Blogs > Hamilton in focus

Covering Hamilton and Robbinsville townships in-depth for The Trentonian. I can be reached at (609) 989-7800 ext. 207 or (609) 468-6962. Email me at or follow me @awisefool.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bencivengo trial postponed to Nov. 9

    HAMILTON — Add the trial of Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo to the list of proceedings thrown into the wind in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s trip through New Jersey.

    Jerome Ballaratto, Bencivengo’s attorney, said that from conversations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, it was not likely jury selection would begin as scheduled Monday.
    “It’s going to go soon, I just don’t know when,” he said.
    The federal courts in Newark and Trenton will be closed through Friday, making rescheduling of other cases a factor. Several calls to the US Attorney’s Office in New Jersey were not returned Wednesday.
    Ballaratto said he and the attorney’s office were concerned about the jurors, many of whom come from Ocean and Monmouth counties, two of the areas hardest-hit by Hurricane Sandy.
    “We’re wondering whether it is even fair to ask them to do it under this situation,” he said.
    Bencivengo has been indicted on federal corruption charges, after allegedly taking $12,400 in bribes from a cooperating witness, whom sources have identified as Marliese Ljuba, in exchange for influencing a member of the school board on behalf of her employer, Vineland-based insurance broker Allen Associates.

    Bencivengo has maintained his innocence and stated in a financial disclosure filed after his arrest that the money was a loan and not a bribe.
    Rob Warney, a former member of the board and Director of Community Planning and Development in Hamilton, plead guilty to charges that he acted as the middleman for the bribes to Bencivengo. In addition, he admitted in his plea that he had previously taken $10,000 in bribes in 2006-2007 to vote for Allen Associates original three-year contract.

Trenton area starts cleanup after 'Frankenstorm'

A woman walks past the roots of some overturned trees on a Gainsboro Road property in Lawrenceville in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. (Trentonian photo/Jackie Schear)

Margaret McClease moved from North Carolina to New Jersey to get away from hurricanes. Sitting in the shelter at Joyce Kilmer Elementary School in Trenton Tuesday afternoon in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, she reflected on the decision.
“I have never seen a storm like this,” she said. “But I don’t want to go back down south because it will be worse again.”
She moved from Hunterdon County to Trenton in June, and went to the shelter at the school Tuesday morning after losing power, heat and hot water in the storm.
Sitting in Kilmer with about 40 other residents of the city, she wondered when she or her daughter would go back to school — she attends Mercer County Community College — and when she would get power back in her home.
Many residents of the metropolitan area were asking the same questions Tuesday when cleaning after the storm, many without power.
Hurricane Sandy knocked out power and utilities for more than a million residents of New Jersey with wind, rain and flood waters Monday and Tuesday, downed thousands of trees and took more than three dozen lives, according to the Associated Press, including one man in Princeton.
Princeton Borough Police Capt. Nick Sutter said police responded Monday night to a call that a man had been trapped under a fallen tree on the 1000 block of Great Road. Police and EMS attempted first aid before pronouncing William Sword, 61, dead at the scene. Sutter said they did not know why Sword had been out on his front lawn.
You can read the full story here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Live updates of traffic problems, road closures and flooding

I'll be updating thsi map of road closures here throughout the day.

Live coverage of Hurricane Sandy

You can check out our live chat here:

Most schools are closed today. Forecast calls for as much as 10 inches of rain and hurricane-force winds.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Robbinsville cop arrested in bizarre attack has brain condition

