CHRIS KELLY  Zack Skove, 11, (center), Max Springman, 12, (back left) and Ray Dweck 11, (back right), all of West Long Branch enjoy sliding to earth down a three-story slide at the West Long Branch Community Fair on Friday.CHRIS KELLY Zack Skove, 11, (center), Max Springman, 12, (back left) and Ray Dweck 11, (back right), all of West Long Branch enjoy sliding to earth down a three-story slide at the West Long Branch Community Fair on Friday.

McDonald Family Room construction under way

Thanks in part to the successful Ronald McDonald House gala, construction of a Ronald McDonald Family Room is now under way at Jersey Shore Medical Center, Neptune. According to Ed Richards, Oceanport, Ronald McDonald House operations vice chair, construction of the 1,000-square-foot facility has already begun at Jersey Shore’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

"We are proud and pleased to be able to enhance the vital services of the Ronald McDonald House of Long Branch by building a Ronald McDonald Family Room at Jersey Shore Medical Center, and we hope to complete the facility by mid-July," said Richards.

The room, only one of five such facilities on the East Coast, will feature a television room, kitchen galley area, computer room, "quiet" room, a general sitting area and complete ADA compliant bathroom.

"Joanne George, owner/operator of McDonald’s in Long Branch, and Carol Usher, both members of the board of trustees, are diligently working with Kat Larson and Tracy Eith of Imagine-That-Interiors of Red Bank, who are volunteering their design expertise to the project. Also, Todd Katz of Siperstein’s has graciously offered to help by providing wall coverings as well as assistance in expediting materials," said Richards.

The Ronald McDonald House contributed 100 percent of the costs associated with the family room including construction and furnishings.

Ronald McDonald House, Long Branch, was begun in 1987 as a home away from home for families of seriously ill children undergoing medical treatment. More than 1,900 families stayed at the house since its opening.

LBHA is facing budget shortfall HUD freezes spending at current level while revising funding formula

Staff Writer

By Carolyn O

LBHA is facing budget shortfall
HUD freezes spending at current level while revising funding formula

A drop in the level of support from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for Long Branch’s Housing Authority may not be felt right away, but officials say there could be problems down the road.

According to Michael Winnick, president of the Long Branch Housing Authority, HUD recently began revamping its financing rules. While it does that, the funding it provides will be frozen at this year’s level.

Because of rising costs, particularly for utility services and health-care costs for employees, HUD will provide a significantly smaller portion of the LBHA budget for the upcoming year.

According to Cindy Toy, who works in the LBHA finance department, HUD provided approximately 92 percent of the authority’s budget this year. With funding frozen at current levels that will drop to about 83 percent for the next fiscal year.

The budget shortfall created by the change will be about $130,000, Toy said.

Winnick said the housing authority also is subject to additional requirements by HUD, but there will be no additional money to support the mandated changes.

"This will have no immediate effect on the standard of living but within two to three years infrastructure and some of our programs will be affected," Winnick said.

The LBHA, currently operating with a $6 million budget (with an additional $2 million for programs), supports roughly 1,400 housing units, of which 300 are designated for senior citizens.

Because it is facing an operating shortfall, the LBHA has received approval to use 10 percent of its 2003 Comprehensive Grant, a grant funding capital improvements, as part of its operating budget.

However, that move only shifts where the LBHA will have a budget problem, according to Winnick. "If we’re not re-funded for the utilities expenses, we’ll be short on our capital program," he said. "These things aren’t a wish list; we’re not talking about putting in valet parking. These things are realistic concerns and needs. The increase of utilities and reduction in funding puts us in a difficult position."

Winnick noted that the LBHA is operating some of the oldest public housing buildings in the state, some dating back to the 1930s.

Grant Court, the first public housing in the city, was the eighth housing development in the state to receive funding from the federal government, and the building is still in use.

"What we really need is to replace them, but one of our big problems is that we’ve been maintaining the buildings too well," Winnick said.

He explained that the money available to replace public housing comes from HUD’s Hope Six program which is a competitive grant process.

"We’re competing against places like Newark, Camden and Trenton," Winnick said. "Our buildings are in good shape comparatively. If we had ignored the buildings, we would be eligible for money to replace them."

This latest revamping of the HUD formula may be part of a trend Winnick said he has seen in the last few years where the federal government is attempting to shift responsibility to local governments.

Any such move could significantly increase the burden already being carried by local taxpayers, according to the authority’s president.

Winnick pointed out that because the LBHA is tax exempt, other property owners in the city bear a significant burden because they fund much of the cost of educating the children who live in the public housing as well as all borough services, such as the police department and the department of public works that serve the facilities.

The LBHA does pay the city for additional policing at its buildings. "But that too," said Winnick, "is paid through a drug-elimination grant which will see a reduction."

The neighborhood has visible signs of drug activity, according to Winnick, and that creates a great concern he shares with other commissioners since the drug program funding has been reduced from $250,000 to $140,000. In addition said Winnick residents are looking to see if recommendations of a five-year community plan devised from residents and resident councils will be implemented. He said that may be difficult while trying to reduce the cost of housing.

No link found between sunscreen, blindness

The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) has received calls during the past summers from concerned citizens regarding the myth that getting sunscreen in the eyes causes blindness. Many of the calls have been from parents who are worried about using sunscreen on young children, according to a press release from Bayshore Community Hospital, Holmdel.

"We have searched for information to suggest a possible link, but have not found anything in our efforts," said L. Scott Larsen, director of the department of emergency medicine.

However, this does not mean that sunscreens cannot be problematic or harmful it they get into the eyes; some products cause irritation, redness, discomfort, tearing, or temporary blurring of vision.

The benefits of sunscreens outweigh any potential risk when the products are used as directed. Sunscreens are highly recommended when exposure to the sun is likely; in fact, some medications increase the risk of getting an exaggerated sunburn, therefore sunscreens are strongly encouraged, especially in cases like these.

Proper use of sunscreen includes careful application around the eyes. When using a spray applicator, the individual should not spray the lotion on the face, rather it should be sprayed on the hands, then applied to the face.

In case of any eye exposure to any chemical, including sunscreen, NJPIES suggests flushing the eye with a gentle stream of warm water, and then calling the N.J. Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 to determine what, if any, treatment is necessary.