Second-grade students

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Second-grade students at Central School in East Brunswick stand up to be counted during a Census 2000 program with U.S. Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) on Monday.

JACKIE POLLACK



Borough mourns death

of well-liked resident

SOUTH RIVER — Last Thursday, the borough lost a well-liked resident after a walk home took a tragic turn.

According to the authorities, John Harvey, 47, of Lisa Drive, left the South River Pub on Main Street at approximately 11 p.m. on March 4. Two and a half hours later, he was found unconscious and severely beaten on Charles Street by two men driving by. After attempting to help the injured man, passers-by contacted the police, said Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Thomas Kapsak.

Harvey was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick; he died of head injuries five days later.

Authorities cite robbery as a probable motive for the attack. While a weapon could have been used to inflict the blunt trauma injuries, none were found at the scene. According to Kapsak, an active investigation into the incident is under way.

"We’re talking to everyone we can," he said. "It’s a wide open investigation."

A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Harvey lived in Old Bridge, Queens, N.Y., and Farmingdale, N.Y., before moving to South River 10 years ago. An Army veteran of the Vietnam War, he was on active duty with the US Army Reserves in Edison, where he was a member of the Chemical Corps.

He attended St. John’s University in New York, later graduating from Rutgers University in New Brunswick with a history degree, said Michael Nugent, who describes the Lisa Drive resident as one of his best friends.

Last summer, Harvey passed the national test for teacher certification and had submitted resumes to several school districts. According to Nugent, he had been interviewed and accepted by the East Brunswick school district as a substitute teacher. He expected to be appointed to the position sometime this month.

Divorced, Harvey was the father of four children, including twin daughters who are college freshmen in Connecticut and New York, and another son and daughter who live in Old Bridge. He is also survived by his parents, a sister, two brothers and several nieces and nephews.

A member of Crandall Kossman American Legion Post 177 and the Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh, both of Old Bridge, Harvey is remembered by his friends as a kind, gentle man appreciated by many. His friends called him "Maintain," after one of his favorite expressions.

"It meant, ‘Keep going, don’t let anything get you down,’" explained Dennis Sullivan, the owner of Modigraphics on Whitehead Avenue, and a friend of Harvey. "John Harvey was a guy who would never hurt a fly."

"He would walk away from an argument rather than get involved in one," Nugent reflected. "He’s going to be missed by his many friends."

Deeply concerned with the incident, Harvey’s friends embarked on a campaign to both help Harvey’s family and the ongoing investigation. Called "Citizens for a Safer South River," the group has posted fliers and distributed collection cans in local businesses; the funds will go toward a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the attack, as well as to Harvey’s family.

According to members of the group, the campaign is also a way to address safety issues in the borough. Since the March 4 incident and a Feb. 12 shooting and stabbing in the downtown area, many residents no longer feel safe.

Anyone with information on the case can call the South River Police Department at (732) 238-1000. All contacts are kept confidential.

Donations can be sent to the Raritan Bay Credit Union, 93 Main St., South River, NJ 08882. Checks should be payable to The John Harvey Fund.

— Jennifer Micale

Training facility proposal goes before zoning board

By daniel walsh

Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK — After weeks of speculation on the fate of a proposed heavy equipment training facility, the Zoning Board of Adjustment held its first public hearing before a packed municipal court room.

On Thursday nearly 100 residents turned out to hear the application of Operating Engineers Local 825, which calls for the construction of a 17,353-square-foot building, a 19.8-acre equipment training area, and parking space for 171 vehicles.

Local 825 wants to move its training site from its current location along the New Jersey Turnpike in South Brunswick to the new one in East Brunswick. The new site would be situated on a 66-acre tract of undeveloped land that is bordered by Church Lane, Beekman Road, the New Jersey Turnpike, and Irelands Brook.

In order to develop the site, Local 825 must obtain zoning board approval of the facility, which is to be constructed on land currently zoned for rural preservation.

James Cahill, the attorney for Local 825 and mayor of New Brunswick, supplied testimony of engineer Nicholas Rotonda and architect Jeffrey Venezia on the proposed site. Cahill is seeking to prove that the facility is a school in the academic sense, thereby allowing the application to proceed to the Planning Board without the need for a variance. If the zoning board rules that it is not an academic facility, then Cahill would seek a zoning variance for the facility that would allow the project to move on to the Planning Board.

