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Looking for Transparency in Small Town NJ

Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best and most topical reporting from local news sites around New Jersey. 

It’s been a good week for small town editors digging for information in New Jersey.Rebecca Abma of Midland Park Press has been trying to discover since March why the town’s budget went down but taxes went up.”It has taken months and hundreds of Open Public Records Act documents, but I have finally gotten to the bottom of the largest tax exempt property in town,” wrote Abma.

Abma discovered that a luxury senior living facility was tax exempt and makes Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). She also found that the property management  for the luxury development was required to file annual reports, but hadn’t since 2006. Overall, Abma discovered that there was a $2 million increase in tax exempt properties — which, she reported, the Borough Clerk-Manager and Tax Assessor would not or could not explain.
Kentshire, a 148-unit senior living facility completed in 2004. Photo: Rebecca Abma/Midland Park Press

Kentshire, a 148-unit senior living facility completed in 2004. Photo: Rebecca Abma/Midland Park Press

(Midland Park Press is a recipient of a Grow & Strengthen investigative reporting grant from NJ News Commons with money provided by the New Jersey Recovery Fund.)

Speaking of OPRA requests, Bill Bowman of the Franklin Reporter also filed an OPRA request to find out more about a separation agreement that the local school board president  helped negotiate with the former schools superintendent. The problem is that the school board president faced ethics complaints filed against her by the superintendent. Read the story here.

In its ongoing in-depth reporting on a luxury development in New Brunswick that received Sandy aid, New Brunswick Today reports that Port Authority Chair David Samson’s law firm counseled the developer for the building in question.

There was lots of local news in Monmouth County this week as two former mayors — Andrew Lucas of Manalapan and  Ed McKenna  of Red Bank —

And what about the weather? Westfield TAP reported that, despite the shortage, Westfield had road salt for the latest storm. Not so in Paterson, where Joe Malinconico of the Paterson Press reports a massive shortfall of salt as well as a rapidly diminishing snow removal budget. And on Jersey Shore Hurricane News, Justin Auciello is crowd-sourcing the weather and plowing efforts across New Jersey.

Our full roundup:

Midland Park Ranks Third in Region for Tax Exemptions Midland Park Press
Kentshire Tax Exemption Set To Expire in 2034 Midland Park Press
Despite Denials, Attorney’s Bills Show School Board President Was Consulted On Agreement Mandating Withdrawal Of Ethics Charges Against Her And VP Franklin Reporter
Local Residents Support Cycle for Survival Event TAP Livingston

Livingston Athlete of the Week: Eli Friedman TAP Livingston
Important Moments in Black History (Part 1) East Orange TAP
Historic Buildings Spur Residential Development in Newark NJ Arts News
Foodie Events: Valentine’s Edition Jersey Bites
Westfield Student Athletes Sign with Duke and Central Florida TAP Westfield
Despite Shortage, Westfield has Road Salt for Next Storm TAP Westfield
Andrew Lucas Arrested More Monmouth Musings
Gopal Makes False Allegations Over Lucas Arrest More Monmouth Musings
McKenna Convicted of DWI More Monmouth Musings
A-Rod’s transgressions don’t make The Yankees dirty More Monmouth Musings*
Accused Paterson cop may collect $70,000 for leave days after 7-year suspension Paterson Press
Paterson unable to solve road salt shortage as next winter storm nears Paterson Press
Paterson examines its failure to clear streets during recent storms Paterson Press
DUI Bust at Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant’s Security Checkpoint In Lacey Lacey Patch
Middlesex County Auto Shops Pay For Unnecessary Repairs, Or Poor Documentation South Brunswick Patch
Hurricane Sandy Victim: ‘I Feel Like I’m Returning from Afghanistan’ Point Pleasant Patch
Northeast Braces for Latest Blast of Brutal Winter Weather Climate Central*
EXCLUSIVE: Firm of Port Authority Chairman Counseled Developer That Got Sandy Funds For Luxury Building New Brunswick Today
Scotch Plains Family Enlists Senator to Help Find Their Son’s Killer TAP

*Asterisks are vailable for reposting through the NJ News Commons Story Exchange.

Andrew Guadagnino, NJ News Commons intern, contributed to this report.