Edison hiring 14 cops, buying body cameras


Edison is moving ahead with its efforts both to expand the police force and procure body cameras for its officers.

Councilwoman Sapana Shah asked Police Chief Thomas Bryan for an update on the two issues at the Dec. 21 meeting.

Bryan said the township was about to bring on 14 additional officers, swelling the Edison police ranks to 185.

Shah asked if with the additional officers the department would be at an ideal staffing situation. She said her goal is to “make sure that every house is protected and there are ample resources.”

Bryan said he was happy to have the additional officers, but added that any chief is going to try to build as big a department as possible. He said his ideal is 200, but 185 is a solid number.

“I’m very happy to have 185,” Bryan said. “I can deploy my resources more effectively and efficiently.”

Shah also asked Bryan about the body cameras.

“We have a vendor that has given us six, so they are actually deployed out on the road now,” the chief said. The officers, whom the township has identified as Sgt. Michael Cimmino and Officers David Stern, Greg Makras, Eric Van Schaack, Joseph Kenney Jr. and Joseph DePasquale, have gone through the training and are now in the process of testing the cameras.

Shah asked if there was also a software needed to accompany the cameras. Bryan confirmed but said it was an unresolved issue as of yet. The software solution chosen for storing the videos taken with the body cameras will depend on which body camera vendor the township ends up choosing; the department plans to test cameras from a variety of vendors.

“These are other things that we have to work out,” Bryan said. “But right now we have our pilot program up and running.”

The township also announced after the meeting that Edison would be receiving help from the state to purchase the body cameras in the form of a $62,500 grant from the attorney general’s office. That would not provide one to each officer in the department (it would get the department about 125 cameras), but according to the township, not every officer works in a capacity that would benefit from a body camera. For instance, those working in administrative roles likely would not need one. “Edison is grateful to receive this highly competitive state grant — which comes from criminal forfeiture funds, not tax dollars — and will significantly help us furnish most of our officers with body cameras,” Mayor Thomas Lankey said in a statement.

“My command staff and I firmly believe that body-camera technology will promote transparency and accountability in our department; ensure better evidence-gathering, and enhance public confidence in our many dedicated officers,” Bryan said in the same statement.

According to the township. Edison’s allotment under the body camera grant was the state’s third highest, behind Elizabeth and Jersey City. Four other Middlesex County towns were awarded funds as well: Carteret received $20,000; Plainsboro, $18,000; South River; $11,000; and Highland Park, $7,500.

New year offers opportunity to organize

Staff Writer

Mise en place is a French culinary term that means “putting in place.” For chefs, having ingredients prepared and arranged before the cooking process begins allows for greater organization and efficiency in executing a recipe. Applying that concept in everyday life can bring that same organization to almost any task.

“The ability to be organized has become increasingly more important because living in contemporary America, life has become very complex and multifaceted. We live in an age of specialization which creates more options and more decisions,” said Michael Osit, Ed.D., a psychologist, author and speaker from Warren.

Osit offers an example. Forty years ago, he said, one would go to the grocery store to buy orange juice and it was available fresh or frozen and came in either a frozen can or a glass bottle.

“I recently went to the local market and found 27 varieties of orange juice — pulp, no pulp, some pulp, concentrate, vitamin D, and it now comes in cartons, juice boxes, pouches, bottles, etc.,” Osit said. Such mundane decisions can overwhelm individuals and lead to an inability to focus, and in turn, to stay organized.

“To become organized takes a good deal of emotional control and focus,” said Michael Vito, Ph.D., a psychologist with offices in Morristown and Watchung.

To get (and stay) organized, individuals must be “convinced of the value of organization,” Vito said.

Organization, Vito said, leads to better mental health by creating a “less stressful and better functioning” state of mind.

“Organized individuals run their life instead of their life running them. They are in control, which optimizes positive outcomes and minimizes stress and crisis occurring in their life,” Osit said.

According to National Association of Professional Organizers Member Director, Lori Vande Krol, good organizational systems reduce stress and allow people to focus time and energy on what matters most.

“With the speed and volume of information and clutter in our lives today, it has become even more important to have the right systems in place to manage it all,” Vande Krol said.

Organized people, Osit said, can greatly reduce anxiety when life is relatively predictable and surprises are at a minimum.

“Organized people frequently have a plan B, so they do not feel trapped or victimized in specific situations,” Osit said.

The first step to getting organized, whether at home or at work, involves a commitment to putting in the work upfront.

“Employ a ‘work now, play later’ philosophy,” Osit said.

In other words, “become a list maker and prioritize items,” Osit said.

Other suggestions that Osit offers include the following: immediately enter appointments into either a mobile phone or calendar; promptly list items on a to-do list; leave buffer time for appointments and deadlines to account for unexpected events such as traffic or illness; and develop routines for daily tasks so they are automatically completed.