The zoning board heard testimony on each of those points simultaneously during the hearing. Zoning chair Steve Phillips gave several residents the opportunity to speak before he adjourned the meeting and called for its continuance on April 13.

Alan Godber, a Milltown resident and chairman of the Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership, said that the proposed development could lead to the pollution of the Farrington Lake by nonpoint source pollution, such as chemicals, silt, or fuel. The lake serves as a drinking water supply for several towns in the Lawrence Brook watershed, which includes East Brunswick, South Brunswick, North Brunswick, Milltown, and New Brunswick.

"Storm water will find its way into the upper and lower lakes, and Irelands Brook," said Godber, referring to the three water bodies located on the tract of land.

"Irelands Brook flows into Farrington Lake," he added.

The Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership, a coalition of environmental commission members of East Brunswick, South Brunswick, Milltown, New Brunswick and North Brunswick, has already opposed the proposed facility, citing potential endangerment of wildlife and aquatic habitat, high levels of erosion, and large destruction of trees as possible environmental degradation.

Godber testified just minutes after Rotonda said that, upon visiting Local 825’s current training site, he found no evidence of any impact from the dust that would include some of this nonpoint source pollution.

Rotonda said that he had spoken with instructors at the site and witnessed their work at the South Brunswick facility. When asked by members of the zoning board, he replied that he had been there one time for a period of about two hours.

Several other residents spoke out in opposition to the plan. Several, including Godber, cited the concerns about the project listed by the township Environmental Commission, planner Debra Rainwater, and Public Safety Director Thomas Finn. Among those were the high potential for environmental degradation to the site and surrounding areas, and the potential negative impact on traffic.

Cahill will present testimony from a representative of the operating engineers, a noise expert, a planner, and a representative of the county vocational and technical schools during the next hearing on April 13.

E.B. library continues foreign film festival

The East Brunswick Library, Jean Walling Civic Center, will continue its Spring Foreign Film Festival on April 4 with 1:30 and 8 p.m. showings of The Eel, a 1998 Japanese suspense-drama.

Released from prison eight years after murdering his wife and her lover in a jealous rage, an embittered man who communicates only with his pet eel meets a woman who uncannily — and unnervingly — resembles his late wife. The film, which won the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival, will be shown in Japanese with English subtitles.

Admission is free. Reservations are not required.

For more information, call Susan Sclar at (732) 390-6775.

Suspended S.R. captain

returns to department

Three employees have filed suit in state Superior Court

O

n Monday, a South River police captain suspended for nearly a year was expected to shine up his badge and return to the force.

Capt. Wesley Bomba, a borough resident and a 32-year veteran of the force, has been suspended with pay since March 8, 1999, after sexual harassment charges were filed against him by a fellow officer, Lt. Michael Trojanowski of the traffic safety bureau, on behalf of three female employees.

Since that time, Bomba has been cleared of four out of the five charges after a report by a hearing officer from the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department, hired by the borough to investigate the incident. The officer was cleared of charges that he used derogatory language, used rude or insulting language in public, repeatedly violated department rules and regulations, and violated the department’s sexual harassment policy.

Bomba was found guilty of a failure to conduct himself in accordance with high ethical standards, and will receive a written reprimand pertaining to this charge, borough officials said. According to borough officials, he was ordered back for Monday; he will have to qualify for his weapon and perhaps receive additional training.

Noting that Bomba was eager to get back to the force, attorney Lawrence Bitterman of New Brunswick maintained that the incident that led to the reprimand was a misconstrued joke about divorce in front of a female borough employee. Bomba did not "moon" the employee, as was alleged, his attorney said, adding that the charges were baseless.

"The charges were completely false. The three main complainants lied. Their stories conflicted and they were not filed in a timely fashion," he said of the overall case.

However, the issue hasn’t come to an end for the three employees, who have since filed suit in state Superior Court. The plaintiffs include Sayreville resident Janet Nielsen, who was hired as a dispatcher in 1989 and served as a special police officer since 1996, and Paula Bollentin, who has served as a special since 1981 and as a dispatcher since 1983, and Debra Shaluha, who worked as a secretary for the chief of police from 1985 to 1989. Shaluha, a borough resident, has worked in the borough clerk’s office since 1994.

