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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Proposed Hamilton School District tax increase ‘couldn’t buy a Happy Meal’

HAMILTON — In its first draft budget, the Hamilton Board of Education could raise taxes just under the 2 percent cap as part of its $184 million 2013-14 spending plan.
Overall, the proposed budget would increase spending by less than one percent, to a total of $184,040,000. Superintendent James Parla said the budget would help the district address problems such as lagging test scores, aging infrastructure and cuts in previous budgets.
“We’re going to manage our resources as best as we can and we are going to continue to manage these issues,” he said.
More than 100 residents attended the budget unveiling Wednesday night at Mercer County Community College. The district has to adopt a budget by March 28, and will also be holding public hearings that week as well as during several forums over the next two months.
Counting the district’s debt service, total taxes will go up about $3.63, to about $2,540 for a home assessed at $130,000. Parla said the district saved more than $400,000 in its bond refinancing process, which resulted in the smaller tax increase.
“You couldn’t buy a Happy Meal with that,” he said.

You can read the full story here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Menendez denies allegations he had trysts with Dominican prostitutes

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez denied allegations Wednesday that he had sex with prostitutes on trips to the Dominican Republic after an FBI raid on the office of a political ally in Florida who allegedly flew him on the trips to the island nation.

The allegations, which first surfaced from a Nov. 1 report on the conservative Daily Caller website, came up again after the FBI showed up at the Palm Beach office of eye doctor Dr. Salomon Melgen. A statement from Menendez’ office released Tuesday denied the allegations.

“Dr. Melgen has been a friend and political supporter of Senator Menendez for many years. Senator Menendez has traveled on Dr. Melgen’s plane on three occasions, all of which have been paid for and reported appropriately. Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false,” the statement read.

FBI spokesman Jim Marshall said the agency would not comment on whether or not there was an investigation, only that they had been active in the area.

“The only information we are providing is that we are conducting law enforcement activity in the general vicinity of 2521 Metrocentre Blvd, West Palm Beach, Fla.,” Marshall said.

It is unclear what sparked the FBI search or whether it is related to Menendez, and Melgen also has financial issues. The IRS has filed a $11.1 million lien against him.

According to the Miami Herald, which first reported the raid Tuesday, FBI agents hauled away “boxes and bags of evidence” in vans from the office complex early Wednesday morning.

You can read the full story here.

First look at Hamilton School District budget for 2013-14

At the conference center now at Mercer County Community College. I'll be posting their topline numbers soon.

You can check for updates here or @awisefool.

Hamilton School District to unveil budget numbers tonight

Tonight at the Mercer County Community College, the Hamilton School District will give out its topline numbers for the 2013-14 year.

The budget this year, Superintendent James Parla's first, the school district will try to address lagging test scores, failing school infrastructure and concerns over updating technology and school security.

Last year's budget included a 4 cent tax increase on each $100 of assessed value.

You can find a pretty good preview from the Times here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

State senate president highlights small businesses in Hamilton, Robbinsville

Jim Haws, state Sen. Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) talk in Hamilton during Sweeney's small business tour.
HAMILTON — Two local shops played host to state legislators Tuesday afternoon as part of a statewide tour highlighting small businesses.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said outside the Kucker-Haney Paint Company in Hamilton that the trips helped legislators to better understand the problems faced by small businesses.

Such trips and conversations also give legislators insight into problems the legislature might be able to solve, said State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro).

“It’s the best way to make good legislation,” she said.

Paint store owner Jim Haws said he has seen problems ranging from regulatory overlaps and taxes to competition from big box stores and rising healthcare costs.

His wife, Susan Haws, said it has become more expensive for the store to insure its nine employees.

“Healthcare has just gone through the roof,” she said.

You can read the full story here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Senate President Sweeney to visit Hamilton, Robbinsville

State Senate President Steve Sweeney, who may not run against Gov. Chris Christie in the fall after all, will be making a stop in the area tomorrow.

The legislator will be making a stop at the Kucker Haney Paint Company in Hamilton and then the VC Salon in Robbinsville later on. According to a press release from the state Democrats' office, it is part of the "Small Business Listening Tour" that has been going on throughout the state.

Check back here tomorrow for more information.

Hamilton announces expanded audit for last year of Bencivengo tenure

Two months after former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo stepped down, the township announced a plan to audit the town during the last year of his tenure.

