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Baum, Massell Compete for Middletown Township Committee Seat

The two candidates described their priorities at a candidates forum Tuesday.

At a candidates' forum attended by more than 50 people at Lincroft School Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Stephen Massell emphasized what he considered the current administration's various accomplishments, while challenger Linda Baum described her ideas on how Middletown could save more taxpayer money. 

The Monmouth County League of Women Voters moderated the forum, hosted by the Lincroft Village Green Association. Massell, a Republican, and Baum, a Democrat, are vying for an open seat on the Middletown Township Committee.  

Other candidates at the forum were competing for county freeholder or the full-time position of County Clerk.  The freeholder candidates were Freeholder Director John Curley and Freeholder Serena DiMaso of the Republican Party, facing Kevin Lavan and William Shea of the Democratic Party. For the office of County Clerk, the contest is between Republican incumbent M. Claire French and Democrat Michael Steinhorn.

Linda Baum

Baum, an actuary, said she has been regulary attending government meetings in Middletown for several years. As a founder of Middletown Open Government, she has helped organize the videotaping of public township and school board meetings for distribution to the public. 

She said the current administration's 1.97% tax increase -- which came in under the state-imposed 2% cap -- is not good enough. "We're talking about limiting the increase in our taxes. I think that is the wrong focus," she said. "We should be focusing on not increasing them at all, or reducing them." 

Baum said there are several ways the township could be offering residents tax relief. One idea is to pre-approve a half dozen engineering firms so that they can compete for engineering projects -- rather than appointing one firm for an entire year. She also is in favor of dissolving the Middletown Sewerage Authority and combining its services with the township. 

Baum said the government body needs to delegate work to citizen committees, such as a pesonnel or finance committtee. "I would be very vocal about good ideas that we should be implementing to save taxpayer money. That's what i would do differently," Baum said. 

Stephen Massell 

Massell, a Realtor who is currently serving out his first term as deputy mayor, said he is proud to have played a part in facilitating a deal that brought Memorial Sloan Kettering to town. He also touted single stream recycling and a shared services money-saving plan with the Board of Education as cost-saving measures.  

He opposes dissolving the "incredibly efficient" township Sewerage Authority. At $70 a quarter, "We have the lowest rates in the state." He also is not in favor of televising government meetings for broadcast due to the costs, which he said could potentially add up to $100,000 a year. 

He said that if re-elected, he would focus on improving the youth athletic league fields. "We have got to spend more time on our fields, we owe it to our kids," he said. Other initiatives he stands behind is the dredging of Shadow Lake and the establishment of the Economic Development Committee. 

"And most importantly, keeping our taxes down, and working very hard," Massell added. 