The Robbinsville police officer arrested after assaulting a woman and her 4-year-old son inside their home has had his bail reduced after being diagnosed with a neurological disorder.
Casey DeBlasio, the spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, said in an email that Sergeant Mark Lee, the 44-year-old 18-year veteran of the township’s police force, has been diagnosed with a neurological disorder which involves calcium deposits on the brain.
Mercer County Judge Pedro Jimenez reduced his bail from $250,000 to $10,000 after the court-ordered evaluation at Anna Klein Forensic Center.
Lee is prohibited from returning to Robbinsville Township and Project Freedom, the development where he was arrested. According to DeBlasio, Lee will continue to undergo treatment.
On Sept. 17, Lee entered a home in Project Freedom, which was built to enable disabled people to live independently, removed his clothes, and assaulted a 45-year-old woman and her 4-year-old son, according to police and witness accounts.
After officers took Lee into custody, he briefly escaped when he kicked out the side rear window of a patrol car and jumped out. He was arrested after a chase and a struggle with fellow officers.
He was charged with official misconduct, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of endangering the welfare of a child, five counts of aggravated assault upon a police officer, and one count each of burglary, harassment and criminal mischief.

#Frankenstorm barrels towards east coast

Hurricane Sandy seems to have its sights set on The Garden and Keystone states.

The updated forecast (which can be found here) shows the storm heading pretty straight on for New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It looks like Pitt will even get a good soaking, too.

Sustained winds will likely reach more than 30 miles an hour and rains will be heavy. The NWS is also warning that low-level areas can likely flood.

So far the municipalities around Trenton are gearing up for the storm. Hamilton's Public Works Department has mobilized to clean up leaves and debris from storm drains. They've also sent out warnings about power outages, food spoilage and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Robbinsville township officials are having a meeting this afternoon. I'll get more information on their plans later. At last night's council meeting, Mayor Dave Fried said a major concern was a substation in the township which flooded during Hurricane Irene last year, along with low-lying areas that tend to hold water.

Some quick public information: Turn Around Don't Drown (Less than two feet of moving water on a road can float most cars)


  • Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property.
  • Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
  • A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
  • Hurricanes, winter storms and snowmelt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.

Local unions endorse in Hamilton School Board race

Tim Bauersachs
Greg Schultz
Al Gayzik

Three local unions have decided to throw their clout into the school board race in Hamilton.

The Regional Council of Carpenter's, Local #254 and SEIU Local #32BJ endorsed the slate of Al Gayzik, Greg Schultz and Tim Bauersachs this week. Those two endorsements make three along with the Hamilton Township Education Association.

But, given the timing of the election, it's uncertain how much of an effect these endorsements will have. The turnout for the presidential and other elections make it difficult to say what will happen to downticket races like this.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hamilton starting storm prep, more to come

The first stirrings of preparation for the coming of Hurricane Sandy (likely soon-to-be Tropical Storm Sandy) have reached Hamilton Township.

The township has posted on its Facebook page for residents to make sure to clear storm drains near their houses and posted links to these emergency plans from the state.

They'll likely post more information later and I'll be looking for specifics on areas to watch for, along with planned emergency routes and emergency centers.

At worst, it seems like Sandy would hit Tuesday at the strength of a tropical storm. Here's the latest forecast from the NWS.

Do you think this storm will be as big as Irene? What are you doing to prepare? Let me know in the comments or @awisefool.

Robbinsville Town Council meets tonight

The five-member Robbinsville Town Council will meet for the second time this month tonight.

They'll decide on a measure to prepare a town-owned property before its eventual sale, along with other housekeeping measures.

Last time around, the council recognized Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we'll see if anything else happens off the agenda tonight.

Check on here later for more information.

MRSA cases climb in Hamilton township school

Steinert High School Trentonian/ David P. Cardaciotto
HAMILTON — Cases of an antibiotic-resistant skin infection continue to climb in one Hamilton Township high school.
Jeff Plunkett, the health department officer for the township, said his office has confirmed 11 cases of MRSA since September at Steinert High School.
“To the school district’s credit, they have reported every case to us and cooperated the whole way,” he said. “We are going to control and eliminate it to the best of our ability.”
Superintendent James Parla said the district has been thoroughly cleaning all the locker rooms and training facilities at Steinert. He said the district is organizing educational materials for students and parents to help prevent and identify infections.
“We are consistently doing that thoroughly, top to bottom cleaning,” he said. “We recently did it last weekend, and we are going to keep doing it again and again and again.”
Plunkett said the district is using chemicals from a list of cleaners specifically meant to kill the MRSA bacteria.
He said the district reported the first case on Sept. 9 and the most recent confirmed case on Monday. Another infection, at Hamilton High School West, is waiting a lab test to confirm whether it is MRSA.
You can read the rest here.
Make sure to wash those hands!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Construction finishes up on Exton and Reeger avenues

After more than a year of work, the construction on Exton and Reeger avenues in Hamilton Township has largely finished.

