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Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer  

Holy Spirit’s Mike Weaver in practice Tuesday in advance of its Non-Public II state final vs. St. Joe’s. on Friday. Nov. 27 , 2018, (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)

How county DPWs are readying for winter

Well before winter, when the beaches bustle with activity and the boats buzz around the bays, the preparation for winter begins at county road departments.

“We start in the summer getting the plows ready,” said Tom Curcio, road supervisor for the Ocean County Department of Public Works. “I have 25 supervisors. They have to sign off that their equipment is checked and snow-ready before winter begins.”

Ocean County is the second largest county in the state by area.

That means plenty of roadway to be treated, and plenty of plows to push through it. In southern Ocean County alone, Public Works is responsible for more than 230 miles of roads.

“The first sign of snow, we’re calling the crews in,” said John Knoop III, director of the Cumberland County Department of Public Works.

Knoop leads the 27-member road crew for the county, responsible for 540 miles of roadway.

Cumberland, Atlantic and Ocean county public works departments said road crews jump into action quickly if an event like a snow shower moves in.

“We ... can plan ahead with a little bit of time,” said Jay Steinmetz, division director of roads and bridges for the Atlantic County Department of Public Works.

However, it is the winter nor’easters that bring the famed New Jersey rain/snow line, pelting snow and whipping winds that cause county leaders to rise to the occasion.

jmartucci-pressofac / JOE MARTUCCI/Press Meteorologist  

Most precipitation starts as snow high up in the sub-freezing atmosphere. However, the size of the warm, over 32 degree, layer in the atmosphere determines whether we are wet, white, or somewhere in between.

“Every storm is different. ... Sometimes there’s a big difference between the northwestern and southeastern portions of the county (Cumberland). ... Even when a major winter storm is forecasted, you question when you need to bring the crews in,” Knoop said. “It’s a balance between the cost of overtime and getting the work done.”

Part of that process is stocking up with salt. Road salt is used to keep snow from sticking by lowering the freezing point of water. Typically, rock salt, or sodium chloride, allows the freezing point to lower to around 20 degrees, meaning snow at 27 degrees can melt on contact with the road surface. Some road crews also use a solution called brine, which is a mix of salt and water.

“We do use brine. If there’s no forecasted rain, we can put it on three or four days before. We also have the ability to wet the salt. It’s the most effective, too,” said Greg Brookins, director of public works for Atlantic County.

Atlantic County has 370 miles of roadway, a fleet of about 40 plows and about 6,000 tons of salt on hand over four locations.

Cumberland County has about 40,000 gallons of brine available for use. Ocean County has three 10,000-gallon tanks on hand to make brine at its three garages.

The days of a severe winter storm can be long. In Cumberland County, it means 16-hour shifts. Linda Gilmore, public information officer for Atlantic County, said shifts can last for 25 hours.

However, workers get food breaks, and crews aim to give four hours of rest.

“We’re keeping the roads safe. We’ll work until all roads are black,” Steinmetz said.

Giving Tuesday means a thank you call from the Arc of Atlantic County

Guiding a bright yellow ruler down a long list of phone numbers, volunteer Fran Hagins looked down her glasses to dial one of her first phone calls for The Arc of Atlantic County’s telethon on Giving Tuesday.

Hagins, of Egg Harbor Township, worked for Verizon for more than 30 years before retiring. But this time, she’s not picking up the phone for work, she’s doing it to say thank you.

The Arc’s telethon took a different approach to Giving Tuesday. Instead of asking donors to give, the organization made personal calls to thank them for supporting the Arc’s mission of serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“A lot of people make donations to nonprofits and you never hear anything. It’s about connecting with these major and smaller donors,” said Calum Kennedy, assistant director of development and community outreach for The Arc.

Hagins was one of about a dozen volunteers who, clad in matching black T-shirts, huddled around a small office table to make calls during two-hour shifts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In front of them, they had a list of more than 1,000 individuals and businesses who donated at least $5 to the organization over the past two years and a script to read from.

“They’re happy to get a call. They’re happy to be recognized for contributing,” said volunteer Kathy Berns, who has a 34-year-old son with an intellectual disability.

While Berns chatted on the phone for an extra minute with a fellow volunteer, others used their rulers to quickly cross off numbers from the list after leaving messages.

“People still check their voicemail at night, and they really like receiving that message,” Kennedy said.

Along with the telethon, another group of volunteers stuffed envelopes for the group’s holiday cards that would be sent out to donors later this year.

