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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    A man who believes he was stung by the invasive jellyfish near Island Beach State Park described the pain as "excruciating" from head to toe.

    A non-native species of jellyfish whose sting was described by one possible victim as 'excruciating,' has moved from New Jersey coastal rivers into Barnegat Bay, as summer boat traffic carried algae that the tentacled, coin-sized creatures feed on, officials said Tuesday.

    The state Department of Environmental Protection issued the bay advisory after earlier warnings to bathers, boaters and others that the so-called clinging jellyfish, a species native to the Pacific Ocean, were present in the Metedeconk River in Ocean County and the Shrewsbury and Manasquan rivers in Monmouth.

    The DEP noted that the Metedoconk flows into the northern end of the bay, where the agency specified confirmed locations of clinging jellyfish as F Cove and along Wardells Neck, both in Brick.

    Joseph J. Bilinski, a DEP research scientist, said it appeared that boating had spread the clinging jellyfish population from the rivers to the bay, just as it had spread the species from its native Pacific Ocean waters to areas around the world. This happens, as Bilinski explained, when clinging jellyfish (CJ) polyps, or clumps of cells that grow into whole individuals, become attached to boats and transported by them.

    "Boating and the incidental transport of algae with CJ polyps to new...areas of the Bay from affected areas will likely be an issue since the Bay has so much boat traffic in the summer months," Bilinski said in an email on Tuesday.

    The DEP has described the clinging jellyfish as being the size of a dime or a quarter, with long, stringy tentacles and markings that include a red, orange or violet cross on its middle. It has, the DEP said, "a powerful sting."

    Jellyfish bite Steve Ahrens SA.jpgSteve Ahrens of Lacey Township said he believes this sting he got Sunday at Island Beach State Park was from a clinging jellyfish.  

    Steve Ahrens used more colorful terms to describe it. Ahrens, who lives in the Lanoka Harbor section of Lacey Township, believes he was stung by one on Sunday while standing in 3 feet of water in Tices Shoal, on the bay side of Island Beach State Park.

    "I got stung on my buttocks and knew right away," said Ahrens, 58. "That evening I was in excruciating pain from head to toe, like I was being stabbed with a thousand ice picks at once. I went to Community Medical Center in Toms River at approximately 2 a.m. because the pain was unbearable."

    Ahrens said he saw his own doctor later on Monday and was prescribed steroids and naproxin. By midday on Tuesday he was feeling much better, though he added, "I'm stiil feeling pin-pricks." He also carries viniger in his boat, after having heard that it sooths the sting.

    Wearing a rash guard and spreading petroleum jelly on exposed skin are said to reduce the chances of being stung.

    The area where Ahrens was stung is farther south than areas where the DEP has confirmed clinging jellyfish to be. And a DEP spokesman, Larry Hanja, said it was possible that Ahrens had suffered "an extreme reaction" to being stung by a larger, generally less harmful species of jellyfish native to Barnegat Bay known as a Bay nettle.

    But Dr. Paul Bologna, who is director of the Marine Biology and Coastal Scienses Department of Biology at Montclair State University and has worked with the DEP to track the clinging jellyfish, said he would visit the shoal where Ahrens was stung to look for the invasive species.

    That region was not a high priority to sample because it was so far south," Bologna said in an email Tuesday.

    Ahrens said he had noticed on Sunday that the shoal was dense with sea grass, consistent with the DEP's warning that clinging jellyfish were drawn to marine vegetation. He also noted that the shoal is a popular spot for boaters and jet skiers, and he was concerned that many more people would be stung.

    "Boating/shipping activity appears to be the strongest vector for new CJ establishment worldwide," Bilinski added. "CJ's won't be everywhere in the Bay -- they prefer the shallow and lower velocity areas -- but the potential to have them in many areas is likely since there is a significant amount of healthy sea grass beds."

    Bilinski said there was little the state could do to curb the clinging jellyfish population. But he said the species does have a natural enemy that, while ordinarily viewed as pesky to bathers, could be an ally in this particular fight.

    "There really are no methods to control them," Bilinski said. "However, we do know -- and this is the good news -- that they are prey for Bay nettles."

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


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    High humidity made up for clouds and lower temperatures to lure beach-goers to the Jersey shore Watch video

    It's a pretty simple equation, really: warm, humid weather plus a holiday equals crowded beaches along the Jersey Shore.

    It was cloudy for parts of the day and temperatures up and down the shore were lower than the broiling past few days.

