Superintendent’s pact extended

By CHRISTINE BARCIA
Staff Writer

A new contract has been approved for Freehold Borough K-8 School District Superintendent of Schools Rocco Tomazic.

The superintendent’s contract was discussed during a Board of Education meeting on Dec. 14.

Members of the public were given the opportunity to comment on Tomazic’s contract, but no one from the public spoke, Business Administrator Joseph Howe said.

“The board voted unanimously to approve the contract,” he said.

Tomazic said he is appreciative of the confidence expressed by the board in extending his contract. He came to the school district in April 2013.

“There is much work left to do to place the district on firm footing with regard to resolving overcrowding and underfunding. The entire district is pushing to the ultimate objective of an improved overall educational program for our students,” the superintendent said.

Tomazic’s new contract is for the period from Jan. 1, 2016, to June 30, 2020, according to Howe.

Most of the terms and conditions of employment of school superintendents in New Jersey, such as salary caps, are promulgated by law, according to the business administrator.

“One such provision of the law is that no superintendent shall acquire tenure, so boards of education must continue to offer contracts of employment to superintendents on a periodic basis,” Howe said.

Tomazic’s salary under the new contract will be $155,000 annually, which is the same as his current contract.

For the 2014-15 school year, Tomazic received bonus pay of $7,750 for achievement of two qualitative merit goals.

Youngster shows strength in battle against cancer

By CHRISTINE BARCIA
Staff Writer

 Gracie West, a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years and recent scans showed no evidence of the disease. In December 2014, Gracie traveled to Rome and received a blessing from Pope Francis.  CHRISTINE BARCIA/STAFF Gracie West, a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years and recent scans showed no evidence of the disease. In December 2014, Gracie traveled to Rome and received a blessing from Pope Francis. CHRISTINE BARCIA/STAFF Gracie West literally jumped for joy with the good news her doctor recently delivered to her. Gracie, 12, of Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years. After she found out her latest scans showed no evidence of the disease, she was jumping on a trampoline within the hour.

“I knew I was going to hit the clear mark,” said Gracie, who is the daughter of Don and Sharon West.

Sharon West said it felt like “the world lifted off your shoulders” when she heard from the doctor that her daughter’s scans were clear.

Gracie, whose nickname is “Cookie,” as in one tough cookie, is a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township. Two years ago she was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma.

 COURTESY OF THE VATICAN COURTESY OF THE VATICAN Gracie’s protocol included chemotherapy and radiation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and additional treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City.

But it was a special blessing given to her by Pope Francis in December 2014 that brought Gracie the greatest sense of healing. “I felt calm and peaceful, like everything was going to be fine after (the papal blessing),” the youngster said. Gracie’s trip to see Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was the result of a wish granted to Gracie and her family by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Pope Francis hugged and kissed Gracie and gave her a benediction. The pope also shook hands with her brother, Joey.

“It was just the most amazing thing,” Gracie said.

The most difficult part of her battle against cancer, Gracie said, has been “not being able to do the stuff I normally do,” like swimming and playing with her French bulldog Topy, who is named after her first chemotherapy drug, Topotecan.

Gracie’s approach to life can be summed up in the mantra that guides her: you have no choice but to be strong, but you can choose to be happy and positive. Whether facing cancer or a just bad day, Gracie lives by these words.

Sharon West said the support of family members, friends and the community has been critical throughout her daughter’s fight against illness.

The West family established the Cookie’s Crumblers Foundation with a goal to not only help Gracie crumble her cancer, but also to help other children fight cancer.

A portion of the foundation’s proceeds will be contributed to research aimed at curing and eliminating childhood cancers.

The Cookie’s Crumblers 2016 Inaugural Gala of Gratitude will take place on June 4 at the Battleground County Club, Manalapan. For more information, visit Cookie- Gala2016.eventbrite.com.

Community groups supported with funds from Mayor’s Gala

By MARK ROSMAN
Staff Writer

MANALAPAN — A total of $27,500 in proceeds from the 2015 Manalapan Mayor’s Gala were presented to area organizations by members of the Township Committee during a recent meeting.

