Highlands Mayor Frank Nolan announced on facebook last night that he will not seek a third term.
Thank you to so many people for encouraging me to run for a third term as mayor. The past six years have been tough with Irene, Sandy, and all the other set backs. Last year was the toughest with my own personal health issues. Those that are closest to me know I have truly enjoyed being an elected official for the past ten years. I am honored and humbled to have been able to serve the town and all its people. I made some mistakes but tried my best to always do the right thing. My role as a father and husband has to come first. For this reason I will not be a candidate for mayor this November and will serve out my current term. I want to thank all the great borough professionals, past and present I have had the pleasure of working with. The many council people and Mayor’s who I may have had my differences with but at the end of the day I think we knew our common goal was the advancement of the town. Special thanks to my wife and soulmate Lori Ann. You have stood by me through thick and thin and I love you forever.
The Highlands Borough Council passed a resolution last night, in a 3-2 vote, to appoint Patrick DeBlasio to be the borough’s Chief Financial Officer effective May 1, 2014. DeBlasio is the CFO of Carteret, North Plainfield, and Keansburg. He is the treasurer of the Carteret Board of Education and the tax collector in Highlands.
The 40,000 salary that comes with the appointment will bring his total compensation from his six jobs to $284,606. All of DeBlasio’s jobs provide a pension. The borough plans to hire him an assistant for an undetermined salary.
Governor Chris Christie earns $175,000, as do U.S. Senators and Members of Congress. State Cabinet Officers earn $141,000. Superior Court Judges earn $165,000
The borough did not advertise the position or explore a shared services agreement with another town, as Mayor Frank Nolan and Councilman Chris Francy advocated. Rather, they voted to hire DeBlasio on the recommendation of retiring CFO Stephen Pfeffer, according to Council President Rebecca Kane and Councilwoman Tara Ryan’s remarks explaining the hire when they moved and seconded the resolution. Pfeffer earns $69,580 as CFO in Highlands and $157,738 as the CFO of Tinton Falls.
During the public portion of the council meeting, Kane said she would reevaluate the decision after one year. However Borough Attorney Bruce Padula said that the appointment is for a four year term. DeBlasio would be tenured after the initial four years. Kane’s term on the council expires in June, due to a referendum passed by Highlands voters in November making the borough’s election non-partisan. She is expected to run for another term.
In his remarks opposing DeBlasio’s appointment, Nolan said, “We are often the laughing stock of Monmouth County. This is one of the reasons why.”
Highlands, NJ- A home that had been damaged in Superstorm Sandy collapsed while being lifted above the floodplain this morning, destroying an adjoining home in the process. No one was injured. Both homes will be torn down this afternoon.
Borough Engineer Dale Leubner said that the cribbing, the wood palates piled to hold the structure while lifting takes place, apparently failed on one corner of the home, causing the collapse.
No one was home in either property. Leubner said that residents of the neighborhood were evacuated. Fire Departments from Asbury Park, Middletown and Naval Weapons Station Earle were on hand to assist the Highlands Volunteer Fire Department in preventing further property damage or injury. Utility workers from JCP&L and New Jersey Natural Gas were on hand to shut off the utilities in preparation of the demolitions.
Steven Hasenfus, President of Hasenfus Construction, the company hired to lift the Locust Ave home said, “It was an accident.” Hasenfus declined to comment further. Hasenfus Construction has offices in Long Branch and in Plymouth, MA. Hasenfus’s LinkedIn profile says he’s from the Great Boston area.
Mayor Nolan thanked the Highlands first responders, and those from the neighboring communities who arrived to assist and urged homeowners who are rebuilding and raising their home to be careful. “Thank God no one was hurt. This should be a cautionary tale for homeowners to be sure they hire qualified contractors and that those contractors have adequate insurance.”
Patricia Parker, President of the Highlands Fire Department’s Ladies Auxilary, said that homeowners who are lifting their homes should be sure to remove all valuable possession and important papers.
The owner of the home that collapsed is traveling out of state. Friends and family are on the scene waiting to recover whatever possession are in the home after it is demolished.
The adjoining home has been abandoned since Hurricane Irene devastated the borough in 2011.