Chanise Rhoades, of Mays Landing, has received services from the Arc for about 24 years and volunteered to stuff cards.

“It means a lot that there’s actually people out here that care enough for this program to give back to not only me, but to others who need the services,” she said.

Kennedy said the funds raised by the holiday cards will go toward The Arc’s recreation programs that will benefit 800 to 1,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Ex-Atlantic City basketball coach Gene Allen sues to get job back

ATLANTIC CITY — Gene Allen, the former Atlantic City boys basketball coach who was removed from his position last week, filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to be reinstated.

The suit claims the city’s Board of Education failed to notify Allen his position as basketball coach was going to be discussed during a Nov. 20 meeting.

Allen said he filed the suit because he felt his rights had been violated.

“I was hopeful this could expedite the process of getting me reinstated as the coach,” he said, “and help the kids as quickly as possible.”

School district officials did not respond to requests for comment.

GALLERY: A look back at former Atlantic City basketball coach Gene Allen

Since the board voted against renewing Allen’s contract, there has been a public outcry over the decision, with Allen vowing to fight for his spot.

“Coach Allen is taking this action because the student athletes on the team deserve better,” William S. Donio, Allen’s attorney, said in a statement. “The student athletes deserve to have their season not disrupted by what appears to be petty personal politics. The student athletes deserve their coach who has had unprecedented success for his team and the young men he mentors. Coach Allen has always coached what he believes — to stand up for what is right — and that is why he is taking this action.”

Allen, who earned an annual stipend of $7,500 as head coach, maintains his teaching position in the district.

Former assistant coach and player Elijah Langford, the son of former Mayor Lorenzo Langford, was appointed head coach.

“He’s really doing a great job of trying to keep some semblance of order and normalcy,” Allen said of Langford. “I think that’s most, most important. At the end of the day, I can handle whatever decision is made, but it’s all about these kids getting some normalcy. (Langford) is doing a fantastic job of that.”

Only one board member voted in favor of renewing Allen as head coach: John Devlin.

After the Nov. 20 meeting, Ray Bethea Sr., the father of a former Atlantic City player, told The Press he complained about Allen to the board over a text message to a player last season saying the team did not deserve a post-season banquet because it did not earn it. The team ended up having the banquet.

The suit was filed the same day the board announced a special meeting to discuss the vacancy it left when it did not renew Allen’s coaching contract.

The meeting will be held 5 p.m. Friday in the sixth-floor meeting room of the CitiCenter building, 1300 Atlantic Ave.

“The only thing I’m hoping is that I get reinstated as the coach and all this can kind of calm down,” Allen said.

Atlantic City’s basketball season opens Dec. 14 at St. Joseph.

State balks at taking action against Atlantic City mayor, councilman in casino fight

ATLANTIC CITY — The state is holding off on taking action against the mayor and a city councilman involved in a fight outside a casino nightclub until the legal process is complete despite calls from city Democrats to suspend or remove the embattled politicians from office.

On Monday, the Atlantic City Democratic Committee voted in favor of a formal resolution calling on Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. and Councilman Jeffree Fauntleroy II to resign “immediately” following their involvement in a melee outside Golden Nugget Atlantic City’s Haven Nightclub at 2:22 a.m. Nov. 11. The resolution also requested that Gov. Phil Murphy or Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver exercise their executive authority to “temporarily suspend and remove them from their positions without pay until the legal process is resolved.”

“The allegations are deeply troubling and must be appropriately investigated,” Oliver said Tuesday. “That investigation is underway and should not be compromised by any forecast or speculation about what steps may follow its conclusion.”

Oliver is also commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs, which assumed direct oversight of city government in 2016 following the passage of the Municipal Recovery and Stabilization Act.

Neither Gilliam nor Fauntleroy has been charged with a crime following the incident; however, summonses for simple assault and harassment have been signed against the two officials.

Both are due to appear in municipal court Dec. 3 for a probable-cause hearing.

The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the incident. The investigation was transferred out of Atlantic County by the state Attorney General’s Office to “avoid any potential perception of a conflict of interest.”

The Atlantic City Democratic Committee acknowledged it supported both Gilliam and Fauntleroy in the 2017 campaign when they ran on a joint ticket along with Councilmen Moisse “Mo” Delgado and George Tibbitt.

In March, Gilliam and the ACDC quarreled over a $10,000 check meant for the committee that was deposited in the mayor’s account. Tibbitt also claimed a number of checks meant for his campaign were deposited in Gilliam’s account. A criminal complaint was filed, but a judge dismissed it after failing to find sufficient evidence to support charges.