    But it was plenty warm, and the humidity made it more than hot enough to grab some towels and a Frisbee and head for the beach. At Island Beach State Park, the high hit 87 degrees with 81 percent humidity.

    And, hey, it was the Fourth of July! So beaches were crowded, as these aerial photographs illustrate.

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


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    Vote to pick the four-best athletes in the history of St. John Vianney.


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    There's possibly more to do in the Garden State in the summer than a person could fit in one season.

    New Jersey is a great place to be in the summertime.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Simply stated, there's possibly more to do in the Garden State in the summer than a person could fit in one season.  Here's a gallery of vintage photos that show people having fun in the summer in New Jersey.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    The National Hurricane Center is monitoring two tropical systems in the Atlantic hurricane basin, and one of those has strengthened into a tropical storm named Beryl.


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    The man, who worked at two different New Jersey Massage Envy locations, is accused of touching two women sexually.

    A massage therapist accused of touching female clients in a sexual manner at Massage Envy locations in New Jersey could lose his license. 

    Steven A. Segovia touched women in inappropriate, sexual ways at two Massage Envy locations during the fall of 2013, according to the Attorney General's Office. The state has filed a complaint with the New Jersey Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy seeking to revoke Segovia's license on the grounds of gross negligence that endangers the public, professional misconduct and failure to comply with regulations prohibiting licensed massage therapists from engaging in sexual contact with clients. 

    Authorities said Segovia acted inappropriately with a 52-year-old woman during massage sessions at a Massage Envy spa in Manalapan in October 2013, at which time he placed a finger into the woman's vagina while massaging her gluteal muscles. When she asked what he was doing, Segovia allegedly said, "I'm sorry. I misread you. I'll never do it again."

    When the woman returned for a second session, Segovia performed oral sex on her at the end of the massage, according to the Attorney General's Office.

    Authorities said Segovia admitted he gave the woman a massage and had sexual contact with her, including oral sex. 

    At a Massage Envy location in Freehold, Segovia allegedly began acting inappropriately with a woman who had come to him for numerous massages throughout 2013. He started asking her personal questions, like if she had a boyfriend, and telling her she could have massages at his private home, authorities said.

    During the woman's last session at Massage Envy, Segovia slid off her underwear while massaging her and proceeded to have sexual intercourse with her, authorities said. 

    After, he allegedly whispered, "this will be our little secret, okay?" into her ear, authorities said.     

    This isn't the first case of abuse by therapists at the mega massage chain. As of last November, at least 180 women had accused therapists employed across the country of sexual assault.                                                                           
    "Massage therapists cannot, under any circumstances, engage in sexual contact with their clients. It is a clear violation of professional boundaries and an abuse of client trust," Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement Thursday. "Massage therapists who breach this fundamental rule, as this one allegedly did, face serious consequences for their actions."

    A Massage Envy spokesperson said Segovia was no longer employed at the franchise location, and denounced his actions. 

    "We're appalled by the actions of this therapist and support the New Jersey state board's efforts to revoke his license," the company said in a statement. "The safety and well being of clients and therapists has been our mission from day one, and we continue to implement our Commitment to Safety plan, which further strengthens our existing policies."

    A message left with a number listed to a Steve A. Segovia was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

    The Attorney General's Office encourages anyone who believes a licensed health care professional has behaved inappropriately to file a complaint on its website or to call calling 1-800-242-5846 or 973-504-6200. 

    This story has been updated to include comment from Massage Envy. 

    Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook

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    From tax evasion charges to a fake bomb threat, celebrities from the Garden State and those passing through it have wound up in all types of trouble with the law


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    The old policy allowed weddings to take place on the beach with no permit necessary, the only rules were that the wedding party and guests couldn't kick other people out of gazebos and they couldn't set up decorations.

    For many couples, New Jersey's beaches can be the perfect backdrop for saying 'I do,' or hosting other special celebrations, but one Shore town is putting an end to beach access for weddings and parties starting this November.

    Spring Lake Borough Council recently banned weddings and other celebrations on the town's boardwalk and beach due to congestion at gazebos and walkways.

    The town's old policy allowed weddings to take place on the beach with no permit necessary -- the only rules were that the wedding party and guests couldn't kick other people out of gazebos and they couldn't set up decorations, according to the Asbury Park Press.

    The simple set of rules created an imbalanced number of couples using the Spring Lake beach as opposed to other neighboring beaches that require permits or beach badges, Borough Administrator Bryan Dempsey told the Asbury Park Press.