Congressman Frank Pallone told residents of Highlands that the devastation they’re suffering through is the worst that he has seen as he has toured his district.
In introducing the congressman to the residents attending an Emergency Information Meeting, Mayor Frank Nolan said that Pallone had been instrumental in getting federal assistance through FEMA to come to town.
Pallone pledge his support in rebuiling the community.
Following the public information session, Pallone met privately with members of the governing body to discuss funding for emergency housing for displaced residents.
Highlands Mayor Frank Nolan and Police Chief Joseph Blewet announced to an Emergency Information Meeting this afternoon that the borough’s restrictive access to downtown Highlands will continue for the foreseeable future and that as of now commuters will not be allowed to enter the town on Monday for ferry service to Manhattan.
Highlands has been closed to non-residents all week since the evacuation for Hurricane Sandy. Police check points are in place at the two entrances to the community…at the base of the Captain Joseph Azzolina Bridge and at the corner of Waterwitch and Linden Avenues…no one without identification with a Highlands address or accompanied by a Highlands resident are allowed beyond the check points.
Blewet said there had been “a dozen or so” looting incidents reported and that the check points would continue until power is restored to the community. The Highlands Police Department is being supported by officers from the State Attorney General’s office, the State Police, and the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office.
Seastreak LLC, the ferry service that operates out of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, sent an email to the customers on November 2 announcing that Nolan “will lift the public access restrictions” and that service would resume on Monday November 5. The same message emailed was posted on the company’s website.
Jack Bevins, the Seastreak manager in charge at the Highlands Connors location told MMM that the company was indeed planning to resume limited service on Monday. He said the Highlands OEM Director David Parker had given him permission, subject to a conversation with Blewet. “This is the first I’ve heard there was a problem,” Bevins said when informed of Nolan’s and Blewet’s announcement. He immediately left his crew that was restoring access to the fleet to speak with Blewet.
In Atlantic Highlands, Mayor Fred Rast and Harbor Commission Chairwoman Jane Frotton laughed at the notion of Seastreak operating out of their harbor on Monday. The company’s announcement said they “hoped” to be able to resume service in Atlantic Highlands on Tuesday. Rast and Frotton said the barge would have to be replaced and parking at the Senior Housing cleared before commuters would be allowed into Atlantic Highlands. Tuesday appears to be a pipedream.
Highlands Mayor Frank Nolan at Wyndmoor Condos 12:30 AM September 3
Yesterday afternoon JCP&L Government Affairs Rep Roberta Sheridan told Highlands Mayor Frank Nolan that tonight’s first crew would be dispatched to Highlands at 10PM to restore power to the Wyndmoor Condominiums.
Nolan held a public information meeting for Highlands residents Friday evening. There were about 100 residents there, 40 from Wyndmoor. Meals had been provided earlier in the day at the community center. Too bad showers couldn’t be provided. Nolan relayed JCP&L’s commitment to a respectful, yet frustrated and skeptical crowd .
At 11:30 a JCP&L rep, Jackie, told Nolan that the crew was in Union Beach heading to Highlands. Nolan headed to Wyndmoor where he found residents Dick McCormick and Ray Goddard waiting. McCormick had been waiting since 9:30.
Ray Goddard, Mayor Frank Nolan and Dick McCormick, a 12:15 AM September 3, waiting for JCP&L's crew to arrive at Wyndmoor Condos to restore power for 125 families
Wyndmoor has 125 electrical customers. At 11:12 PM on Friday, JCP&L posted that only 79 Highlands customers were without power.
Goddard sent me at text at 11:27, “no trucks at Wyndmoor.”
The trucks showed up at 1:17 AM. The power finally went on at 7:20 AM.
Highlands Mayor Frank Nolan and a JCP&L lineman, 1:30 AM, September 3, 2011
The Highlands Business Partnership was joined by the Mayor and Council, Senators Joe Kyrillos and Jennifer Beck, Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Amy Handlin, Freeholders John Curly and Amy Mallet and about 200 members of the community to celebrate the completion of the new bridge that spans the Shrewsbury River between Highlands and Sea Bright with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
During the ceremony, the Bayshore Marine Task Force, a cooperative of Bayshore area first responders who provide marine emergency services, provided a water display with their equipment.
