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Edward Lea  

Alexa Simonetti member of Stckton University women’s soccer team during practice Tuesday Aug 27, 2019. Edward Lea Staff Photographer / Press of Atlantic City

Public gets first official preview of South Jersey wind project

ATLANTIC CITY — South Jersey’s off-shore wind project is five years away from being operational, but public meetings are already being held to satisfy people’s curiosity.

Orsted, the Danish power company, was selected to develop a 1,100-megawatt wind project off the coast of the resort.

Even though the company opened an office in May, it held its first meeting in the city about the project Monday with about 50 people in attendance at Stockton University’s academic center here.

Orsted constructed the world’s first wind farm in 1991, Vindeby Offshore Wind Farm off an island in Denmark, and built this country’s first wind farm in 2016 off the coast of Rhode Island, said Kris Ohleth, senior stakeholder relations manager of Orsted.

“One thousand, one hundred megawatts is the largest offshore wind farm in the U.S. to date,” Ohleth said. “It will power over a half a million New Jersey homes.”

The wind farm has both an offshore and an onshore component. The offshore aspect with the wind turbine generators will be 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City to minimize the visual and environmental impact, Ohleth said.

There will be a substation on land, but a final decision on exactly where it will be built has not been determined, said Ohleth after her presentation.

The three possibilities are the places where the first three public meetings are being held: the resort on Monday, Ocean City on Tuesday and Waretown, Ocean Township, on Wednesday.

One of the reasons the meeting was held was to provide information about what Orsted would be doing for the community.

Grant assistance will be available through the Pro N.J. Trust for the retooling or retrofitting of businesses to figure out the best way for them to take advantage of the offshore wind industry, Ohleth said.

Kellie Cors, an Atlantic City resident and the founder and president of the Peace Amongst Youth organization, said she attended the meeting to network and see what employment opportunities there would be for the city’s youth.

During Ohleth’s presentation, she talked about Orsted teaming up with Joseph Jingoli & Son with corporate offices in Mays Landing to work with local youth and high school-age students to prepare them for jobs in the wind farm industry.

There will be live classroom training for juniors and seniors interested in learning about jobs in the field, Ohleth said.

There will be 70 permanent jobs when the project is completed, and more than 3,000 jobs during the three years it will take to construct the project, Ohleth said.

Ken Schreiber, 64, of Brigantine, attended the meeting because he is curious about wind farms.

“I’m looking forward to it. I lived in Germany. Europe is so much further ahead with wind turbines,” Schreiber said. He added it was great Orsted entered into a memorandum of understanding with Stockton.

Stockton signed a memorandum of understanding with Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind in the spring that will support academic programs, events and research at Stockton. The agreement also could provide Stockton faculty and students with opportunities to assist with the development of the Orsted proposed Ocean Wind project.

Bridgeton football team receives new jerseys from Jaworski's foundation

BRIDGETON — The Bridgeton High School football team will be dressed for success this season.

The Bulldogs received 80 new game jerseys for the upcoming season on Tuesday, courtesy of Ron Jaworski's Jaws Youth Playbook foundation.

"This really means a lot to our team," Bulldogs senior quarterback James Smith said. "And I think the new jerseys look great."

The quest to get new shirts started a few months ago, when coaches and officials realized that approximately a dozen of their jerseys from last season needed to be replaced, but discovered there was not enough money in this year's budget.

Upon learning of their plight, former Millville High School football and baseball coach Tony Surace, who does work for Salmon Ventures consulting firm, reached out to Jaworski's foundation for help.

JYP responded with a $10,000 donation.

Although Jaworski, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, was unable to attend the ceremony, representatives of his foundation looked on while Bridgeton Athletic Director Cyndy Wilks and varsity coach Steve Lane distributed the new uniforms to the players.

"I'm really glad I was able to help," Jaworski said Tuesday in a phone interview. "If you look good, you play good."

Jaworski's relationship with Bridgeton began in 2012. Bridgeton's concrete football stadium was beginning to fall apart. Surace and some other local Cumberland County officials sought to raise funds for a new stadium and held a dinner to kick off the plan with Jaworski as the guest speaker.

"Ron is always fired up and he really got the people excited," Surace said with a laugh. "Then he announces that he's going to get things started by donating $10,000 to the project."

A slew of other donations, including $1 million by a prominent Bridgeton businessman, led to the completion of Jim Hursey Memorial Stadium at the Robert C. Thompson Family Sports Complex.

Tuesday's jersey ceremony was the latest in a series of projects Jaworski's foundation has sponsored in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland Counties in recent years.

In 2013, JYP donated $30,000 to the Ventnor Pirates of the Atlantic County Junior Football League to help the team rebuild its snack bar and replace equipment in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

"My wife (Liz) and I started the foundation 35 years ago in the hopes of helping kids," Jaworski said. "And that hasn't changed in 35 years. To be able to help the kids in Bridgeton and Ventnor and other places is very fulfilling."

Players sat in the bleachers of the stadium on Tuesday and listened as Wilks explained some of the tradition behind Bridgeton's football team.

The Bulldogs won South Jersey Group II championships in 1997 and 1999, respectively, despite having fewer than 20 non-freshmen on those squads. Running back/defensive back Mike Bartley, running back/defensive end Lamus Rhett and quarterback/linebacker Terrin Walker led the '97 team to a 9-2 record under coach Bob Bernado. The Bulldogs went 11-1 in '99 under coach Dave Ellen, running back David Days, quarterback Ed Cruz and fullback/linebacker Bryan Hagan.

"They were a small group, but they were mighty, just like you," Wilks told players. "I was watching a documentary about (Oakland Raiders coach) Jon Gruden and one of his quotes really stuck with me. He said, 'You can lead the league in effort because it doesn't take talent.' Effort makes you always walk away a winner.'"