The contractor, Intercounty Paving came through earlier this week to finish the road work. The contractor has to reseed grass torn up by the project and other issues, but the largest portion of the work has been done.

No word yet on whether the work has passed the final inspection. Once that happens, the township and the contractor will have to decide how much to lop off the contract, currently at more than $1 million, for the delay in completing the 40-day job.

You can read more about this project here, here and here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roundup of Last night's Hamilton Board meeting

Given that my Internet connection gave up the ghost shortly after filing this, so here's the rest of what happened at the meeting.

After voting down that new food policy, the board went on to the rest of its business, including setting its next meeting dates. (They'll be Nov. 14 and 19 and Dec. 12 and 19)

They also didn't vote through a proposal to hire a high school coach who was selected from within the district. Two of the board members abstained, meaning along with the missing board members, there weren't enough votes to put it through.

More on Superintendent James Parla's strategic plan for the district later.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hamilton School Board to talk food, finances and forensic audit

The Hamilton Township Board of Education will wade into the fiscal weeds again tonight.

They'll go over, and likely pass, a refinancing of the districts bonds that could save millions for the district, as well as discuss a forensic audit -- a proposal put forward last month by Board Member Stephanie Pratico.

A truly thorny issue for the board though will be discussion of a new food policy. Last week, with a room of mostly meeting regulars, the public brought out their concerns with moving all food-related celebrations to cafeterias or multi-purpose rooms in the district.

Michael Gilbert, the district's director of curriculum and instruction, said the policy would allow the teachers to separate students with food allergies that isn't possible in the classroom setting.

That would apply to cultural celebrations, parties and snacks such as those brought in by the district PTAs. Parla said the discussion at last week's meeting had mostly focused on what food parents brought in for their own children.

He said the policy, in essence, applies to food brought in by students or families for other students to eat. Expect some serious discussion (possibly hyperbolic) from members of the public tonight.

Aside from discussion of the food, Parla has a much larger vision on his plate for this meeting. He'll go over a strategic initiative for the whole district, one he brought up when talking about the district's slipping test scores.

You'll be able to find more here or on @awisefool tonight.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hamilton Township Education Association backs four board candidates

Tim Bauersachs
Greg Schultz
Al Gayzik
Jen Barnock-Riddell

In another twist of the perpetually tangled school board race here in Hamilton, the local Education Association has decided to back candidates.

The teacher's union, through its political action committee the Hamilton Township Friends of Education, has endorsed four candidates in the race: Jennifer Barnock-Riddell, Tim Bauersachs, Albert Gayzik and Greg Schultz.

Notably, neither Richard Kanka or Eric Hamilton, the two incumbent members in the race, received a nod.

Fred Schwartz, the president of the group, said they wanted a "breath of fresh air that our school board needs to ensure that our children are provided with a great education in a great school system," in an email.

He also discouraged voters from casting their ballots with any of the incumbents.

You can find more information about all the candidates here and the ongoing issues of the campaign here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hamilton Schools trying to boost test performance

On hearing an annual report on what Superintendent James Parla called "abysmal" test scores (you can fid more here) the district detailed a number of ways it would try to better its performance in previous years.

Mike Gilbert, the director of curriculum and instruction, said they had a number of areas they would try to improve performance including additional staffing. He said they had also instituted a teaching evaluation system, a developmental kindergarten, transitional first grade, increased tutoring and online resources.

