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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    As prom season winds down, NJ.com compiled a collection of some of the best dancing from prom attendees in 2018.

    As prom season winds down, NJ.com compiled a collection of some of the best dancing from prom attendees in 2018.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS

    Are you one of the people pictured at this prom? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for the blue link "buy photo" below the photographer's credit to purchase the picture. You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Be sure to check out the complete prom coverage at nj.com/prom.

    Ed Murray may be reached at emurray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow Ed on Twitter at @EdMurrayphoto. Find NJ.COM on Facebook.


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    Meet your all-state athletes from the 2018 boys track and field season!


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    Sports betting just became legal. A new casino is about to open. Will both be forced to close during a shutdown?

    With the opening of a new casino set for Thursday and sports betting just launched, a pair of lawmakers are calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to sign an executive order ensuring New Jersey's casinos and racetracks won't be closed if there's a state shutdown.

    Assemblyman Jay Webber, who's running for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said Murphy should ensure bets aren't put on hold in the event state government shutters because of gridlock in Trenton.

    "We need to ensure a government shutdown will not destroy the momentum of sports betting & the opening of Hard Rock & Ocean Resort casinos so 27K middle class families can earn a decent living," Webber, R-Morris, said on Twitter.

    State Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, made a similar ask of the governor.

    "The 2006 shutdown of the casinos during the July 4th weekend was devastating," Brown told The Press of Atlantic City, referring to the week-long government shutdown in 2006. 

    "It's unbelievable to me that as our gaming industry is turning the corner and improving our local economy by putting families back to work, Trenton would force the casinos to shut their doors during the busiest time of the year."

    Sports betting just recently became legal at New Jersey's casinos and racetracks after a seven-year legal battle, and is currently offered at Monmouth Park racetrack and The Borgata casino. The Hard Rock casino will kick off its grand opening weekend on on Thursday.

    The lawmakers' statements comes amid tension between Murphy and Democratic leaders in the state Assembly and Senate. Neither side can agree on a budget.

    And if the governor and lawmakers fail to hash out a compromise by the June 30 deadline, state government could shutdown.

    Democrats defy Phil Murphy by passing a budget

    Unlike any other so-called "non-essential" services that could immediately close in the event of a shutdown, casinos and tracks don't close right away.

    Instead, thanks to a state law that was passed following the 2006 state shutdown, they stay open for the first seven days of a shutdown. But if a shutdown were to drag on the state's casinos and racetracks close on day eight.

    Last year's government three-day shutdown did not affect casinos or racetracks. 

    Webber wants Murphy to sign an executive order that would designate racetracks and casinos as "essential" services.

    A spokesman for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

    When casinos closed during the 2006 shutdown, Gov. Jon Corzine held a rally with casino workers to apply political pressure on Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, who was a South Jersey lawmaker. 

    This year, Murphy is in battle with Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

    Sweeney, D-Gloucester, is South Jersey legislator who protects the interests of Atlantic City.

    Matt Arco may be reached at marco@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewArco or Facebook.


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    JCP&L can appeal the Board of Public Utilities decision to the Appellate Division of state Superior Court.

    Monmouth County residents and environmentalists won another round Friday in their fight against a transmission line proposed by JCP&L, when state regulators rejected the utility company's application for the project.

    In rejecting JCP&L's application for a project intended to improve reliability of power transmission throughout New Jersey and beyond, the state Board of Public Utilities was essentially acting on the conclusions of an administrative law judge who in a 130-page decision in March recommended that the board reject the plan.

    JCP&L had asked the utilities board permission to string a 230,000-volt line through the Monmouth communities of Aberdeen, Middletown, Hazlet, Holmdel and Red Bank, on poles placed 500 feet apart and ranging from 110 to 210 feet high.

    The application had prompted widespread opposition among residents, their local elected officials, environmentalists and other, who argued that the new line would require massive clear-cutting of woodlands, be aesthetically offensive, pose possible health threats and cause other disruptions.

    Judge rules against JCP&L power line plan

    Grass roots opposition to the project included signs posted in yards reading, "No monster power lines in our neighborhood," and a website, StopJCPL.org.

    BPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso said JCP&L had failed to sufficiently demonstrate that the line was necessary, and invited the Morristown-based company to come back with stronger justification for the project.

    "Basically, this decision sent it back to them to go back to the drawing board," Fiordaliso said in a brief phone interview on Friday.

    A spokesman for JCP&L, Ron Morano, said the company will review the board's decision and determine its next step, which could include appealing the decision to the Appellate Division of state Superior Court.

    "Delivering safe and reliable service to meet our customers' needs in Monmouth County and throughout its 13-county service area is JCP&L's top priority," Morano said.

    In her March recommendation, Administrative Law Judge Gail Cookson found, among other things, that the project could have an adverse impact on an existing NJ Transit rail line within the right-of-way it would share with the power line project. Cookson also found that JCP&L had failed to show that the project was necessary to ensure the reliability of power transmission.

    The judge's recommendation was hailed by opponents of the plan as unusually thorough and well-grounded in science and law. Fiordaliso said the judge's recommendation "played a part" in the Friday's decision by the board, but that BPU staffers conducted their own review, which happened to be consistent with the judge's. 

    "They basically came to the same conclusions," he said.

    Steve Strunsky may be reached at sstrunsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The mayor and city council have condemned past remarks by Pastor Jonathan Shuttlesworth of Revival Today, which is holding a 6-day gathering in the shore community. Watch video

    Members of the LGBTQ community and supporters plan to hold a "counter-festival" in Asbury Park on Sunday to coincide with the start of a six-day evangelical gathering where the featured speaker is a pastor whose sermons have been condemned as hateful by city officials and community leaders.

    The evangelical gathering, known as the Festival of Life scheduled to run June 24-29 at Bradley Park, a block from the beach on Ocean Avenue, across from the Convention Center.

    The pastor whose prior remarks generated the controversy is the Rev. Jonathan Shuttlesworth of the Revival Today ministry, based in Oakdale, Pennsylvania.

    According to Revival Today's website, "Since 2015, Jonathan has conducted a number of open air crusades and outreaches dedicated to winning the lost."

    But Shuttlesworth has referred to homosexuality as "wicked" in sermons and public remarks that have been condemned as hate speech. So a demonstration is being planned by members of Asbury Park's sizable and longstanding LGBTQ community, including the group Garden State Equality.

    Ask Alexa what's happening around New Jersey

    "Shuttlesworth has a proven history of anti-LGBT, homophobic, sexist, and pro-life views," Colin DeLuca, a Garden State Equality spokesman, said in an email. "He prays on the disenfranchised and low-income. You don't need to look any further than his twitter feed to see the hateful rhetoric he spreads.

    "From equating bestiality to same-sex relationships, to derogatory implications of Hillary Clinton's sexuality, it's obvious he only aims to emphasize messages of bigotry and prejudice."

    Shuttlesworth and his wife, Adalis, run Revival Today TV and Revival Today Radio stations, a YouTube channel of "Vidotional" videos, Facebook and Twitter pages, have an app and use other modern media tools. 

    Revival Today did not respond to requests for comment left on its media line.

    Members of Asbury Park's LGBTQ community and its supporters, including a group known as We Are ASBURY PARK, had originally planned a protest of Shuttlesworth's appearance late Sunday afternoon.

    But they later decided to stage their own, celebratory event that will include the participation of several local religious organizations, as a more constructive reaction to Shuttlesworth and the Festival of Life. 

    "The decision was made to not only welcome the festival itself with open arms, but to turn what was a protest against it into a much more loving and inclusive alternative," read a statement from We Are ASBURY PARK.

    "We won't have a car or video games to give away," the statement added, referencing the fact organizers of the festival are offering prizes to those who attend. "But we will have food to both enjoy there and to bring home if you are in need. We will be gladly accepting donations of food, and new or gently used clothing to further share with our neighbors, anything left over will be distributed locally."

    The applicant for the Festival of Life permit was the Rev. Lyddale Akins of the Triumphant Life ministry, whose address is Fort Monmouth, according to its website. The Triumphant Life web site notes that Akins has served as minister to youth at the Cathedral Assembly by the Shore in Asbury Park.

    Akins did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday evening. No one answered the phone at Cathedral Assembly on Friday evening.

