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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    The 'device' found in a Hightstown High School bathroom and spurred an evacuation was a exterior battery pack, police said.

    Hightstown Borough Police announced Tuesday that the device found in a high school bathroom stall that spurred a school evacuation was not dangerous, nor left maliciously.

    School officials found a suspicious device in the men's bathroom of Hightstown High School Monday morning and evacuated the school, per safety protocol, for a few hours. Students waited at a nearby school in the district, and returned to the high school after lunch. 

    Police determined that the device was, in fact, internal components of an exterior battery pack for a charger, a department statement said. It also said police determined that its placement was not a hoax. 

    NJ Advance Media obtained a photo of the device as it was circulating among students at the school Monday. On Tuesday, police confirmed the image was of the battery pack located by authorities.

    The charger no longer had its case due to damage, which exposed the battery pack and circuit board and "gave the appearance of being a suspicious device," the statement said. 

    While a student was using the pack, it malfunctioned, police said, and the battery pack sparked. 

    "In a panicked state, the student ran into the bathroom to dispose of the device," the police statement said. "The student was cooperative during the investigation into the matter and took responsibility for what occurred."

    Classes resumed as scheduled after the investigation, police said. 

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    One victim died at the hospital and the other is in "critical but stable" condition, officials said

    A father and son from Lumberton have been charged with a stabbing in their neighborhood Sunday night that left one dead and another in critical condition.

    Supreme Life, 56, and his son, Antoine Ketler, 32, both of Coriander Drive, were each charged with two counts of aggravated assault, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday.

    One of the victims, Moriah Walker, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y. died at Cooper University Hospital just before 4:30 a.m. Monday, the office said. 

    The second victim, Raheem Williams, 23, of Queens, N.Y. underwent surgery for a stab wound and was listed in "critical but stable condition" Tuesday, the prosecutor's office said.

    The stabbing occurred during a fight outside Life and Ketler's home on Coriander Driver at about 10:40 p.m., the office said.

    Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said investigators believe Life and Ketler were involved in the fight, but he could not discuss whether they believe the men stabbed the two men who were injured.

    He said charges could be upgraded if the evidence warrants it.

    The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Burlington County Central Communications at 609-265-7113.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    The husband and wife allegedly wrote checks to themselves from the victim's checkbook while he was in a nursing home

    A Willingboro couple stole thousands from a relative while he was disabled and staying in a nursing home, the state Attorney General's office announced Tuesday.

    Mythi Ly-McKinney, 50, and husband Todd McKinney, 47, are charged with funneling money away from Ly-McKinney's 79-year-old godfather.

    Ly-McKinney helped manage her godfather's finances and pay his bills, the AG's office said. When she had access to the checkbook, she wrote checks to a business she owned with her husband.

    McKinney would then endorsed and deposited the check into their businesses bank account, the office said. Over time, the couple's alleged thefts tallied $49,500.

    "Instead of providing the care and assistance these elderly victims needed, the defendants allegedly preyed on them by stealing tens of thousands of dollars the victims were counting on to support them in their senior years," Attorney General Grewal said in a statement about two theft arrests announced Tuesday.

    Ly-McKinney is charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of theft by deception, and 17 counts of forgery. McKinney is charged with one count each of conspiracy, theft by deception and forgery.

    The Attorney General's office also announced Tuesday a case in which a certified nurse aide and his mother-in-law stole more than $34,000 from a patient at a Jersey City rehabilitation facility over the past year. 

    "It is especially disturbing when elderly and disabled adults are victimized by the very people they trust and depend on," Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu said. 

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Because of wintry mix of snow and freezing rain that covered parts of New Jersey, school districts in Mercer County have announced closings and delayed openings for Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.

    Because of the snow, sleet and rain forecast for parts of New Jersey, school districts in Mercer County have announced closings and delayed openings for Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.

    The following Mercer County districts have announced delayed openings or have closed for the day:

    • Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf - 2 hour delay

    Schools that do not appear on this list are not necessarily open; this could mean that the school has not made school closing or delayed opening information available or has not responded to query calls.

    This list will be updated as more information becomes available.

    If you know of any delays or closures not on this list, let us know in the comments.


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    The delay is to allow time for roads, parking lots and sidewalks to be cleared and made safe.

