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Pleasantville, Camden game to be finished at Philadelphia Eagles' stadium

Pleasantville and Camden will finish their high school football playoff game at the home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Monday the Central Jersey Group II semifinal will resume 4 p.m. Wednesday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Each school will be provided 250 free passes for family members and friends. The game will be closed to the general public.

“We announced it to the team at practice today,” Pleasantville coach Chris Sacco said Monday. “They were all smiling and clapping and cheering. It was just good to see smiles on their faces after everything that happened Friday night.”

Camden was leading 6-0 on Friday night at Pleasantville High School when the game was halted in the third quarter after a shooting in the bleachers that left three people wounded. Six people were arrested in connection with the incident.

A 10-year-old boy from Atlantic City is in critical condition at Cooper University Hospital with a gunshot wound to the neck. Greyhounds running back/linebacker Ernest Howard is wearing No. 10 in his honor.

“It’s a really bad situation right now,” Pleasantville Chief of Police Sean Riggin told NBC10Philadelphia.com Monday. “To be such a tough little kid, to be able to hang in there through a very critical, serious injury, he’s an impressive young guy. I really want to see him pull through this, but he’s in bad shape.”

The team that wins will face Cedar Creek on Saturday, Nov. 30, for the Central Jersey Group II title at the home field of the higher seed. Cedar Creek is the No. 2 seed and Pleasantville is No. 1. Camden is No. 4.

The Greyhounds are hoping that if they win, they will host the game at their stadium.

“If we happen to win on Wednesday, we definitely want to play at home, with the proper security in place,” Sacco said. “We earned the No. 1 seed and the kids, parents and everyone want to see a championship game played at Pleasantville.”

Wednesday’s game is the first regular season or playoff high school football contest to be held at the Lincoln Financial Field since it opened in August 2003, according to the Eagles.

The Linc is home to both the Eagles and the Temple University Owls.

“It’s extremely unfortunate that a senselessly violent act has impacted this game,” NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White said in a statement, “and there will certainly be a wide range of emotions along both sidelines. However, thanks to the Eagles’ generosity and community spirit, Pleasantville and Camden student-athletes and their families will have an opportunity to write their own ending to this game. They’ll compete on a world-class stage, sending a clear message that violence will not win.”

Proposed Beach Haven hotel causing stir in community

BEACH HAVEN — A proposed bayfront hotel has stirred emotions in this small seaside community due to its size and impact.

Those opposed to it argue it would increase traffic and environmental problems, while proponents of the project say it will bring a much-needed boost to a marina struggling to rebound from a fire a decade ago and Hurricane Sandy.

The project, Beach Haven Marina, Hotel and Restaurant, is planned for the property of Morrison’s Marina at Second Street and the bay and would be a multistory hotel with a restaurant, pool, rooftop deck and public access to the marina, said Chris Vernon, the project’s developer, at October’s Borough Council meeting, which more than 150 people attended.

Vernon could not be reached for further comment.

But some residents don’t want it.

Dozens spoke at the council meeting at the Surflight Theatre, claiming overdeveloping the small town will bring increased traffic and environmental problems, such as flooding, due to the hotel plan’s lack of a stormwater management system.

“It’s a pretty contentious issue,” Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis said. “I think nobody wants change, and this is change, but I would say there are more people in favor of this than aren’t.”

The property along Second Street is under contract, according to Janine Kleber, owner of Morrison’s Marina. The family is selling the marina due to the cost and upkeep it needs after the fire that destroyed the restaurant 10 years ago and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

She said her husband, Fran, agreed to maintain and operate the marina for a few years after the proposed hotel was built to ensure a smooth transition.

“Hurricane Sandy was just the icing on the cake,” Kleber said. “It’s just hard to come back from and without the additional amenities, like the hotel and restaurant, it’s just very difficult. The property is definitely screaming for someone to dump some money in there. This opportunity to stamp the Beach Haven bayfront is a class act.”

The mayor agrees.

“The marina is driving the hotel,” Davis said. “The whole reason for allowing the hotel is to keep the marina as a functional marina. I really feel that this is the best for the town. There’s no way we can stay the way we are. Change happens. I don’t particularly like change myself, but we can control the quality of change we have.”

The morning after she voted in favor of the project’s redevelopment agreement, the mayor awoke to two of her tires deflated. She believed right away it was because of her vote.

The valves on her passenger-side tires were damaged and had to be replaced after her car was towed to a service center. Another car on her street that looked similar to hers had the same tires damaged. Former Councilman Don Kakstis, who also was in favor of the hotel, received damage to his tires as well, she added.

“I was very surprised,” Davis said. “Beach Haven is a wonderful town, and most of our citizens are law-abiding. Just because you disagree with somebody doesn’t mean you hate them. This wasn’t something I’d expect to see in this town. It was a nasty thing to do.”

Davis filed a police report and has since bought a surveillance camera to monitor the area near her front door. As of Monday, no charges have been filed, according to Police Chief James Markoski. No leads have been made in the investigation.

“We have a wonderful town,” Davis said. “I think this was somebody who went out and had a few too many drinks and thought, ‘I’ll show these people.’ If they were really evil they would have done a lot more damage, but I don’t think people in this town are mean-spirited.”

The project will go in front of the borough’s Land Use Board for site plan approval Dec. 2. It will need Coastal Area Facilities Review Act approval after that.

Millville native veteran receives mortgage-free home

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — As Michael Shelton walked into his new kitchen, his eyes went right to the new appliances and open counter space.

He was already planning how he would set up his cooking stations and which recipes he was going to try first.

“It will be the start of new traditions,” Shelton said.