The township will be taking a hard look at the three offices whose heads left last year: the mayor’s office, the Department of Community Planning and Compliance and the Department of Health, Recreation, Seniors and Veterans Services. Mayor Kelly Yaede said she wanted to make sure the scandal that removed her predecessor from office did not affect the township’s finances.

“We want to reassure the residents of the township that their finances are safe,” she said at the Monday press conference making the announcement.

The township’s auditor, Bob Morrison said they would not charge the township extra for the expanded audit, and the cost would be included in the $102,000 cost for the annual audit. He said they would bear the cost because the township did not take advantage of 40 hours of counsel for council built into the annual contract for the past several years.

Morrison’s accounting firm, Hodulik and Morrison, has been the township’s auditor since 2006. He said he would not be able to provide an estimate on how long the audit would take his staffers, or where it might lead.

“We will take it where it takes us,” he said.

Morrison said the expanded audit will have three steps; analysis of the township’s automatic record-keeping system, comparison of year-to-year financial records for those departments and interviews with the staff members in those departments.

He said there would be two or three staffers from his firm working on the project and he anticipates the whole audit will be finished by April.

“However long it takes them that is how long it takes them,” he said.

He said they chose the three departments because the three people in charge of them had been involved or mentioned in the Bencivengo case.

Bencivengo was convicted in November of five federal charges related to the school board corruption case against him. Marliese Ljuba, the government’s cooperating witness in the case, testified she bribed him with $12,400 in exchange for his influence with members of the Hamilton Board of Education. He will be sentenced in March and could face as much as 20 years in prison.

Rob Warney, the admitted middleman in the case,  plead guilty to a money laundering charge last June just after resigning his post as director of Community Planning and Compliance. He will also be sentenced in March, although that hearing has been moved three times, and also faces up to 20 years in the federal pen.

The former director of the department of Health and Recreation, Cathy Tramontana, was by acting mayor John Ricci after testimony in the case indicated she had taken money and trips from Ljuba and knew about the investigation for almost its entire length.

In a letter from Thomas Neff, the director for the Division of Local Government Services, he endorsed the audit, saying “the proposed plan of expanded auditing services appears appropriate and proportional to the events that occurred during the past year.”

Hamilton woman becomes US citizen, joins Army

From Trentonian reporter Scott Ketterer:

Hamilton woman joins Army after becoming a U.S. citizen

Trentonian photo/SCOTT KETTERER Anastasia Kryshina sits at her station inside of the Propaganda salon where she had worked as a stylist and jack-of-all-trades on Jan. 26, 2013. Kryshina leaves Monday for Basic Training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

HAMILTON — Anastasia Kryshina hoped her last day at the Propaganda Salon would be a quiet day.
The 23-year-old Hamilton woman is set to leave for Army basic training on Monday, but her friends at the salon had other ideas about her last day at work.
“I just wanted to leave quietly,” said Kryshina. “I just wanted to be able to say goodbye to my clients, I never expected all of this.”
Kryshina said she decided to work up until the last minute because that is the kind of person she is.
“I have to be busy,” Kryshina said. “I can’t just sit around and wait, I’ve always got to be moving.”
You can read the full story, and see the rest of Scott's photos, here.

Hamilton to hold free flu immunization clinics

Hamilton township will hold a pair of free flu immunization clinics for residents in the next two weeks.

Both are open to all residents of the township 6 months and older. Children under 9 years old need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, according to a press release from the township. The first, this Tuesday at the Hamilton Public Library, is from 5 to 7 p.m.

The second will be at the Nottingham Fire Company on Feb. 5 at the same time. Homebound residents can call the township Department of Health at (609) 890-3884, according to the release.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends the seasonal flu vaccine for everyone more than 6 months old, according to its website. People with chronic medical conditions, young children, those older than 65 and pregnant women are susceptible to flu complications, according to the CDC website.

Hamilton man killed in hit-and-run in Robbinsville

From Trentonian reporter Scott Ketterer:

ROBBINSVILLE — Area police and New Jersey state troopers are searching for the driver who fled the scene after striking and killing William Paskewicz, 40, of Hamilton in front of 99 Robbinsville-Allentown Road Sunday shortly before 6 p.m.

The preliminary investigation determined that Paskewicz was walking east on Robbinsville-Allentown Road when he was struck by an unknown vehicle that fled the scene.

You can read the full story here.

Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede to hold press conference on audit

Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede

At the end of her second full month as mayor, Kelly Yaede is holding her first presser on the town's 2012 finances.