    Among the "Beliefs" of Triumphant Life spelled out on its website is this one: "A Final Judgment Will Take Place for those who have rejected Christ. They will be judged for their sin and consigned to eternal punishment in a punishing lake of fire."

    The statement from We Are ASBURY PARK refers to what appears to have been the initial participation of local clergy in the Festival of Life.

    "Our churches, our City, our political action groups, and our local businesses quickly realized that we were hoodwinked," the statement read. "And also that any group taking action alone could be misunderstood as standing in opposition to fellow groups of marginalized people."

    Mayor John Moor, Council President Amy Quinn and the City Council issued a statement urging demonstrators to express their views peacefully

    "While the city values the constitutional right to freedom of speech, and encourages peaceful public discourse and debate on all issues of public concern," the statement read. "The mayor and city council -- in honor of the city's diverse population and spirit -- nevertheless denounce the past rhetoric of Revival Today's Jonathan Shuttlesworth, who will be speaking at the Festival of Life event next week in Asbury Park.

    "Mr. Shuttlesworth has openly spoken about the LGBTQ community in a hateful, harmful and disparaging manner." 

    Steve Strunsky may be reached at sstrunsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find NJ.com on Facebook


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    The LobsterFest is an event that draws people from all over the state and was supposed to happen this weekend. It won't.

    LobsterFest, a Bradley Beach summer tradition that draws 75,000 people over the weekend, has been canceled two weeks before crowds were expected to visit the shore town and merchants were hoping to make some money.

    Bradley Beach Council members discovered that the two-day festival was in jeopardy two weeks ago when the festival's main sponsor, the Bradley Beach Chamber of Commerce had failed to follow state and federal charity regulations.

    Shireley Ayers, executive director of the Bradley Beach Chamber of Commerce called the error "one of the biggest regrets of my life," in a letter originally given to The Coast Star.

    In the letter Ayres said she "failed to keep up with the yearly paperwork required to keep the Chamber compliant as a non-profit corporation."

    She called the mistake unintentional but entirely her fault, according to The Coast Star.

    Ayers also expressed that she was worried about the future of the chamber of commerce, writing that without LobsterFest, the Chamber of Commerce will cease to exist." 

    A call to the Bradley Beach Chamber of Commerce was answered by a recording stating that the offices are "temporarily closed."

    With the main sponsor missing, borough officials attempted to work directly with the owners of LobsterFest, The Passion Group, to run the event, but discovered restrictions that require the borough to go out to bid for such work.

    The festival which last year brought 75,000 people to the beach front was supposed to take place June 23 and 24.

    Tiffany Bowden, an event coordinator at The Passion Group, said the borough had offered to postpone the festival until September or later but the company decided it would not be best for their vendors.

    "As for the location of LobsterFest in the future, time will tell," Bowden said, "Different organizations, towns and municipalities have reached out to host in 2019 but nothing has been decided yet."

    On Facebook some of the vendors who have now lost out on the opportunity to make a profit at the start of summer, expressed their disappointment and distress that the event was canceled so last minute. 

    The 2018 Lobster Fest began to unravel back in January after a borough council vote that gave the chamber of commerce approval to host the event.

    At that January meeting a resident Thomas Coan questioned whether Councilman Harold Colter should be allowed to vote because his wife is a member of the chamber of commerce

    Harold Colter ended up voting and Coan sued the borough to challenge LobsterFest's approval, according to meeting minutes and court records.

    The issue was brought back to the Borough council on June 6 for a re-vote, without Colter.

    It was at this meeting that Coan informed the council that the chamber of commerce had its 501(c)6 status, an IRS nonprofit designation given to chambers of commerce, revoked in May 2013. That meant the chamber is not compliant with state requirements to operate as a charity, according to video of the meeting.

    The vote ended in a 2-2 tie, which technically is a failing vote and means that the chamber cannot host LobsterFest this year. In an attempt to keep the event going, council members and borough officials began to look at ways to work directly with The Passion Group. 

    Borough leaders thought they would be able to avoid bidding requirements because the net proceeds that would come to the borough fell below bid thresholds. But a secondary review of the state bidding requirements revealed that the total revenues for the event exceeds the bid thresholds. 

