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Animal lovers working on Cape May County's feral cats

Cape May County presents enough of a feral cat problem that three people representing three different agencies decided to work together to keep the population under control.

For at least the last couple of years, Linda Gentille, manager of Shore Animal Control, Judy Davies-Dunhour, manager of the Cape May County Animal Shelter, Charlotte Anderson, a board member from the Animal Alliance of Cape May County, and others from their groups have joined forces to keep cats from being killed.

The best way to avoid having to euthanize unwanted cats is to keep them from being born in the first place. All three agencies advocate for programs that trap, spay or neuter and release the animals.

The idea is to keep capture, vaccinate, catalog and keep the feral cats from reproducing to avoid eventually having to kill them because they have become a nuisance but can’t be adopted.

“Feral” is the term for a domestic animal that lives in a wild state.

Trap-neuter-release programs work, said Steven Dash, director of the Humane Society of Atlantic County since 1991.

There used to be as many as 400 cats under the Atlantic City Boardwalk, but over the past 16 years, that population has been cut by more than half through TNR, Dash said.

“Don’t feed outdoor cats unless you make sure all the cats have been spayed and neutered,” said Dash, who added spaying or neutering a cat can cost between $30 to $100 per cat. “Cats belong indoors if they are not wild or feral cats.”

There are managed colonies in Cape May County where feral cats are given food, water and shelter, but only after they have been spayed or neutered, Gentille said.

At least 40 people in Cape May County either take care of feral cats on their own property, like Gentille, who has eight cats on 2½ acres, or look after a group of cats who have created their own colony somewhere.

Gentille is in charge of animal control in a majority of the county’s municipalities. Feral cats are a problem in Dennis and Middle townships, which she does not handle, and in the Wildwoods, Woodbine and Lower Township, which she does.

Gentille founded Friends of the Felines, which started two years ago. One of the group’s goals was to create a spay and neuter clinic. Once that was accomplished, it became the Animal Alliance of Cape May County, which runs the clinic at the Cape May County Animal Shelter.

Just because a cat is an outdoor cat doesn’t mean it’s doomed to a meager existence. The Cape May County Animal Shelter had 223 cats under its care as of Nov. 1. Half of them are socialized pets and the other half are “barn buddies,” as Davies-Dunhour calls them.

They can live outdoors at horse farms, barns, in warehouses or at marinas, and the animal shelter will give the cat away for free if someone is going to use it for one of those purposes, Davies-Dunhour said.

Cape May County took inspiration from Atlantic County for its TNR program. The TNR program in the resort is known as the Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project. It is run by Alley Cat Allies, which is based in Maryland.

The organization started in 1990, but the Boardwalk Cats Project began 10 years later in 2000.

The Atlantic City project showed the charity the importance of having a grass-roots organization, because dozens of volunteers take care of the cats daily. No new kittens have been born in years.

“The point of TNR is to stabilize the cat population. Cats have had a long afterward (after spay or neutering). You can do this humanely,” said Molly Armus, a member of the program department of Alley Cat Allies.

“It’s good public policy. ... It’s something we advocate all over the world.”

Microbreweries all about the experience, say owners and patrons

HAMMONTON — Three beertenders on a recent Friday night at Vinyl Brewing Co. took turns giving tours to patrons before serving them one of nine craft beers on tap.

This western Atlantic County town is quickly growing a name for itself as a destination for craft brewers and beer lovers. With its opening in September, Vinyl Brewing Co. became the third microbrewery to open in Hammonton — part of a growing trend of microbreweries, wineries and distilleries opening not only in New Jersey, but nationwide.

In 2016, there were 82 microbreweries in the state, according to data from the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade association. That’s a 61 percent increase from 2015.

Now there are 45 wineries registered with the Garden State Wine Growers Association and 16 licensed distilleries, said Donna Albano, associate professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management Studies in the School of Business at Stockton University.

Vinyl owners Susan Puentes, 55, of Hammonton, her husband, and nephew Jim Sacco decided on Christmas Eve 2015 they wanted to open their own business in downtown Hammonton.