Mayor Frank Nolan declared, “Highlands is open for business!” Nolan noted that business in Highlands, home to 22 restaurants within one square mile, was off 40% during the three summer seasons that were impacted by the demolition of the 75 year old drawbridge and the construction of the new 65 foot high fixed-span structure.
Old Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge. Photo Courtesy NJDOT.
Senator Joe Kyrillos read a letter from Governor Chris Christie which said in part, “today’s event effectively kicks off the first summer season at the Jersey Shore that vacationers and day trippers will be able to use it (the new bridge). I join with the legislators and community leaders present today in applauding the New Jersey Department of Transportation for completing this project on-time and under-budget. The bridge has made it easier for people to experience what Sandy Hook has to offer, including all of its small businesses that make vital contributions to our State’s rich economy.”
Jay Cosgrove, Vice President of the Business Partnership and an owner of Bahrs Landing expressed the gratitude of the business owners to their loyal customers who battled difficult traffic conditions to quick the establishments afloat during the bridge construction.
New Highlands Bridge. Photo Credit Jay Cosgrove, Bahrs Landing
Kyrillos said, “This bridge is of incredible importance to the residents of Monmouth County, as well as the many tourists and visitors from which our regional economy benefits,” Senator Kyrillos said. “The old, moveable bridge spanning the Shrewsbury River was in the poorest condition of all moveable bridges in New Jersey. We are fortunate to replace this critical infrastructure. It is a beautiful bridge and more important it is safe and secure and will be of service for generations to come.”
Senator Jennifer Beck said, “We’ve been watching the progress of the construction of the new Highlands Bridge over more than two years,” said Beck, “and it is exciting to see it concluded just in time for the summer beach season, when thousands of people, from New Jersey and beyond, come to visit the shore. Also, as a sponsor of legislation that would name this span in honor of my friend and mentor Captain Joseph Azzolina, which has already passed the State Senate, I have a personal connection to this bridge, and I look forward to seeing the legislation pass the Assembly.”
Beck asked those present to call Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and ask her to post the bill naming the bridge for Azzolina for a vote.
Declaring that it was not a partisan issue but an individual decision, Highlands Mayor Anna Little again joined the two Democrats on Highlands Council in approving a amendment to the Highlands PBA contract, over the objections of her Republican successor, Council President Frank Nolan, and her Republican predecessor, Councilman Rick O’Neil.
In introducing the resolution to the public, Little distributed the statement she posted on her facebook page over the weekend.
Little said that the new agreement would result in a saving of $500,000 to Highlands taxpayers vs. a net savings of $34,000 had the resolution failed, which would have resulted in layoffs of three police officer. During her remarks, Little admitted the numbers in her statement were her “beliefs” and the result of assumptions regarding police overtime of $18,000 per month provided by the Police Chief. She admitted that her numbers had not been certified by the Chief Financial Officer.
Little addressed the penalties in the new agreement only after Nolan brought them up. Nolan asserted that Little’s calculations were off by at least $300,000, which she disputed. Nolan argued that the council should not accept the penalities knowing that there will very likely layoffs necessary that will trigger the penalites. At that point Little scolded Nolan for speaking out of turn regarding Executive Session matters that council had not agreed to make public.
Highlands Mayor Anna Little issued the following statement on her facebook page and in an email to MMM this morning:
Highlands Borough Budget and the PBA Agreement
The following is an explanation of the facts regarding a decision of the Highlands Borough Council on December 1, 2010.
The Borough Council asked the Highlands PBA to agree to a wage freeze to allow the Borough to evaluate our budgetary circumstances in light of the 2.0 cap imposed by the State of NJ upon Municipal budgets. After analysis of the Borough’s budget, the Borough Council asked the PBA to find $420,000 in savings. The Highlands PBA contract had already been finalized and there was no obligation on the part of the Highlands PBA to negotiate. The Highlands PBA reviewed the State Health Benefits Plan recommended by the Borough and agreed to accept it. The Highlands PBA and the Highlands Chief of Police have regularly reduced overtime during my tenure as Mayor. Younger officers were hired in order to reduce exorbitant overtime costs necessary to cover State mandated shifts round the clock in the Borough. As of December 1, 2001 the Highlands PBA has agreed to forego overtime completely in exchange for compensatory time. This will guarantee over $100,000 permanent savings to the Borough per year.
