Paula John and Dean Schneider perform at the Merion Inn fundraiser on Sunday.
Floodgate: The Latest
IT IS undoubtedly the issue that the folks in City Hall wish would go away, but the debacle we are calling Floodgate is NOT going to go away any time soon. Not until the taxpayers of this city get some answers. We are referring to the fact that Convention Hall, the city’s $10.5 million jewel, has been without flood insurance since the mad rush to open it, on Memorial Day weekend. We say “mad rush” since in all of the haste, the city didn’t get around to protecting the building from the Atlantic Ocean, or securing a Certificate of Occupancy — since the opening, it has been operating on temporary certificates, because the work has not been satisfactorily completed. Can you imagine the city allowing any privately run building to get away with that?
At the most recent council meeting (see page 25 for full coverage), the city voted to approve a flood insurance policy, which will cost more than $81,000 a year. That’s one humungous premium, though we guess that’s what you get when you wait until AFTER one of the worst storms to ever hit the east coast to ask those altruistic insurance companies to help you out with a policy.
We believe the truth behind this story will emerge once the public finally gets to see the elevation certificate for the building, a document which the city is refusing to release. That certificate, many people believe, shows that the pilings that support Convention Hall were not built high enough, which is the reason why the city tried, and failed, to secure FEMA-approved insurance starting from July, and part of the reason why they are paying such a high premium now.
At last week’s meeting, the city also laid out its plans to introduce resolutions that will increase the price of daily beach tags from $5 to $6 and seasonal tags from $25 to $28; and raise parking fines from $32 to $35.
Is it a coincidence that these increases are being discussed at the same time as the city is figuring out how to pay for an insurance mess entirely of its own making? We are guessing not. City Manager Bruce MacLeod made the point that the city’s beach tags would still be around the same price as they are in neighboring towns. But, still, stiffing the tourists (as well as the locals who frequent the beach) seems a shame.
For more on Floodgate, watch this space.
PS: Mayor Ed Mahaney officially won his bid for re-election in Cape May, it was confirmed last week.
SINCE its incorporation in 1998, Animal Outreach of Cape May County has helped 2,500 animals find forever homes. On November 17, its new adoption center opened on Park Boulevard, and it’s not what you’d expect. There are no concrete floors here; no Sarah McLaughlin music playing in the background (we’ve all seen those heart-wrenching commercials). Quite the opposite — it’s actually a “cheerful” spot, according to local realtor and Animal Outreach President Ellen Shaw. “It’s the cutest damn place,” she told us last Sunday at the organization’s fifth annual fund-raising jazz brunch at the Merion Inn.
The center used to be Dr Ronald Goldstein’s dental office, Ellen explained, and the old treatment rooms make for “perfect” cat rooms… rooms where cages are left open so that animals are free to socialize or rest on their plush beds. Dogs can’t be housed in the building (it’s a stipulation of the lease), so the Clermont Country Kennels help with boarding, as do Animal Outreach’s foster homes. During the day, volunteers help transport the pups back to the center in order to meet their potential forever owners, or around the community to various events.
It’s this presence in town that distinguishes Animal Outreach from similar organizations, according to Managing Director Tom Sims. “We might be at a hardware store or a farmers market in order to promote adoption,” he said. “In addition to providing charity care to owners struggling to keep their pets in the home, we conduct outreach.”
And they’re able to do so because of the donations of kind-hearted souls, like those in attendance last Sunday. Tickets for the brunch (which was southern-themed and included everything from collard greens to cheesy grits and baked ham) were $35, and when we checked — still an hour before the end of the event — more than 100 had been sold. Bartenders Chris Laudeman, Animal Control Officer John Queenan, and Bob Moffatt (veterinarian at Cape May Vet Hospital, and the beloved EZ doggie doctor) offered to donate their tips. (All the proceeds from the cash bar go to the cause, too.) And a silent auction taking place both in the restaurant and online enticed even more money with such prizes as tickets to Cape May Stage and East Lynne theaters, an adorable dog painting by Philadelphia-based artist Colleen Randolph, and a two-night stay in Ellen Shaw’s pet-friendly (of course) house on Tabernacle Road.
We would be seriously remiss if we didn’t mention that the event also featured a tribute to the late jazz legend (locally AND globally) George Mesterhazy. Musicians Dean Schneider and Paula Johns volunteered to play because they want to “keep the music alive,” according to George’s partner and Merion Inn owner Vicki Watson. She was gracious enough to talk to us a little bit about George, even though she has an understandably hard time doing so without getting choked up. “I haven’t worn eye-liner since April,” she told us, adding that George was an incredible animal advocate. “We got three cats, all of them rescues, and two dogs, one of which was run over and left for dead,” she said. “One of our cats we named after Bob Moffatt because he saved its life; its mother had been dragging it under a shed to get it to shelter, and it had a terrible infection. The Animal Outreach people do such a wonderful job finding homes for such animals. George and I realized we could raise 10 or 20-fold what we could donate by hosting this brunch.”
But the organization needs more help. Every Animal Outreach board member we spoke with mentioned the important role volunteers play, both in transporting animals and working at the center. “There are three shifts in which people can participate,” Ellen told us. “The morning is a cleaning shift, the afternoon is a cuddling/playing shift, and the evening is the tuck-in shift, which involves checking on food and water and turning the lights out… except the nightlights.” (Reporter’s note… awww!)