Two years later, the family business is operating under a limited brewery license.

“We wanted to be the first town in New Jersey to have three breweries,” Susan Puentes said. “We want to help Hammonton grow.”

“I think having three breweries here helps bring tourism,” said brewer Sacco, 36. “We want to bring a lot of people from out of town to go visit all three breweries, and I think that’s what they’re doing.”

Vinyl Brewery customers come from places between Philadelphia and the shore. Customers said they come for the variety of beer and overall atmosphere.

Hammonton residents Rose and Dave Gruehn are Philadelphia transplants who visited the microbrewery on a recent Friday night. They want to support local brewing.

“When we moved to Hammonton, we wanted that brew experience,” said Rose Gruehn, 43.

“We’ve had that appreciation for craft breweries for a long time,” said Dave Gruehn, 51.

In Cape May County, visitors from across the state, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and Maryland flock to the Cape May Brewing Co. for its variety of beer. The 20-tap line is comprised of saisons and IPAs to porters, stouts and everything in between.

Cape May Brewing Co. began in 2011 and brewed 12 gallons at a time. At the time it opened, tasting rooms weren’t allowed, said CEO and co-founder Ryan Krill, 35, of Cape May.

A bill passed in 2012 allowed microbreweries to have tasting rooms and gave people the opportunity to visit the brewery.

“Ever since then, the amount of breweries has really skyrocketed,” Krill said.

Today, Cape May Brewing Co. is one of the largest production breweries in the state — and brews more in one day than it did in its entire first year, Krill said. It is a member of the New Jersey Brewers Association, of which Krill has been president for the past three years.

The New Jersey Brewers Association, formerly known as the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, acts as a resource for breweries and helps them act as one voice in Trenton to talk about legislation.

Krill said New Jersey is the only state that mandates a tour of the brewery before beer can be sold for consumption in tasting rooms.

A bill has been introduced in the state Assembly and Senate to eliminate the tour, as well as to allow microbreweries to sell snacks, which state law currently prohibits.

“We’re very sensitive to bars, restaurants and liquor stores and beer wholesalers, because we’re all in this industry together. So what this bill would do, would really allow our tourists to have an experience that’s more in line with other states in the mid-Atlantic,” Krill said.

People are willing to travel to craft breweries, even those “off the beaten path type places,” because they want to have “unique and funky experiences,” Krill said.

Albano, who teaches career development, hospitality internship and wine fundamentals, took a sabbatical to study wine and travel for a course at Stockton, said she remains positive about the future of the “young industry” because of the state’s unique qualities.

“Our research has shown that visitors and residents alike are attracted to these uniquely authentic establishments and experiences, which allows consumers to bond with their brand,” Albano said.

“We see this as an emerging niche segment of New Jersey’s tourism industry called ‘beverage tourism,’ best described as traveling to experience places and activities where wine, beer, cider and craft spirits are produced,” she said.

State denies application for all-boys charter school in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — A South Jersey proposal for an all-boys charter school, which would have been the first of its kind in New Jersey, was denied by the state Department of Education earlier this month.

The Frederick Douglass Charter School for Boys, the brainchild of Atlantic City teacher Ricardo Belgrave, was one of 17 charter school proposals up for approval in the state of New Jersey this year.

Although he made it successfully through the first two rounds of the application process, Belgrave said he found out earlier this month that he was not one of the two applications approved in this round.

“We believe most of it has to do with the financial instability of Atlantic City at the moment and them not wanting to put an additional financial burden on the city with the charter school,” Belgrave said Tuesday.

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The two charter schools approved were the Achievers Early College Prep Charter School in Trenton, serving 90 sixth-graders, and the Middlesex County STEM Charter School in Perth Amboy, serving 180 kindergartners through second-graders.

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Each approved charter school must complete the state Department of Education preparedness review before a final charter is granted. If approved, they would open in the 2018-19 school year.