In an email this morning, the mayor's aide, Dom DeGregory, said she will be putting out information on an expanded audit of the town's 2012 finances. It looks like it could be similar to a larger audit that temporary Mayor Kevin Meara called for in November.

The Hamilton School District is looking at a similar audit that would go through transactions over the last fiscal year.

These both come in the wake of the Bencivengo scandal that rocked the township last year.

The presser starts at 1 p.m. Check here later for more information.

Friday, January 25, 2013

From The Times: bridge reopening and 'no smartphones for you'

Hamilton road bridge between I-195 and Route 33 to reopen
A section of Yardville-Hamilton Square Road will reopen today with the completion of a new bridge, easing access between Interstate 195 and Route 33.

Hamilton school board says no to students using tablets, smartphones as learning aides [sic]

Allowing students to use their own laptops, smartphones and tablets in the classroom may offer educational benefits, but too many questions remain about enforcement and equal opportunity, the school board decided Wednesday.

Robbinsville receives federal grant for new fire department radios

Robbinsville’s fire department will be getting a new radio network, thanks to a federal grant received at Thursday’s council meeting.

The township will now receive a $140,000 federal grant to revamp its radio system out of $2.8 million for the county. The township needed to come up with its own contribution, about $28,000, in order to get the garnt.

The volunteer fire department raised $28,598.60 to get the grant, and presented a check Thursday night. Township attorney Mark Roselli said the township would not need to put forward any taxpayer money to get the radios.

He said the grant will buy 13 mobile radios, 29 portable radios, 26 pagers and 29 headsets.

Council president Ron Witt said the department wanted to make sure the township did not have to foot the bill.

“The communication network was in dire need of overhaul,” he said. “I think it was a fantastic initiative on their taxpayers didn’t have to bear the burden.”

The council also received an award from the state for its reforestation program. The turnpike widening in the township resulted in more than 100 acres of trees taken down, which the township replanted.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Robbinsville council meeting tonight

The meeting starts up in a few minutes. I'll be posting the story shortly. In the meantime, here is the agenda.

From The Times: Amazon bus route and cold Hamilton schools

Mercer County looks to expand bus routes to include new Amazon warehouse stop

Before 1,400 people can report for work at a new distribution center set to open next year, area leaders will have to figure out how to get them there.

The warehouse’s future Robbinsville home at the Matrix Business Park at Turnpike Interchange 7A is nearly 5 miles away from the nearest bus stop at the Hamilton Marketplace on Route 130.

Hamilton teacher says tots frozen in poorly insulated school buildings

HAMILTON — Bone-chilling temperatures outdoors have led to freezing conditions inside the poorly insulated classrooms at Alexander Elementary School.

At tonight’s school board meeting, second-grade teacher Janice Glonek asked the board to rethink the way district schools are heated.

“We’ve got metal desks and concrete floors, and every room at Alexander is full of windows,” Glonek said. “The halls are like ice.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sentencing for former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo moved back

The former mayor of Hamilton, John Bencivengo, will get another few weeks before he faces a judge for sentencing.

According to federal court documents, his sentencing has been moved back from Feb. 27 to March 13 at 10:30 a.m.

A jury convicted him in November of five federal corruption charges, which carry up to 20 years in prison. He resigned later that day.

Bencivengo was convicted of taking $12,400 in bribes from the government’s cooperating witness, Marliese Ljuba, in exchange for his influence with the Hamilton Board of Education, so that she could keep her lucrative health insurance brokerage for her employer, Allen Associates.

More information to come later.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Robbinsville School District approves contract with teacher’s union

Robbinsville School District now has a tentative contract with its teacher’s union.
Tuesday night the board approved a wage and benefit agreement with the district’s teachers, good through June 30, 2014. The new contract, which is retroactive to July 2011, covers more than 300 teachers and employees throughout the district’s three schools.
“I’m glad we were able to come to this resolution,” Negotiation Committee Chair Thomas Halm said. “The best part of this process was that meeting on Monday when we were sitting across the table from each other.”
The teachers will receive a 2.5 percent raise for 2012-13 and 2013-14 and members there in 2011-12 will receive part of a $250,000 payment from the district to the union under the proposed contract. Halm said the district had met with the union heads on Jan. 14 to iron out the agreement. The contract now needs salary guides for different employees and approval by the union itself before it becomes official.
The district and the union, the Washington Township Education Association, have been operating under the old contract since it ran out in 2011.
The district had reached an impasse in the negotiations and was heading toward a state-appointed super-conciliator. The super-conciliator could force round-the-clock negotiations, but did not have the power under state law to force an agreement.
You can read the rest of the story here.