    Due to a winter storm expected to slick roadways with a mix of snow and ice, officials have announced a two-hour delayed opening for all New Jersey state offices on Wednesday.

    The delay is to allow time for roads, parking lots and sidewalks to be cleared and made safe, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management said in a statement.

    Essential employees should report to work on their regular schedule, officials said.

    Across New Jersey, school districts announced closures and delays due to the weather.

    Wednesday's forecast called for snow, ice and a wintry mix in New Jersey.

    Areas north of I-78 were expected to see the highest accumulations as the weather system moves through and changes over to rain for much of the state.

    Rush hour travel was expected to be slick with icy conditions expected.

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

     

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    A bald eagle outside of Trenton also has some fans Watch video

    Suddenly, Eagle fans are everywhere.

    On Tuesday, a bald eagle flying around Colonial Lake in Lawrence prompted a man to call the local media with a tip that a real eagle was in town.

    Are the Philadelphia Eagles giving everyone eagle eyes for the real thing?

    Indeed, an eagle put on a show at the lake off Brunswick Pike, attracting onlookers as it swooped and soared.

    "When I was a school kid, they were almost extinct and now here he is," marveled Robert Pluta, co-owner of Leonardo's II restaurant nearby.

    "He was around last year and then I didn't see him for a while. I thought maybe he migrated somewhere but it looks like he's been around a lot (this year), so I don't know if this is his home or what their migratory patterns are but I think it's a beautiful thing," Pluta said.

    New Jersey wildlife officials say bald eagles are spotted all over the state, but the majority nest in Cumberland and Salem counties, and the bayside of Cape May County. 

    Once classified as an an endangered species by the federal government, bald eagles have made a comeback - kind of like the NFL's Eagles - and are no longer endangered or threatened nationally.

    The birds are still classified as threatened in New Jersey.

    For non-football eagle lovers, the New Jersey Audubon announced just before the Super Bowl that the partnered with PSE&G to livestream eagles nesting on a PSE&G transmission tower in Salem.

    You can watch that eagles show here.

    If you want to go to the Eagles Super Bow parade Thursday, those details are here.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    He got lost during a rainstorm, police said, and his vehicle inadvertently entered the lake.

    West Windsor Police have identified the 85-year-old man who was found Monday morning in his SUV in Mercer County Lake. 

    Police said Calvin Madison, of Ewing, was driving near the lake Monday night during heavy rain around 9 p.m. He had navigated his 2008 Ford Edge through the South Post Road parking area near the Caspersen Rowing Center at Mercer County Lake and was attempting to locate an exit. 

    Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 9.55.31 AM.pngCaspersen Rowing Center docks 

    The vehicle continued into the area of the Caspersen Rowing Center docks, where it inadvertently entered the lake, police said. This caused the side impact airbag to deploy, and despite Madison's efforts, police said, he was unable to exit the vehicle. 

    Police responded to a call the next morning around 8:30 a.m. that a vehicle was in the lake. Emergency personnel extracted Madison from the lake, and he was pronounced dead on the scene. 

    "This incident is being categorized as a tragic event," West Windsor police said in a statement. 

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The alleged harassment happened at the Lawrenceville School in the 1970s.

    A former teacher at one of New Jersey's most prestigious private schools is accused of repeatedly taking students into the showers and ordering them to perform naked pushups and other exercises as he watched decades ago, according to the school. 

    From 1960-1984, Bruce Presley was a teacher and housemaster at the elite Lawrenceville School, where former students say he offered alternative punishments as a way to avoid detention or other formal discipline, the school said. 

    "Mr. Presley's conduct towards our former students is abhorrent, unacceptable, and contrary to all the values of Lawrenceville," the school said in a statement. "We offer our heartfelt sympathy and apologies to those affected by his behavior." 

    Presley, 79, now a prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist in south Florida, is president of a media company that produces videos for the LGBT community.

    The alleged punishments happened decades ago when Lawrenceville was an all-male school, according to an investigation published last week by the South Florida Gay News, which revealed the complaints. 

    The allegations come from six accusers, who were either 17 or 18 at the time of the alleged incidents and attended the school in the 1970s, according to the report. No one interviewed for the story accused Presley of physical abuse, but they said his harassment humiliated them and left a damaging long-term impact on their lives. 