    The recently amended ordinance now states, "no parties, weddings, gatherings, ceremonies or similar special events shall be permitted on any portion of the boardwalk, including any adjacent structures such as the Washington Avenue, and Newark Avenue Gazebo, North and South End Pavilions and the Pier Beach Boardwalk Patio Area."  

    This has led to some problems on bright and sunny days when some beachgoers were using the gazebos as a shady spot at the same time the bride and groom were arriving.

    The borough set the date for the policy change to begin on Nov. 1, so weddings that were already planned for this summer and fall can go on, according to the Asbury Park Press.

    Neighboring beach towns like Belmar and Bradley Beach require everyone to have a beach badge if the wedding takes place during beach hours.

    There is no cost to have a wedding on Bradley Beach as long as it is a simple ceremony, meaning that it is people only and no outside decoration. If the wedding includes tables, chairs and decorations, it requires borough council approval.

    The Fifth Avenue gazebo requires a permit with a $150 fee and a $150 deposit that's refunded to the couple if there's no damage. That cost gives couples access to the gazebo, which has electricity as well as benches that can seat 200 people.

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

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    Officer Louis Trocchio Jr. was honored at a Trenton Thunder game last month after saving people with Narcan Watch video

    It had only been a week since he was honored for bringing 13 people back from the brink of a fatal overdose when Louis Trocchio Jr. had to save one more life. 

    Trocchio, an officer in the Camden County Police Department, was conducting a traffic stop when a woman pulled up. Her son was in the car and needed help; he had overdosed on an opioid and was breathing heavily.

    The color was leaving his face.

    Trocchio paused his work on the traffic stop to go administer Narcan, a nasal spray that can bring one back from an opioid overdose. The drug has saved 16,000 people in New Jersey since 2015.

    The man came to as the 14th person saved by a single officer.

    Trocchio then went back to the traffic stop.

    Last month, the Trenton Thunder minor league baseball team honored the officer as a "Hometown Hero" for saving lives and his community work.

    trocchio jr.jpgOfficer Trocchio with Cloudman, the Trenton Thunder mascot at a game against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. (Camden County Police Department photo) 

    Trocchio, a Mets fan, said it was great to be at the ballpark with family and to see himself on the scoreboard. He appeared in a photo with Chase, the Thunder mascot, at a game against the Binghamton Rumbleponies (the Mets' farm team which features former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow). 

    Trocchio is far from ungrateful, but as great as the event was, he didn't want it to distract from the issues.

    "The heroin epidemic is real, and it's terrible, and everyone out there using is somebody's brother, sister," Trocchio said in an interview.

    The overdose-related calls for service in the department's south district often describe a person slumped behind the wheel of a car -- usually parked, but sometimes the car is running. (And in that case, the driver can get a DUI for driving while on heroin).

    A Camden police spokesman said the department had 335 Narcan saves by officers since 2014, when they began carrying the drug. A handful of other officers also have double-digit Narcan saves, he said. EMS likely have many more, and there were more saves by individuals who carry it.

    Trocchio's a Narcan veteran: he remembers the first doses officers administered were more fragile, with a nozzle that could crack and break if squeezed too hard (rendering the whole dose unusable).

    Today's doses are more durable, and "the hardest part is trying to put the gloves on in the heat," he said, while showing the contents of a Narcan kit to a reporter.

    Trocchio remembers another time in Camden when he had to administer two Narcan doses to one man.

    "Half in this nostril, half in the other," Trocchio said of the first dose. Same for the next dose.

    Last week, he celebrated 11 years since graduating the police academy; he joined the Camden force when it reorganized as a county department in 2013, after a stint in Bradley Beach at the Jersey Shore.

    He now lives in Jackson Township, and he and his dad, also a former cop, are both on the Neptune City Board of Recreation. (The community work that the Thunder recognized was Trocchio's work with recreational basketball teams in the area.)

    IMG_1926.JPGTrocchio in the Camden County Police station on Mt. Ephraim Avenue. (Joe Brandt | For NJ.com) 

    He's not always around to see the results when someone is given Narcan -- he often hands the patient off to EMS, and they'll give him "a hat tip." The game against the Thunder was a chance at further commendation.

    "It was a great moment to be recognized there, in front of my family and my friends," Trocchio said. "But it also puts awareness out there that the heroin epidemic is a problem."

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Bruce Springsteen lived in the Freehold home for eight years.

    Bruce Springsteen's childhood home, the duplex with four tiny rooms and no hot water, where he was often "roaring with anger," as he wrote in his autobiography, recently sold for $255,000, according to its Trulia listing.

