Wednesday, April 26, 2017

HOME MAINTENANCE LOAN PROGRAM ANNOUNCED


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WHAT, AN EXTRA DAY OF SCHOOL? OOPS!

The same week that the school district discovered that it was required by law to offer world languages in elementary schools and changed its budget plan at the last hours to accommodate that need they also realized the school calendar had an extra day.

Because of that, a notice was sent to parents alerting them that there would be no school on Friday, May 26 -- the Friday before Memorial Day.

The notice, found HERE, said only that "an extra day had mistakenly been scheduled  for June."

It also notes that a delayed opening will now be held on the day after Memorial Day, May 30th. While no reason is given in the notice, Superintendent John Ramos said on Monday night that it would be for staff to have some kind of training in response to the recent string of bias incidents that included swastikas and offensive comments found at some schools.

OUSTED CHS BASEBALL COACH FISCHETTI LANDS NEWARK POST

Fischetti
Former Columbia High School baseball coach Joe Fischetti, who was forced out of his CHS coaching job after former players' claims of bullying, is back on the field in an assistant coaching role at nearby Newark East Side High School.

East Side Head of Athletics Adrian Bosolasco confirmed the hire, but declined to comment further on it Tuesday.

East Side Head Baseball Coach Steve Campos, a former CHS freshman baseball coach, said he was glad to bring Fischetti aboard when he took the top coaching spot at East Side this year.

Campos
"East Side's been asking me to come back and I came back to take the job," said Campos, who had coached on the Newark campus from 2003 to 2010. "When the opportunity came up, I said, 'why don't you take me and Fischetti so we can all be together."

Fischetti left CHS coaching ranks at the end of last summer when the school board chose not to rehire him for the 2017 season. He remains a tenured physical education teacher at Columbia.

His departure ended a very lengthy and difficult time for the baseball program, which saw Fischetti accused of several instances of harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) dating back two years.

Those claims led to the hiring of an outside investigator last spring to look into the charges and the school board's decision to search for another coach for the 2017 season. One former student, David DeFranco, also filed a lawsuit against Fischetti, other coaches and the district claiming abusive treatment, which has yet to go to court.

Last fall, CHS hired James Whalen, a physical education teacher at Valley View Middle School in Denville who had been an assistant baseball coach at West Essex High School in North Caldwell since 2002, to coach the Columbia varsity baseball team.

Asked about having Fischetti as an assistant given his problems at Columbia, Campos said, "I'm happy to have him here, the kids love him ... Columbia's loss is East Side's gain."

CARJACKING LEADS POLICE WEEK

From Maplewood Police:

April 23, 2017; Carjacking; At approximately 8 PM, a male parked his vehicle at Express Laundry World and left the vehicle running.  He came back to the vehicle and observed a male inside of it and he attempted to open the door, but was unable to.  The male then began pulling away and the victim jumped onto the vehicle as he was driving away.  The victim fell off of the vehicle in Irvington a short distance away and was subsequently transported to Rutgers University Hospital for Treatment.

April 17, 2017; Vehicle Theft; During the overnight hours, an unsecured vehicle was stolen from Bowdoin St.  It was later recovered in Newark.

April 22, 2017; Theft from Vehicle; At approximately 6:45 PM, a male was observed attempting to steal tools from an unsecured work van on the 200 black of Elmwood Ave. The owner confronted the male who put the tools down and fled into Irvington.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

IF THIS MORNING'S TRACK DELAYS WEREN'T ENOUGH, POWER LINE PROBLEMS DELAY NYC TRAINS AGAIN

From NJ Transit tonight:

MidTown Direct trains are subject to up to 60 minute delays, and are expected to escalate, due to Amtrak overhead wire problems between the yard and Penn Station New York in the East River Tunnel.

NJT rail tickets and passes will be cross honored on NJT bus, Private Carriers and with PATH at NPS and NY-33rd Street and Hoboken.

YET ANOTHER DISABLED TRAIN DELAYING NYC TRAINS

From NJ Transit:

Trains are subject to up to 45 minute delays in and out of New York, due to heavy congestion caused by an earlier disabled Amtrak train in Penn Station New York.

Beginning with train 6628 (10:25am arrival into NY), Midtown Direct trains will operate into Penn Station New York. 

NJT rail tickets and passes will be cross honored on NJT bus, Private Carriers and with PATH at NPS and NY-33rd Street and Hoboken.

SCHOOL BOARD GIVES FINAL APPROVAL TO BUDGET AND TAX HIKE; ELEMENTARY SPANISH REINSTATED

The school board on Monday gave final approval to the 2017-2018 school district budget that includes a $130 million spending plan and a tax hike of 3.56%, or an average increase of $249 per home in Maplewood.

