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      Front Page January 28, 2010  RSS feed

      A good run

      Brick Township Bulletin’s top 10 stories of all time
      BY PATRICIA A. MILLER Staff Writer
      The Brick Township Bulletin debuted on Nov. 6, 2002. It was chock-full of news, full-page ads, classified and car ads, a testimony to the more vibrant economy back in 2002. It will close on Jan. 28, 2010, the victim of a poor economy and declining ad sales.

      We are ending the final edition with the top 10 stories of the years the Bulletin was in print. There were many contenders, but in the end, the most newsworthy stories won out.

      We did our best to provide Brick’s residents with quality local news and sports coverage over the years, coverage you couldn’t get from staff-poor dailies or other local weeklies. It has been a pleasure to cover such a vibrant town with so many good people.

      Republican Revolution 2003-2010

      Control of the Brick government was firmly in Democratic hands for many years under former Mayor Joseph C. Scarpelli. The Democrats enjoyed a 6-1 majority on the Township Council back in 2003, and few expected a major shakeup in the Nov. 4 election. Stephen C. Acropolis was the lone Republican council member. Many in town were stunned when all four Democratic council candidates went down in defeat and the GOP seized control with a 4-3 majority.

      New Jersey Museum of Boating Executive Director Robert O’Brien stands between a few of the boats at Johnson Boat Works in January 2008. The non-profit group had planned to move to Traders Cove but had to postpone the project when the economy soured. This photo took first place in the New Jersey Press Association’s 2008 contest. New Jersey Museum of Boating Executive Director Robert O’Brien stands between a few of the boats at Johnson Boat Works in January 2008. The non-profit group had planned to move to Traders Cove but had to postpone the project when the economy soured. This photo took first place in the New Jersey Press Association’s 2008 contest. The GOP-dominated council in 2004 began chipping away at programs that had existed for years and adopted a budget with $754,000 in discretionary spending cuts. Scarpelli staples like SummerFest, HalloweenFest, BoatFest and others were either eliminated or rolled back. Municipal departments were eliminated or consolidated, beach badge and recreation fees were hiked.

      Joseph Scarpelli Joseph Scarpelli Many expected Acropolis to win the 2005 mayor election against Scarpelli. The incumbent mayor made a series of missteps before the election, including using a township car on a Vermont vacation and taking consulting job with an engineering firm that had done work in Brick. Scarpelli squeaked by with 184 votes more than Acropolis, in an election where 25,000 voters cast ballots.

      But the Democrats also lost two more seats on the Township Council in 2005. Republicans Joseph Sangiovanni and Daniel Toth were elected to their first terms. The loss left Councilwoman Kathy Russell as the lone Democrat on the governing body. The trend continued in 2009, when all four GOP candidates won the available council seats. Russell lost her bid for a fourth term. The Township Council is now all Republican.

      Jack Nydam and his attorney Jack Nydam and his attorney Acropolis was first elected mayor in November 2007, to fill the unexpired term of disgraced Democratic Mayor Joseph C. Scarpelli. He was resoundingly re-elected by nearly 6,000 votes over Gregory Kavanagh, his Democratic challenger, in November 2009 to his first four-year term.

      The Scarpelli-Nydam debacle The political turmoil in Brick reached its zenith in 2006. It was hard to find Joseph Scarpelli in Town Hall. Many questioned his absence. Scarpelli stunned some and didn’t surprise others when he abruptly resigned on Dec. 8. The mayor submitted a one-sentence resignation letter that said he was leaving for “personal reasons.” The rea- sons became glaringly apparent one month later, when the four-term mayor pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting bribes from an unnamed developer. Scarpelli was later sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. He spent 15 months at a minimum-security facility at Fort Dix and was released in May 2009. He has kept a low profile in town ever since.