    The rock legend moved into the left unit of 39 Institute St. in Freehold with his parents and sister when he was 5 and lived there until high school, according to his autobiography, "Born to Run."

    Originally listed for $269,900 in November 2017, Barbara Conti, the listing agent, told NJ Advance Media that the fact that Springsteen lived in the home was merely just a fun anecdote, not of significant value.

    "To tell you the truth, who's looking at it are investors," Conti said last November. "It's an income property in a desirable neighborhood. Bruce lived there when he was a child. It doesn't really give a price boost." 

    According to the listing, each unit has a kitchen, a living room and two bedrooms. The home also has a sizable backyard and a driveway that can fit four cars.

    While the fact that the Springsteens hunkered down in this home for eight years didn't add a monetary boost to its value, The Boss' allure is still present. It was in front of this home that Springsteen did a photo shoot in 1984 that appeared in the "Born in the U.S.A." tour book and the lyrics sheet inside the album.

    Conti previously said multiple people stop every day during the summer to take pictures in front of the home.

    Property taxes were $5,745 in 2017. The property was last assessed for $232,200, according to property records.

    Joe Atmonavage may be reached at jatmonavage@njadvancemedia.comFind NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The National Weather Service is investigating reports of a waterspout that formed shortly after 1 p.m. Friday on the waters in Ocean County Watch video

    Meghan and Matthew Presutti hoped to spend a quiet Friday working from their beach home in Mantoloking.

    For the most part, they did.

    Until the funnel-shaped cloud grew outside their window as they ate lunch.

    "At first I thought, 'What an unusual cloud.' Then I realized it wasn't a cloud," said Meghan.

    As the funnel cloud hovered in the water about 500 yards from their home, Meghan and Matthew grabbed their cellphones and started recording from a third-floor balcony.

    The waterspout popped up shortly after 1 p.m. in the ocean off Route 35 near The Ocean Club Condominiums in Brick.

    The rain had just let up when the funnel cloud appeared. It changed shapes several times and hovered offshore before sliding southeast out to sea in under 10 minutes, they said.

    "It started out as this wedge shape," said Matthew. "Then it went to a funnel shape and changed several times. Finally, it was a tight funnel shape. It was out there for a good five to seven minutes."

    Tropical storm could develop off Carolina coast

    The couple shot several videos, some of which they uploaded to social media.

    "It didn't make any noise. It was weird," Matthew said.

    The couple said they have never seen a tornado or water spout in New Jersey.

    "I've seen a wall of water rising up during a storm, but never this," said Meghan, who grew up on the Jersey Shore.

    "We've only seen these on TV," she said.

    Rotation seen on radar

    The National Weather Service's regional office in New Jersey said Friday they are checking into the waterspout sighting but have not yet confirmed it.

    "There was some rotation" seen on radar at the time the waterspout was reported on social media, according to Trent Davis, a weather service meteorologist. "The rotation was pretty weak, but it would be enough to cause one."

    The rotation was spotted on radar between 1:17 p.m. and 1:27 p.m., moving from the west-northwest to the east-southeast off Normandy Beach in northern Ocean County, Davis said.

    The weather service describes a waterspout as "a whirling column of air and water mist." Essentially, it's a tornado that forms over water.

    "They have the same characteristics as a land tornado," the weather service says in a fact sheet on its website. "They are associated with severe thunderstorms, and are often accompanied by high winds and seas, large hail, and frequent dangerous lightning."

    At about 2 p.m. on Friday, the weather service office in Mount Holly issued a special marine warning, alerting boaters about the possibility of waterspouts forming off the Jersey Shore as thunderstorms were moving through the area.

    "Waterspouts can easily overturn boats and create locally hazardous seas," the warning noted. "Small craft could be damaged in briefly higher winds and suddenly higher waves."

    NJ Advance Media staff writer Len Melisurgo contributed to this report.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at tattrino@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Debra Vattelana, 55, of Jackson, was traveling on Siloam Road around 9 a.m. when she lost control of her car

    One woman is dead and another is injured after a head-on crash in Freehold Saturday morning, authorities said.

    Debra Vattelana, 55, of Jackson, was traveling south on Siloam Road in her Nissan Altima around 9 a.m. when she lost control of her car on a right-hand curve, according to Charles Webster, a spokesman for Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. Vattelana then crossed the center line and collided head-on with a Nissan Pathfinder, which was headed the other way.

    Authorities said Vattelana was ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the CentraState Medical Center at 9:42 a.m.