From NJBIZ: Hospital merger for RWJ not happening

From NJ Biz:

All the recent talk of hospital mergers had one source recalling the match that never was: Meridian and Robert Wood Johnson. The two hospital systems courted each other a couple years ago, with approximate dates for the talks being germination in 2010 and conclusion in spring 2011, the source said.

You can read the full story here.

From the Times: Shakeup in Hamilton Plaza lineup and an employment center for adults with autism

Times of Trenton reporter Mike Davis reports on the planned Fashion Bug store backing out of the shopping center:

More changes in the retail lineup at the Hamilton Plaza shopping center on Route 33 are in the works, with a pet supply superstore slated to open and a Fashion Bug clothing store preparing to close, a township official said.

You can read the full story here.

Also from the Times, Alyssa Mease reports on a training center for adults with autism opening up in the township:

This will be the biggest training center owned by Eden Autism Services, which also has facilities in Florida and West Windsor. Eden has provided employment training and placement for adults with autism since 1983.

About 60 people over the age of 21 will be served at the new center on Crossroads Drive, spokeswoman Aileen Kornblatt said.

You can read the full story here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hamilton council meeting

I wasn't able to get over to the Hamilton Council meeting, but you can see the stories here from Mike Davis and Chrysti Neuman:

Hamilton residents upset about trees, artwork

HAMILTON — Council members and the public weighed in on a variety of topics at last night’s council meeting.

Consent agenda items included establishing a contract to purchase a land grader for a maximum amount of $51,360 and another one-year contract to purchase 20 police uniforms.

Hamilton council moves to make competitive bids a requirement

Pressured by a watchdog group that wants to see honesty and transparency in the way the township does its business, council moved last night to create an ordinance that would require them to obtain competitive bids and quotes from all potential outside vendors. State law already requires competitive bids for many public contracts above a $17,500 threshold, but competitive quotes are only recommended for lesser amounts.

Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede to tie Valentine's knots

Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede gives out candy canes at the township's December tree lighting
Couples anxious to get hitched on Feb. 14 will have the chance for the whole thing to get done by the head honcho in Hamilton.

This morning the mayor's office announced they've reinstated the tradition of having the mayor perform wedding ceremonies for the township's couples. Specifically on the 14th they'll be done at Kuser mansion. Apparently, they let it lapse during former Mayor John Bencivengo's tenure.

"After receiving requests from residents to perform their wedding ceremonies, I decided that it was time to revive the tradition for the benefit of our community's couples. In fact, the first wedding I performed as Mayor was for one of our Township employees," she said in the press release.

I'm not sure how I'd feel about letting my boss swear me in to matrimony. Matt might try to slip in a Star Wars reference or two...

Anyway, interested couples can let them know by Feb. 1 at (609) 890-3826 to schedule an appointment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede officially files for special election

Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede has started her campaign (officially) to serve out the rest of former Mayor John Bencivengo's term.

Forms, filed with the New Jersey Election Enforcement Commission, state that the current mayor has formed her candidate committee. It's called "Friends of Kelly Yaede for Mayor" and technically for the June primary.

But, she's the only Republican who has declared interest in the race and would likely have a financial advantage over any early opponents. She has about $20,000 left over in her council campaign account that she will be able to roll over to her run for mayor.

That will likely not go the whole way though, as former Mayor John Bencivengo raised more than $120,000 for his reelection campaign in 2011.

In the general election, she'd also face competition from prominent Democrat Barbara Plumeri, should she win the nomination. Plumeri is the first Democrat to publicly declare her intent to run.

