Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli
Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro

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Legislators call for emergency aid

Legislators call for emergency aid

Courier Post – Three Gloucester County legislators called Thursday for emergency aid
for areas hit hard by Tuesday’s thunderstorms.

The trio, including Senate President Steve Sweeney, also demanded the
state Board of Public Utilities “and each and every utility company do
everything they can” to restore power to hard-hit communities.

More than 90,000 customers had no power in the tri-county area
Thursday afternoon, utilities said. Blackouts could continue until
Sunday night for some customers of Atlantic City Electric.

“It’s really creating a difficult problem,” said Lorraine Rossiter,
71, of Clementon. She said many of her neighbors at the darkened
Wooster Towers senior complex were too frail to reach cooling centers
and recharging stations set up for storm victims.

“They’re not delivering ice here and it’s very difficult for the
seniors to get out,” said Rossiter, whose power was restored later

Sweeney, with Assembly members John J. Burzichelli and Adam
Taliaferro, urged Gov. Chris Christie to seek federal emergency aid to
help offset the cost of cleanup and recovery from the storms.

“We are asking the governor to take all action necessary in seeking
federal aid to assist with the cost of cleanup and offset the
financial burden on our residents,” Sweeney said.

In Camden County, freeholders directed the Office of Emergency
Management to prepare data for a possible disaster proclamation. The
proclamation, if issued by the state, would authorize the use of state
recovery funds in areas devastated by the storms.

A spokesman for Christie’s office said BPU President Richard Mroz
toured affected areas Thursday, “assessing the outages and

“Additionally, the state Office of Emergency Management is working in
coordination with the county Offices of Emergency Management to
monitor and assist in the region,” spokesman Brian T. Murray said.
“Preliminary damage assessments are still being made, but the state
OEM has been there from the beginning and remains on the scene, so the
damage is being surveyed by the state professionals who have an
expertise in such matters.”

PSE&G, with about 6,000 outages in the tri-county area on Thursday
afternoon, said it expected to restore power to all customers by
midday Friday. It said “98 percent” of restorations would take place
by midnight Thursday.

But Atlantic City Electric faces a bigger challenge, with 115,000
customers still in the dark at 7 p.m. Thursday. The utility said
outages affected about 36,000 customers in Camden County and 50,000 in
Gloucester County.

“We really appreciate our customers’ patience,” said Lendel Jones, a
utility representative. “We know it is a trying time.”

She said the thunderstorms, which pounded South Jersey for about 30
minutes, caused 280,000 outages — compared to 220,000 from Superstorm
Sandy in October 2012 and 206,000 from a violent wind storm in June

She said Tuesday’s storms had caused more damage to the utility’s
infrastructure, knocking down 20 transmission lines and closing eight

By Thursday afternoon, the utility had restored seven transmission
lines and all but one substation — a Wenonah facility badly damaged by
a fallen tree. “When a transmission line is restored, that helps us to
bring back large numbers of people,” Jones said.

In Mantua, a badly damaged firehouse off Center Street was relying on
a backup generator Thursday.

The storm peeled the building’s roof and dropped it into a neighbor’s
yard, lying like a massive sheet over a wooden fence and shed. Roof
debris, including the cap to a large fan, covered the yard of the same

Chief Brian Hauss said rain water poured through the damaged roof of
the firehouse during the storms.

“It was like all hell broke loose,” he said.

The fire department totaled 70 fire calls Tuesday night, running
emergency operations until 3 a.m., he said.

“We didn’t even get to assess our own damage,” Hauss said.

The storm’s impact continues to be felt, with NJ Transit saying it
would continue to suspend service Friday on its Philadelphia-Atlantic
City line.

And officials said hazards from fallen trees have closed two parks,
Berlin Park in Camden County and Atkinson Memorial Park in Washington

Delsea Regional High School in Franklin will be open from 3 to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday for residents without power. The school will
provide ice, water and the use of locker room showers.

Two recharging stations will operate Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30
p.m. at Gloucester County’s Government Services Building in Clayton
and the Mount Royal Fire Station in East Greenwich.

Third District legislators promote post-holiday food drive and cellphone collection

Third District legislators promote post-holiday food drive and cellphone collection

South Jersey Times — As another holiday season passes by, many families are finding themselves stocked with more food, electronic gadgets and other gifted items than they really need — items which are often forgotten or wasted.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Deputy Speaker John J. Burzichelli and Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley are urging residents to continue to spread the holiday cheer by donating those items to organizations in need.

“We want to encourage residents to continue to help organizations throughout the state who are working to rebuild communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy,” said Sweeney. “There are many people who will continue to need our support after the holidays when donations may lessen.”

During the month of January, the Third Legislative District offices will be collecting non-perishable food items for the South Jersey Food Bank and used cellphones for the Cell Phones for Soldiers initiative.