Pilgrim October 25, 2012 at 12:26 AM
bd, TOMSA works on a FEE basis so it can't provide TAX relief. By reorganizing TOMSA operating costs can be reduced and the money to run it will be reduced; so the fees charged for those on sewers could be reduced; so "the lowest rates around" would be even lower. If you need further education on fees and taxes give Scharfenberger a call.
Pilgrim October 25, 2012 at 12:30 AM
NJarhead, If it "ain't broke" doesn't mean that it can't be improved. Recycling wasn't broke and it was improved when Sean Byrnes (D) initiated and championed single stream recylcing, which the Township Committee followed through on. It is now saving the Township significant dollars.
Oliver Cromwell October 25, 2012 at 01:49 AM
In 2008 Hazlet dissolved its Sewerage Authority and folded its functions into a separate utility under the umbrella of the municipal government. The dissolution saved the Hazlet taxpayers $1.6 million. Why can't Middletown do the same? The answer is simple: the Ruling Republican Royalists would lose their principal patronage pit.
Linda Baum October 25, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Oliver, thanks for that input re Hazlet. Also, Monroe Township dissolved its Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) recently and realized substantial savings for taxpayers.
Linda Baum October 25, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Pilgrim, Keep in mind that for the last three years TOMSA transferred roughly $370K annually to the Township for tax relief. If that was allowed, with little objection, then it’s reasonable to think that any additional surplus generated from consolidation of sewer services under the Twp could also be used for tax relief in the Twp’s budget, at least in the short term. This is a question for a lawyer, I think.
NJarhead October 25, 2012 at 11:58 AM
In theory, that sounds wonderful. Unfortunately for you, this is reality and I don't think Middletown residents have now, or have ever had any issues with TOMSA. So, our birlliant Libby friend, why would you fix something that isn't broke? Answer? Ya don't.
NJarhead October 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Wrong again, Recycling was definitely broke. Bottles and cans once per month??? Who has ever heard of that??? And if I was to concede that TOMSA could be or even needed to be improved, how much time and money need be spent on such a minor adjustement? This is a case of someone wanting to change something that needs no change just for the sake of putting her name on it. Nothing more.
Belford Bob October 25, 2012 at 12:29 PM
how do you know how Hazlet was run? Were their rates as low as Middletown? I'll assume not. It's "red herring". if you want to call people out Linda, why don't you call out your friend who you contributed thousands of dollars to last year in a failed election who believes he is a Pilgrim. Also, please explain how this magical million dollar number will be saved when you still have to pay the employees to work at DPW. do you expect the current DPW employees to now become sewer experts? That's the only way you would save that money. You would need to lay off everyone at TOMSA which as we both can agree would be IMPOSSIBLE.
07748 October 25, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Some of the savings are quite obvious. Parkinson no longer makes a $90k or so a year, he hands in the keys for the car he is given. No more pension padding by him and Joan Smith, there may be others as well, no more health benefits, etc for them and others. Why is it ok to threaten to lay off 10 Police Officers if the library does not give in to the extortion of half a million dollars? Is TOMSA so sacred for the has been politicians and their cronies that we can not consider a more economical manner in which to deliver this service? Parkinson and the other leftover politicians can go out and find their own jobs. Of course Gov CC will probably make a job for them as he did for Scharfenberger.
NJarhead October 25, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I'm still waiting for the definition of "more economical" AND some assurance that the quality of service wouldn't be reduced. I doubt anyone can convince me that it's a worthy cause. In fact, I dount anyone can convince me that it's anything more than a waste of time. Leave TOMSA alone. It works and it IS economical.
NJarhead October 25, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Pilgrim stated, "Reorganizing the Sewerage Authority would create a SMALLER LOCAL GOVERNMENT." ------Explain how.
Chris Fotache October 25, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Ref: Sewer. If the Sewerage Authority becomes part of the township, then its costs would be spread over the entire tax base, so people who are not connected to the sewer system would have to pay for that too.
Chris Fotache October 25, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Ref: Boards. I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but boards and commissions are political appointments. From the township, county, to state and federal level (including Supreme Court and the Cabinet), people are nominated by the party in power at that time. And approvals are mostly bi-partisan, since both parties understand it's the prerogative of the ruling party to make those appointments. For example, Sean Byrnes didn't object to my nomination to the Recreation Advisory Committee and voted Yes, as he did for all other board nominees that year, even if most of them were Republicans.