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at orizzo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find NJ.com on Facebook

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    One may be eligible for a new trial depending on the results of a DNA test.


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    Heed the warning: "If New Jersey's beach towns, 10 are projected to have at least 1,500 at-risk homes by 2045." Watch video

    Here's something to ponder if you have just acquired a 30-year mortgage for a beachfront property in Lavallette, Long Beach, Little Egg Harbor or a few dozen other New Jersey towns: That house is likely to be underwater by the time you pay it off.

    No, not in terms of market value - though that also might be true.

    That was meant literally: Your seaside citadel is likely to be uninhabitable by 2045 because many waterfront communities along New Jersey's 130 miles of coastline will require that you wade from your driveway to your front door.

    That caveat emptor comes from the Union of Concerned Scientists, who released another dire report last week that could affect populations in the shore area for generations to come. The UCS has determined that accelerating sea-level rise - driven primarily by climate change - will put more than 62,000 residential properties in our state at risk of chronic flooding over the next 30 years, a collective loss cost of $26.8 billion.

    Only Florida will face more destruction, says the UCS, which used property data from the online real estate company Zillow to assess where the damage from frequent flooding will take place.

    But if you live on New Jersey's coast, there is almost no place to hide.

    Rising sea levels don't interest candidates | Editorial

    Among the communities that will be "chronically inundated" - that means they'll face tidal flooding at least twice a month - are Ocean City (7,251 homes), Atlantic City (4,438), Toms River (3,600), Long Beach (2,900), and North Wildwood (2,100). But we will also lose more than half of Beach Haven (1,372 homes, or 55 percent) and nearly half of Mantoloking (232, 48 percent) and Bay Head (419, 44 percent).

    Few coastal towns are spared, as you can see in the map of high-risk areas shown at the UCS website, and even Little Ferry - up in Bergen County, on the Hackensack River - risks losing 1,289 homes.

    And the loss of those 62,209 properties - home to 79,000 people - also means a loss of $390 million in property taxes.

    This is all assuming a one- to two-foot rise in sea level over the next three decades.

    Blunt assessment from climate scientist Robert Kopp: NJ's coastline could disappear quickly | The Star-Ledger

    Dr. Robert Kopp, the Co-Director of the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience Initiative at Rutgers and one of our nation's leading experts in sea-level rise, finds none of that surprising.

    "The main innovation here is the use of Zillow data: It brings the sea-level rise projections home in a fairly concrete and literal way," Kopp says. "Anyone expecting to treat their mortgage payments as a long-term investment should look at the risk in a clear-eyed fashion."

    We ignore that risk at our peril. We already know the sea has risen 2.5 times faster in the last 20 years than it had in the last 8 decades of the 20th century. Kopp and other experts attribute this to thermal expansion caused by rising ocean temperatures, and the melting of land-based polar ice sheets.

    So at current climate trends, average sea levels will rise four feet globally by 2100. In that scenario, New Jersey would lose 250,817 homes worth a collective $107.1 billion.

    But if we respect the science, and adhere to the primary goal of the Paris Agreement - which seeks to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius - we'd limit the loss of land-based ice and 70 percent of New Jersey's at-risk homes would be spared, the UCS estimates.

    There's a lot to absorb here. We assume Gov. Murphy agrees: His commitment to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative - which reduces carbon emissions from fossil fuel plants - indicates he is in earnest. He has yet to officially rejoin RGGI by negotiating our emissions cap, however, and experts wonder when he'll acknowledge their recommendation of a 12-million metric ton cap by 2020. There's no time to lose.

    Adaptation and shore replenishment will always be necessary. But if we continue to make bad choices - in lifestyle, energy options, and at the ballot box - we cannot be surprised if New Jersey's treasured coastal real estate market washes away in our time.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    Some pet stats for the day:

    A 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association found that 68% of U.S. households own pets. This is up from 56% of U.S. households in 1988, the first year the survey was conducted.

    The kinds of pets owned? Dogs account for just over 60%, with cats at 47% (bear in mind, the total can exceed 100% because some households, like mine, have cats AND dogs, as well as other possible pets). Fish, freshwater and saltwater, account for 15%, birds 8%, and small animals like hamsters and gerbils 7%.