    "It ruined my life," Brent McCowan, 58, of Houston, told the paper. "It caused me a lifetime of pain."

    Presley did not respond to requests for comment, according to the report. The school told NJ Advance Media the published allegations match complaints recently brought to administrators. 

    He could not be reached by NJ Advance Media.

    The accusations follow multiple reports of decades-old harassment or abuse at private schools nationwide, including widespread allegations of abuse by a teacher the Pingry School in New Jersey.

    In an effort to be proactive, the Lawrenceville School sent a letter to alumni in 2016 seeking information about any past incidents involving inappropriate contact between students and adults.

    The letter turned up secondhand information about Presley engaging in an "abuse of power" and "sexual harassment," according to a second letter the school sent to alumni in December 2017. 

    "According to the reports, students who had broken a school rule could avoid detention or other discipline by agreeing to perform pushups fully unclothed, while the teacher in question watched," the Lawrenceville letter said. "At the time, the administration conducted some level of review but it is not known whether any follow-up action was taken."

    The South Florida Gay News said it began its investigation after one of the accusers, Guy Dorgan, of Robbinsville, emailed an editor, according to the report. 

    Dorgan, inspired by the #MeToo movement, told the News that he was irritated that women who came forward decades after their abuse weren't being believed.  

    "I understood why they waited so long," said Dorgan, 57, who told the paper he recalled Presley once forced him to perform nude exercises in the shower. 

    The Lawrenceville School said it has retained independent investigators to find out the extent of what happended and to examine the school's initial response to any allegations. 

    Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook

     

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    The Yankees acquired Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson from the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

    Move over, Tim Tebow.

    You're now the backup on the NFL-quarterbacks-playing-for-New-York-baseball-teams depth chart.

    The Yankees acquired Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson from the Rangers for future considerations.

    "We've admired Russell's career from afar for quite some time," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement.  "This is a unique opportunity for us to learn from an extraordinary athlete who has reached the pinnacle of his profession. 

    "After talking to a number of our players, there is a genuine excitement in having Russell join us for a short time in camp. We are all looking forward to gaining insight into how he leads teammates toward a common goal, prepares on a daily basis for the rigors of his sport, and navigates the successes and failures of a season."

    Wilson, a four-time Pro Bowler, will show up in March to big-league camp, participate in pregame workouts and watch games from the dugout, the team said.

    He isn't actually considering becoming a full-time two-sport player, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

    The Yankees will assign him to Double-A Trenton's roster.

    Beltran: Why I won't go to White House

    Wilson, a second baseman, appeared at Rangers spring training in 2014 and 2015. He played 93 total games in the Rockies' organization, hitting just .229 with five home runs, over two seasons. Colorado took him in the fourth round in 2010 out of North Carolina State.

    He hit .306 with three homers, 1 RBI and nine stolen bases with a .929 OPS in 47 games in his age-21 season at NC State.

    Wilson has long been a Yankees fan.

    The quarterback thanked the Rangers, who took him in the Rule 5 Draft in 2013, in a statement.

    "I want to personally thank the Texas Rangers for giving me the chance to experience professional baseball again," he said. "Growing up taking grounders, hitting BP, and throwing deep post routes early in the mornings with my dad and brother is where my love of sports came from, and those memories stick with me every morning I wake up. I remember how excited I was when Texas selected me in the Rule 5 Draft in December 2013. During my two springs in Arizona with the Rangers, I was reminded just how much I love the game of baseball.

    "While football is my passion and my livelihood, baseball remains a huge part of where I came from and who I am today. I've learned so much on the baseball field that translates to my game physically and mentally playing quarterback in the NFL. I thank the Rangers and their great fans for making me feel at home and a part of the family! While I embrace the chance to be a New York Yankee, I will forever be grateful to have been a part of a world class organization like the Texas Rangers."

    The Mets signed Tebow, an outfielder, to a minor-league deal in 2016 and he spent all of last season with their lower-level minor-league affiliates, hitting .226 with eight homers in 126 games. Tebow will be invited to Mets big-league camp this spring.

    Brendan Kuty may be reached at bkuty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrendanKutyNJ. Find NJ.com Yankees on Facebook.