Pilgrim October 25, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Mr Fotache, Those who are connected to the Sewerage Authority saw their fees, $750,000 worth, go to support the municipal budget in 2010 and 2011. I'm sure direct access to those fees would be welcomed by the Republican majority on the Township Committee and would help offset the cost of the Sewerage Authority being shared by all of Middletowns tax and fee payers. Sean Byrnes didn't object to your nomination because he is bipartisian. On the other hand Mayor Tony Fiore had no problem during a Township Committee meeting going on the record and being very partisian when he told Ms. Baum that she had "no chance" of being appointed to a Township committee or board. The appointment he may have been referencing was an appoinment to the Library Board when its membership was being expanded.
Linda Baum October 26, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Mr. Fotache, re your comment "If the Sewerage Authority becomes part of the township, then its costs would be spread over the entire tax base, so people who are not connected to the sewer system would have to pay for that too." 100% FALSE. Only those who have public sewer service will pay fees, as they do now. The Township department -- which can be its own separate department rather than being part of DPW -- will be fully funded by those fees as TOMSA is now. Sewer fees can be collected with taxes as part of the same mailing -- another cost saver -- but will always be separate fees. In fact sewer fees (no matter what you call them) are not tax deductible for federal income tax purposes.
Linda Baum October 26, 2012 at 03:24 PM
As I've already said, only those who have public sewer service will pay sewer fees when this function is consolidated under the Twp. For comparison, consider that only those in garbage districts pay garbage collection fees to the Twp.
B.R. Thorpe October 26, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Long Time Resident said: One would think that the only intelligent people or qualified people who live in this community are republicans. NOT SO ! There are many intelligent,qualified residents who are willing to serve their community. The truth of the matter has to do with complete and utter control of every move,every utterance and every action of those on the TC or those who do serve on committees. It's SICK and since all of those in Middletown deserve representation, it's long PAST time for bi-partisan government. Each and everyone of us pays taxes, regardless of party affiliation, and we all deserve a say about how business is conducted in this town. The republicans are AFRAID of that "good government" instead favoring a "dictatorship form" of government that currently exists. Never has it been so prevalent as in these last 7-10 years. It's really sickening to watch the out of control TC and the way they treat any opposition to their single minded viewpoint. TC meetings are a waste of time and effort and this resident refuses to put up with their conduct. Monday night football is more democratic !
Pilgrim October 26, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Belford Boob, Watch the video of the debate/Q&A that is posted on Middletown Mike. On more than one occasion former Hazlet Mayor, Kevin Lavin, speaks about the $ 1.2 million dollars that Hazlet saved by dissolving the Hazlet Sewerage Authority. Google Hazlet Sewerage Authority and I'm sure you will find a few articles explaining in detail how and why it was successfully done. Your questions and statements indicated that you don't understand the issue. If you want to understand what a "red herring" is call Scharfenberger and Fiore for an explanation and example -- they are experts at covering their smelly actions with something even stronger and misleading. Sentembreno has also shown some mastery with "red herring" casting, as well.
Paul October 27, 2012 at 01:16 AM
@BR Thorpe - you can't argue with success. This is a great town to live in and, having lived all over NJ and several places out of state, nowhere else comes close. When I tell people I live in Middletown, the reaction is always the same - awe and envy. And I credit a lot to the fine Republican leadership. Look at the facts: Middletown spends less per capita than just about anywhere in the state. We have the smallest police force and the lowest crime rate per capita. Our sewer rates are the lowest in the state. We have a superb park system, a first class arts center, and thanks to the town council, a magnificent swim club and soon, a world class ice rink. We have concerts in the park and Middletown Day, all funded with private donations. Soon we will have the top notch Sloan Kettering in town. Our volunteer boards and programs show the spirit of people who love their town and are generous with their time. I'm especially excited about the new Economic Development Committee and Historic Preservation Committee. And that's just for starters. Now I know that doesn't measure up to Democrat-run paradises like Camden, Paterson and Trenton, but hey, it's good enough for me. You can keep the union-loving, welfare-dispensing, big government liberal Democrats in those places.
B.R. Thorpe October 27, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Paul,you are a narrow minded republican ,just like the republicans running at the national level this year. Are you are one of those white male ,bigoted racists., that can only see their own agenda ? This is the real world, not Camden,Paterson or Trenton as you depict anything that opposes YOUR VIEW of reality and anything "democratic". I reference "democratic" in the sense of the what's right for everyone one inclusive, regardless of party affiliation .Bi partisan government is healthy and inclusive, NOT divisive and exclusionary. Your point of view is SICK and delirious ! These United States of America will always be a free and democratic society in spite of small minded people like YOU! It's not all about YOU, it's about every citizen in this town,this county,this state and this country,regardless of color,creed or origin or POLITICAL AFFILIATION ! Peddle your political crap to someone one else. I don't buy it, I've lived in Middletown far too long for a snow job by the likes of someone as bigoted and biased as you express yourself to be. I remind you....we all live in a free country and we are all entitled to our own opinions,whether you agree with mine or NOT ! BTW, you sound stupid when you justify your point of view politically. There is not much to admire anymore about the political climate in Middletown Township. It was NOT ALWAYS AS IT IS TODAY...unhealthy at best.
