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Union County Week in Review

A look back at the major news of the week.

Each week, Patch takes a look back at the news in Union County for the past week. Among the top stories,  municipal budgets passed in Mountainside and Clark, a football legend was honored in New Providence and a mayor was remembered in Summit.

Berkeley Heights-Mountainside

Mountainside Borough Council approved the 2011 municipal budget at the April 19th meeting. Taxes will increase $128.88 for the average-assessed property.  The total budget will increase $383,757.25. The council also approved the second reading of an ordinance creating a cap bank. 

Mayor Paul N. Mirabelli outlined changes from the 2010 budget, showing cuts and increases in a variety of areas. The borough’s operational budget was decreased by $34,127 and salaries were decreased by $11,000. The police department budget was increased by $30,979 due to contractually-obligated salary increases. Insurances, including healthcare, increased $79,000 with $69,879 of that increase falling outside the tax cap restriction. Pension contributions increased $139,461, with $126,992 falling outside the tax cap, as well. The Rahway Valley Sewer Authority (RVSA) costs increased $33,500. The snow removal line item was increased $94,792.  Additionally, the budget includes a projected $58,217 increase in revenue though recreation department fees, construction permits and sewer fees. This increase offsets the approximately $31,000 of miscellaneous revenue lost from safety fees and investments. 

The increase announced includes both the municipal and library portions of the budget, in the interest of clarity for the tax payer. New legislation separates the two budgets into separate line items on tax bills and exempts library costs from the tax cap. An amendment to the budget creates the second line item. Mirabelli noted that while the library budget is now outside the tax cap, the 2011 library budget uses less public funds than the 2010 budget.

Clark-Garwood

On Monday, April 18,  The total amount to be raised by taxes (including the minimum library tax) for 2011 is $14,767,542, an increase of $393,551 from 2010. The increase represents 8.6 tax points, or $86 per $100,000 in assessed home value. Mayor Sal Bonaccorso said this year the snowstorms and rising price of gasoline affected the budget, as well as likely going to arbitration with the police union over contracts. After the budget was approved, Councilman Pat O’Connor, finance committee chair, addressed council, stating, “Other than mandatory items, we included a two percent increase in wages for all of our employees as well as including significant increases in both the utility and gasoline costs. I’m proud to report that Clark is one of the few towns in New Jersey that is continuing to provide services within cap without requiring either furloughs or layoffs, not a simple feat in today’s world of local government.”

Big win for ALJ: A 7th-inning error in the two-run game gave Johnson baseball In the bottom of the seventh, senior pitcher Mark Wilson singled and senior Brandon Santos walked. Then, junior Jeff Siessel hit a dribbler which was picked up by Hanover Park pitcher Mike Mariano, but when Mariano threw the ball over the third baseman's head into left field, Wilson and Santos scored and the Crusaders won 7-6. 
In celebration of National Library Week last week, we took video tours of both the  and  libraries. Library directors Patricia Anderson and Carol Lombardo told us about all the services the libraries offer, including many we didn't even know about. 

Cranford

Volunteer time: Armed with trash bags, gloves and a do-gooder spirit, hundreds of Union County volunteers will wage war against trash thrown into the Rahway River on April 30.

Two cleanup crews – one organized by the Rahway River Association and the other by the Cranford River Committee – will line up on the banks this year around 9 a.m. and pick up debris until 1 p.m. Organizers anticipate pulling out eveything from plastic bottles to tires.

Time to Bake A Cake: Cake Artist Café is now open in Cranford Crossing, in the space formerly occupied by Java's Brewin'. Though this bakery serves up all manner of sweet treats, its specialty is cake decoration. Born in Angola, Owner Ligia DeJesus and her family moved to South Africa when she was 4, where she lived until she was 23. She started baking early, learning the craft at her mother's side. DeJesus emigrated to New Jersey nearly two decades ago, and has worked in many bakeries, though always as a bookkeeper or in an administrative capacity. Though she has no formal training, she says she's always sought work in a bakery just to be close to the industry she loves.