     

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    Letters on the "Trenton Makes" bridge shine a color other than red for the first time

    The Philadelphia Eagles win their first Super Bowl and the "Trenton Makes" bridge glows green.

    Coincidence?

    Officials at the The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission won't say anything official to illuminate it.

    Formerly, the letters on the iconic bridge (officially named the Lower Trenton Toll-Supported Bridge) used somewhat unreliable red neon tubes, so all of the letters comprising "Trenton Makes The World Takes" could only shine red - when they worked.

    'Trenton Makes' bridge sign getting a colorful makeover

    Construction of a new sign was completed in late December 2017, which features more reliable, energy-efficient LED-lighting, and the capability of displaying limitless colors, letter by letter.

    According to a bridge commission statement, the letters were set to a green hue last Friday and "burned" at that setting through the (Super Bowl) weekend.

    The sign is expected to continue to display a green color until sometime on Friday, Feb. 9 (the day after the Eagles Super Bowl Parade).

    The circumstantial evidence mounts!

    The testing and programming phase will continue after that for an undetermined time period, the commission says.

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The effort to consolidate the town's 9 autonomous fire districts has been ongoing since late 2015

    The Hamilton council on Tuesday chose to create municipal fire department to eventually replace the nine autonomous fire districts that cover the 40-square-mile township.

    The five-member council did not officially vote on any ordinance or resolution, nor did they close any fire districts.

    All five members publicly said they believe a municipal department is the model to pursue and created a seven-member committee charged to formulate particulars, like a budget and command structure, and draft an ordinance in the next 90 to 120 days, Council President Anthony Carabelli Jr. said.

    In December, the council also voted 5-0 in favor of a municipal department, but did so in a non-binding resolution and that body had three lame-duck members. That basically handed off the consolidation issue to the new council.

    It's a significant step in the effort to consolidate the districts - which started in late 2015 - and the two professional firefighters' unions say the council did move the issue forward, calling it a "historic day."

    "We will continue to work with all parties involved to make the fire department second to none and provide Hamilton Township the best service in the State," the unions, locals of the Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association (FMBA), said in a joint statement.

    Hamilton council calls special fire consolidation meeting

    Carabelli, who was elected with fellow Democrats Jeff Martin and Rick Tighe last fall, said it was important that the new council, which swung from all Republicans to a makeup of three Democrats and two Republicans, had a bipartisan agreement on the model.

    "We have some hurdles and obstacles along the way (with creating the department), but the most beneficial structure, in my opinion, was a municipal department," he said Wednesday. His colleagues agreed, he said.

    On the committee, Carabelli said, are a mix of involved parties: two council members, Martin and Ralph Mastrangelo; Mayor Kelly Yaede, or her designee; the two union presidents, Nick Buroczi and Shane Mull; the president of the township volunteer firefighters, Scott Goldsmith; and a current fire chief, Rich Kraemer.

    "The goal that we have is for the subcommittee to work on the framework of a budget and the command structure and have something we can present to the (state's) Local Finance Board," Carabelli said. The board would approve such move, officials have said in the past.

    The town's fire districts - which levy taxes, hold elections and are run by commissioners - have been in existence for about 100 years and for decades used volunteer firefighting companies to battle blazes. In the past 30 to 40 years, they gradually started hiring more and more career firefighters.

    Today, the majority of Hamilton's districts operate 24/7 career firefighting operations, and the districts currently employ a total of 122 career members.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    For more than three decades, New Jersey's Urban Enterprise Zone program has boosted businesses hoping to compete with their suburban counterparts by offering reduced sales taxes and subsidies for unemployment insurance, among other incentives.

    If lawmakers in the state have their way, a powerful engine for economic development in our cities will come roaring back to life.

    For more than three decades, New Jersey's Urban Enterprise Zone program has boosted businesses hoping to compete with their suburban counterparts by offering reduced sales taxes and subsidies for unemployment insurance, among other incentives.

    Trenton was one of five pioneering cities signing on to the program when it launched in 1986; at its height, the program had branched out to 37 different municipalities across the state, touching some 6,800 businesses all told.

    While the initiative was designed to expire 20 years after it began in the individual communities, legislators voted in 2001 to permit a one-time extension for another 16 years.