Of course, you could always help by adopting a pet, too, because as cute and cheerful as the adoption center is, for these animals, being there will always pale in comparison to being in a forever home. (A special shout-out to Sue Lotozo of Flying Fish who became the center’s first doggie adopter by taking home an adorable old girl called Luna.)
And finally, another special shout-out is due to David Ripoli (and his dog Patch) of The Highland House Inn, which has been pet-friendly (dogs, cats, birds and ferrets have all checked in) since David purchased it 19 years ago. Now, David is launching “Pawteas” as a way to raise money for Animal Outreach. In the winter months, beginning December 8, he’ll serve warm beverages and treats baked by his 91-year-old mother Terry, who lives almost full-time at Highland House and has “just about the biggest heart out there.” Pets are welcome — encouraged — to attend, too… no surprise there. “We’re a laid-back place where we truly want everyone to feel at home,” David told us. “Wherever I am, my dogs are always with me and that is always home to me. We want the same for our guests.” The teas will run from 1 to 3pm. And don’t forget to stop by the center when you get a chance (they’re open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12-3pm, and “Whisker Wednesdays” from 5-7pm). Even if it’s just for a quick cuddle.
Run, Ed, Run!
IT IS one of life’s greatest ironies that out of tragedy, comes beauty. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we’ve watched communities unite, coming together for the benefit of neighbors and strangers. In this paper, we’ve written about some of the fundraising and awareness-raising campaigns in our neck of the woods that have left us feeling especially proud of our little island. But of all the efforts we’ve had the pleasure of researching, perhaps none is so astounding as Run4NJ. Organizer Ed Kloskowski set up a website where people can donate to rebuilding initiatives across the state, and then he set out on an awareness-raising run that would take him the entire length of New Jersey — 120 miles from High Point to Cape May — in five days.
We met up with Ed, the 46-year-old Director of IT for Shire Pharmaceuticals, while he was finishing up dinner at the Blue Pig Tavern at Congress Hall after his final day of running, November 20. A hot shower at the Victorian Motel and Blue Pig crab cakes are, apparently, just what the doctor orders after such a punishing marathon.
“The day after the storm, we were cleaning a tree out of our front yard in Allentown, New Jersey,” he told us after limping away from his support crew/family to chat with us at a quiet corner table. “My neighbor and his son, who had lost power, came over to help, and I thought, you know, that’s a kindness I want to extend to others in the state.” Even though Ed made it through Sandy relatively unscathed — he sustained only a couple thousand dollars worth of cosmetic damage on his own home — he decided to take action.
Ed registered the Run4NJ name, established the Run4NJ.org website and Facebook page, and designated some worthy rebuilding efforts, including Architecture for Humanity, Catholic Charities, and Cape May Cares. He also designated some municipalities — like his hometown of Sayerville, New Jersey, where 252 homes have been condemned — that have not yet established adequate charitable contribution sites. Then he planned a route from High Point, the State Park that’s just a stone’s throw from Staten Island, heading south, intent on raising funds and awareness for all of the aforementioned efforts. Ed ran as close to the coast as possible, navigating through detours due to damage along the way. “I got to see a lot of bulldozed piles of debris,” he said. “Seaside Heights and Asbury Park were the worst.”
Word spread quickly, and by the time we caught up with Ed, he’d just tipped over the $7,000 mark. “I spent 12 to 14 hours a day running,” he told us. “And it was easy to think about the people who were behind me and all the people who were contributing. That was the purpose right? To get people to say, ‘wow, that’s not going to be easy. That’s going to be hard, and he’s doing it. The least we can do is give a little something.’ One hundred bucks is easy to walk away from. But $6,000 or $7,000? You’re getting to the finish line even if you have to crawl.”
And crawl he almost did.
Ed listed a laundry list of ailments for us, including “massive” shin splints, piriformis syndrome (compression of the sciatic nerve… we Googled it), and illiotibial band syndrome (aka really bad knee pain). He told us that, despite having run four Ironman triathlons and 20 marathons, he hasn’t had time to train for this mission like he would have liked, and he began doubting his ability to finish the morning after he started. “But I wanted to get to Cape May,” he told us. “Not just because it’s the southernmost point and I wanted to go until I ran out of asphalt, but because this is a great place to end up.”
The best part? Ed ran the entire way holding a three-foot by five-foot American flag on an aluminum pole. “I had it with me every step of the way,” he said. “It feels like a pet now. But seriously, besides turning me from an idiot running to an idiot running with a purpose, it was a rallying point. It unites us. I thought it would be a good way to get surrounding states or areas to say, ‘Well, this isn’t just about New Jersey.’ In tough times like this, the flag reminds us that we’re in it together.”
Which is why, perhaps, the response of people who spotted Ed along his journey down the coast was, more often than not, an enthusiastic “Right on.” Congratulations to all of you who’ve contributed in some way, big or small, to the ongoing relief efforts, and right on, indeed.
Exit Zero Burns Supper
CONSIDER this your first reminder… on Thursday, January 24, we will be holding what is undoubtedly THE event of the Cape May winter. We are referring to the Exit Zero Burns Supper, about to enter its ninth year! We will have more details in the next couple issues, but know this… it’s a sellout every year, so
make sure you buy your tickets before Christmas. Either call us on (609) 770-8479 or buy them online at www.ezstore.us. As usual, tickets cost just $30. A bargain, or what?!