Parla said he would outline a strategic plan at the next meeting to get a framework for improving test scores, goals and resources.

"These results just are not going to stand," he said.

Members of the public, including board candidate George Fisher, criticized the board for the test scores.

"First of all, thank you Dr. Parla, this is the first time in at least 10 years of an honest presentation of the status of the district," he said. "You wonder why the public isn’t coming out, they have nothing to come out for."

Hamilton School Board meets tonight, gets into finances

Tonight, the Hamilton Township School Board will be talking a lot about money.

On the docket are several presentations about the district's finances, including a new purchasing manual, the district's annual audit, a potential forensic audit, and a refinancing of the district's bonds.

Much of that discussions stems form concerns over exactly what lead to the scandal involving the district's previous insurance broker, Allen Associates.

Board members and candidates in the crowded field for four open seats have been critical of efforts so far to get to the bottom of the scandal.

Superintendent James Parla and Board President Patty Del Giudice have emphasized the district's need to move forward and prevent it from happening again.

You can get more information here or @awisefool.

Hamtilton council talks public works, fills vacant director post

HAMILTON — The town council last night put in a replacement for former department director Rob Warney, who left in June before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.
Rich Williams, who has been serving as township engineer and acting director of Community Planning and Compliance since Warney’s resignation, will take over the post immediately.
“I strongly welcome you into this position, I think you’re a leader in the township,” said Councilman Dennis Pone.
Williams said he wanted to improve a number of issues in the department, including privatization of planning – which he said lead to some of the problems with the project on Exton and Reeger avenues.
Much of the discussion by the public centered on Williams’ responsibilities -- specifically the development of the Italian American Sportsmen’s Club. Several members of the community asked Williams about the project, and how the township would deal with lead contamination at the site.

The rest of the story can be found here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hamilton Town Council meeting tonight

Road closed sign on the construction project on Exton Avenue. The Hamilton Town Council will 
address a second change order to the project's contract tonight.

Hamilton Township Council on Tuesday will take on an appointment to the township post vacated as a result the scandal involving the mayor’s federal corruption charges.

Mayor John Bencivengo recommended acting Director of Community Planning and Compliance Rich Williams to fill that role permanently. Williams took over that post in June after the previous director, Rob Warney, resigned before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

Williams served as the township’s engineer before Warney’s resignation and will continue in that capacity. Williams has run the engineering department, as well as planning, inspections and affordable housing departments since June, according to Business Administrator John Ricci.

Williams’ salary will increase from $113,759 to $114,028 with the change in title, if his appointment gets the expected council approval.

“He’s going to be a busy guy for that $300,” Ricci said. “It has been great; he’s been doing a heck of a good job.”

In addition to Williams’ appointment, the council will also hear a change order on a long-delayed road project and a continued hearing on a vacant property ordinance, among other measures.

The road and sewer project on Exton and Reeger avenues is coming back to council a second time. The council will consider tonight another contract change, which will increase the cost by more than $150,000, and bring the total cost of the project to more than $1 million.

“At this point, with the way the residents have been suffering, we just want to get this done,” Council President Kevin Meara said. “We’ll pursue whatever we have to afterwards.”

The township could collect tens of thousands of dollars in penalties from the contractor for going over the time of the 40-day contract. Originally, the contract was supposed to be finished last fall. But problems with the contractor, utility lines, weather and other delays have pushed the project back.

The council will likely vote to approve an abandoned property ordinance carried over from the last meeting. The council made a number of changes at the proposal’s second reading two weeks ago, which prompted them to wait.

It requires property owners to register with the township when a house is vacant, and requires that they keep the property up to zoning code as well as contact and notification requirements.

“It looks real good, looks like it will serve the purpose it was intended to serve,” Pone said.


Technology permitting, I'll be blogging about the meeting and tweeting @awisefool.

Last day for voter registration in New Jersey

In order to vote this fall, New Jersey residents have to make sure they register by the end of today.