    As 2017 dawned, however, former Gov. Chris Christie chose not to approve a measure to save the program, despite pleas from such powerful UEZ advocates as the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

    The League termed the UEZ designation "a vital tool in the tool kit of local leaders working to bring their communities back from decades of decline."

    Last month, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association added its backing as the state Senate Economic Growth Committee passed a bill seeking to tack another 10 years onto the program in communities where it remains in force.

    The measure, sponsored by Sens. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) and Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden), also would bring the original cities - Trenton, Bridgeton, Camden, Newark and Plainfield - back into the UEZ fold.

    The news should bring joy to owners of the 900 or so local business owners in the Capitol City who over the years benefitted from the plan, including free marketing services and networking opportunities.

    "By extending the UEZ designation, we can provide an opportunity for disadvantaged communities not only to attract new companies that bring jobs for local residents, but also to keep existing businesses and to keep our residents working," Turner said.

    Participation in the program is not meant to be a free ride. To qualify, business owners must meet certain requirements, such as hiring local residents or individuals who have faced long-term unemployment.

    It's uncertain how Gov. Phil Murphy will respond if the Turner/Cruz-Perez bill eventually wins full approval in the Legislature.

    But we're hopeful that the business-savvy governor will recognize that a state's economy rests largely on the success of its cities. UEZ's are one proven strategy to ensure that success.

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

     

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    Viva la familia!

    Everyone likes to recall fond family memories. And, what's even better is when a family moment remains vivid because it has been captured on film.

    But, sometimes all we can depend on is our memory because the photographs we took failed to come out. Or, we didn't have a camera on hand to make sure the memory could be placed in a frame.

    Untitled-88.jpgMy family shot daguerreotypes 

    The current high quality of digital cameras in smart phones makes it, pardon the pun, a snap to shoot a great family photo at an event or gathering. And, of course, there's the biggest benefit of all - knowing immediately whether you should take another one.

    I was recently discussing with my Mom how many one-time-only group family photos were never captured over the years because someone forgot to wind the film or buy flashbulbs. With a film camera, you only knew if the shot came out after the time it took for developing; how many once-in-a-lifetime family photos ended up as totally dark or washed-out prints?

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Someone will likely mention Polaroid here. Okay, yes, you could see the result of your shot in a minute with a Polaroid instant camera ... a camera that had a lens with limited capability to include more than a handful of people in the photo. Polaroid group shots usually boiled down to faces the size of dots.

    But all family photos weren't missed or messed up. No matter where and when photos like these were taken, they all preserve the importance of family for posterity.

    Here's a gallery of vintage family photos from New Jersey, and some links to other family galleries you might enjoy.

    Vintage photos of families in N.J.

    Vintage photos of fathers, sons and daughters in NJ

    Vintage photos of mothers and their children in NJ

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


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    Trenton Water Works has been under scrutiny following a series of problems

    State environmental officials have reached an agreement with Trenton aimed at bolstering the city's troubled water utility.

    A 16-page administrative consent order signed by Mayor Eric Jackson resolves violations issued by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to Trenton Water Works, most recently on Jan. 5, and sets out an improvement plan.

    Trenton Water Works provides water to approximately 225,000 customers in Trenton and parts of Hamilton, Ewing, Lawrence and Hopewell. The 159-year-old utility has been in the spotlight amid escalating concerns about water quality, aging infrastructure and inadequate staffing.

    The consent order with the DEP was finalized about a week after the city secured a 12-month emergency contract with a civil engineering company to help run the utility, fulfilling a state directive from last fall.

    It was announced Tuesday afternoon after DEP met with mayors and other representatives of the municipalities served by the utility met at Trenton City Hall.

    Understaffed, aging N.J. water utility became a 'failure'

    DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe, in a statement from her office, said the agreement "outlines clear goals for bringing Trenton Water Works into compliance with all state requirements."

    "The DEP and the city share the same goal - providing the customers of Trenton Water Works with a safe and reliable supply of drinking water," McCabe said.

    McCabe's predecessor, former DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, sent a letter Jan. 12 reiterating health and safety concerns after the city missed a Nov. 30 deadline for awarding the emergency contract.