The whole thing comes together in November to decide who will serve out the rest of Bencivengo's term -- through 2015.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Engineering firms advertise in fundraiser for former Hamilton mayor without disclosed donations

It’s the case of the magically appearing advertisements. State and local laws require strict reporting of campaign donations in New Jersey, but several advertisements in 2010 and 2011 seem to have slipped through the cracks.
Five full-page or larger advertisements in the programs for the Hamilton Mayor’s Ball for those two years offered congratulations from Birdsall Services Group and two other engineering firms that received close to $1 million in public contracts from the township during former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo’s tenure.
Typically, advertisements of this type would help pay for an event, such as the Mayor’s Ball, and would be considered donations. Yet, the five ads do not appear as disclosed donations in state databases, and undisclosed donations by township contractors which would exceed a $300 threshold is illegal under both state and local laws. Unpaid ads or those costing less than $300 would be legal.
Hamilton GOP Committee chairman Michael Chianese, whose organization funded the events and took the donations, said Bencivengo and Phil Angarone Jr., a former marketing director for Birdsall, directed the funds from the events.
“He (Bencivengo) did not even inform the chairman, me, on how he was moving money around,” he said. “I did not manage or have involvement in how the mayor spent the money. That was something he and Phil (Angarone, Jr.) did.”
Recently, Birdsall Services Group has had two executives brought up on charges they contributed to a scheme that went back to 2008 that prosecutors say violates the state’s Pay-To-Play law. The law prohibits public contractors from making undisclosed donations and/or donations above a certain threshold. The state attorney general’s office has not yet stated whether the Pay-to-Play violations included Hamilton.
Phil Angarone Jr., 40, of Hamilton, pleaded guilty in November to charges he funneled money to campaigns illegally and lied on state disclosures as the marketing director for Birdsall. Angarone admitted to helping give Birdsall employees bonuses in exchange for political donations that stayed just under the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) threshold for disclosure

Angarone served as the co-chairman of Bencivengo’s Mayor’s Ball in 2010 and the co-chairman of the program committee for the ball in 2011.
Vice President of Birdsall, Thomas Rospos, 60, of Belmar, was indicted in December on charges of false representations to the government, conspiracy, money laundering and other charges.
Bencivengo has not responded to several phone calls since December regarding this information. However, Bencivengo’s attorney Jerome Ballarotto, said Bencivengo did not want to comment.
Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede, selected by council after Bencivengo resigned following his conviction on federal corruption charges in November, said she was confident that any improprieties were the product of two individuals and did not affect the town, its bidded contracts or the taxpayers.
“I think if they’ve indeed paid for advertisements, it indeed should have been disclosed,” she said. “The government in Hamilton will get bids as we always have. The sound fiscal practices will continue as normal.”
You can read the full story here.

From the Times: Hamilton talking regional animal shelter in Hopewell

Rob Warney sentencing moved (again)

Robert Warney

Third time's the charm? The sentencing for a former Hamilton township administrator who plead guilty to a federal corruption charge has been bumped back well into spring.

Rob Warney, the town's former director of Community Planning and Compliance, was scheduled to be sentenced on one charge of money laundering, which carries up to 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine, back in October.

But that was moved to December, then to January and now to March 7. William Hughes, Warney's attorney, said Warney's testimony against his erstwhile "best friend," former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo has helped push back his sentencing.

The former mayor, found guilty of five charges related to a case involving the local school board, will be sentenced Feb. 27. Hughes said cooperating witnesses, such as Warney, generally do not face their sentencing until after the "principal in the case:" Bencivengo.

"It doesn’t change anything," Hughes said. "Rob Warney faces what he is going to face."

Still working on comment from the US Attorney's Office on this, but Hughes basically took it as a procedural step.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hamilton advertises for assistant business administrator position

Hamilton Township School District has started advertising for the Assistant Business Administrator position, a new post created in the wake of the Bencivengo scandal on the board.

The board created the new position at a meeting Thursday night.

Current Business Administrator Joe Tramontana was placed on administrative leave after testimony in the federal corruption trial of former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo. Marliese Ljuba, the prosecution’s key witness, said she gave Tramontana and his wife gifts, trips meals and tickets while she was the health insurance broker for the school district.

Bencivengo was found guilty of federal corruption charges in November. He was accused of taking $12,400 in bribes in exchange for influencing members of the school board on Ljuba’s contract.
Over the course of the past several months the board has also raised questions about the conduct of the business administrator during meetings. Since his suspension Board members questioned why Tramontana signed off on a unilateral purchase by the district's food services subcontractor for new kitchen equipment.

In addition, they raised concerns over whether Tramontana sat on a request to expand the distrcit's annual audit that the Audit Committee put forward.

At the time, the district's auditor, Bob Morrison, said had he known about the accusations against Tramontana, he would have submitted his proposal to the board or Parla instead.

Superintendent James Parla said the position will not act as a redundancy for the business administrator but will supplement their work.

You can see the advertisement here.