      Gov. James McGreevey shares some blueberries with Veterans Memorial Elementary School students, whose work led to the adoption of the blueberry as the state fruit. Gov. James McGreevey shares some blueberries with Veterans Memorial Elementary School students, whose work led to the adoption of the blueberry as the state fruit. Scarpelli wasn’t the only Brick official to come under the FBI’s radar. Former Public Works Director John H. “Jack” Nydam began singing like a canary when he came under scrutiny. Nydam’s “proactive cooperation” helped county and federal officials snag Scarpelli on corruption charges. But Nydam was no dedicated public servant. He once faced decades in prison before he pleaded guilty in April 2006 to official misconduct, theft and witness tampering charges. The scuttlebutt in town was that Nydam had worn a wire in conversations with Scarpelli. Nydam was also charged with taking bribes and boat trips from a trucking company and giving more than $40,000 in no-bid contracts to a local landscaper in exchange for $4,000. Superior Court Judge James A. Citta dismissed the bulk of the charges at Nydam’s sentencing in exchange for his guilty pleas to third-degree official misconduct and theft charges. He got off easy with no jail time, but the state Division of Pension and Benefits stripped Nydam of the pension benefits he had accrued during his 14-plus years in the state pension system.

      Residents stroll along the 1.7-mile path that encircles the Brick reservoir. Residents stroll along the 1.7-mile path that encircles the Brick reservoir. Warren Wolf

      The word “legendary” often precedes Warren H. Wolf’s name. It’s not an exaggeration. Wolf guided the Green Dragons football team through 51 seasons, right from the beginning when the school opened in 1958. He left with a record of 361- 122-11, numbers that will probably never be matched by anyone else. He announced his retirement in December 2008. He had one request: that the Brick Board of Education hire a “Brick boy.” That didn’t happen. An emotional Wolf attended the April 30 Board of Education meeting with about 70 supporters. Wolf demanded to know why the administration had picked Patrick Dowling, a Howell Township resident, as head football coach. The board and school administrators never asked Wolf for his recommendation. Wolf was so upset, he asked the board to rescind his resignation. Board members refused.

      Eighty-two-year-old Warren Wolf will embark on a new career this fall when he takes over as head football coach at Lakewood High School. The Lakewood Board of Education was slated to approve his appointment at its Jan. 27 board meeting.

      Ocean Ice Palace

      Brick Memorial soccer player Chris Cannon is hugged in celebration by Anthony Rucci after the Mustangs defeated Freehold Township for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV state championship in Nov. 2003. This photo took first place in the New Jersey Press Association’s 2003 contest. Brick Memorial soccer player Chris Cannon is hugged in celebration by Anthony Rucci after the Mustangs defeated Freehold Township for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV state championship in Nov. 2003. This photo took first place in the New Jersey Press Association’s 2003 contest. Stephen C. Acropolis, who was council president at the time, announced in July 2007 that the township planned to buy the landmark Ocean Ice Palace and 13.34 acres on Chambers Bridge Road for $5.25 million and transform it into a community center. Acropolis said the township had long wanted to buy the site and called the purchase “the opportunity of a lifetime.” Township officials planned to sell the Civic Center buildings and property across the street and put the proceeds toward the acquisition. The move would have consolidated the township recreation and senior services in one location. But then-Mayor Daniel J. Kelly, a Democrat, opposed the purchase and said the public should have a chance to decide in a referendum. A citizens group — StopOverspending — formed and gathered enough signatures to put the matter on the ballot. Ocean Ice Palace owner Joan Dwulet abruptly walked away from talks with the township after nearly a year of negotiations. The deal fell through and the Township Council eventually rescinded the ordinance. While Acropolis said the quest for a referendum was “the one single thing that killed this deal,” Dwulet’s attorney said she “got tired of waiting.”

      Financial woes, layoffs

      Forty-two township employees lost their jobs on New Year’s Eve in 2008. The township administration and union representatives met many times to come up with compromise settlements, but to no avail. Acropolis urged the Transport Workers Union to agree to some concessions in their new contract. The concessions included contributing to the cost of health care premiums, or pay cuts. Acropolis challenged employees at a tense December 2008 Township Council meeting for a show of hands of who would take a pay cut. “I’m not feeling the love here,” the mayor said.

      The layoffs were a byproduct of an anticipated $3.8 million shortfall in the 2009 municipal budget. Township officials tried to cope with a state-mandated 4 percent cap on the amount that municipalities can raise through taxation each year, declining state aid and a drop in revenues.

      “I have a bucket of money to use,” Acropolis said in October 2008. “When that money is used up, I can’t spend any more. It’s illegal.”