Belgrave said the Frederick Douglass Charter School, unlike other charters in the state, is considered a mom-and-pop charter because it does not have the financial backing of a larger, for-profit company. That also may have hurt his application, Belgrave said.

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Of the 89 charter schools in the state, South Jersey is home to few compared with North Jersey, with four in Cumberland County, one in Ocean County and none in Cape May County. Belgrave’s all-boys school would have become only the fourth charter school in Atlantic County.

Belgrave said he is not sure if there is an expanded opportunity for charter schools with Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, who has close ties to the New Jersey Education Association.

He said he is not giving up hope.

“We’re not taking reapplying off the table, but we are moving forward with a private-school model,” Belgrave said.

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Belgrave’s original application called for 180 students in kindergarten through second grade.

As a private school, the Frederick Douglass School would start out with 30 students in kindergarten and first grade, with plans to open in 2020 as opposed to 2018.

Dale Gerhard / Staff Photographer  

Linda Gentille, of Petersburg, Upper Township, performs her morning routine of feeding feral cats she cares for on her property. Gentille is part of the Friends of Felines group, whose mission is to stop the overpopulation of feral cats in the Cape May County.

Garden State Growth Zone remains top priority in lame-duck session

Growth Zone may have legs in lame-duck session

{child_byline}JOHN DeROSIER

Staff Writer


A bill designating the area around the Atlantic City International Airport a Garden State Growth Zone will be in line for a vote Thursday in the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

The bill, originally introduced by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo and the late state Sen. Jim Whelan, would create tax incentives for businesses interested in building within one mile of the airport and would help the county establish an aviation industry, one of its key priorities to diversify its economy beyond gaming.

The issue was a popular topic among candidates for the state Senate and Assembly during the 2017 political campaign in the 2nd Legislative District. Outgoing Sen. Colin Bell said one of his top priorities is getting the bill passed.

Bob Marshall, the director of advocacy and legislative affairs for the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, said during a chamber luncheon Tuesday it is vitally important the bill be passed before Gov. Chris Christie leaves office in January.

“If we don’t get this done by the time the legislative session is over in January, then we’ll have to start the process all over again,” he said.

Five areas now are designated as Garden State Growth Zones: Atlantic City, Camden, Passaic, Paterson and Trenton. The airport in Egg Harbor Township would become a sixth location, instead of being an extension of the Atlantic City zone.

Assemblyman Chris Brown, who defeated Bell in November’s Senate race, has introduced a competing bill.

The competing bills sponsored by Brown, a Republican, and Mazzeo, a Democrat, achieve the same goal of designating the zone within a 1-mile radius of the airport, which includes the Stockton Aviation Research and Technology Park that broke ground last month and the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center.

The Assembly bills differ in that the Democrats’ proposals recalibrate current growth zones so all areas get the same benefits. Current growth zones give Camden more incentives.

Democrats argue their bill would “level the playing field.”

Brown, meanwhile, said he is willing to work with others and compromise to get a bill passed.

“Now that the hard-fought election is behind us, I believe that Atlantic County’s working families want us to put aside politics and work together to solve problems, which is why I am not concerned which version of the bill to expand the Garden State Growth Zone to the airport passes and why I look forward to working with my Democrat colleagues to pass a bill as quickly as possible,” he said.

Garden State Growth Zones offer extra tax incentives for companies to invest and create jobs.

For example, a firm may be eligible to receive credits against its corporate business tax to as much as 40 percent of the cost of building a new facility. Companies locating outside of the Garden State Growth Zone could receive tax credits for only 20 percent of their construction costs.

Overall, companies in growth zones may get tax credits to as much as $35 million. Companies outside the zones may receive as much as $30 million in tax credits.

All Garden State Growth Zones must be approved by the state.



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A bill designating the area around the Atlantic City International Airport a Garden State Growth Zone will be in line for a vote in the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee Thursday.

Edward Lea / Staff Photo  


Ricardo Belgrave, outside his Atlantic City home, is seeking state approval to open the first all-boys charter school in the state. The Frederick Douglass Charter School for Boys is preparing for the final phase of its application process.