Although technology is often designed to help with getting organized, the opposite effect often occurs.

“Technological devices can be critical tools to help a person be organized in their life if used appropriately (calendar, reminders, to-do lists, alerts, etc.), but they are also a significant distraction from the task at hand, which can cause inefficiency,” Osit said.

The Internet, tablets and mobile phones, Osit said, have created a “tremendous distraction from the present moment.

“Even when people are not sending or receiving messages, a piece of their attention is on the device that could buzz or vibrate at any moment.” Osit said.

Simple advice, like make a plan and stick to it, can facilitate greater organization.

“Put the keys in the key spot and the junk in the junk spot,” Zito said.

In the last decade, the organization industry has experienced growth, as evidenced by the increase in membership in the National Association of Professional Organizers. In 2005, there were 2,945 members, and today there are nearly 4,000 members, about a 30 percent increase, Vande Krol said.

“Interestingly, I am seeing a revitalized interest in living a simpler lifestyle by downsizing space, possessions and activities,” Vande Krol said.

Heather Pierce, owner of House in Order, a professional organization company serving central New Jersey, said the most common request she receives is for help in organizing paperwork.

“Many people hold on to much more paper than they need to because they don’t know what to keep and what to get rid of,” Pierce said.

People often become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paper that enters their home whether it’s via mail, their child’s backpack or shopping receipts, Pierce said.

“They do nothing to clear the paper clutter. The result is often cluttered kitchen counters, drawers or cabinets, overstuffed filing cabinets, bags and boxes of papers that get moved from place to place, but never sorted and dealt with,” Pierce said.

Pam of Toms River, a client of Pierce, said her “breaking point” with clutter came after she retired and was at home amidst years of accumulated items.

“I started feeling overwhelmed with my possessions,” Pam said.

With Pierce’s service, Pam was able to organize papers that had piled up for years.

“Now I follow a path that there is a place for everything. I’ve been able to break old habits,” Pam said.

When Pierce meets with clients, she discusses any fears or anxieties they may have about the reorganization process.

“Every client is different, so my plan for each client may be different — what works for one person does not work for all. It is important to set clear expectations as far as the desired outcome, projected time needed to complete an organization project, costs of completing a project and the roles each of us will play in the overall completion of the organization project, Pierce said.

It takes a great deal of courage for many people to reach out to a professional organizer for help, Pierce said.

“Many people feel shame, anxiety and embarrassment about the disorganization of their home or office,” according to Pierce.

By conquering the clutter, she said, clients are able to focus on the things that matter most to them.

“Generally, you first want to determine your vision. In other words, how would your ideal space or day look and feel?” Vande Krol said.

Seeing a revitalized interest in living a simpler lifestyle, Vande Krol said, has led to individuals downsizing space, possessions and activities.

Organization Strategies

Get Organized at Home

Some basic tips for better organization at home, according to www.webmd.com, include: find a place for every item; keep clutter out of the house; shop for containers after de-cluttering is complete; get rid of duplicates; de-clutter nostalgia, such as children’s artwork, by taking a picture of a child holding art work or crafts.

Get rid of old clothes using the 80:20 rule: we wear 20 percent of the clothes we own 80 percent of the time; look for simple solutions, like a key hook by the front door; and schedule de-cluttering for areas that need it daily, weekly and monthly.

Get Organized at Work

A focus on time, space and mindset is the key to organization at work, according to www.entrepreneur.com.

Concerning time, the website recommends that individuals start the day with structured time by sorting through email and responding to quick responses and referrals right away, deleting unimportant information and scheduling more essential tasks.

Space, which refers to physical and virtual space, is critical to productivity, the website stated.

The absence of office interruptions can improve concentration when writing or researching a topic, and this might be a task better completed away from the office, according to the website.

Switching off pop-up notifications on mobile devices and on computers, in addition to limiting the number of times email is checked, can result in greater organization of virtual space.

Finally, there is an individual’s mindset. To reduce the feeling of overload and the procrastination associated with taking on overwhelming jobs, divide large tasks into small chunks to better focus, according to the website.

Get Organized at School

It’s as easy as ABC to keep school-related tasks in order, according to www.scholastic.com.

First: “A” place for everything — keep a ready-to-use homework kit filled with school supplies. Next, “be” focused — studying needs to come first when scheduling time and planning activities. Finally, “calendars” posted in a central place at home can help students prioritize tasks, such as test dates and report due dates.

Children should keep a small, personal to-do list in order to get a better understanding of time management, according to the website.

Contact Information

Fo info, visit the National Association of Professional Organizers at www.napo.net.

Metuchen adds two police officers

Staff Writer

Two new officers have joined the ranks of the Metuchen Police Department, bringing the department to a 28-member force.