The Samaritan Center, Manalapan, which provides food assistance to individuals and families in Manalapan, Marlboro, Englishtown and Millstone Township, received a check for $10,000. The all-volunteer organization has been in operation since the 1980s.

Tony Morelli, a former mayor of Manalapan, accepted a check on behalf of the Samaritan Center during the Dec. 9 meeting of the Township Committee. He said, “there are a substantial number of people in town who qualify (for assistance) under federal standards.”

Morelli placed that number at about 17 percent of the population and said that the Samaritan Center provides meals to about 1,000 people on a monthly basis. There is no paid staff at the agency, only volunteers who work at the food pantry’s location behind the Manalapan Senior Center.

Also accepting the check on behalf of the Samaritan Center were Martha Amato, executive director, and Bill Duncan, vice president of the center’s board.

Jim and Joanne Brennan accepted a $10,000 donation on behalf of the Brennan Stands Alone Foundation. The foundation is named for their son, Brian, who lost both legs and sustained other significant injuries while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in May 2008.

Brennan has recovered from his injuries and continues to serve in the Army, according to his mother. The foundation supports the family members of wounded soldiers so they do not have to leave the side of their injured warriors.

“We are trying our best to reach as many people as possible. Manalapan really reached out to us,” Joanne Brennan said.

Other donations from the Mayor’s Gala were made to the Manalapan Community Emergency Response Team; the Manalapan Englishtown Community Alliance for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Abuse; the Manalapan Arts Council; the Manalapan Police Explorers; and the Manalapan Veterans Committee.

Mayor Jack McNaboe said the goal is to support these local organizations with funds that are raised privately, rather than with taxpayer dollars.

The Dec. 9 meeting marked the final Wednesday night action meeting for Committeeman Ryan Green, whose term will end on Dec. 31. Green has served on the governing body for six years.

Green thanked Manalapan’s employees, professionals and volunteers for their efforts on behalf of the community. He thanked voters and said it has been “a tremendous privilege to serve two terms.”

Green thanked his wife, Judith, for her support and said that he is looking forward to spending more time with his daughter, Rebecca, 2.

Committeewoman Susan Cohen told Green, “We did not always agree (on issues), but you gave your honest opinion,” and McNaboe said, “We have had disagreements and we have also agreed on many items. I wish you the best.”

Student found in possession of 2 BB guns

MANALAPAN — Administrators in the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District and police are reviewing an incident that involved a pupil at the Wemrock Brook School, Millhurst Road.

Police said that at 9:22 a.m. Dec. 11, Patrolman Morgan Joiner responded to the school to investigate a report of a male juvenile from Manalapan being in possession of two imitation firearms.

Joiner spoke with school administrators and security personnel who reported that the pupil was in possession of two Airsoft BB guns on the bus on his way to school and in a classroom. The pupil was removed from the building and the case is being reviewed.

In other incidents reported by police:

 On Dec. 12 at 2:45 p.m., Detective Kenneth Mikulik and Patrolman Christopher Makwinski were on a plainclothes detail at the Englishtown Auction Sales, Wilson Avenue.

While the officers were on patrol, an individual later identified as Christian Importuna, 20, of Englishtown, ran past them. Police said Importuna was being followed by another individual who claimed that Importuna had shoplifted items from his retail stand.

Importuna was located and identified by the merchant. Importuna was charged with unlawful possession of an imitation firearm, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a controlled dangerous substance believed to be cocaine and shoplifting.

 On Dec. 12 at 9:30 p.m., Patrolman Bryan Belardo responded to the police department parking lot in reference to a harassment/road rage incident. Following an investigation, the driver of one of the vehicles involved in the incident, Miguel Vazquezteles, 30, of Freehold Borough, was charged with driving while intoxicated, careless driving and possession of open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle.

New K-9 officer helps to locate child

MANALAPAN — The township’s newest police officer has successfully completed his first case.