The board voted, 8-1, on the budget adoption, with Board Member Johanna Wright voting no.

As we reported last month, the budget includes the addition of some 14 staffers, including many middle school teachers, but with cutbacks in other teaching positions as well as fewer supplies and some textbooks.

The budget had initially included a cutback in elementary school Spanish programs that currently affect fourth and fifth graders. But those were reinstated just this week after district officials realized they were required by state law.

"Our due diligence has revealed that it is required by the state," Board President Elizabeth Baker said.

To offset that reinstatement the board chose to eliminate plans for two new math intervention instructors at the same $150,000 cost.

The budget includes a 3.56% tax hike in Maplewood. That means the average Maplewood home assessed at $396,992, and currently paying $8,474 in school district taxes, will see a $249 increase to $8,723.

The tax hike is above the 2% annual state cap because the district is using what is known as "banked cap," which is an increase not taken in prior years.

The budget includes the addition of 11 employees. Among them are six middle school teachers (three at each middle school), one elementary school teacher, one special services teacher, a new high school assistant principal, one custodial supervisor, one part-time nurse and a part-time safety and security director.

But the budget also cuts between eight and 14 other employees, with up to five teachers - including Freshmen Latin classes at CHS, two physical education, and one each in math and science.

And another $1.7 million is saved through cutbacks in other staff, as well as books, sabbaticals and health care spending.

The budget adoption occurred on the same night that the district received two reports on future enrollment projections, which continue to rise, and the effect on overcrowding and building maintenance needs. They noted the changing demographics in the two towns, which indicate a rise in white populations and a reduction in those of people of color.

Several board members spoke out with frustration at the ongoing cost increase and lack of revenue, as well as state funding limits.

"I believe that this community as well as much of this state has been living under a financial delusion with a 2% (tax increase) cap and our clearly neglected facilities for decades and that it was just going to work out," Baker said.

Board Member Madhu Pai added, "We are making it impossible for certain groups of people to move into these towns because of our taxes. We need to invest, but we also have to be careful that we don't turn into Chatham because of who we allow to move into our towns." 

AFTER DISPUTE OVER LEAF REMOVAL CONTRACT, FIRM REFUSES TO TAKE THEM

It's been three months since the Township sought to hire a firm to remove tons of leaves collected last fall from town streets. 

But they're still piled up next to the recycling center on Boyden Avenue awaiting removal. 

And they're beginning to stink.

"The neighbors are complaining because it has an odor to it and it is only going to get worse," Township Administrator Joe Manning told the Township Committee last week when he updated them on the situation.

What's the problem? The company that was hired to remove the leaves last month has refused, claiming they are contaminated. 

"We have a situation that is somewhat emergent," Manning explained at the meeting, later adding, "the contractor who we have a contract with to remove the leaves is refusing to remove the leaves because he says the leaves are contaminated, although he has provided no proof. We have no way of testing this."

That contractor is S. Rotondi & Sons of Chatham, which was chosen from among six firms who bid for the removal contract way back in January. 

Originally, the lowest bid was $6.87 per cubic yard (or $109,920) from Mazza Mulch Inc. of Tinton Falls, according to a memo from Public Works Director Calvin Bell to Township Administrator Joseph Manning provided to the Township Committee in February.

See that memo HERE.

But S. Rotondi & Sons initially contested the awarding of the contract to Mazza, claiming the firm did not possess the proper N.J. Department of Environmental Protection permit to haul the leaves. 

Bell reviewed Mazza's qualifications and found it did not have the permit and could not haul the 700 cubic yards of leaves required under the contract.

Bell indicated he then sought to award the contract to the second-lowest bidder, Marilyn Haggerty Farms of Washington. N.J. But a review of its bid found it lacked some proper certificates to operate within the contract.

Bell then suggested awarding the contract to S. Rotondi & Sons, which came in third with a bid of $6.94 per cubic yard (or $110,040).

But there was an initial delay in late February when Mazza objected to the awarding of the contract to Rotondi & Sons, claiming his firm could handle the job. The TC tabled approval until a review of Mazza could be completed.

Two weeks later, on March 7, the TC denied Mazza's objection and awarded the contract to Rotondi & Sons.

Fast forward to this week and Manning revealed that Rotondi had refused to remove the leaves, prompting the TC last week to pass an emergency resolution that allows Manning to hire another firm without bids so that they can be removed quickly. 

As of Monday, the job had still not been done, but Manning said it would be moving ahead by Wednesday.

"It is a problem because those leaves are there and they are usually gone six weeks already," Mayor Vic Deluca said at the meeting.

Stay tuned!