Cell Phones for Soldiers is a non-profit organization that recycles cellphones and uses the proceeds from recycling firms to purchase calling cards for soldiers overseas.

Cellphones and non-perishable food items for the South Jersey Food Bank, including peanut butter, jelly, macaroni and cheese, canned tuna, breakfast cereal, pasta and canned fruits and vegetables may be dropped off to the Third District offices at 935 Kings Highway, Suite 400 in West Deptford or 199 East Broadway, Suite G in Salem.  Residents may also drop off items at the Bridgeton Library Mobile Office on Tuesday, Jan. 15 from 3 to 5 p.m.

“Consider making a family tradition out of doing some spring cleaning after the hectic holidays and pulling some items for donation,” added Burzichelli.  “Dedicating time to your favorite organization is also an important measure of support.”

If residents would like more information on the Third Legislative District’s food drive and cellphones collection, please call the West Deptford District office at 856-251-9801.

By Senate President Sweeney: The Rowans’ $100 million gift was good for South Jersey

By Senate President Sweeney: The Rowans’ $100 million gift was good for South Jersey

South Jersey Times – Anyone who has lived or worked in Gloucester County for any length of time recognizes Rowan University in Glassboro as an important part of our educational, cultural and economic fabric. This is our four-year college.

This is the university that supplies future employees for our businesses and actually graduates students who start some of those businesses.

Today, Rowan will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the $100 million landmark gift that Henry and the late Betty Rowan made to then- Glassboro State College in the summer of 1992. The university will unveil a bronze sculpture of Henry Rowan, founder and CEO of Burlington County-based Inductotherm Industries, outside of its student services building.

Those who have long ties to our region may remember the announcement of the gift, which drew a whirlwind of national attention from educators and philanthropists.

Those who have lived in the county the last 20 years have seen what that gift has meant to the school named for its largest benefactors, and how the changes it fostered have benefited the place we call home. As a local legislator, I’ve witnessed the effects of the Rowan gift for years. With every groundbreaking, with every major new initiative, someone points to what triggered the latest endeavor and it ultimately always leads back to one couple, and their generosity and vision.

Students experience the benefits of that gift when they tackle problems at Rowan, which is the second public institution in New Jersey to receive state research university status.

Businesses and nonprofit organizations share the benefits when they team with student and faculty researchers on engineering or science projects, or when they get assistance from a Rohrer College of Business team to develop a strategic plan.

Neighbors see the benefits when they browse for a book in Barnes & Noble or enjoy a festival on the grounds of Rowan Boulevard.

In the not-too-distant future, area residents will experience the benefits when they become patients of the physicians who graduate from Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, opened just this summer in nearby Camden.

One couple — who had no formal ties to the institution other than the fact that it, too, called South Jersey home just as they and their business did — made an amazing difference in education, in the economy and for our community. The 20th anniversary of the Rowan gift truly is worth celebrating.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3, resides in West Deptford Township.

Universal Service Fund releases $778K to NJ 3rd District

Universal Service Fund releases $778K to NJ 3rd District

South Jersey Times – Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Deputy Speaker John J. Burzichelli and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley today announced the award of over $778,000 in Universal Service Fund (USF) grants for the 3rd legislative district.

“These funds are crucial to low income folks who are struggling to pay their electric and heating bills. They are sorely needed and could not come at a better time,” said Sweeney.

“With winter just weeks away, the temperature is only going to continue to drop. We cannot in good conscience allow hard working people to have their heat turned off because they are struggling to make ends meet. These funds are money well spent,” said Burzichelli.

“There are few programs that serve a more noble purpose than this one. We cannot literally leave folks out in the cold simply because they are struggling in this state’s economy. The USF serves a good purpose and we welcome these funds to the third district,” said Riley.

The State of New Jersey created the USF program to help make energy bills more affordable for low income customers. The goal of the USF program is to help ensure that income eligible New Jersey utility customers pay no more than 6% of their annual income for their natural gas and electric service combined. Households with income equal to or less than 175% of the Federal Poverty Level are income eligible. The program is administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

The grants have been awarded as follows:

• Bethel Development Corporation will receive $126,401 and Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Indians of New Jersey will receive $27,401to ensure that eligible Cumberland County utility customers pay no more than an affordable portion of their household income for energy costs.

• Gateway Community Action Partnership will receive $407,080 to ensure that eligible utility customers in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties pay no more than an affordable portion of their household income for energy costs.

• Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey, Inc., has been awarded $200,921 to ensure that eligible residents of Gloucester County pay no more than an affordable portion of their household income for energy costs.