    The consent order directs Trenton Water Works to fill staff vacancies, with an expedited timeline for positions deemed especially crucial. It sets an April 30 deadline for submitting preliminary designs aimed at improving the water treatment plant.

    It requires monthly progress reports, and the utility has until Dec. 31 to submit a plan for system-wide compliance with the state Water Quality Accountability Act, which took effect in July. Monthly progress reports will be submitted.

    NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel weighed in on the agreement, stating that while it is important it does not alter the underlying problem, of not having sufficient funding for the utility.

    "We now have a plan in place but unless there is a funding mechanism to fix the old aging infrastructure and pipes, it will not fix the water problems," Tittel said.

    DEP provided a statement from Jackson, in which he described the agreement as "reflective of a new, collaborative partnership that leverages all of ours and the state's resources to ensure the common goal of delivery of water in our distribution system according to state and federal standards."

    Jackson recently announced that he is not running for re-election in May.

    Rob Jennings may be reached at rjennings@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook


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    "I feel vindicated," Forchion said during a phone interview with NJ Advance Media

    A Trenton Municipal Court judge this week dismissed 13 tickets citing late night violations at NJ Weedman's Joint, the now-closed Trenton restaurant owned by Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion.

    In February 2016, Trenton police continually shut down the restaurant and accompanying "cannabis church," the Liberty Bell Temple, citing a city ordinance that requires some establishments to close down at 11 p.m.

    But Forchion, who has been jailed for almost a year, has always argued that the tickets were "bogus" and did not apply to his businesses because they are in a designated commercial zone.

    Trenton Municipal Court Judge Gregory Williams agreed that Forchion's businesses were not considered a residential building, and dropped 13 of the 22 police lodged against Forchion or his business.

    "I feel vindicated," Forchion said in a phone interview from jail with NJ Advance Media. "It's not often I have a judge completely on my side."

    Judge denies NJ Weedman's latest quest for freedom

    The marijuana advocate believes that the municipal tickets were the catalyst that led to the raid on his restaurant and his subsequent arrest, which later led to witness tampering charges - the case for which he remains jailed.

    The remaining nine tickets, for various other violations, will be discussed in a municipal court hearing in March, Forchion said.

    Forchion was found not guilty on one count of witness tampering, but faced a hung jury on the second count, in November 2017. His retrial is pending.

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

     

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    Among them are child-sex predators, killers - and even an alleged crime boss.


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    The victim was later flown to a burn unit for treatment

    A man jumped from a second-floor window as flames ravaged a home in the 100 block of Monmouth Street in Trenton Tuesday night, the fire department said.

    monfire1.jpgTrenton Fire Dept. photo

    The man escaped the home moments before city firefighters arrived, at about 8:30 p.m., and made his way to the nearby Rescue Mission shelter. There, staffers noticed his fire-related injuries and called an ambulance, Fire Battalion Chief Gus Tackacs.

    On Wednesday, the department learned the man, whose identity was not immediately known, was flown to a hospital burn unit out of the area for specialized treatment, Tackacs said.

    The blaze leveled the home and spread to next door, but firefighters were able to extinguished the flames next door and used it to as a base to get control of the flames in the original building, Tackacs said.

    The chief was the first on scene and arrived to find heavy fire shooting from the upper two floors and two people outside, who had apparently escaped and were not injured, he said.

    Firefighters were told someone might be inside, but their initial searches were hampered by unsafe conditions inside, with holes in the floors and ceilings, Tackacs said. The firefighters then learned of the victim at the shelter.

    The house was vacant, but used by homeless people and others as temporary shelter, a common condition in some houses in the city, the fire department said.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    Women honored for service to community. Watch video

    "The idea that females can actually be honored for what they do is a nice thing."

    Those are the words of Fern Spruill, who will be one of this year's honorees of the the YWCA's 35th Annual Tribute to Women Awards Dinner.

    Spruill, along with her husband Larry, has long been a dedicated volunteer, advocate, and activist for justice and education, with a focus on serving the youth, in the Princeton community.

    Nancy Faherty, Director of Advocacy & Development of the YWCA Princeton, said "She's been a lot of people's moms."

    Spruill added, "This is not just a man's world. It's a man and a woman's world. It takes both of us to make it happen."

