May 10, 2012

Flat Budget Passed by Verona Town Council

The Verona Township Council narrowly approved the 2012-13 township budget Monday night by a 3-2 vote after Township Manager Joe Martin announced an amendment to the original 2012 municipal budget that would reduce the proposed budget to the 2011 level at Monday night’s final budget meeting.

This amendment would reduce the proposed $15,363,348 to be raised by taxes to $14.8 million, representing a zero percent increase in the tax levy.

Under the amended budget the average home, assessed at $371,200 in Verona, would see taxes decrease by $9.39, according to Martin.

Councilmen Kevin Ryan and Michael Nochimson voted against the amendment, while Deputy Mayor Bob Manley, Councilman Jay Snaitkowski and Mayor Frank Sapienza voted to approve it.

Several residents in attendance expressed appreciation for the flat budget when public comments were allowed, while stressing further tightening remains to be made.

Others residents like Jan Jensen were still dismayed with the council’s effort.

“I think everyone up there should be ashamed for using FEMA [Federal Emergency Management] money to cover gaps in the budget,” Jansen reprimanded the council.

May 9, 2012

Going ‘Beyond’ in Cedar Grove

Approaching its two-year anniversary this September, Delmonico Steak & Beyond has established itself as the go-to place in Cedar Grove. That’s because owner and restaurateur Bobby Wong carefully considered the location, the community and the residents.

“I think about the people,” Wong said of his plans for the space when he bought it in 2010.

Formerly Jim Dandy’s Rib Joint, the restaurant Wong had envisioned for the location was utterly different. He transformed the space and designed a restaurant that would suit the needs of the community.

“When the space became available I couldn’t resist,” said Wong. “I saw how underserved the area was.”

Wong moved to Cedar Grove several years ago and noticed plenty of pizzerias and delis — along with Rare, the high-end steak house up the road – and he detected a void.

“There was nothing in between with good food at a reasonable prices,” he said.

Delmonico filled that void. The restaurant and bar, opened with partner James Gandolfini (yes, you read that right), provides a sophisticated yet family-friendly atmosphere with an extensive menu offering a considerable variety of dishes. That’s where the “beyond” comes in.

May 4, 2012

Lion Tries to Make Snack of Baby

Breaking news: Thank God for Twitter because it just brought me this horrifying video I never would have seen if not for endless streams of tweets and HuffPo Weird News. Usually the only kind of news I like is weird, but I’m not sure this quite qualifies.

The video is short but not sweet. It’s actually rather disturbing – not because the lioness at the Oregon Zoo literally attempts to bite the head off the little baby who is ostensibly safe sitting in front of the glass-walled cage – but because the the family filming the home video is unfazed and actually laughing while the lioness claws at the glass trying to devour their child.

April 17, 2012

Residents Raise Budget Concerns at Verona Town Council Meeting

Although the Verona Township Council has strived to implement a flat budget a number of times in the past, their efforts always seem thwarted. This year is no different.

“I’m troubled by the .744% [tax rate],” said council member Kevin Ryan. “That’s a 7% increase on the municipal portion on top of a 6% increase last year. I’d like to see if we can draw that down a bit to see if we can provide some tax relief to the town.”

Councilman Jay Sniatkowski agreed but emphasized the increase was due to damages, amounting to $500,000, caused by the freak October snowstorm.

“We need to tweak that number,” Sniatkowski said. “I’m pretty confident we can get as close to flat as possible.”

Resident Lori Ruzich questioned the council on that point during the public portion of the meeting, noting the discrepancy between the council’s desires and their actions.

April 16, 2012

Verona High School to offer College Courses

Starting this summer, high school students from Verona and surrounding towns can enroll in one of three college-level courses being offered by the district.

For the first time this year the district is bringing the Summer Enrichment Academy (V-SEA)program to the high school where students in 10th through 12th grades have the opportunity to not only take challenging courses, but also to earn college credits.

Through partnerships with area colleges, the high school will offer a history course, an English course and a culinary course, all of which can be taken for high school credit, college credit or both with the program’s duel enrollment option. And the best part is students can get a college education not to mention credit at a fraction of the price it would cost on a college campus.

April 6, 2012

Grand Opening of New Training Facility at Platinum Fitness

Platinum Fitness enlarged its already sizable gym Thursday with the grand opening of its new 7,200-square-foot training facility.

Verona Council Member Kevin Ryan, Verona Chamber of Commerce President Steven Amadeo and Montclair Mayor Jerry Fried were all on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony in the new space formerly occupied by Blockbuster Video.

“It looks beautiful,” said Amadeo.

The facility boasts TRX suspension training, boxing – both kickboxing and heavy bag workouts – with a full set of punching bags, and battling ropes along with the usual free weights, kettle bells and balance balls. Stationed around the periphery of the room, the training equipment lines the walls with an open expanse at the center.

“The new room is purely for personal training,” said Fitness Director Phil Strohmeyer, who noted both individual and small group classes can train simultaneously in the large space.

April 4, 2012

Veteran Business Owner Proud to Serve at Home and Abroad

When Don Johnston opened his Subway restaurant at the corner of Bloomfield and Pompton Avenues in Verona, he just may have picked the worst possible moment.

The great recession was in full swing and the worst winter to hit the town in a decade was on the horizon.

Still, he soldiered on. No doubt the determination, perseverance and strength he gained from his military experience served his business well.

At just 17 Johnston enlisted in the military and spent the next 10 years in a combination of the Army and the Army reserves.

Although he contemplated leaving the military for civilian life shortly before Sept. 11, the terrorist attacks on that day convinced him otherwise. He reenlisted and spent another six years working in Special Operations.

March 28, 2012

Final Budget Presented for Verona Schools

Tuesday night, Verona Schools Superintendent Steven Forte presented the final $32.865 million 2012-13 school budget at the district’s board of education meeting.

The budget represents a 2.37 percent increase, or $248,347, over the current budget, Forte said, which will be used to maintain existing staff and academic programs, fund curricular enhancements, support strategic goals and address some needed facility repairs.

March 28, 2012

Verona Superintendent Hosts Forum on Schools

At last night’s forum held at H.B.Whitehorne Middle School, Superintendent Steven Forte lauded the district’s accomplishments, presented the school board’s budget and offered his vision for the future.

Forte began the evening by recognizing Verona High School’s impressive ranking, 53, out of 322 high schools in the state, and touting the district’s award-winning music program and comprehensive world language program. He noted these factors contribute to a well-rounded individual, which is a quality not reflected in standardized test scores.

Forte was also pleased with the significant rise in the number of students enrolled in advanced placement courses this year. Students in the program now number 260 up from 180 last year, he said.

While Forte seemed impressed with the schools’ achievements thus far, he is not one to remain content for long.

March 28, 2012

Verona Town Council Introduces 2012 Budget

Despite efforts to come in under budget this year, unexpected costs stemming from both natural disasters and economic issues left a half-million dollar hole in the Verona Township budget, officials said Monday night.

While the $21-million budget is essentially the same as last year, according to township officials, damages and cleanup from Hurricane Irene and the October snowstorm have left the gap and will cause a tax increase for residents unless the township receives funding from FEMA.