Keep in mind, the deadline for mail-in ballots is coming up in two weeks.

Here are some links to more information:

ICYMI: Meet the Hamilton Township School Board candidates

More election previews and coverage coming up.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pedestrian hit in Friday accident in Hamilton dies over weekend

The man hit by a 93-year-old driver while crossing the street in Hamilton Friday morning died over the weekend.

Mercer County spokeswoman Julie Wilmot said the man, Mark Murzda, 53, of Hamilton, died Saturday as a result of the accident.

Police said the accident occurred before 7 a.m. Friday, when Bertha Piepszak, 93, of Hamilton, struck Murzda while driving on South Clinton Ave. near Woodbine Ave.

He was brought to the Capital Health Regional Medical Center in critical condition, according to police.

Keep an eye out here, @awisefool and at for more information.

Coverage of Hamilton School Board race

Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo won’t be on the ballot this fall, but he’s mentioned by almost every candidate for Hamilton School Board.
The board, which has four seats open for election this fall, has been rocked by scandal surrounding its business dealings and the federal indictment of the mayor and a former board member.
“Since the indictment of the mayor, the school board has been under a cloud,” said candidate Albert Gayzick.
The federal investigation has dominated many conversations about the board, and large portions of its meetings since. The candidates have taken the mayor’s scandal as symptomatic of larger problems with the board.
“The incident with Allen Associates is just one example of why we need change,” said Board candidate Tim Bauersachs.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Steinert High School reopens after bomb threats

The students at Steinert High School in Hamilton returned to class just after noon today after a bomb threat emptied the building for hours.

Superintendent James Parla said the school district received a bomb threat this morning and evacuated the building. He said the police were brought in to search the building and make sure there was no credibility to the threat.

Parla said the students were moved to Reynolds Middle School for several hours while police K-9 units cleared the property.

Until noon, more than a dozen police cars were parked outside the school. After that, several of the cars left while students filed back into the building.

"I'm very happy with the response of the staff and the students," he said.

Bomb scare at Steinert High School

From Trentonian police reporter Brian Dzenis:

A bomb scare has emptied out Steinert High School in Hamilton. Students have been evacuated to another location in the district.

No further word from the district. Police are on scene and restricting access to the property.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kitten puts cat out of shelter in Hamilton Township temporarily

One kitten has caused a whole load of trouble in Hamilton Township.

Jeff Plunkett, the township’s health officer, said one sick kitten  —  too young to receive preventative shots  —  brought a case of feline distemper into the township’s animal shelter.

“We take a lot of pride in how we maintain [the shelter] and operate it,” he said. “but this is kind of out of our control.”

The shelter won’t be able to take any more cats for at least two weeks while workers clean the area and make sure the virus is handled.

The virus, which can’t infect people, targets a cat’s bone marrow, intestines and other rapidly dividing cells, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

According to the association’s website, the virus can transfer from bodily fluids of an infected cat directly, and also through other surfaces such as bedding.

Plunkett said that, until the shelter gets back up and running, township residents will need to either hold onto any strays they find, let them loose, or find a private shelter to use.

“This sort of thing happens every so often,” he said. “Unfortunately it takes a little bit of time.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Clarification: four MRSA cases at Steinert

A story in Tuesday's Trentonian said there were six cases of MRSA at Steinert High School. Jeff Plunkett, the township health officer, said that number was incorrect.

There have been four cases of MRSA and two cases of staph infections at the school. Two of the students were hospitalized.

He said MRSA infections need to be confirmed by culture tests and the staph infections were far less serious than MRSA.

The district went above and beyond its obligations in dealing with the infections, he said, especially by informing the health department and the public of the issue.

MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, a form of staph bacteria that does not respond to typical antibiotics used to treat such infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control website.

According to the website, people can reduce their risk of catching the infection by keeping their hands clean, keeping open wounds covered and not sharing personal items such as razors or towels.

