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Mazzeo, Armato lead gets bigger after more mail-ins counted

MAYS LANDING — After counting most of the remaining mail-in ballots Wednesday, Democrats Vince Mazzeo and John Armato increased their lead in the 2nd District Assembly race, according to the Atlantic County Board of Elections.

After all but contested mail-in ballots were counted, the totals were Mazzeo 22,364, Armato 21,090, and Republicans John Risley 20,322 and Phil Guenther 20,307.

Guenther and Risley were in the lead based on machine votes on Election Day, but the Democrats took the lead after mail-ins, and last night’s new numbers gave them an even bigger advantage.

The board then started counting about 2,100 provisional ballots Wednesday evening, and were expected to keep counting into the late evening hours.

Republican Sharon Zappia of Atlantic City’s 5th Ward, who was in the lead after machine votes, ended up behind Democrat Muhammed Anjum Zia by 75 votes Wednesday evening with 57 provisionals yet to count. Zappia is considering challenging the election.

In Northfield, it appeared Democrat Paul Utts would join City Council, as he increased his lead after also getting 30 more mail-in votes than incumbent Republican Jeff Lischin.

In Absecon’s 1st Ward, Democrat Keith Bennett moved ahead of Republican Nicholas LaRotondo, getting a total of 104 votes by mail to LaRotondo’s 56. LaRotondo had a lead of just 11 based on machine count. There are not enough provisionals to close Bennett’s lead.

Although there are about 2,100 provisional ballots in Atlantic County, not all of them were cast in the 2nd District.

Parts of Atlantic County are in the 1st District, the 8th District and the 9th District.

Provisional ballots are paper ballots used when a voter shows up at a polling place but his/her name is not in the poll book. It may be because a voter never registered, registered in a different place or was sent a mail-in ballot.

It was generally the latter in this election and last year’s, according to Board of Elections Chairwoman Lynn Caterson, because state law changed right before each to require that people who requested them in the past be sent mail-in ballots automatically.

Last year, those who requested them in 2016 automatically got them, whether they requested one or not, and this year those who requested them in 2016, 2017 or 2018 automatically got them.

In Atlantic County, almost 20,000 mail-in ballots were sent to voters, and more than 9,000 were used to cast votes.

An additional 48,000 people voted at the polls, according to the Atlantic County Clerk’s office.

Official 2019 Atlantic County Election results

Atlantic City residents noticing subtle changes on Atlantic Avenue

ATLANTIC CITY — Sonny Ireland said he went to the U.S. Post Office on Atlantic Avenue recently and immediately noticed the difference a change in city policy has made.

“I was amazed,” he told Mayor Marty Small Sr. during Wednesday morning’s Boardwalk Committee meeting, referencing the city’s new zero-tolerance policy along one of its main thoroughfares. “Nobody (could) make that go away. You made it go away.”

Last week, Small and the Atlantic City Police Department launched the policy with a focus on increased presence to deter criminal and nuisance behavior. Police officers are aggressively enforcing city ordinances and criminal statutes while also offering outreach and assistance to those in need.

Residents said the new policy is already having an impact.

“I’ve noticed a difference on Atlantic Avenue, so thank you for that,” said Geoff Rosenberger, who may be challenging Small for the Mayor’s Office next year. “Let’s move it down to Pacific Avenue, too, please.”

Small said the attention is on Atlantic Avenue for the moment, but, if successful, the zero-tolerance task force will relocate to other areas of the city, including neighborhoods outside the Tourism District.

As a member of City Council, Small was an outspoken critic of the condition of both Atlantic and Pacific avenues — he once referred to the main streets as resembling a scene from a zombie movie — and often lamented how the streets became a dumping ground for those cast out by nearby towns and sent to Atlantic City for social services.

Upon taking office in October, Small said one of the first meetings he had was with police Chief Henry White.

“We don’t want to talk about it anymore, we want to do something about it,” Small said.

Police Deputy Chief Jerry Barnhart said the department is tweaking the policy each day by identifying what is effective and what can be improved.

“So far, it’s working,” Barnhart said. “It’s a tough mixture — not everything out there is criminal, some people are just hanging out because they have nowhere to go. So they have rights, too. But it’s something we’re working on, and we’re going to keep working on it.”

The zero-tolerance initiative is the second major patrol effort to be introduced in the city this year. In the spring, the Police Department launched its Neighborhood Coordination Officer program, a community policing initiative that assigned 16 officers — two in each of the city’s six wards and four to outreach in the Tourism District — to focus on improving communication and relationships between law enforcement and those who live and work in the city.

The toughest challenge for the ACPD is dealing with those who do not want help, said Neighborhood Coordination Officer Robert Nawrocki. But, with the zero-tolerance policy in effect, police are using any available resources to make a difference.

To that end, Barnhart mentioned Pathways to Change, a New Jersey Courts program that does not saddle offenders with a criminal record for minor infractions, but rather forces them to use social services.

“That’s one of the big things that nobody really sees going on,” he said.

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Record cold, early snow put South Jersey officials on alert

This week’s shot of snow and historic cold prompted Code Blue alerts Tuesday and Wednesday nights for those needing warmth and put local emergency management officials on alert.

The freeze caught some by surprise.

“One of the concerns I posted on Cape May OEM Facebook a few days ago was a reminder to residents to winterize outside showers and faucets,” said Jerry Inderwies Jr., emergency management coordinator for Cape May. “With an early freeze and being a seasonal community, people are not winterizing homes yet. Interior broken pipes can be very damaging and costly.”

In the event of broken pipes, the Cape May City Fire Department tries to shut off water to mitigate any damage to property, something Inderweis said has been “successful.”

Temperatures Wednesday morning fell to 21 degrees at Atlantic City International Airport, breaking the previous record for the date by 1 degree. Millville, where data go back to the 1940s, tied its daily record low.

The records did not stop during the morning, either. Atlantic City International and Millville both had the coldest high temperature for the date, at 39 and 40 degrees, respectively.

When temperatures fall below 25 degrees at night — or 32 degrees with precipitation — emergency management officials trigger a code blue, which makes shelters and warming centers available for local homeless or residents who may live in poorly insulated settings.

Donna Peterson, emergency management coordinator for Ventnor, said that even though the city does not have any registered homeless people, those who needed warmth would be sent to the Ventnor Library. At night, they would be sent to the Ventnor Community Center, next to the library.

Atlantic City Electric has been performing maintenance and inspections, upgrades and other work to meet the energy needs of customers, company officials said.

“It’s ... seasonal preparation, as well as year-round investments in reliability and resiliency, that have helped us deliver the most reliable service in the company’s history in recent years,” said Gary Stockbridge, Atlantic City Electric region president.

South Jersey saw its first snowfall of the year Tuesday. A trace, or unmeasurable, amount of snow fell during the afternoon, though car tops and grassy areas did see snow accumulate. Atlantic City International tied the previous record for the date with a trace of snow. Were it to accumulate, it would have been the fourth earliest snowfall in South Jersey recorded history, which dates to 1884.

“(There was) minimal snow, and thank goodness there was sufficient drying time before temperatures bottomed out,” said Scott Morgan, emergency management coordinator for Upper Township, adding, “We are always prepared for those who are homeless or who lose power when cold snaps come calling.”

Temperatures are expected to rise from record-breaking cold to regular cold Thursday, to more seasonable temperatures Friday.

First snow of the season falls in South Jersey Tuesday