cranford Corner at 415 Centennial Avenue. Police said the arrest is a result of a two-month-long investigation stemming from six customers who said varsity letterman jackets they ordered in October and November did not arrive. Some customers reported that they asked Baker for a refund and received a bad check from Baker that bounced at the bank.
Budget Passes: The $52 million proposed budget for the Cranford School District passed by 500 votes today, administrators projecting the tax rate, currently $2.773 per $100 of assessed property value, will increase by 10 cents next year.
Joann Boyle, Michael Caulfield and Trevor Shaw have also been elected to three-year terms as members of the Cranford Board of Education. All three candidates ran uncontested for three available seats.
More Apartment Units? Another development set to rise up in downtown Cranford might be growing a little larger.
The Township Committee voted 4-1 Tuesday night introducing an ordinance that if passed would allow the developer Garden Homes to add 18 more apartment units to the Riverfront Redevelopment area, making a total of 124 proposed units. Three units would qualify as affordable housing and sold under the market rate.
The units will make up an entirely new fourth floor on one of the five buildings that will be contructed on 3.5 acres of South Avenue by Chestnut Street across from the train station.
School Budget Passes, Wolak and Krauss Re-Elected: The citizens of New Providence spoke loud and clear on Wednesday,passing the proposed 2011/2012 school budget and re-electing incumbent John Wolak and retired Board of Education member Ira W. Krauss.
The budget passed by more than a 2-to-1 margin, with 1,049 votes in favor and 504 opposed. Wolak received 992 votes andKrauss received 716 votes. Candidate Gail Libertucci was defeated, receiving 682 votes.
Council Adopts Municipal Budget: On Monday night, the New Providence Borough Council unanimously adopted the 2011 Municipal Budget that includes a 2.89% tax increase and $17.5 million in expenditures.
The proposed budget allows New Providence to boast the second lowest tax increase out of eight peer communities, with 20,000 residents or less, in Union County, and spend $967 per person on a per capita basis. The 2011 tax for the average home is $2,582, which includes the $73 tax increase on the average assessed home of $282,000. The $73 increase is in line with the state average.
Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance Removed From Agenda: After the adoption of the Municipal Budget on Monday night, the council moved on to discuss the introduction of an ordinance that would amend the Alcoholic Beverages ordinance.
Ordinance 2011-8, which was voted down by a 3-2 vote at the April 11 meeting and placed back on the agenda by Mayor J. Brooke Hern for a second discussion, would amend “Chapter 109 Of The Code Of The Borough Of New Providence Entitled ‘Alcoholic Beverages.'"
Under the current ordinance, enacted in October of 2009, police officers may enter a private residence where individuals under the age of 17 are illegally consuming alcohol. The amended ordinance would allow police officers to enter a private residence where individuals under the age of 21 are consuming alcohol.
But before the subject could be discussed, the item was removed from the agenda by a 5-1 council vote.
During the public comments section of the meeting, Tracy Beckerman, Chairperson of the New Providence Alliance to Prevent Drug and Alcohol Abuse, made her disappointment known.
Beckerman, who was prepared to speak on the subject with Deputy Chief Scott Torre, was outraged by the decision. She said that the latest round of concerns expressed by the council have not been addressed, and believed the council’s actions to be politically motivated.
Township Dedicates 9/11 Memorial: On Saturday, Scotch Plains unveiled the design for a new memorial to three residents who were victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The memorial, whose design was unveiled at the ceremony, will incorporate a 10-foot steel beam from the World Trade Center, and will be dedicated Sept. 11.
School Election Results: Scotch Plains and Fanwood voters resoundingly approved the 2011-2012 schooled budget Wednesday, and elected Fanwood resident Jeanne and Scotch Plains residents Douglas Layne and Warren McFall, an incumbent, to the Board of Education. For the full results and story, click here.
Caracter Charged with Battery: New Orleans police arrested Fanwood-native and Los Angeles Lakers rookie Derrick Caracter last Sunday for allegedly shoving an IHOP waitress, the Los Angeles Times reported. Caracter, who averaged two points and one rebound in 41 regular season games and has remained on the Lakers' inactive list through the first round of the NBA playoffs, was charged with battery.
Council Allocates Six-Figure Sewer Surplus: The Scotch Plains Mayor and Township Council voted 3-2 last Wednesday night to use most of a $780,000 sewer-utility surplus to offset predicted rate hikes in 2012 and 2013, rather than to refund money to ratepayers this year. It also voted to allocate the remaining portion to pay for a sewer-inspection and cleaning vehicle, rather than to finance the purchase through bonds. The decision sparked what at times was a contentious debate between the Democratic and Republican council members. To read the full story, click here.
Beset by Burglars: Springfield police warned residents and business owners this week of burglars targeting the township, both with distinct methods.
Springfield Police say a burglar has been targeting Springfield homes with enclosed front porches. The burglar looks for houses with front porches because the porches front doors are often left unlocked, and the porch walls provide him cover to break into houses unnoticed. Once inside the enclosed porch, he kicks in the front door to the house with the porch concealing his activity from neighbors or persons on the street.
The porch-lover hasn’t been the only active burglar in the area. Police say another man has broken into offices in Springfield and surrounding towns. According to Springfield Police, the suspect will wait until businesses close, and then enter the main doors of the office buildings, which are usually unlocked. Once inside the building, he reportedly uses a tool, likely a flat head screwdriver, to pry open interior office doors.
Police say the man, pictured in photos taken by surveillance cameras, isn't picky about what business he breaks into, but seems to favor law firms. In surveillance photos, the suspect is seen carrying an over-sized envelope. Police believe he uses the envelope to explain why he's at the offices.
Election news: One incumbent and two newcomers were elected to the Westfield Board of Education during Wednesday's school election, which saw the school budget pass. Rosanne Kurstedt topped the field to capture her first term on the BOE, with Mark Friedman placing second to win his first term and incumbent Ann Cary placing third to win her third term. Twenty-percent of Westfield voters participated in the election.
Even though Jessica Blessing suspended her Board of Education campaign in early April, she received 290 votes in the election, a number which surprised her. Blessing's name could not be removed from the ballot due to her suspending her campaign after it was too late for the county clerk to change the ballot. Blessing did not vote for herself.
Westfield Loses Beloved Teacher: Franklin School first grade teacher Kelly Finkel lost her battle with cancer on Wednesday. Finkel is survived by her husband, Darren, and their young daughter.