• Gloucester County will receive $6,969, Salem County Board of Social Services will receive $2,542, and Cumberland County Board of Social Services will receive $6,792 to administer the intake and eligibility determination of prospective beneficiaries of the Universal Service Fund, including the accurate input of verified client information into the Family Assistance Management Information System.

Video: Senate President Sweeney Speech to Building One New Jersey

Video: Senate President Sweeney Speech to Building One New Jersey

During a speech to Building One New Jersey, State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, praises the response in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but reminds the audience that we have to be “mindful that many of our neighbors face their own Sandy, each and every day in New Jersey.”

Saluting veterans for ensuring our freedoms, liberty

Saluting veterans for ensuring our freedoms, liberty

The Daily Journal – Every day since the earliest days of our country, our servicemen and women have put their lives at stake for the greater good of our nation. In times of war and peace, our soldiers have remained ever vigilant, ready to combat any potential threats to freedom.

And while they have conducted this work out of duty, it should not be without thanks and praise.

It is important to remember the intent and purpose of Veterans Day as we honor and reflect upon the commitment and sacrifices of the men and women who have worn our nation’s military uniforms and helped make this country great.

Veterans Day was originally created to commemorate the ceasefire that effectively ended World War I, and which took hold at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. What began as “Armistice Day” has grown in meaning as a day to offer appreciation to all who have served our nation in each of its wars throughout history.

On this Veterans Day, we express our sincere gratitude for the service of the members of our armed forces and our National Guard, both in New Jersey and throughout the country. It is because of their hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that we are able to enjoy the security of freedom and liberty that we so often take for granted.

Through their vigilance and protection, our democracy stands strong today. We say to them — thank you.

Steve Sweeney

NJ Senate President

John Burzichelli, Assembly Deputy Speaker

Celeste M. Riley, Assemblywoman

Third Legislative District

Salem County municipalities to use grant money for recycling boost

Salem County municipalities to use grant money for recycling boost

Today’s Sunbeam – Municipalities throughout Salem County will reap the benefits of recently announced funding from the state for recycling.

Recycling grants totaling $479,909, available from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, will allow communities to promote recycling, according to a release.

Of those funds, Salem County municipalities will receive more than $100,000 — Pennsville Township receiving the highest amount of $22,414.

“Communities that work hard to encourage recycling save more than the environment, they also save money. When the state partners with our communities to promote sustainable programs like recycling, we all win,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said.

According to release, the funds are provided through the NJ 1987 law establishing a fund to allow communities to receive grants, based on the total tonnage of recyclable materials collected.

“By ‘going green,’ more and more communities are realizing they can really save a lot of green, too,” Deputy Assembly Speaker John Burzichelli said.

Communities must record and verify each amount of recyclable materials received and claimed, as part of the grant program.

Award amounts for Salem County are as followed:

• Alloway – $3,820.95

• Carneys Point – $14,520.24

• Elmer – $2,214.64

• Oldmans – $22,012.98

• Penns Grove – $2,666.13

• Pennsville – $22,414.96

• Pilesgrove – $3,672.42

• Pittsgrove – $7,381.75

• Quinton – $3,209.97

• Salem – $7,182.15

• Upper Pittsgrove – $3,771.36

• Woodstown – $3,767.29

• Lower Alloways Creek/Elsinboro/Mannington – $11,871.44

Students get lesson from top lawmakers

Students get lesson from top lawmakers

Today’s Sunbeam – Local middle school students put Third District legislators on the spot Wednesday morning, asking them questions about current events and government.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Deputy Speaker John J. Burzichelli visited Woodstown Middle School to interact with more than 200 students as part of the annual National Legislators Go Back to School Program.

“We all have our roles. We represent the public, your families and you,” Burzichelli told the crowd of students.

The program is sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures in an effort to promote knowledge of the democratic processes to young students through state legislators.

Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District Superintendent Tom Coleman the morning was a very valuable experience for the students and a great example of the essence of public service.

“I believe it is a great opportunity for our young people to be given an intimate perspective on how our representative form of government functions close up and real time by the individuals who are our elected practitioners,” Coleman said.

After a brief introduction of what legislators do, students and teachers applauded loudly, welcoming them with excitement.

“Our government is here with us today and that is a big deal,” student Sara Reed, 13, said.

Students lined up and took turns standing at two microphones and reading their questions for the government officials.

Skye O’Connell, 13, asked about what the state can do to prevent drug and alcohol abuse in schools.

“Don’t be a follower. You’re going to get pressured in life — you can say no. You have something special, don’t ruin it,” Sweeney advised the students.

Burzichelli also emphasized the importance of education about drugs and alcohol.

“Drug and alcohol abuse is difficult for the whole society. Understanding what these things do to you, that drugs will hurt you is why we spend resources, money and time in education programs,” the deputy speaker said.

Sixth-grader Joseph Houser, 12, questioned the legislators about special education and its importance.