    The driver of the Pathfinder, Rada Shakov, of Tom's River, was treated for moderate injuries at the CentraState Medical Center. The 40-year-old woman has since been released, according to authorities. 

    Cassidy Grom may be reached at cgrom@njadvancemedia.com Follow her at @cassidygrom. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    While detained, police are responsible for your well being, which can include a meal


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    The obstacle course races, which took place Saturday and Sunday in Englishtown, have been held in New Jersey since 2011.

    Rugged Maniacs dash, splash and get muddy.

    With 27 obstacles over 3 miles in Englishtown, participants in the race Sunday got a healthy dose of exercise with their competition.

    "When you compete on time a drier course is better, but a wet course is better with friends," said Ann Marie Reilly of Neptune.

    "It was awesome," added Reilly, who has run the race for the for five years.

    The obstacle course races, which took place Saturday and Sunday at Raceway Park, have been held in New Jersey since 2011. Other Rugged Maniac events are held throughout the country.

    Not many could make it across the rings and ended up splashing down in the muddy water and plenty stopped for a breather before trying the new obstacle Off the Rails.

    Off the Rails is like a zip line but it goes up hill, where you try to ring a bell and the end, and then you fall in the muddy water.

    Some just surrendered and jumped in the water.

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


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    Dogs and cats patiently await adoption at shelters and rescues across New Jersey.

    We are now accepting dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey.

    If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on nj.com, which is completely free of charge for qualified groups, please contact Greg Hatala at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com.


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    Find out which schools have the highest average SAT score in your area.


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    Monmouth County is looking to replace the 19th Century example of a counterweight drawbridge, which was weakened in 2014 when an overweight truck drove over it. Watch video

    The 19th Century Glimmer Glass Bridge linking Brielle and Manasquan is not only a rare example of early drawbridge technology, but also remarkably safe, say historians and others who oppose a plan by Monmouth County to replace it. 

    "It's not only important to the history of New Jersey but also the history of the nation," said Fran Drew, a Manasquan resident and member of the Committee to save the Glimmer Glass Bridge. And, Drew added of the narrow wooden span that forces traffic to traverse it slowly, "It's never had an accident in the 122 years that it's been up, so it's also very safe."

    Drew said her group's research indicates the Glimmer Glass bridge is the only surviving example of a counterweight drawbridge in New Jersey, and possibly the United States.

    But the bridge was weakened after a grossly overweight truck drove over it in 2014, and while it has since reopened, the Monmouth County engineering department has been looking to replace it with a more modern span.

    Monmouth County has not made a final decision on the bridge. And in a statement, County Engineer Joseph M. Ettore said the county was "working closely" with the state Department of Transportation and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, a regional panel that must approve federal funding of project, to insure that all guidelines are followed for determining how to proceed.

    That process includes identifying a number of alternatives for achieving the goals of a project, in this case preserving or replacing the bridge. 

    "The Glimmer Glass study did evaluate rehabilitation alternatives and replacement alternatives," Ettore stated.

    The bridge was built in the 1880s across the Glimmer Glass Creek, a tributary of the Manasquan River, less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.

    But its significance to engineering history dates back to 1938, when the wooden span built on wood pilings was modified as a counterweight drawbridge.

    Mounmouth Glimmer Glass Bridge by Judi Benvenuti  .jpgThe 1883 Glimmer Glass Bridge is on the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places 

    The counterweight technology has roots dating back at least to 18th Century France, involving rolling counterweights set on curved track, according to the National Park Service, which placed the Glimmer Glass Bridge on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

    According to its registration form for the National Register, the Glimmer Glass Bridge, "works on the same principals as a drawbridge placed over a moat around a castle during the Middle Ages, using counterweights and electric power instead of manpower for the operation of the bascule leaf and as seen in design prepared by Bernard Forest de Belidor in 1729 for bridges used at military fortifications."

    Drew said the county's plan to replace the 20-foot-wide span with a wider version costing $30 million makes no sense, compared to the $5-6 million cost of shoring up the existing span.

    Glimmer Glass map Google.jpgThe Glimmer Glass Bridge links Brielle and Manasquan boroughs in Monmouth County 

    Ettore noted, however, that factors used in evaluating whether to replace the bridge went beyond cost, and included safety as well as functional need, or the bidge's ability to support the demands of traffic flow.

    "Cost was not, and should not be, the only factor used in selecting the Preliminary Preferred Alternative," Ettore stated.

    On that much, Drew heartily agreed. 