Hamilton school board lawyers up with administrator suspended

Hamilton Board of Education is lawyering up; they’ve approved a measure to go out for special counsel for a “personnel matter.”
The measure, approved at a special meeting Thursday night, will have the district send out a bid proposal for that lawyer, separate from the district’s normal legal help.
“It’s for a personnel matter, all I can say it’s a personnel matter,” Superintendent James Parla said.
The most high-profile district employee who could face that counsel would be Business Administrator Joe Tramontana.
Tramontana was placed on administrative leave after testimony in the federal corruption trial of former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo. Marliese Ljuba, the prosecution’s key witness, said she gave Tramontana and his wife gifts, trips meals and tickets while she was the health insurance broker for the school district.
Bencivengo was found guilty of federal corruption charges in November. He was accused of taking $12,400 in bribes in exchange for influencing members of the school board on Ljuba’s contract.
Parla said Tramontana achieved tenure in September.
You can read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In wake of Bencivengo scandal, Citizens Campaign proposes new bidding law

A statewide commuity group has taken another step in its efforts to reform the way Hamilton township gives out its contracts.

In a letter sent Thursday, the Citizens Campaign gave the township model ordinances for bidding professional service contracts, such as engineering, and insurance contracts. At a meeting in December, several council members said to the organization's representatives, Connie Silakoski and Steve Cook, that they would look at formalizing the township's process for bidding contracts.

"Now would be a great time to introduce this major cost-cutting reform. As you have stated, the budget development process is now upon you. By adopting these reforms as first order of business of the New Year, you will send a clear message that your administration will be run honestly and efficiently with the taxpayers’ interest at heart," the letter said.

The letter comes in the wake of the resignation of former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo, who resigned after being found guilty of federal corruption charges related to the Hamilton Board of Education health insurance broker.

The Citizens Campaign letter said the process had saved other municipalities from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars

"To our pleasant surprise, you even exclaimed a collective desire to expand the reforms," the letter said. "Given the recent debacle with Birdsall Engineering, we are sure you may find this relevant."

The ordinances would send contracts for professional services and insurance out for public bidding. The township already follows this practice but not adopting the ordinance would, in the words of the letter "allow for successive elected officials to ignore your past practices."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fox business to interview Robbinsville mayor about Amazon warehouse

Dave Fried, the mayor of Robbinsville, will appear on Fox Business Network to discuss the announcement of the 1.2 million square foot warehouse by, according to a press release.

The release said Fried will be on the air around 1 p.m. Thursday to discuss the development, which will employ about 700 people once it opens next year.

The warehouse, one of two planned for New Jersey, has been in the works for months, with Robbinsville competing against municipalities from across the state. As part of enticing the online commerce giant to the town, Robbinsville worked out a deal with the owner of the proposed property over taxes.

The owner, KTR Capital Partners, will pay about $14 million instead of property taxes for the next 20 years, as part of an estimated $22.1 million in taxes the project will bring in, according to the press release announcing the project.

Fried said Tuesday that the warehouse will generate more job than the 700 employed at the warehouse itself in construction, transportation and other industries.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hamilton Board of Ed talks reforms at first meeting of the year

The Hamilton Board of Education, after cancelling its meeting last week, elected its new officers, and after some wrangling appointed its required officers Monday night.
Board members talked about sweeping changes to their practices, officers and contractors and made plans to change some of them, although they did not take any formal action at this meeting.
The board selected Jeff Hewitson as its new president after a year on the board marked by scandal, stagnating test scores, problems with its administration and aging facilities. Throughout, the residents of the community have called for more communication, more transparency and occasionally, new board members.
“I think the Board should be very open. We haven’t been as transparent as we can be,” he said.
New vice president Joe Malagrino said he wanted to shake up the board’s designated officers, which include Affirmative Action Officer, Attendance Officer and Homeless Liaison, among others.
“We’re not scraping anything off the wall we’re just adding more paint,” he said.
You can read the full story here.

Robbinsville to get Amazon site

Santa's coming to Robbinsville, albeit a bit late., the online commerce juggernaut, announced this morning it will be taking over a 1.2 million square foot warehouse facility in Robbinsville in early 2014. The township, in announcing the deal, said the plan will create at least 700 jobs.

Spokesman John Nalbone, in announcing the deal, said it will bring in some $22.1 million in tax revenue for the township, school district and Mercer County. The site, at the Matrix Business Park off of exit 7A, is the first of two planned warehouses in New Jersey.