Sweeney shared about the 2010 law barring the use of the word retarded.

“I ran for office because I didn’t like the way people with disabilities were treated. We stop using words like that because words matter,” Sweeney said emphasizing a need to promote and strengthen special education.

Students also inquired about other topics such as: why farmland preservation and agriculture tourism is important, and protecting children from perpetrators.

For student Nick Sorantino, 13, the importance of selecting the right college major was on his mind.

Sorantino asked both Burzichelli and Sweeney what their college majors were. The two state officials responded that they did not have college training and it crucial for students to get a higher education.

“They can’t take education away from you or your degree from you,” Sweeney said.

Burzichelli added that he would have benefited from college to help him faster advance in his career.

“There is no exchange for education,” Burzichelli said.

The hour of Q-and-A was wrapped with a thanks from the state representatives.

“Our most gratifying successes are things that affect the people we serve,” Burzichelli said.

Third District representatives also plan on attending Quinton Township School on Friday.

Video: Senate President Sweeney Speaking with Salem County Chamber of Commerce Members

Video: Senate President Sweeney Speaking with Salem County Chamber of Commerce Members

At a question and answer session with Salem County business leaders in the Statehouse last week, Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, spoke about his proposed constitutional amendment to increase the minimum wage and tie future increases into the rate of inflation.


New Jersey celebrates 200,000 acres of preserved farmland, looks to future of preservation efforts

New Jersey celebrates 200,000 acres of preserved farmland, looks to future of preservation efforts

Today’s Sunbeam – New Jersey officials celebrated a major milestone in farmland preservation efforts on Tuesday by marking the 200,000th acre of ground entered under state protection.

State and local officials from Salem County and towns throughout the state gathered at Cassady Farms in Upper Pittsgrove to announce the major achievement, and to celebrate the more than 2,000 preserved farms throughout New Jersey.

“The preservation of 200,000 acres of farmland is an extraordinary achievement that underscores New Jersey’s continued reputation as a national leader in farmland preservation,” said Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher. “This accomplishment would not have been possible without the strong commitment of all the farmland preservation partners – all levels of government, the nonprofit community, farm owners and the voters who have consistently supported farmland preservation funding.”

Salem County currently leads the state in total acreage of preserved farmland under the state Farmland Preservation Program, with 29,418 acres. Included in that total, Cassady Farms preserved more than 300 acres of ground back in 2000, and is currently working on preserving another 150 acres. Established in 1890, it’s one of the largest vegetable farms in the state.

“Agriculture is a thriving business (in New Jersey), and one of the reasons for that, I think, is because of farmland preservation,” said George Cassady Jr., owner of Cassady Farms.

Cassady said he and other local farmers use money from the preservation program to purchase additional land and expand their farm operations, something that would otherwise be very difficult to accomplish due to the state’s high land prices.

“I appreciate the opportunity to do that, and I think without (farmland preservation), for young people starting out in agriculture, with rising land prices, there would be no way they’d be able to do that,” Cassady said.

According to state records, the 200,000th acre was preserved officially on Sept. 11 in Monmouth County at the Sigismondi farm — when the farm’s 98.3-acres were preserved at a purchase price of $442,359.

But while the acquisition marked a major milestone for the state, it also highlighted a serious concern for the preservation program’s future, officials say. Recent funding for the program comes from a 2009 bond referendum that dedicated $400-million for open space, farmland and historic preservation projects throughout the state, but those funds are now starting to dwindle.

Though New Jersey voters have continuously supported preservation efforts — since 1960, 12 statewide referendums have been posed to voters on whether to continue funding land and open-space preservation in New Jersey, and all 12 were approved — officials say the state needs to create a permanent funding solution to continue preservation efforts, and ensure that the state meets its end goal of preserving 550,000-acres of farmland to make agriculture an enduring industry in New Jersey.

“As we celebrate this significant achievement in the farmland preservation program, we must also recognize that there is much work to be done,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator for NJ Keep It Green, an advocacy group for establishing a dedicated preservation funding source. “New Jersey has at least an additional 350,000 acres of farmland that need to be preserved to maintain a viable agriculture industry in our state.”

According to the state Department of Agriculture, food and agriculture is New Jersey’s third largest industry, with the state’s farms having totaled $1.1-billion in revenue in 2011.

Senate President Steve Sweeney responded to funding concerns for preservation on Tuesday, saying that both he and Gov. Chris Christie consider preservation to be a priority for New Jersey.

“The governor and I talk about it on a regular basis… It’s not a partisan issue at all,” Sweeney said. “New Jersey loves saying that we’re the garden state, and you can only be the garden state if you have a garden, so we have to work to preserve these farms. We’ll figure this out, because it’s a priority for all of us.”