    "You know, we Americans love to tear down our historic structures and then go over to Europe to look at theirs," she said. "It's time some of us stood up and demanded that we stop tearing down our history."

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


                                                 


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    Cole Mills of Ocean Township has been dancing for at least 15 years and hopes his experience on the Latin DanceSport ballroom circuit will bolster him on the competition series. Watch video

    Growing up in Ocean Township, Cole Mills played football and lacrosse. He would also skip class to go surfing. Later, as a student at Montclair State University, he joined the rugby team. 

    The Monmouth County teen considered himself a jack-of-all-trades kind of athlete. His extracurriculars alone would probably qualify him for such a title.

    But he was also a national ballroom dancing champion. For 15 years, Mills, now 25, specialized in Latin DanceSport, racking up wins at more than 25 national competitions. 

    On Monday, Mills will face his latest challenge as a competitor on "So You Think You Can Dance." The experienced dancer has made it past the audition period to the Fox show's "academy" segment, joining fellow New Jersey dancer Emily Carr, 18, from Springfield, in the competition. 

    But there's still a long stretch to go -- the winner of the 15th season of "So You Think You Can Dance" will be announced in the show's finale on Sept. 10.

    Mills studied theater and dance at Montclair State University, immersing himself in ballet and modern dance. He's also danced for Max and Val Chmerkovskiy of "Dancing with the Stars" fame, who own a studio in Fort Lee, and has performed with them in Las Vegas since he was a child. 

    In January, he moved to Los Angeles, and in March, auditioned for "So You Think You Can Dance" for the second time. Last year, he made the top 50.

    "It's fun to continue to push," he says. "That environment just breeds success, when you're surrounded by the best." 

    Mills thinks getting cut the first time around benefitted his progress as a dancer. 

    "I myself just needed an extra year of seasoning," he says. "2017 for me was a huge year of growth and self-reflection."

    Mills is signed with the Bloc talent agency and has worked as a background dancer for TV shows including "Saturday Night Live" and in commercials, a Swarovski campaign among them.

    When he's not dancing, Mills trains athletes using an "adaptable movement philosophy" he developed, which encourages stretching and the deconstruction of bad habits.

    Mills first caught the dancing bug as a child, not long after he moved with his mother from Brooklyn and she began taking lessons at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Red Bank. She ended up going to competitions with her teacher. 

    "I was like, 'I wanna do that,'" he says. As Mills began dancing nationally and globally, the mother and son team were often on the road, he says. "I kind of lived in the car a lot." 

    When he was 12, Mills, a national champion, traveled to England to represent the United States in ballroom competition.

    "I didn't want to be a normal kid," he says. 

    While he recalls watching the second season of "So You Think You Can Dance," when Travis Wall came in second, Mills mostly found himself on the football or lacrosse field when he wasn't dancing.

    "There was no time for me to watch TV, ever," he says -- but he did make room for one sedentary activity: "I played a lot of video games." 

    Though Mills might specialize in the type of dance more familiar to "Dancing with the Stars," he says he's grown significantly as a solo dancer.

    "By trait, I am a ballroom Latin dancer," Mills says. "But in the last six years I have learned everything," he says, including hip-hop and acrobatic dance.

    He's hoping his years of experience will propel him in competition, which is filled with dancers in their teens -- "prodigies," he says. 

    "My biggest challenge is to stay composed while I dance," Mills says. 

    In the first "academy" episode of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Monday, Mills says viewers can anticipate "a display of athleticism" from dancers who have made the cut so far.

    "Hard work speaks for itself," he says. 

    "So You Think You Can Dance" airs 8 p.m. on Monday, July 9 and Mondays therafter.

     

    Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.

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    The fire engulfed the elementary school playground.

    An elementary school playground became engulfed in flames Sunday morning in Howell, with black smoke billowing high in the air. 

    A call for the fire at Newbury Elementary School came in just after 11 a.m., according to the Southard Fire Department. At the scene, firefighters found playground equipment and surrounding mulch ablaze. 

    The fire was placed under control and the scene cleared within an hour, officials said. 

    36824573_1769465139807816_8597128992933281792_n.jpgFirefighters put the blaze under control Sunday morning.  

    It was not immediately clear Monday morning if officials had determined the cause of the fire. 

    The blaze is under investigation by Howell Township Police and the Howell Fire Bureau. Anyone with information is urged to contact Howell Police directly at 732-938-4111. 

    Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook

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    Latest update on the status of Tropical Storm Chris, swirling off the coast of North Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday.


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