The Agreement with the Highlands PBA for which I voted on December 1, 2010 includes:
1. Highlands PBA concession to accept the State Health Benefit Plan, amounting to $320,000 in savings to the Borough of Highlands.
2. Overtime savings in this budget of $66,668.
3. Court time savings in this budget of $8,140.
4. Overtime savings in 2011-2012 budget $106,205.
5. Court time savings in 2011-2012 budget $13,000.
6. Waiver of Retroactive contractual wages that the Borough owed the PBA from July 1, 2010 to December 1, 2010, a savings in this budget of $140,000.
7. The single raise of 4.25% for a six month period from January 1, 2011 until June 30, 2011 allows retirement eligible officers to retire at a wage level less than but nearer to what they would have received under the contract to which the Borough was obligated. This concession also produced a savings to the Borough in the 2011-2012 budget. If retirements which have been mentioned actually occur as verbally represented, substantial savings to the Borough will result.
In conclusion, we must support Governor Christie’s tool kit. Toward that end we must ensure that in the 2011 election cycle, WE THE PEOPLE deliver to Governor Christie a State Legislature that will work with him on the Tool Kit and other tax saving initiatives. Until the Tool Kit is in place, agreements with bargaining units are the ONLY way to ensure savings to municipalities. Layoffs of three police officers in the Borough of Highlands surely would have resulted in additional overtime costs to the Borough because of State mandates. Initial calculations indicated that the Borough might have been charged up to $18,000 per month in overtime.
Therefore, the PBA Agreement for which I voted on December 1, 2010 and which secured savings to the Borough of $654,000 (not including the contractual reduction in raises and expected retirement of senior officers) was in the best interests of the People of the Borough of Highlands. It is the People and only the People whom I serve during my tenure in elected office.
Little’s statement begs scrutiny.
She says the Highlands Borough Council requested the PBA come up with budget savings in light of the 2% cap imposed upon municipal budgets by the State. However, Highlands fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. The first Highlands budget governed by the cap will not take effect until July 1, 2011. The deal Little joined her Democratic colleagues on the Council in approving impacts the current budget, retroactive to July 1, 2010. It would seem that the PBA deal impacts deficits in the current budget.
Highlands Mayor-elect Frank Nolan, the Republican Council President, told MMM that the PBA negotiations were part of an effort to plug a $400,000 hole in the current budget. Nolan said he proposed a no layoff pledge through the current fiscal year in exchange for the PBA foresaking their 4.25% salary increase and switching health insurance plans. He said Little and Democrats Chris Francy and Rebecca Kane approved the PBA’s counteroffer which carries into the 2011-2012 budget that is subject to the 2% cap and includes retroactive penalities that would benefit all union members should even one officer need to be laid off.
Nolan said that Little was absent from 40% of the Council’s meeting since March when she started running for Congress and is not up to speed on all that has gone on during the negotiations with the PBA.
Little’s statement does not address the penalties to the Borough should layoffs be necessary.
Nolan said that Highlands CFO Steve Pfeffer is on record advising the Council that there is a 60% chance that additional layoffs will be required in the current fiscal year. Nolan does not understand why Little, Francy and Kane would approve an agreement that imposes penalties for layoffs when they know such layoffs will be necessary.
Nolan said that Highlands fiscal crisis has been caused in large measure by the fact that the Borough has spent its entire surplus of $1.2 million since Little became Mayor. Nolan was on the Council during Little’s first year as Mayor, 2008. He was defeated in his reelection bid in the Obama wave of 2008 and elected again in November of 2009. He has been Council President since taking office again in January of this year and will be sworn in as Mayor on January 1st.
The Highlands deal with the PBA will not take effect until approved by the Mayor and Council at their December 15, 2010 meeting or a subsequent meeting.