Michael Puetz and Daniel Hoover were sworn in at a Borough Council meeting on December 21 in front of their families, friends, members of the department, and

Police Chief David Irizarry welcomed the two officers and thanked Mayor Thomas Vahalla and members of the council for their support in hiring more officers.

“We have two outstanding candidates,” the department after serving a year and a half with the Middlesex County College Police Department.

Irizarry said, while with the college police, Puetz became a firearms instructor, which he said will benefit the department greatly.

Prior to serving with the college, Puetz served six years in the United States Army earning numerous medals and decorations.

Hoover comes to the department after serving as a dispatcher with Brunswick Police Department. He is currently enrolled in the Cape May Police Academy through the alternate route program and is set to graduate Jan. 13.

Hoover is a graduate of St. Joseph High School and a graduate of Norwich University, the Military College of Vermont.

Vahalla welcomed the two new officers and noted that they survived a tough interview process.

Youngster shows strength in battle against cancer

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

Interim CEO named at YMCA

 Rose Cushing Rose Cushing The YMCA of Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge and South Amboy announced interim CEO Rose Cushing assumed the role as President and CEO of the nonprofit on December 19.

Cushing will succeed Scott Lewis, who announced he has accepted the position as president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.

Cushing currently serves as the district executive director of child care of the YMCA of MEWSA, where she directs the day-to-day operations of 15 early education and school age child care programs serving more than 900 children daily.

Bruce Peragallo, YMCA of MEWSA chair of the Board of Directors, said “Rose’s appointment to the interim position was a natural choice for our YMCA Board of Directors. We believe that transferring Rose to the role of interim CEO brings the most stability and consistency to the YMCA. Having worked for our YMCA for 26 years Rose has been an integral part of the Y’s expansion from a $900,000 single branch operation in 1988 to its current scope of service to Greater Middlesex

County with programs in Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge, South Amboy, Piscataway and Perth Amboy with a budget of over $14 million. We are certain that Rose will bring a new, exciting vision to the YMCA’s upcoming annual campaign and new membership drive. As a respected leader to staff, YMCA members and YMCA families in our communities Rose will be working with our Board volunteers to assist in the process of leadership selection.”

Cushing said she’s prepared for the challenge — no woman has held the position at the YMCA of Metuchen Edison Woodbridge & South Amboy before — and ready to show that she can handle it. “It’s a privilege, and I’m honored and excited about the opportunity,” she said. “We will continue to focus on service to members and growing our programs. The YMCA is here for the benefit of others; focusing on what their needs are is our top priority.

A native and resident of Edison, Cushing received her bachelor’s degree from Marywood (College) University and earned her master’s degree from Rutgers University. The process to select a permanent replacement for Lewis will be led by Peragallo. A committee comprised of representatives from the board, Y staff and the community is being formed to undertake that task.

PSE&G warns customers about phone scams

Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) is urging its customers to be cautious of callers who demand immediate payment via a pre-paid card, and wary of phony utility workers showing up at their door to “check a problem.”

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in the number of scams being reported to us by customers,” said Greg Dunlap, vice president of customer operations for PSE&G. “The only way to protect against these scams is for customers to be cautious when contacted by someone seeking access to their home or demanding immediate payment. Even one customer being cheated is one too many.”

Phone scammers use scare tactics such as threatening service termination if they do not receive immediate payment with a pre-paid credit card. PSE&G offers a number of payment options and would never require a customer to use one specific type of payment, representatives said.

Door-to-door scammers use trickery such as showing up at someone’s house dressed like a utility worker and say they need to “check a problem.” Often, after they gain access they burglarize the home. Residents should always ask to see ID.

When in doubt of suspicious activity, PSE&G customers should call 1-800-436- PSEG (7734) and report scamming activity to their local police department.

Helping the community

 Lisa Marie Stecker of Greater Media Newspapers’ Advertising Department shows some of the food that was donated during a holiday food drive sponsored by the newspaper group from Dec. 9-21. The food was brought to the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Neptune, for distribution throughout the region.  KATHY McBAIN/STAFF Lisa Marie Stecker of Greater Media Newspapers’ Advertising Department shows some of the food that was donated during a holiday food drive sponsored by the newspaper group from Dec. 9-21. The food was brought to the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Neptune, for distribution throughout the region. KATHY McBAIN/STAFF

Trio arrested with heroin, cash, weapon in Edison

Staff Writer

EDISON — An anonymous tip about potential illicit drug sales near the Robert Holmes Gardens, a public housing development, led to the arrest of three men last week and the seizure of 120 decks of heroin, a sawed-off shotgun and $550 in cash, police said.

Alex Green, 44, of Jersey City, Terence L. Chatman, 46, of Orlando, Fl., and Rasheed Abdulla, 24, of the Colonia section of Woodbridge, were apprehended on Dec. 22, according to police.