      The township and the TWU reached a contract agreement in early 2009 that called for employees to begin contributing 1 percent of their total salaries toward health care premiums, starting in 2010. The municipal budget dropped for the first time in the township’s history.

      Redevelopment

      The GOP-dominated Township Council made headway on both the redevelopment of the Traders Cove site off Mantoloking Road and the old Foodtown site on Route

      70 over the past several years. The township is slowly recouping the $8 million purchase cost of the Traders Cove site. Acting DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello came to Traders Cove last June 25 to present Mayor Acropolis with two checks — one for $3.4 million as partial reimbursement for the site acquisition costs and a $1 million check for redevelopment costs. The site, now known as the Traders Cove Marina and Park, is still in the process of being redeveloped. But it was open to the public this summer for fishing, crabbing and picnics.

      The dilapidated Foodtown building, long a township eyesore, was razed in September 2009. Township officials are now proceeding with redevelopment plans that will eventually include a hotel, retail and some residential units.

      Brick Reservoir

      The Brick reservoir, nestled on the Brick-Howell Township border, was officially dedicated for operational use in September 2004. But almost a decade of planning and work took place before the 1- billion-gallon facility opened for business in September 2004. Once an abandoned gravel mining operation, the reservoir land narrowly escaped being home to a 500- home development. Although the site was appraised for $12 million, banks and creditors owed money on the land. The Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority was able to purchase the 120-acre site for $800,000 in April 1996.

      The $34 million project was intended to supplement any shortfall from drought conditions or water emergencies. Up to 24 million gallons of water from the Metedeconk River is pumped daily through a 4.7-mile pipeline. Today, the reservoir not only provides Brick with another source of water, it’s also a place where residents can go to relax, jog or walk along the 1.7-mile path.

      Brittney Gregory murder Friends and family members of 16-year-old Brittney Gregory began scouring the township when the Brick Memorial High School student went missing on July 11, 2004. Police found her body one week later in a shallow grave in the Greenville section of Lakewood, about two miles from her home.

      Brittney accepted a ride to her boyfriend’s house from Jack Fuller, a family acquaintance, the night she was last seen. Fuller, now 43, pleaded guilty on Oct. 18, 2005, to purposefully or knowingly causing serious bodily injury or death, after maintaining his innocence for more than a year. Fuller testified he punched the girl at least twice in the face because she tried to prevent him from smoking crack cocaine after he stopped the car. Fuller said he continued to get high while Brittney choked beside him, blood dripping from her nose and face. The teenager was dead by the time Fuller paid attention to her.

      Superior Court Judge Vincent J. Grasso sentenced Fuller to 30 years in state prison without parole on Jan. 13, 2006. Fuller lost his bid for a new trial last Aug. 26, when Superior Court Judge James Den Uyl ruled that Fuller voluntarily waived his right to a trial with the plea bargain. Den Uyl also denied Fuller’s contention that he had received inadequate counsel before he pleaded guilty.

      Oyster Creek

      Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials gave the 40-year-old Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township a new lease on life when they relicensed the controversial plant for another 20 years, much to the dismay of a coalition of citizen groups, who claim the aging plant is unsafe.

      A July 12 unplanned shutdown tipped Oyster Creek into the NRC’s “white” performance indicator. NRC regulations allow nuclear plants no more than three unplanned shutdowns for every 7,000 hours of operation. Oyster Creek’s number of unplanned shutdowns, also known as scrams, was 2.7 during the first quarter of 2009.

      NRC officials announced on Oct. 26 that it would step up oversight on the plant because of the number of unplanned shutdowns. Oyster Creek, which went on line on Dec. 23, 1969, is the oldest nuclear plant in the nation.

      The blueberry kids

      Students at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School saw their yearlong effort to make the blueberry the state fruit pay off in January 2004. Then-Gov. James E. Mc- Greevey came to the school and signed a bill into law. The “Blueberry Kids” studied symbols of New Jersey when they were fourthgraders and noticed the state had no state fruit. They successfully lobbied for support from the Board of Education, the Township Council, the state Assembly, the state Senate and finally the governor. “We know that anyone can make a difference, even children,” student Hunter Fastige said then. “Our voices can be heard when we really have a good idea. Not only can we be a part of government, we know that we are the government.”