In the suit, filed by Somerville attorney Brian Cige, the women claim that they have suffered years of continuous sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. They particularly cite the actions of Bomba, who allegedly touched himself in their presence, told inappropriate jokes with sexual content, inquired into the plaintiffs’ sexual lives and disclosed his own.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs experienced emotional suffering, requiring over the counter and prescription medicines for anxiety and depression. They have also allegedly suffered financially because they avoided overtime or particular assignments that would put them into contact with the captain.

The plaintiffs have also named the South River Police Department and the borough in the suit, alleging that officials were aware of the situation and did little to resolve it. They alleged that Bomba’s suspension with his annual salary of $57,918 amounted to a "paid vacation" appearing to "reward" him for his conduct. Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege that the paid suspension put Bomba into contact with and further distressed Shaluha, who works in the office where Bomba must go to receive his paycheck every two weeks.

"They were very concerned and disappointed," Cige said of his clients’ reaction to Bomba’s return, noting that the officer would be in a supervisory position to two of the three plaintiffs.

"They were asked by the borough to participate as witnesses against Capt. Bomba, which they did. They believed that serious disciplinary action was going to be taken," he maintained. "They were hoping that the chief would take more serious action than the hearing officer recommended."

As the only captain on the 28-member force, Bomba is next in line for the chief’s position. Current Police Chief Francis X. Eib announced his retirement last year and plans to take his leave in early April, to retire fully in October. Last month, the Borough Council rescinded an ordinance establishing the position of a police director, which met with opposition from residents and police officers alike.

Borough officials are uncertain as to who would ultimately lead the department. According to Mayor Robert Szegeti, Bomba would be able to fill in for the chief in his absence as the next ranking officer. A possible promotion to chief and any other solution would rely on recommendations from the borough’s Public Safety Committee and the council, he said.

"We don’t know for sure what’s going to happen," said Councilman Salvatore Marsicano, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

At a council meeting last month, Marsicano asked the borough attorney to look into changing the ordinance governing the chief’s succession. Currently, only a captain can be promoted to chief; Marsicano’s recommendation would allow officials to consider lieutenants for promotion. The lieutenants, and Trojanowski in particular, have led the department during Bomba’s suspension when the chief was away.

Marsicano noted that the rules, regulations and ordinances dealing with the line of succession are "vague."

"They need to be addressed," he said.

Chief Eib’s retirement

plan announced in S.R.

Borough Council

expected to vote on

package March 15

SOUTH RIVER — By early April, South River Police Chief Francis X. Eib should be embarking on his new life as a retiree.

Last week, the Borough Council ended several months of negotiation after agreeing upon a retirement plan for the chief, who announced his intended retirement last summer. According to the agreement, crafted by Eib’s attorney, Robert Brown of Old Bridge, the chief will receive a one-day payment for each two-days of accumulated sick time, an eight percent increase in his $67,000 salary for longevity for both 1999 and 2000, and six percent pay increases for both 1999 and 2000, as well as health insurance and prescription plans.

In the agreement, the chief will also be compensated by the borough if he is called to testify on any litigation relating to his position as chief of police. He will also retain his chief’s badge and police identification during his retirement, which is slated to begin on Oct. 1.

Eib, who has spent the past decade as chief and more than 37 years on the force, will be leaving sooner than his official retirement date. On April 3, the chief will begin using his accumulated vacation and personal days, taking 74 days of terminal leave once that is exhausted.

Council members should vote on the plan at their meeting next Wednesday.

While opposed to the contract, Councilman David Sliker praised Eib’s service to the community, such as his work for the victims of domestic violence, which has received recognition from the state. However, Sliker fears that the chief’s retirement package may set a costly precedent for other borough employees eyeing retirement.

"It goes above and beyond the amount the ordinance allows for administrators," he explained, adding that four borough employees will retire shortly.

"They can ask for the same package," he explained.

Sliker noted that two attorneys were hired to negotiate this contract, which came together within a two-day period. The attorneys advised that the council not vote on the matter at this time due to several concerns, he said.

One of those involves sick time compensation. Under the current ordinance, employees are compensated for one out of every six sick days upon retirement; Eib, on the other hand, will receive one for two. Sliker also noted that the longevity increase is half a point higher than what is currently allowed.