Detectives from the Edison Police Department’s Special Operations Group (SOG) had set up surveillance in the area and observed the three men allegedly making drug deals on Beaver Avenue, police said.

“These arrests took several armed, potentially dangerous suspects off our streets and they emphasize how valuable it is when watchful residents alert our department to criminal activity in their neighborhoods,” Police Chief Thomas Bryan said. “Community vigilance works hand-in-hand with good police work.”

Green was charged with possession and distribution of heroin, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a firearm and distribution within 500 feet of a public housing facility. He is being held on $100,000 bail at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center in North Brunswick, according to police.

Chatman is being held on $50,000 bail at the county jail, charged with possession of a shotgun and controlled dangerous substances; unlawful use of body-armor, and unlawful possession of a firearm. Chatman was also found with outstanding arrest warrants from Somerset County, Newark, Hillsborough and Roselle, according to police.

Abdulla is being held on $5,000 bail, charged with possession and distribution of heroin, possession of a firearm, and public loitering to obtain controlled dangerous substances in a public place, according to police.

Middlesex County achieves record recycling rate, named No. 1 in NJ

 According to the most recent data, Middlesex County was credited with recycling 71 percent of its total waste generated in one year, beating even its own best record.  PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MIDDLESEX COUNTY IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY According to the most recent data, Middlesex County was credited with recycling 71 percent of its total waste generated in one year, beating even its own best record. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MIDDLESEX COUNTY IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY Middlesex County continues to set the pace as the state’s top recycler, as noted by a recent award from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The county recycled 71 percent of its total generated waste in 2013, according to the DEP’s most recent data.

Morris County ranked second in that lineup with a total of 66 percent.

“Although it trails back a few years, this is the most up-to-date information the DEP provides,” said Ed Windas, manager for the Middlesex County Improvement Authority Recycling (MCIA). “The towns submit information to the state, and the state tabulates it. It just so happens, we’re No. 1.”

These latest findings mark the 17th time that Middlesex has surpassed a state mandate, which has required counties to recycle at least 60 percent of their annual total waste since its implementation in 1995.

While Windas is unable to pinpoint the exact source of the 2013 recycling surge, he suspects that improving economic conditions and their trickle-down effect on consumer buying, manufacturing and even road work could factor into the DEP’s tally.

“This is the highest rate that we’ve ever recorded here in Middlesex,” he said. “It’s also the sixth time and the second consecutive year in a row that we’ve held the top recycling slot. But it’s really a joint effort that involves many players.”

Waste management companies and haulers, businesses, recycling coordinators and facilities, as well as the Middlesex County Solid Waste Management Division, alongside the MCIA Recycling Division, have all collected the figures needed to confirm the 2013 data.

“We look at this as a group effort,” said Middlesex County Deputy Freeholder Director Carol Bellante. “It’s the residents, it’s the employees, it’s business owners — it’s everyone putting their best foot forward, as we all look to lessen our carbon footprint.”

The MCIA’s curbside recycling program services 14 municipalities, which amount to approximately 90,000 residents, businesses and even schools.

Windas hopes that the new single-stream recycling process, made available to the MCIA’s participating residential customers in 2015, will further scale up future rates.

For more information on the MCIA’s Recycling Division, call 800-488-6242 or visit www.mciauth.com.

Spicuzzo released from prison after serving two of nine-year sentence

Staff Writer

Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo has been released from jail.

Spicuzzo was sentenced in 2013 to nine years in prison for running a jobs-for-cash scheme that yielded him approximately $112,000 in bribes from those seeking positions or promotions in the sheriff’s department, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said at the time.

He was released from the Central Reception and Assignment Facility (CRAF) in Trenton on Dec. 17, according to a receptionist at the CRAF. Spicuzzo had to serve at least two years before becoming eligible for parole. He faced numerous charges in the scheme, but entered into a deal in which he pleaded guilty to only one of them.

The 70-year-old Helmetta resident was sentenced in state Superior Court in Monmouth County on Sept. 20, 2013, after pleading guilty to a charge of accepting $25,000 in exchange for a job in his office.

He was the Middlesex County sheriff for three decades, from 1980 until his 2010 retirement, and was chairman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization for 16 years.

Former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Investigator Darrin P. DiBiasi, 47, of Monmouth Junction, and former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer Paul A. Lucarelli, 50, of South River, also submitted guilty pleas. The two men admitted to a third-degree charge of conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant.

DiBiasi was sentenced on Sept. 20, 2013, to 364 days in jail, five years probation, 200 hours community service and a $5,000 fine.

Lucarelli was sentenced to three years probation, fined $2,500 and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service during his sentencing on Oct. 4, 2013.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.