"Phase one of Amazon's new state-of-the-art fulfillment center in Robbinsville will spur growth and investment for the Garden State and our local economies while bringing meaningful job creation opportunities for New Jersey's families, " said Governor Chris Christie. "Amazon's multi-million dollar investment in this one facility alone is expected to result in the creation of hundreds of full-time jobs in addition to temporary, seasonal and construction jobs. Today's announcement represents the strength of our successful partnership with Amazon and I want to express our sincere thanks for their continued commitment to investing in our state and bringing these job opportunities to our residents."

The employees there will pick, pack and ship smaller items that the company sells such as DVDs. The release also said those jobs receive an average 9 percent salary increase.

"We are extremely excited to welcome Amazon to Robbinsville Township,'' said Mayor Dave Fried in the release. "We understand Amazon could have chosen anywhere in New Jersey to build its new distribution center, and we are fortunate to have the infrastructure and resources to meet their needs and consummate one of the most sought-after business partnerships in recent memory. With hundreds of new jobs and the tax revenue for our Township, we are obviously thrilled Amazon chose Robbinsville.''

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Hamilton board meeting that wasn’t

HAMILTON — Hamilton Board of Education was supposed to select its president and other officers at its meeting Wednesday, but they didn’t.
It was not because of the Bencivengo scandal, the political posturing or personal infighting that has dogged the body over the past year, but a stomach bug. Two board members, Stephanie Pratico and William Harvey, stayed home sick for the first meeting of the new Hamilton Board, keeping them from having enough members.
Superintendent James Parla said they would still be able to make statutory appointments and other requirements with the meeting on Monday.
“It’s not the end of the world, we’re going to be able to have the meeting Monday and get this done,” he said. “It happens, there is nothing you can do about it.”
Board Member-elect Albert Gayzik said he had been looking forward to his seat on the board. He said he and the other new board members had brought families and friends to see them sworn in.
“To have it moved is disappointing,” he said. “Maybe it’s just par for the course.”
William Burns, the board’s attorney, said they needed to have at least five current members to start the meeting, and they could only swear in the three new members once that happened. Meaning, of the eight current, former and future board members in the room, only three counted.
Burns said that while former Board Members Ron Tola and Richard Kanka (Kanka was re-elected and needed to be sworn in again) attended, their terms had expired. Burns said he did not know what would happen if other members had resigned during the year, leaving them at four members total.
“That’s a good question,” he said.

Hamilton Board of Education votes in new leadership tonight

Tonight the Hamilton Township Board of Education kicks off a new year.

With three new members, the nine-member body will pick its leaders and likely address some of the concerns carrying over from last year. Jennifer Barnock-Riddell, Albert Gayzik and Dina Thornton join the board after a crowded election last fall.

President Patty Del Giudice lead through a rocky year for the Board of Education: hiring a new superintendent, having a former mayor and school board member embroiled in a federal corruption scandal, fines from the state, facilities problems and lagging test scores.

In addition, they've had to deal with missing senior staff: the district does not have a permanent facilities director, human resources director, or, for the moment, business administrator.

Del Giudice has not indicated yet whether she will seek another term as Board President. Board Vice President William Harvey has not said whether he would seek the post, either.

The board has also scheduled a special session meeting for Jan. 9, but the agenda does not say what the meeting will involve.

You can find the board's agenda here.

Princeton kicks off consolidated government

PRINCETON — The battle of the Princetons is over; the township and borough officially became one government Tuesday after consolidation efforts that stretch back to the Eisenhower era came to fruition.
More than 100 people packed into the meeting room at the Princeton Municipal building for the first meeting of the new consolidated government Tuesday morning following a reception. The newly sworn-in mayor, Liz Lempert, said she looked forward to the work she and the council could do for a united Princeton.
“This is a new year and a great opportunity for the town,” Lempert said.
Voters approved this consolidation in 2011, which created today’s borough government. The new six-member council came together after a 13-month planning process and an election last fall.
The same day Congress wrestled over policy while falling over the fiscal cliff, the new council got through its first meeting largely harmoniously. The council members had a back-and-forth over the agreements with the township’s attorney and other contractors.
Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said she wanted to hold off on the contracts until council could have the time to review the documents before deciding on them, but was voted down. She said the council still needed to finalize how it would work with the attorney and needed to keep an eye on contracts’ costs.
“I just pledged to do my homework and I am uncomfortable on this,” she said

You can read the rest of the story here.