Paul October 27, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Wow, I find it disturbing how simply pointing out facts about how well Middletown is run is answered with such a response. You should be celebrating your good fortune to have such competent, effective and visionary leaders at the helm of your hometown and that it is not run by those who aren't as capable. I know I am.
bd October 27, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Soory Sparky---Elections have Consequences--so you and the other dems"who drove us into the ditch can ride in the back". "We won". "You can ride in the car, but you can't have the keys"---the bi-partisan words of the leader of the Dems--B. Milhous Obama.
B.R. Thorpe October 27, 2012 at 04:54 PM
No G.Paul S. I have no respect for what currently serves as leaders today in this community,especially none for those like YOU ! Do not be so quick to assume that anyone who disagrees with you is a Democrat because you are wrong !! VERY,VERY wrong. Government today in this community is a disgraceful example of what is wrong with one party control.
Linda Baum October 27, 2012 at 05:03 PM
As I pointed out last year, per capita figures can't be used to compare towns of different sizes and populations. All towns have some fixed costs, like having just one town hall building, for example. With such a large population in Middletown to share those fixed costs, the effect is to drive down the per capita (per person) spending figure. That figure can also be low due to insufficient funding of core services (like brush pickup, for example). Much like per capita figures, the sewer rate would also be lower due to having so many households in Middletown to share the fixed system costs. I, too, am pleased about the formation of the new Economic Develop Committee, but feel it is about five years overdue.
Rossington69 October 27, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I find B.R. Thorpe's post very confusing and illogical. Her hatred for people in government seems to be blinding him/her from acknowledging the reality of Middletown. I too have lived in and outside of New Jersey and Middletown is far and away the best place I have evr lived in. Even with the approaching storm, I have been impressed by the level of preparedness and the constant flow of information through the website and text alerts. An earlier poster even listed some facts about the town that I was not aware of. As a voter, I look for results, not partisan bickering. This town is like a well-oiled machine and all I can say is to Mayor Fiore, Stephen Masell and the rest of the town council, please keep up the good work..... I saw part of the governor's press conference on TV and think it shows a lot that he picked Middletown for it. With people like Christie and our town council, there may be hope for New Jersey after all.
Paul October 27, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Translation anyone?
B.R. Thorpe October 28, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Yeah, the wind bags keep blowing hot air as usual and if you read the original post it spoke of healthy bi partisan government and bi partisan participation but the ignorant "numb nuts" in this town are a disgrace as usual .....so blatantly egotistical it makes decent people sick to death of them ...........
Pilgrim October 28, 2012 at 03:38 PM
The Arts Center costs Middletown taxpayers more money than it takes in -- operating expenses run $200,000 a year; when it was being built there were millions in cost overruns; the electrical work went to loyal Party member and one time Township Committee candidate Tim Sodon. Paul, you sound like a relative of Gerry Scharfenberger. This former mayor used to praise the quality of life in Middletown when the Township was rate as the 50th best place to live in the U.S. by money magazine. Sic years later it is no longer even in the top 100 best places to live -- over a 50 point deline in a quality of life survey for Middletown that can all be attributed to the Republican mismangement of the Township, which now includes the public library. When this major storm is over with I wonder how happy all of those people living north of Route 36 will feel come election day. They need to think about the $3 million plus going into cogeneration at TOMSA and the $750,000 that TOMSA gave to Middletown and the years of $200,000 a year going to the Arts Center and then think about all of the money that didn't go into a pumping station and flood protection for the Bayshore.
Paul October 28, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Give me a break Pilgrim. Your boy Pallone was the one who has been promising to get the Feds involved, as they should be, in flood relief along the Bayshore for decades now. To date, nada. The town has done a remarkable job dealing with a problem that is at the scale of the federal government and stretches way beyond Middletown. Man, you are really reaching.
B.R. Thorpe October 29, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Pilgrim, You are right in much of what you have stated at 2:14 p,m. and might add that the Paul character appears to be the former mayor not a relative. The egotistical style and the syntax is classic of his spiels .

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