Symptoms of the infection include reddening and swelling of the infected skin, as well as pus accumulation. Infections can also spread from the skin and become more serious, according to the website.

People seeking more information can also call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

Hamilton will hold fire safety event Oct. 20

Hamilton township will hold a fire safety event next Saturday, aimed at increasing fire safety in the township.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the HamStat Call Center at 5 Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. Way, there will be safety information, free fire detectors and a fire truck, according to a release from the township.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Two hospitalized for MRSA at Steinert

At least two students from a Hamilton high school have been hospitalized overnight with MRSA infections over the past several weeks.
Superintendent James Parla said the two hospitalized students were among six confirmed cases of the infection at Steinert High School. He said one had been hospitalized earlier in the year and as of early Monday afternoon, another was still in the hospital.
He said there were several other cases of non-MRSA staph infections at the school, which are less serious. He said the district cleaned the school’s locker rooms this weekend and conferred with the local department of health about how to handle the issue.
“We cleaned inside the locker rooms from top to bottom,” he said. “We’ll continue doing that; we’re not going to stop.”
You can read the whole story here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Funky Friday: Job report conspiracy truthiness edition

The latest jobs numbers are out, and here's a quick summary from the AP on its effect on the presidential race:

The figures announced by the Labor Department - 114,000 new jobs last month to bring the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent - gave Obama fresh evidence on the heels of his disappointing debate performance to argue that his economic policies are working. Romney countered that the country can't afford four more years of the president's leadership and argued that the rate is low in part because some people have quit looking for work.

And via Slate, here's some cheery outlooks for both Obama and Romney.

The positive numbers aren't without their detractors though. A few conservatives are making the (absurd) claim that somebody in the Obama administration has juiced the numbers. From the Politico story on the issue:

A cadre of conservatives from Jack Welch to Allen West are crying conspiracy over Friday’s good economic news, accusing the White House of cooking the books to boost President Barack Obama’s prospects for reelection.

The word from Republicans who have worked with the jobs numbers before? Bunk.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal department responsible for these numbers, has not yet crunched the results for New Jersey. Although last month's numbers put unemployment at more than 9 percent in the Garden State.

In addition, Senate candidates Menendez and Kyrillos square off in a televised debate.

Getting real local; in the Hamilton School Board race, President Patty Del Giudice has responded to allegations from board candidate George Fisher that she has a relationship with Marliese Ljuba, the former agent for Vineland-based Allen Associates the company at the center of the scandal involving the mayor.

The latest crop of photos surfaced in a full-page ad Fisher took out in the Hamilton Post. More on the board race to come. The next board meeting will be Oct. 17, a few weeks before the election.

ICYMI: You might want to watch out if you drive on I-195 regularly.

And here's a new band for me, Low Cut Connie, to play me out:

Turnpike accident shuts down lane of 195

ROBBINSVILLE - Commuters in Mercer County could feel the effects of Wednesday’s fatal turnpike accident for months to come.

Joe Dee, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, said the authority would keep one lane of westbound traffic on Interstate-195 closed on the turnpike overpass, which sees some 30,000 cars pass over it daily, for the foreseeable future.
“Out of an abundance of caution we’ve said ‘let’s keep traffic off that portion of the roadway,’” he said.
Westbound motorists can expect significant delays in the morning rush hour, he said. As well, officials will close two lanes of the turnpike periodically to inspect the bridge structure and make sure it is holding up.
He said the structure has passed two inspections, which take about an hour, since the accident, but the department would not reopen the second westbound lane. Dee said drivers will get relief when construction finishes on a new overpass “a stone’s throw away,” which is about two months from completion.

Check out the full story here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Update on Exton Ave. construction

Three days after this story hit the press, not a whole lot of work has been done on Exton Ave. in Hamilton.

While work began on Monday to prepare the road for paving, crews have not shown up since. The rainy conditions could be a reason, but I haven't confirmed that.