    There are seven other women of distinction being honored in 2018 for their humanitarian efforts in serving their fellow men, women and children.

    This year, there is one departure from the norm.

    John Clearwater, who served 30 years in the military, says he's "the only man ever to do this" because he is representing his wife, Patricia Clearwater, who passed last year.

    He said he is grateful for the unique opportunity "to remember her in public."

    "The most important thing to me is that it recognizes Patricia's involvement in community service activities across a broad spectrum. She has had a long life of special service to the community at large."

    Media day for the event was held at Riverview Studios in Bordentown, last month.

    Today, Feb. 8, the organization is having an honoree reception, and The 35th Annual Tribute to Women Awards Dinner will take place on Friday, March 9, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency - Princeton

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is now going after all five Republican-held seats in New Jersey. Watch video

    WASHINGTON -- Rep. Chris Smith, who hasn't received less than 60 percent of the vote in his last 17 elections, has just been added to the House Democrats' list of 2018 targets.

    Thursday's announcement by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee means that the party is now focusing on every Republican-held seat in New Jersey.

    It's also a sign of how Democrats hope that President Donald Trump's historic unpopularity -- along with an angry electorate and the fact that the party controlling the White House traditionally loses congressional seats in off-year elections -- will carry even safe Republicans such as Smith, R-4th Dist., into retirement.

    "Democrats are firmly on offense for a variety of reasons, including incredible candidate recruitment, record-breaking fundraising, a historically unpopular Republican agenda, and extensive district level polling showing Democrats already beating or in close competition with their opponents," said the DCCC's chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.

    N.J. races key to 2018

    While Trump's favorable ratings have ticked up, he still remains in negative territory. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, 55 percent of U.S. voters disapproved of his perfromance in office, with just 40 percent approving.

    In all, the DCCC added seven Republican-held districts to its target list, which already includes Reps. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., and Leonard Lance, R-7th Dist.; as well as the seats being vacated by retiring Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., and Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11th Dist. 

    "Democrats have a proven record of overpromising and underdelivering," said Chris Martin, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "It's not surprising that they've been reduced to adding names to a wish list."

    Smith, the longest-serving member of the New Jersey delegation, is considered a safe bet for re-election by two Washington-based publications that track congressional races, the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections.

    "Voters trust Chris and consistently show their support for his record of legislative leadership and service to constituents," Smith spokeswoman Mary McDermott Noonan said.  "He generally carries his district with 64 percent-plus, garnering a 100,000-vote margin in the last election."

    He also had a large cash advantage over the two Democrats seeking to oust him, raising $307,634 through Dec. 31 and entering January with $392,450 in the bank.

    Former Asbury Park Councilman Jim Keady, who memorably was told to "sit down and shut up" by then-Gov. Chris Christie, raised $145,488 with $61,019 to spend. Josh Welle brought in $172,813, contributed $8,430 of his own money, and had $133,119 cash on hand.

    "We welcome the DCCC's support to flip the 4th District," Keady said. "It's long overdue that we send Congressman Smith into retirement."

    Welle immediately sent out a fundraising email touting the DCCC's action.

    "The 4th District made it onto the DCCC's radar because we need a congressman who will fight for a tax plan that doesn't devastate New Jersey and drive home values down, a congressman who will protect our beaches and environment from offshore oil drilling, a congressman who will work for affordable and accessible health care," Welle said.

    Smith bucked his party on two high-profile votes last year.

    He opposed the House Republican health care bill and voted against the GOP tax plan that gutted the federal deduction for state and local taxes. He also has joined the rest of the congressional delegation in opposing Trump's proposal to open the Jersey Shore to offshore oil drilling.

    Only four House Republicans have supported Trump less than Smith has, according to Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com

    Still, Smith is a Republican in a state that gave Trump a 61 percent disapproval rating, with just 34 percent approving, in a recent Gallup poll. Residents of only eight other states thought less of Trump than those living in New Jersey, according to the poll. 

    The Cook Political Report, meanwhile, changed its rating on the LoBiondo district Thursday and now makes state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, a slight favorite to win in November.

    "Van Drew looks almost as imposing as an incumbent," said David Wasserman, Cook's House race editor.

    Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at jsalant@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

     

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    Paths to sectional championships


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