"We’re looking to be fair to the chief and to all our employees," he said. "This is going to have serious impact."

Overall, however, council members wished the best for the long-time chief in his future.

"It’s something he’s wanted for a long time," noted Councilman Shawn Haussermann, adding that the chief has personal business that he needs to attend to. "I’m glad we were finally able to resolve it. Now we have new challenges."

The challenge emanates from the change of leadership, left undetermined after an ordinance establishing the position of police director was rescinded last month. When Eib goes on leave, Capt. Wesley Bomba, a 32-year veteran of the force who has just returned from a year-long suspension, will become acting chief. Whether Bomba will eventually assume the top spot is still unknown.

At previous meetings, Councilman Salvatore Marsicano asked the borough attorney to look into changing the ordinance governing succession in the police department, which he described as "vague." Marsicano hopes that lieutenants, currently out of the running, may also be considered for the position, giving the borough a wider pool from which to choose.

Tax rate

stable in

township

Owner of the average

E.B. home will pay

$1,470 this year

EAST BRUNSWICK — Taxes will remain stable this year. Mayor Bill Neary announced that the municipal tax rate will remain at 98 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Neary presented the $43,145,975 budget during last week’s Township Council meeting. The total budget will decrease by $605,007, or 1.4 percent, from last year’s total budget.

The average owner of a home assessed at $150,000 would pay $1,470 over the course of a year.

Neary said that the township was able to keep taxes stable because of several factors.

"There’s the consolidation of businesses," Neary said. "We retired some debt. There was an increase in commercial ratables, with the mall and other stores. Plus, we’re watching how we spend our money."

One of the notable aspects of the budget is a $230,000 township allocation for open space, the first that the town has ever committed.

"The referendum money has bought us some land but not the smaller lands in residential areas," Neary said. "We want to use this money to purchase some of those properties."

In addition, the township has set aside approximately $35,000 to purchase defibrillators for every police car and train every patrolman in the use of them.

Neary also introduced the $2,341,882 capital budget, which includes various drainage, park, and road upgrades.

Among the roads to be improved are Hollis Road, Grace Road, parts of Dunhams Corner Road, and Kossman Street, while Peach Orchard, Ryders Lane, and New Brunswick Avenue will all see work done on traffic lights.

In addition, the township will improve the Country Lane Park by making it accessible to the handicapped and by installing new equipment. Neary also said that the township would replace all of the trees currently on the waiting list for replacement in the coming year.

The township will also replace the roof on the township Senior Center and purchase a new van for senior transportation.

The library’s budget will increase by $100,000, and that additional funding will be used to replace the telephone system, eliminate obsolete computer terminals, and improve the ramp at the rear door of the building.

The Township Council will hold a public hearing on the budget on March 20 and will vote on it on March 27.

Young musicians sought for auditions

Applications are available at the East Brunswick Division of Recreation Office, 350 Dunhams Corner Road, for the 16th annual Young Musicians Auditions scheduled for April 8 at East Brunswick High School, Cranbury Road.

Applicants must be East Brunswick residents in ninth-12th grades. They may audition on piano, stringed, brass or woodwind instruments and in voice. All types of ensembles also are welcome. Auditions are the preliminary to the Young Musicians Concert set for Sunday, April 16.

The program is sponsored by the East Brunswick Division of Recreation and the East Brunswick Arts Commission.

For more information, call (732) 390-6797.

Suspended S.R. captain returns

has served as a special since 1981 and as a dispatcher since 1983, and Debra Shaluha, who worked as a secretary for the chief of police from 1985 to 1989. Shaluha, a borough resident, has worked in the borough clerk’s office since 1994.

In the suit, filed by Somerville attorney Brian Cige, the women claim that they have suffered years of continuous sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. They particularly cite the actions of Bomba, who allegedly touched himself in their presence, told inappropriate jokes with sexual content, inquired into the plaintiffs’ sexual lives and disclosed his own.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs experienced emotional suffering, requiring over the counter and prescription medicines for anxiety and depression. They have also allegedly suffered financially because they avoided overtime or particular assignments that would put them into contact with the captain.