    The survey also found that 10% of dog owners and 5% of cat owners have health insurance for their pets. Based on the total number of dogs and cat in the US that equates to nearly 9 million dogs and over 4.5 million cats with insurance.

    And some completely random pet facts:

    Three dogs (from First Class cabins!) survived the sinking of the Titanic - two Pomeranians and one Pekingese.

    Dogs and humans have the same type of slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) and during this REM stage dogs can dream. The twitching and paw movements that occur during their sleep are signs that your pet is dreaming

    Cats make more than 100 different sounds whereas dogs make around 10.


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    See which schools had the best year across the board in high school sports.


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    An evangelical festival and a pro-LGBT counter-festival took place across the street from one another on Sunday night in Asbury Park

    On one side of Asbury Park's Kingsley Street, rainbow signs and flags flew as Lady Gaga's "Born this Way" blared from speakers. On the other side, a live band played "Amazing Grace" and "This Little Light of Mine" as a controversial preacher took the stage.

    That was the scene Sunday evening as Pastor Jonathan Shuttlesworth kicked off a six-day Festival of Life Christian revival in the Jersey Shore town known for its vibrant LGBTQ community.

    Shuttlesworth's past anti-gay comments prompted a quickly-organized counter-festival by local activists in Atlantic Square Park, within shouting distance of the revival in neighboring Bradley Park near the convention center.

    IMG_5199.jpgPastor Jonathan Shuttlesworth preaches to a crowd of over 200 at the Festival of Life on Sunday evening.

    "I've heard a lot of people say to just ignore it all -- but that doesn't always work out so well," said Long Branch resident and activist Allison Kolarik, who organized the "Hate Has No Place in Asbury Park" festival. "I'm done trying to pretend injustice goes away on its own. If you don't stand against injustice, it'll grow and become normalized."

    Shuttlesworth was quick to address the counter-festival and criticism of his views - he included "pro-gay" in a list of things he considers "antichrist spirit" - when he took the stage Sunday evening.

    "We're here because we love you," Shuttlesworth told the crowd. "I'm glad you didn't believe what you read and checked it out for yourself. You can mark down every time I say something hateful. You'll have zero things at the end of the night."

    Shuttlesworth and his wife, Adalis, run the Revival Today ministry based in Oakdale, Pennsylvania. They operate Revival Today Radio stations, a YouTube channel of "Vidotional" videos, and maintain active Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as a mobile app.

    According to Revival Today's website, Shuttlesworth has "conducted a number of open air crusades and outreaches dedicated to winning the lost" since 2015.

    IMG_5140.jpgCommunity activist Allison Kolarik speaks to Asbury Park residents Sunday evening at "Hate Has No Home," the counter-festival she planned over the past week.

    The counter-festival  also had live music, food vendors and speakers. Given the short notice, Kolarik said she was encouraged by the show of support.

    "I have no words for how amazing and supportive people are," she said. "I love this city. For anyone to create division here, that would be reprehensible."

    City officials issued a statement denouncing Shuttlesworth's past comments prior to the festival.

    "We respect the Festival's rights to free speech and assembly," Mayor John Moor said. "But, at the same time, we implore them not to take advantage of people, and most definitely not to spread intolerance."

    Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn said in an interview at the "Hate Has No Home" festival Sunday that the Festival of Life seemed "innocuous," and that it wasn't until after the event's permit was approved that she learned of Shuttlesworth's comments.

    IMG_5085.jpgAn Asbury Park resident carries a rainbow sign bearing biblical quotes, including "Love one another." 

    "I think the whole idea is that a festival in Asbury Park should be something everyone can come to," Quinn said. "If you're subtly suggesting being gay and bestiality are the same thing, or calling people wicked in a sermon, that's concerning, particularly in a community like Asbury Park. But he has the right to say it."

    Anthony Archuleta, crusade director of Asbury Park's Festival of Life, said the event is open to all people. The overall goal, he said, is to help people in need, through initiatives such as bringing food boxes to the poverty-afflicted residents in partnership with nonprofit Feed The Hungry, as well as raffling off prizes.