On Monday, Shelton, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran, was given a mortgage-free home in Egg Harbor Township from a joint partnership program with the nonprofit Military Warriors Support Foundation and Wells Fargo bank.

Shelton said he kept his belongings at his sister’s house in Millville while he was on active duty as a National Guard specialist. After living with his sister for many years, Shelton is now a homeowner and is looking forward to hosting holidays and cooking many, many meals.

“I’m love to cook,” said Shelton, “In Louisiana, during the off-duty day, those guys I was stationed with would say ‘come on, get up, we’re going to cook.’”

Shelton’s military career spans decades: first joining the U.S. Army Reserve in 1993 and rejoining the New Jersey National Guard in 1999.

In 2006, Shelton was deployed to Iraq where he was injured. After a stay in Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment of injuries from a detonated improvised explosive device and a heart attack, Shelton was relieved of duties from the New Jersey National Guard, but rejoined for active duty service with the Louisiana National Guard.

He then served another tour before being discharged in 2015.

After leaving the National Guard and receiving several awards including a Purple Heart and Army Commendation medal for valor, Shelton then worked to find passion and drive in civilian life.

“The transition for many can be difficult,” Shelton said.

He recently completed a master’s degree program in social work from Widener University and plans to begin a career in substance abuse counseling with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard. Shelton said he is looking forward to continuing his education, as well as giving back to the community locally in South Jersey.

Shelton’s family, who joined him for the key exchange ceremony, was taken aback by the generous program, as well as the local legislators who came to welcome him home.

“This has been an amazing day,” said Shelton’s mother, Evelyn, “(Michael) has his own place, and it’s really great to see all the support here.”

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, greeted Shelton in the American flag-lined driveway. During a brief ceremonial key exchange, Van Drew presented Shelton with a specially minted 2nd District military “challenge coin.”

State Assemblyman John Armato, D-Atlantic, and Egg Harbor Township Mayor Paul Hodson also welcomed Shelton to the area.

“This is a great program, and to have Michael move into Egg Harbor Township is great because we are very supportive of our veterans and military,” Hodson said.

Since 2010, the Military Warriors Support Foundation has awarded almost 1,000 homes across the country to combat-wounded veterans through its Homes for Wounded Heroes program. Wells Fargo, a national partner with the foundation, has donated more than 400 homes to veterans in the U.S., including eight in New Jersey.

“I wish I could do this every day,” said John Zimmer, Wells Fargo region bank president. “This is the best part of my job, and it means so much when you see the smile or the tears in his eyes. He’s worked and done so much for our country and to be able to give this to him as a result of his hard work and dedication means the world.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation oversaw the remodel and renovations to the home. Looking out at the kitchen’s back door, Shelton mentioned how he already contacted a local veteran-owned landscaping business to help spruce up the yard.

“This is a great home. It’s a great thing because it’s going to give me a chance to help build my own traditions, make my own community, have a stable area to give back, and also show other veterans we are achieving goals, and it’s great to have a good foundation, a great community and great state to back us up and welcome us home,” Shelton said.

Atlantic City High School gets a more than $1 million upgrade

ATLANTIC CITY — Principal LaQuetta Small walked through the hallways of Atlantic City High School on Wednesday and as she passed the students, she said hello, and then, “Viking Pride,” pausing for response.

“Viking strong,” the students replied as they continued to class.

That school mantra is now emblazoned across the new terrazzo flooring that welcomes students and faculty into the building each day, part of a series of upgrades at the school to increase student retention and recruitment by promoting a positive learning environment.

“They love it. They’re excited,” Small said of her charges’ reaction to the renovations. “I can just feel the energy, the school pride.”

The $1.25 million flooring project began last winter was completed earlier this year. In addition, the district made a $349,000 upgrade to the high school’s television studio, invested $1.9 million into renovating the bathrooms throughout the district, and made security upgrades to the high school and two elementary schools at a cost of $158,000.

“We want to be able to compete and the school is 25 years old, so it’s important that we upgrade,” Small said.

The “new” Atlantic City High School opened on Nov. 14, 1994. The district high school serves students from Longport, Margate, Ventnor, Atlantic City and Brigantine, but loses many students to private schools, school choice programs and the Atlantic City Institute of Technology.

The renovations were part of the superintendent’s goals to address recruitment and retention. According to the district’s budget presentation in 2018, the district was looking to “promote positive programming by investing in courses that will attract and retain current and prospective students” such as a 21st century television studio, renovating the high school, and using the new TV station to promote ACHS.

Television production teacher Gregory Toland happily showed off his new equipment inside the control room and studio.

“It’s incredible,” the ACHS alumnus said.

Toland, who had a successful career as a broadcast sports anchor in Washington, D.C. before returning home and becoming a teacher, said his students now have the capability to learn in a setting that rival professional studios.

“Before, we didn’t really have a studio,” said student Brinaiya Kelsey, 15.

She said Toland had explained to the students what the renovations would entail, but that was an understatement. “It looks way better than what he was talking about,” Kelsey said.

As she toured through the remainder of the school: the dance studio which received new mirrors, the gym floor that was updated last year, Small said that she could see a difference in the staff and the students.

“Climate and culture makes a difference,” Small said. “When people are happy, they’re productive.”

The renovations did not come without controversy, as several teachers voiced concerns over the flooring replacement and possibly silica dust contamination. Atlantic City School officials maintained that they followed proper safety protocols, installing temporary barriers during the construction after the dust was discovered.

“I want to thank everyone for bearing the construction and working through the difficult times,” said Superintendent Barry Caldwell. “It’s really important to understand, this is a project that was needed.”

GALLERY: Atlantic City High School first day of school

GALLERY: Atlantic City High School first day of school