In addition, Trenton City Council will vote tonight on an emergency contract to pay for 12 water lines repaired on Exton Ave. by an outside contractor. That's double the number I found through township records.

Keep checking back for more.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Crash on turnpike under 195 in Robbinsville

A dump truck overturned and caught fire in an accident this morning, according to state police.

The driver of the truck, the only vehicle involved, was killed according to police. They have not released the name of the driver.

The truck crashed under an overpass for 195, where traffic has also been diverted. Thomas Feeney, the spokesman for the Turnpike Authority, said engineers would inspect the overpass to determine if there was any damage.

Feeney said southbound traffic on the turnpike would have to exit at interchange 9, northbound is exiting at interchange 4.

Eastbound traffic on 195 is being diverted at exit 5, and westbound at exit 7, according to police.

Feeney and police did not have an estimated time for when the turnpike would resume normal traffic.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tweeting Hamilton Town Council meeting tonight

You can find me @awisefool. I'll also post on here with bigger news and more information about the township's settlement with Trenton Water Works.

Hamilton Township council to address settlement with Trenton Water Works

At tonight's Hamilton town council meeting, the group will address a settlement in its suit against its water utility, Trenton Water Works.

Councilman Dave Kenny said the agreement would provide for a financial settlement with the utility, as well as documentation of where its employees worked, and whether they worked in other city departments. He praised the agreement in advance of tonight's meeting.

"I think it is a good settlement, it provides more oversight and insight for the township over Trenton Water Works," he said.
The issue emerged at last month's meeting as well. The council, particularly Councilman Ed Gore, have repeatedly raised concerns over use -- and misuse -- of funds from Hamilton residents' water bills.

"This is money from the taxes of Hamilton residents that is being misused by the city of Trenton," he said at the time.

In particular, he pointed to an August report in The Trentonian over a Trenton Water Works employee running a city department.

Last month, Township Attorney Lindsay Burbage said the utility was coming close to reaching a settlement with the township.

“We will ensure that all employees paid by Trenton Water Works work for Trenton Water Works,” Burbage said.

No calls back yet from other council members, city of Trenton or the township administration.

Stay tuned for more information. I'll be posting here and @awisefool for the meeting tonight.

Video: 'Nightmare' construction on Exton Avenue in Hamilton

Monday, October 1, 2012

Residents live through construction nightmare on Exton Ave.

  • In September 2011, Hamilton Township signed on for a road construction project that was expected to take about a month to complete. A year later, streets are torn up, residents are increasingly aggravated and the cost of the project continues to climb.

  • Township records and emails obtained through public records requests by The Trentonian show 12 months of delays, disputes and mistakes that have left residents on Exton and Reeger avenues without a finished roadway and at times without access or their driveways, gas service or running water.
  • “For me, it has been a nightmare, living here,” said 32-year-old Victoria DeJesus, who moved to her house on Exton Avenue with her fiance a month before construction began.
  • Those records further show that the project, centered on replacing aging sewer lines for houses on the two roadways, has increasingly grown in scope, time and effort on behalf of the township and contractor.
  • The project has been delayed at almost every step, by issues including ruptured water lines, sinkholes, changing contract plans, deficient construction which needed repair, rain and scheduling conflicts.
  • Originally slated to take 40 days when the contract was signed last September, it has gone more than 100 days over. At $450 in penalties for each day past the contract, the township could recoup tens of thousands from the main contractor, Intercounty Paving.
  • But the project could still cost the township hundreds of thousands more than its original contract, even with the tens of thousands of dollars in potential penalties against the contractor. The first change order, of several according to the emails, increased the project’s cost by more than $100,000, to a total of $864,000.
  • Township Engineer Rich Williams, who has tried throughout the project to keep it running under control, said the work will enter its final stage this week: paving.
  • Hamilton Business Administrator John Ricci summed up his feelings on the subject.
  • “This is probably one of the worst construction projects we have had since I have been here,” he said.

  • Click here for the full story. Followups to come.