    "In the country we live in, I love the First Amendment -- their right to be there, I stand for that," Archuleta said as he pointed to the counter-festival on the other side of Kingsley Street. "I understand, in their eyes, there's something that concerns them. If they weren't allowed to do that, I would be fearful for this country. I'm happy they have their right, just like we're happy to have our right to be here. That's America."

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Middletown High School South held its commencement ceremony at Monmouth University in the OceanFirst Bank Center in West Long Branch.

    Middletown High School South held its commencement ceremony on Monday at Monmouth University in the OceanFirst Bank Center in West Long Branch.

    The 329 seniors waived to family and friends as they marched into the venue.

    The ceremony started at 3:00 pm and featured speeches by valedictorian Lucy Zeng and salutatorian, Sage Levine.

    MORE PHOTOS

    Graduation season is here, and NJ.com is capturing the moments for many New Jersey high schools. Check back at nj.com/monmouth for other local high school graduation coverage. Be sure to check out our complete graduation coverage at nj.com/graduation.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS

    Are you one of the people pictured at this graduation? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for a blue buy image link below the photo.  You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Patti Sapone can be reached at psapone@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Instagram @psapo,  Twitter @psapone.  Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Middletown High School North held its commencement ceremony at Monmouth University in the OceanFirst Bank Center in West Long Branch.

    Middletown High School North held its commencement ceremony on Monday at Monmouth University in the OceanFirst Bank Center in West Long Branch.

    The 342 seniors waived to family and friends as they marched into the venue.

    The ceremony started at 6:00 pm and featured speeches by valedictorian Luke Huber and salutatorian, Gabriella Cerbo.

    MORE PHOTOS

    Graduation season is here, and NJ.com is capturing the moments for many New Jersey high schools. Check back at nj.com/monmouth for other local high school graduation coverage. Be sure to check out our complete graduation coverage at nj.com/graduation.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS

    Are you one of the people pictured at this graduation? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for a blue buy image link below the photo.  You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Patti Sapone can be reached at psapone@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Instagram @psapo,  Twitter @psapone.  Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Some districts would see their state aid double in one year.


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    Vote for your favorite Central Jersey hot dog joint in our N.J.'s best hot dog showdown.

    Central Jersey won our last N.J.'s best showdown - best bakery. How will it do in our search for N.J's best hot dog joint?

    You can vote for your favorite spot starting right now.  

    You can vote once per day in each region. Deadline for voting is 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 5.

    The top six vote-getters in each region, plus 26 of my own picks, will comprise our 50 semifinalists, which will be visited starting Monday, July 9.

    Don't forget to vote in our other categories:

    North I (Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Sussex, Warren) 

    North II (Essex, Union, Morris)

    South Jersey/Shore

    Peter Genovese may be reached at pgenovese@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PeteGenovese or via The Munchmobile @NJ_Munchmobile. Find the Munchmobile on Facebook and Instagram.


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    Bacteria pollutes popular swimming areas every summer, and it can take state officials days before they detect it and close the beach.


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    The vehicles were purchased without the knowledge of the Roselle superintendent or the school board, prompting a state investigation.

    Two Roselle school district employees who were ousted earlier this year are accused of using district funds to buy vehicles without the knowledge of the superintendent or the school board, prompting a state investigation into the district's business practices. 

    Jason Jones, then the district's business administrator, and his assistant, Jade Wilson, paid for those vehicles with a handwritten check, according to a letter from the board attorney to the state Department of Education. 

    Jones and Wilson, who were put on administrative leave in January, are also accused of placing purchase orders on school board agendas months after they had already made the payments, and forging the signature of Superintendent Richard Corbett, according to the March 1 letter from board attorney Allan Roth, obtained through a public records request. 

    The allegations lend context to the school board's firing of Jones and Wilson in March and explain why the Department of Education's Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance has been investigating the Union County district of about 2,841 students. 

    A forensic audit of the district that began after the discovery of the old purchase orders found several "over threshold" payments to vendors working for the district without a contract, Roth wrote in his letter, which requested that OFAC investigate the district's business office. "Over threshold" purchases are those that state law requires be put out to bid because they will cost more than a certain amount - which in the case of Roselle's district is $40,000. 