New Providence

Football legend honored: More than 200 people attended a retirement dinner for Head Football Coach  on Friday, April 15 at Mayfair Farms in West Orange.

At the dinner, many individuals made remarks about Frank and his career at New Providence for 48 years, as well as his early years of coaching in Madison.

New Providence Patch met with Bottone's past and present players, coaches, family members and friends to learn more about the man behind the name, known by many both near and far.

Every evening last week, New Providence Patch featured one video in a seven-day series, honoring Coach Bottone and taking you through his tremendous career. If you missed one video or perhaps have yet to see the entire series, check it out:

Scotch Plains

Nearly 500 Residents Run for McGovern: Triumph was tinged with the bittersweet Saturday morning at the.” Organized by students and teachers at , and held in partnership with the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA, the event raised more than $10,000 for the Diane McGovern Fund, established to help to provide monetary assistance to the former SPFHS English teacher, who is suffering from inflammatory breast cancer. About 440 people participated in the 5K, event organizers said.

“It was a great success,” said Sheri Cognetti, senior program director at the YMCA and one of the race's principle organizers. “We had great participation and support.”

School of Rook: Stage House Writes Check for Chess: Chess, they say, is the game of kings. But last fall, the owners of the , an establishment located in a colonial-era building with ties to America's rebellion against royalty,  to put "First Move," a comprehensive chess-education program, into 39 second- and third-grade classes district-wide.

The program's aims to help children develop analytic, strategic, social and problem-solving skills through the game of chess, which can be easily tied to lessons in math, history reading and writing – and, of course, sportsmanship.

Scotch Plains to Receive Steel from World Trade Center: Nearly 10 years after Scotch Plains lost three residents to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the township will receive a steel beam from the World Trade Center to build a memorial in the residents' honor, Mayor Nancy Malool announced in a press release and at the Township Council's monthly business meeting Wednesday. 

The beam, which measures about 10 feet, will be brought by motorcade to the steps of the Municipal Building next Saturday, April 30, and officially presented to the township by Port Authority Commissioner Anthony Sartor. The design for the planned memorial, which will be installed in , will also be unveiled. 

Summit

Former Mayor Remembered: Hilltoppers mourned the death of former Mayor Walter Long Tuesday when family and friends gathered for a funeral at St. Teresa of Avila. Long, 66, died April 13 after a long battle with cancer. 

Common Council also got an update from Department of Community Services Director Beth Kinney and Police Chief Robert Lucid on the timeframe for a video surveillance system to be installed downtown. Lucid and Kinney said that it is possible that three locations could be up and running by early to late summer. A second phase of the project would expand to parking garages and city parks. 

Westfield

School repairs needed: topped a list of priority repair items announced by the school system on Tuesday. The list comes as the Westifeld schools grapple with a capital reserve account containing $896 and discussions over where these funds will come from. Among the repairs listed included a new roof at Lincoln School, a new roof over gym five at Westfield High School, a new roof over two classrooms and offices at Tamaques School, a new roof over the girls locker room at Edison Intermediate School, repairing the Edison parking lot, replacing boilers at Franklin and McKinley Schools, removing a high school greenhouse, repairing bricks at Roosevelt Intermediate School and permanent fixes to sinkholes on the field at Jefferson School. BOE Facilities Committee Chairwoman Jane Clancy noted that the repairs could be funded by the maintanence budget, a reserve account and unspent bond funds her committee found.

Time for the first pitch: The spring youth baseball and softball season with the annual opening day parade. Hundreds of Westfield athletes paraded through town from Mindowaskin Park to Gumbert Park to celebrate the start of the season.

Lance and Tea Party team up: U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon County)  during a press conference Monday in Westfield. Lance, who was joined by Tea Party activists and Republican state legislators, used the Tax Day event to promote proposals offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and criticize President Obama's budget proposals.

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