The plaintiffs have also named the South River Police Department and the borough in the suit, alleging that officials were aware of the situation and did little to resolve it. They alleged that Bomba’s suspension with his annual salary of $57,918 amounted to a "paid vacation" appearing to "reward" him for his conduct. Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege that the paid suspension put Bomba into contact with and further distressed Shaluha, who works in the office where Bomba must go to receive his paycheck every two weeks.

"They were very concerned and disappointed," Cige said of his clients’ reaction to Bomba’s return, noting that the officer would be in a supervisory position to two of the three plaintiffs.

"They were asked by the borough to participate as witnesses against Capt. Bomba, which they did. They believed that serious disciplinary action was going to be taken," he maintained. "They were hoping that the chief would take more serious action than the hearing officer recommended."

As the only captain on the 28-member force, Bomba is next in line for the chief’s position. Current Police Chief Francis X. Eib announced his retirement last year and plans to take his leave in early April and to retire fully in October. Last month, the Borough Council rescinded an ordinance establishing the position of a police director, which met with opposition from residents and police officers alike.

Borough officials are uncertain as to who would ultimately lead the department. According to Mayor Robert Szegeti, Bomba would be able to fill in for the chief in his absence as the next ranking officer. A possible promotion to chief and any other solution would rely on recommendations from the borough’s Public Safety Committee and the council, he said.

"We don’t know for sure what’s going to happen," said Councilman Salvatore Marsicano, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

At a council meeting last month, Marsicano asked the borough attorney to look into changing the ordinance governing the chief’s succession. Currently, only a captain can be promoted to chief; Marsicano’s recommendation would allow officials to consider lieutenants for promotion. The lieutenants, and Trojanowski in particular, have led the department during Bomba’s suspension when the chief was away.

Marsicano noted that the rules, regulations and ordinances dealing with the line of succession are "vague."

"They need to be addressed," he said.

Local J.C. Penney stores

wait for word on future

In an attempt to restructure the corporation after a fourth quarter net loss of 8 cents per share and to save $530 million, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. plans to close 40 to 45 department stores and about 300 Eckerd drug stores nationwide.

Several Eckerd drug stores in the Monmouth-Middlesex region have already been targeted for closure. Information on which J.C. Penney department stores are to close is expected to be made public in a matter of weeks.

"A total of 40 to 50 department stores will be closing and about 300 Eckerd drug stores will also close," said Stephanie Brown, spokeswoman for J.C. Penney, Plano, Texas. "During the next two weeks the public will find out which stores will close."

James E. Oesterreicher, chairman and CEO, said in a news release, "Improving the profitability of our core department store and drug store businesses is our top priority and has caused us to take a hard look at department stores and drug stores that are under-performing and lack future strategic fit."

At three J.C. Penney stores in the region — Freehold Raceway Mall, Freehold Township, Brunswick Square Mall, East Brunswick, and Monmouth Mall, Eatontown — employees are awaiting word from corporate directors.

Jim Adams, assistant store manager at Freehold Raceway Mall, said he does not believe his store will be closing.

Arthur Kondrup, president of the Western Monmouth Chamber of Commerce, Freehold, said he believes the Freehold J.C. Penney is doing well and said he’d had no indication from mall management that a closing is imminent.

"You know as much as I do," said Dick Ackerman, store manager of the J.C. Penney at Brunswick Square Mall. "We have been told nothing. I read (it) in the paper. All I know is what the press releases say."

Barry Morman, store manager at the Monmouth Mall J.C. Penney, referred calls to the firm’s corporate headquarters.

At the Eckerd drug store on Tennent Road and Route 9, Manalapan, Rocco Letizia, store manager, said he did not know much about the situation and said he had not received any information from corporate executives.

A manager at the Eckerd drug store at School Road West and Route 79, Marlboro, referred calls to corporate offices.

As of press time, the following Eckerd drug stores in the region have been identified as stores to be closed:

• 8 S. Main St., Marlboro

• 477 Route 35, Red Bank

• 877 Main St., Belford section of Middletown

• 570 Broad St., Shrewsbury

• 3311 Route 9, Old Bridge

• 3574 Route 27, Kendall Park section of South Brunswick.

Other Eckerd stores throughout the state are also expected to be closed.

The chain of stores began in 1898 when J. Milton Eckerd used $600 to open his first cut-rate drug store in Erie, Pa.