Police said that at 5:20 p.m. Dec. 17, Patrolman Adam Sosnowski and his new partner, K-9 officer Grim, responded to 520 Route 9 North, Manalapan, for a report of a missing juvenile.

The juvenile’s mother told Sosnowski that after a verbal argument with her 15-year-old son, she left him in her vehicle while she entered a store. When she returned to her vehicle, her son was gone.

Police said Sosnowski used Grim to track and eventually locate the juvenile, who was uninjured and reunited with his parents.

Deputy Police Chief Michael Fountain said this marked the first time Grim was used by the department for tracking duty since he and Sosnowski graduated from a K-9 handler’s training academy on Dec. 11.

Sosnowski and Grim will be going to advanced narcotics detection training in early 2016 to further enhance their capabilities and to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors in Manalapan, according to Fountain.

Howell zoners OK grading changes at project site

By JENNIFER ORTIZ
Staff Writer

HOWELL — The Zoning Board of Adjustment has granted preliminary and final major subdivision approval to a previously approved 20-lot subdivision for which the applicant sought a density variance as the result of a zone change at Asbury Avenue and Cloverhill Lane.

The application was heard by the zoning board on Nov. 16.

Attorney Salvatore Alfieri, representing Gross and Gross Associates, said the application was one of the most unique he has handled in 30-plus years of land use work. He said the Gross family has owned the 41-acre property for decades and received approval in 2000 for 20 lots (17 homes) and then the economy crashed.

“The approvals have been extended … and we were about ready to perfect the subdivision as approved. The engineer who got the approval originally was changed and Michael Geller became the new engineer and finished the perfection of the approval,” Alfieri told the board.

“During that time with the new engineer, with new eyes on the project, it was clear that the way (the development) was designed had significant expense to the township forever in the maintenance of the retaining walls and significant grading.

“There were a lot of design issues that can easily be fixed just by tweaking the plans. We met with the Planning Board’s professionals, we had a Technical Review Committee meeting and explained the process and it was favorably received, we believe, but it was determined that because the zone changed we could not just amend our previous approval. We had to come back to this (zoning) board … It went from a 1-acre zone to a 2-acre zone,” Alfieri said.

He said the lots are not changing and the road configuration is not changing.

“All we are doing is changing the grading in a way that will make the project much more attractive to everyone, including the township,” Alfieri said.

Geller said, “The proposed amendment to the plan is the same number of lots, the same street configuration as originally approved and the same street design standards … There will be elimination in total of the extensive amount of retaining walls. … All of the grading has been redesigned so as to eliminate those retaining walls. We feel that is a benefit to the township.

“ … We redesigned the storm water management system such that it is a more efficient design then originally done by the prior engineer … So that is also a benefit for the township in … not having (retaining) walls and basins to maintain. Storm water outfalls that were previously approved are retained exactly as they were in the current development,” Geller said.

He said various sections of the development site will be supported by separate storm water management basins. Geller said the homes will be served by wells and septic systems. The homes will be custom built with the number of bedrooms and square footage to be determined on an individual basis, he said.

Approval and variances for the revised plan was granted in a unanimous vote by Vice Chairman Daniel Cardellichio and board members Nino Borrelli, Evelyn O’Donnell, Thomas Posch, Ronald Campos and Michael Sanclimenti.

Driver facing charges of vehicular homicide

A Bergen County man is facing up to 10 years in state prison on charges he was intoxicated while he was behind the wheel of his Mini Cooper when it crashed on a Route 18 entrance ramp in Colts Neck in August, taking the life of his father, Monmouth County Acting Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.

Andrew Halder, 35, of Woodcliff Lake, was arrested and charged on Sept. 21 with vehicular homicide, reckless driving, driving while intoxicated and displaying a fictitious inspection sticker. The charges relate to a fatal motor vehicle collision on Route 18 in Colts Neck in August.

According to the prosecutor, Halder was operating a 2007 Mini Cooper that was occupied by his father, Gary Halder, just before 3 p.m. Aug. 30, when the Halders left a local golf club where they had played a round of golf earlier that day.