Wilks and Bulldogs coach Steve Lane designed the new jerseys.

They have 40 maroon shirts with white numbers and 40 white ones with maroon numbers. All the jerseys also have a 'B' on the sleeves that matches Bridgeton's helmets.

"Looking good has a little bit to do with playing good," Lane said. "But the most important thing is that every one of these players earned the jerseys they're going to wear this year."

Bridgeton receives news football jerseys

GALLERY: Bridgeton recieves new football jerseys from the Jaws Youth Playbook foundation.

Atlantic City property tax task force named, will meet Sept. 9

ATLANTIC CITY — Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver will lead a task force to help the city government and school board work with the county to reduce property taxes in the resort after a surprise property tax increase this year.

“We look forward to ... considering all ideas for minimizing property taxes and increasing the city’s ratable base,” said Department of Community Affairs spokeswoman Lisa M. Ryan in an email response to questions Tuesday.

Ryan said the task force will hold its first meeting Monday, Sept. 9, in Atlantic City City Hall, and invitations have gone out to Democratic Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr., Democratic City Council President Marty Small Sr., Republican County Executive Dennis Levinson, school Superintendent Barry Caldwell, city Interim Business Administrator Anthony Swan, Democratic county Freeholder Ernest Coursey and the New Jersey Treasurer’s Office.

The formation of the task force comes after taxpayers in the resort saw their property tax bills increase dramatically. The increase came as a surprise to most because of officials’ public proclamations of flat budgets and sound fiscal practices.

The average resort home, valued at $150,000, will pay a tax bill of $5,850 this year. That’s up $676.50 from last year, according to the Atlantic County Board of Taxation.

But the makeup of the task force — all government officials — drew the ire of Levinson.

“Why the same people who got us into this mess? With the exception of Ernest Coursey and me, everyone on there is responsible for where we are,” Levinson said of city and state officials. “All these people are going to do is justify what they‘ve done so far. It’s human nature.”

He said he would have formed a task force of accountants, economists, financial planners and property assessors.

The city not only needs to control taxes, he said, but also must get out from under $600 million in debt that requires $50 million in annual debt service.

Small, who chairs City Council’s revenue and finance committee, said he is open to any ideas that benefit the city’s taxpayers.

“It takes a collaborative effort,” Small said. “The residents don’t want to hear any finger pointing. We’re all going to be team players and work together for the greater good of the hard-working taxpayers of the city of Atlantic City.”

Gilliam, in an emailed statement, said the “formation of the Atlantic City Tax Task Force will ensure that the City of Atlantic City, Atlantic City Board of Education, and Atlantic County are all working towards the same tax policy goals.”

“We want Atlantic City to be a vibrant and thriving community that serves its current residents but will also attract new residents as well,” Gilliam said.

Levinson said he wouldn’t have put himself on the task force, had he been allowed to form it as a DCA press release stated last week. Instead, he said, he would have let people with demonstrated experience in public budgets and forecasting do their job and make recommendations.

Last week, the DCA put out a press release saying Levinson had been asked to form the task force, then sent out a corrected statement the next day saying he had been invited to join the task force. DCA said the original statement had been incomplete, but Levinson said he believes a negative response from Democrats quashed his role. Democrat Susan Korngut, a Northfield attorney, is challenging him for county executive this year.

Atlantic City’s county tax rate went up by about 25 cents, and school taxes by 20 cents, even though county and school budgets were stable and the amount of money to be raised by the county from noncasino city property owners fell by more than $1 million.

The county tax rate increase was due to the sudden loss of refunds from the county to the city, after successful tax appeals ended with the start of the payment in lieu of taxes program. The PILOT stopped casino tax appeals and the county refunds that accompanied them.

Over the past 11 years, those refunds had averaged $7 million a year and were used to offset how much taxpayers had to pay to the county.

The increase in the school tax rate was largely due to a drop in the value of the city, as two casino properties — Ocean Casino Resort and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City — reopened and joined the PILOT program and successful tax appeals continued on noncasino properties.

In a joint statement Monday, Republican Assembly Candidates Phil Guenther, of Brigantine, and Freeholder John Risley, of Egg Harbor Township, said the state takeover has only driven Atlantic City further into debt and higher taxes.

The two are challenging Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, both D-Atlantic, in this year’s Assembly race.

If elected, Guenther and Risley said, “On day one ... we will introduce legislation to end the PILOT so that the casinos will no longer be exempt from paying (regular) property taxes and properly assess them like every other gaming jurisdiction in the country.”

Rich DiCriscio, campaign manager for the two incumbent Democrats, responded Tuesday: “You have to wonder what world Guenther and Risley are living in because here on planet Earth the reality is that the PILOT legislation stabilized Atlantic City’s finances when it was literally weeks away from bankruptcy, saving Atlantic County from falling into a deep economic depression. These failed career politicians should be thanking Vince Mazzeo for his instrumental role in the turnaround of Atlantic City we’re seeing today.”

Man charged in brother's death to stay jailed pending trial

MAYS LANDING — A Philadelphia man charged with murder in the beating death of his younger brother in an Atlantic City casino hotel room will remain jailed pending his trial.

A judge issued the ruling Tuesday, citing the severity of the charges against 38-year-old John Villante and several concerns that could make him a risk to the public or likely to flee. Villante’s lawyer didn’t challenge the decision.

Villante is charged in the death of his younger brother, Joseph, who was found May 28 in a hotel room at Harrah’s Resort. An autopsy determined the 32-year-old Philadelphia man died from numerous injuries, including blunt force trauma to the head.

Villante was arrested two days later in Philadelphia.

Atlantic County prosecutors say John Villante has denied involvement in the death, telling police his brother must have fallen in the shower.

— Associated Press