    The school board on Monday accepted a report from the forensic audit conducted by the Bayonne-based accounting firm of Donohue, Gironda, Doria & Tomkins. The report will now be submitted to OFAC and to the Union County Prosecutor's Office, according to the resolution. 

    The results of the audit were not made public Monday, but board officials after the meeting said the report would be posted on the district website this week. 

    Jones did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment or to a message left in person at his parents' home in Neptune. An attempt to reach Wilson at an Asbury Park address listed on her termination letter from the school district was unsuccessful. 

    Jones serves on the school board in Neptune, where his term runs through 2019. His name appeared on a meeting agenda as recently as May. 

    Dorothea Fernandez, the president of Neptune's school board, did not respond to a phone call and an email seeking comment about Jones' role on the board. 

    Corbett, the superintendent, in May announced his resignation from the Roselle district after just one year of a three-year contract. He gave no reason for his abrupt departure, which will take effect Saturday as the district continues to search for a new top administrator. 

    The school board interviewed superintendent candidates on Monday, a public notice says, but the board did not hire a new superintendent at the meeting. 

    Several residents at the board meeting expressed dismay about the frequent turnover of superintendents in the district and said they hoped for a top administrator who would stay longer. 

    Anthony Esposito, a former board member, asked the board to be cautious in choosing who to hire and contract with in the future. 

    "This board, as you very well know, over this past year has been a fiasco," he said in a public comment requesting a copy of the forensic audit report. 

    In addition to OFAC's probe, a section of the state Department of the Treasury - the Division of Purchase and Property Contract Compliance Audit Unit - visited the district this winter to review two of its contracts with vendors, Roth previously said. That unit ensures contract compliance and does not investigate district finances. 

    Corbett, who will return to his former district of East Newark, did not return a phone call seeking comment about the allegations in the board attorney's letter.

    Marisa Iati may be reached at miati@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Iati or on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    We're investigating the booming substance abuse treatment industry in New Jersey, and we want to hear from you. Watch video

    We're looking for help in uncovering the successes and failures in the booming drug and alcohol treatment industry in New Jersey. 

    New Jersey has been gripped by the opioid crisis for more than a decade, a scourge that has already taken more than 10,000 lives in the Garden State. It's a crisis we detailed three years ago in Herointown, which revealed there were at least 128,000 people struggling with opioid addiction here. 

    The substance abuse treatment industry has blossomed as a result. More than 100 new treatment centers have opened in the past four years alone, a 33 percent increase. 

    We know there are tremendous stories of recovery out there. We also know there are horror stories of treatment centers taking advantage of desperate families yet providing no real service. Sometimes it's a mixed bag. We want to hear it all.  

    I'll start you with mine. 

    Four years ago, I entered myself into detox and then inpatient treatment in Connecticut after my life crumbled through extensive drug and alcohol use. I followed up with six months of intensive outpatient in New York, where I was living at the time, and supplemented by attending 12-step meetings. 

    The experience was generally good, albeit expensive. It gave me a baseline in recovery. I had private insurance that covered most of my expenses, and inpatient still cost thousands of dollars. At one point during outpatient, my insurance declined to cover two urine tests required by the facility. I was forced to pay the bill: $1,200.  

    I relapsed on opioids during my stint at outpatient, but fortunately had a solid recovery network by that point and have been sober since. My sobriety date is Oct. 17, 2014. 

    Since then, I've dedicated myself to covering addiction in this state.

    I've seen friends die days after being released from rehab. I've talked to people who became homeless after facing bills in excess of $100,000 from multiple rehab stays. I've watched desperate people get whisked away to Florida after calling a number they saw on a billboard, only to be put up in a motel masquerading as a treatment facility.   

    We want to investigate it all, good and bad, and we want your help. If you or a loved one has been through substance abuse treatment in New Jersey, please fill out our anonymous form below. If you have questions, feel free to shoot me an email at sstirling@njadvancemedia.com.

    Thank you. 

    Stephen Stirling
    Data reporter, NJ Advance Media

    If you have trouble viewing the form below, click here.

     


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    NJ Advance Media selects the Top 100 boys and girls individual seasons of the 2017-18 school year.


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    Life's a beach, we're just playing in the sand. See where your favorite shore spot landed on the list.


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