A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Colts Neck Police Department determined that after leaving the club, Andrew Halder, while operating the vehicle, attempted to enter Route 18 north from Route 537, and upon entering the ramp to Route 18, Halder’s vehicle hit the curb.

After it hit the curb, the car flipped and rolled, and Gary Halder was ejected from the vehicle. He was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune, where he eventually died from the injuries he sustained during the collision, according to the prosecutor.

During the course of the investigation, it was determined Andrew Halder was allegedly operating the motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration in excess of 0.08 percent – the legal threshold for intoxication in New Jersey.

Andrew Halder was released after posting $100,000 bail, with a 10 percent option, as set by state Superior Court Judge Honora O’Brien Kilgallen.

If convicted of vehicular homicide, Halder faces up to 10 years in state prison.

Marlboro’s credit rating upgraded

MARLBORO — Standard & Poor’s has assigned an AA+ rating to the Township of Marlboro Series 2015 bonds with a stable outlook. This rating on financing for projects authorized between 2004 and 2015 represents an upgrade of the township’s credit which was reviewed last in 2010, according to a press release from municipal officials.

“This is tremendous news for Marlboro,” Mayor Jonathan Hornik said. “This rating upgrade affirms the difficult decisions made over the last eight years to reduce the size of government and run it more efficiently. It also represents a reflection of the overall financial stewardship of the municipality.”

Marlboro’s credit was last reviewed by Moody’s in 2010 and was assigned a rating of Aa2.

Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, representing two of the three primary bond rating agencies, use similar rating formats, with two notable exceptions: Standard & Poor’s uses plus and minus signs and Moody’s uses 1, 2 and 3; and Moody’s capitalizes the first letter only, according to the press release.

“The township has timed this financing to lock in a fixed interest rate at an historically low rate, before the Federal Reserve acts to increase rates for the first time since 2008,” Hornik said. “As a result of this rating upgrade, the township will benefit from an even lower interest rate, one that directly translates into lower costs to taxpayers for road, park and other capital improvements.”

According to the press release, in its narrative, Standard & Poor’s referenced a number of factors which led to its determination as follows: very strong economy; adequate management; strong budgetary performance; very strong budgetary flexibility; very strong liquidity; and strong debt and contingent liability position.

“The report highlights Marlboro’s local economy as ‘very strong,’ ” Hornik said. “The Marlboro Economic Development Committee must be recognized for its role in tirelessly pursuing new, clean, quality ratables.

“We have made great gains on the economic development front, despite the recessionary climate, to the tune of more than $70 million in new commercial ratables or $1.6 million in new tax revenue. This has reduced the tax burden on our residents.

“I am also very proud of the efforts of the Township Council and the employees over the past eight years to help get us to this point,” Hornik said. “An independent credit rating agency has now quantified our hard work in the form of an AA+ credit rating. You don’t hear much about rating upgrades these days, let alone in New Jersey government. This is a great victory for Marlboro.”

Marlboro councilman will seek county sheriff’s post

By PETER ELACQUA
Staff Writer

 Jeff Cantor Jeff Cantor MARLBORO – Councilman Jeff Cantor has declared his candidacy for the position of Monmouth County sheriff.

Cantor, 49, works as a health care consultant and has served on the Marlboro Township Council since 2004. Cantor will seek the Democratic nomination in June 2016 for the right to run in November. The sheriff’s position carries a three-year term.

According to the Monmouth County Directory, the sheriff is the chief executive officer of an agency with 600 employees and a $68 million budget which consists of four divisions: law enforcement, communications, special operations and corrections, as well as the administration of the Monmouth County Police Academy and the Office of Emergency Management.

As a councilman, Cantor has served as the liaison to the police department and as a member of the Emergency Planning Council. He is a licensed emergency medical technician and has been a member of the Marlboro First Aid Squad since 1996.

Cantor has served in the U.S. Army since 1985, on active duty and in the Army Reserves. He currently holds the rank of colonel in the Army Reserves.

“When I joined the Army in 1985 as a Private First Class, I did it with one thought in mind and that was to serve my country,” Cantor said. “Thirty years later, I am entering this race with the same mindset. I simply want to serve county residents during difficult times.

“My wife and I are raising our two daughters here in Monmouth County and there is nothing more important to us than making sure they are protected and safe. This election has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with making sure Monmouth County families are afforded that same peace of mind.

“My experiences both at home and abroad have provided me with the unique perspective of someone who has established efficiencies to save taxpayers money, worked on responsible budgets and also helped establish governments and spearhead reconstruction and development in some of the world’s most dangerous environments.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to speak with voters to let them know how all of those experiences make me the most qualified candidate to keep families across the county safe as their sheriff,” he said.

“Jeff is an extraordinary candidate,” Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal said. “He is a colonel and has spent over 30 years serving our country. He is probably the most qualified candidate we have seen for Monmouth County sheriff in quite some time. In the age of growing heroin and drug usage in Monmouth County, I cannot think of somebody who is more qualified than Jeff Cantor.”

Cantor said he is concerned about the safety and security of all county residents.

“I have just returned from a two-month deployment in Europe where we were tasked with ways to help our European allies deal with the (Syrian) refugee crisis and help combat foreign fighter flow with the migrants,” he said. “As a civil affairs officer, one of my mandates is protecting civilians around the globe. It is something I take very seriously and thoroughly believe in. … I have never played partisan politics while on the Marlboro council, nor will I ever do so. … If I can get Sunni, Shia, Kurds and Turkomen to work together, I can certainly get Democrats and Republicans to work together for a common cause.”

Republican Shaun Golden is the current Monmouth County sheriff. He was named acting sheriff in January 2010. Golden was elected to a three-year term in November 2010 and re-elected in 2013. He is a former member of the Colts Neck and Toms River police departments. Golden also serves as the elected chairman of the Monmouth County Republican Committee.

15-home development approved

By PETER ELACQUA
Staff Writer

MARLBORO – The Planning Board has granted preliminary approval to an application filed by a developer who plans to build 15 homes on Buckley Road.

Board members heard testimony from representatives of Stillwell Road Holdings, LLC, on Nov. 4.

Attorney Salvatore Alfieri represented Stillwell Holdings and presented testimony from Terry Sherman, a principal of the company, and Mark Zelina, a senior associate with Maser Consulting, Red Bank.

Testimony indicated that the 38-acre property on Buckley Road will contain 17 lots, with 15 lots to be used for homes, one open space lot with a storm water management basin, and one reconfigured lot which will contain an existing dwelling.

Each lot will be a minimum of 60,000 square feet (about 1.5 acres) and each home is estimated to be between 3,500 and 4,000 square feet, according to the testimony.

Plans call for Buckley Road to be widened and for a sidewalk to be provided on the side of the road where the homes are constructed. Two cul-de-sacs will provide access to the residential lots, according to the testimony.

Sherman said the property had a previous application approved in 2007 for 19 single family lots. He said the plans have been redesigned in accordance with Marlboro’s current municipal code.

Mayor Jonathan Hornik, who sits on the board, asked what the project’s affordable housing obligation will be.

Sherman said 1 percent of the sale price of each home will be paid into Marlboro’s affordable housing trust fund. For example, if a home is sold by the builder for $600,000, then $6,000 will be paid into the affordable housing fund.

No affordable housing units will be built on the Buckley Road development site.

Board members voted 6-2 to grant preliminary approval to the application. Chairman Larry Josephs, Township Councilwoman Carol Mazzola, Neil Bettoff, Andrew Pargament and Christopher Cherbini voted yes.

Hornik and Michael Messinger voted no.

Asked why he voted no, Hornik said, “I voted no because I believe Marlboro has been overdeveloped for years and I would like to see less residential development and more open space. This plan’s prior approval happened before my administration and I believe it could have been planned and situated better than it was.”