Day: January 7, 2021

Township Council Selects Deborah Blakely to Fill Unexpired Council Seat

January 7, 2021

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Robbinsville Township Council members selected Deborah Blakely to fill the unexpired seat vacated by Dan Schuberth at their annual reorganization meeting Thursday.

Mrs. Blakely is 20-year resident of Robbinsville and a graduate of Trenton State College (BS) and Saint John’s University (MA). She has worked for Mercer County Special Services since 1996 as a Speech/Language Pathologist, specializing in early childhood communication disorders.

Mr. Schuberth’s resignation became effective on January 1, 2021 and has relocated his family to Washington, D.C.

Also Thursday, Mike Cipriano was elected Council president for the first time. Vince Calcagno, the longest serving Councilperson, was elected vice president for the seventh time.

Because of when that vacancy occurred, Title 40 of the NJ Statute allows Council to make a temporary appointment to the vacancy until an election can be conducted to fill the seat.  This appointment will be for approximately 11 months, until the election results in November, 2021 are certified by the Mercer County Clerk. Council had a window of 30 days to make an appointment.

The law does not require an official application process or formal interviews; it only states that the appointee be a registered voter who has lived in Robbinsville for at least one year. This process is different than in partisan governments.

In partisan governments, Council is given a choice of only three candidates from the political party of the person who vacated the seat.

In non-partisan Robbinsville, any voter who has lived in town for one year was eligible to be appointed.

In a joint statement, Council members said:

“We want to thank everyone who expressed an interest in serving the public on Council. While all the candidates to come forward have a connection to the town and a strong desire to serve, there was one with a history and a connection we felt was unparalleled. Debbie Blakely is highly respected and well known to the entire governing body and Administration, which was an important factor as well.”

Mrs. Blakely has lived in Robbinsville since 2001. She is mother to two daughters, Brielle and Maggie, who are currently enrolled in the Robbinsville School District. Widow to the late Tom Blakely, who previously served on the zoning board. Blakely Park on Meadowbrook Road is named after Tom.

Mrs. Blakely is a strong advocate for grieving children, the special needs population and an animal lover. She in an active volunteer with Ability Tree of New Jersey.

“I am very proud to that Debbie has agreed to serve as a member of our Council,” Mayor Dave Fried said. “I have known Debbie for many years. She is thoughtful, caring and highly respected in the Robbinsville community. She will be a great addition to Council. I am also very encouraged that so many residents expressed interest and were willing to serve on the governing body. We are who we are in Robbinsville because of the willingness of so many to volunteer and serve others.”

Photos and story by: Robbinsville Township

Also tonight at the Robbinsville Council Meeting:

Sandy Fraud Contractors Indicted, 18 Counts Involving Theft Of Funds

January 7, 2021

TOMS RIVER, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on January 6, 2021, Jonathan Price, 43, of Manahawkin, and Scott Cowan, 58, of Demarest, were indicted by an Ocean County Grand Jury for eighteen counts of Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Property (Funds) Received in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-9.

An extensive investigation by Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crimes Unit revealed that Price and Cowan established the now-defunct Price Home Group, LLC, in February 2013 in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. From March of 2013 through March of 2016, Price Home Group entered into contracts with thirty-one homeowners in multiple towns throughout Ocean and Atlantic Counties to repair Sandy-ravaged homes or elevate their homes to protect them from future storms. The investigation revealed that despite having received considerable compensation in excess of two-million dollars from these individuals, Price and Cowan performed little to no work on the victims’ homes, and instead misappropriated the monies for their own personal use. Price and Cowan were arrested and charged on May 29, 2019.

“These two defendants preyed upon numerous homeowners who were at the lowest, most vulnerable points of their lives following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. They took advantage of people who were utterly helpless, who trusted that the defendants would help them get them back into their homes as quickly as possible,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated. “Rather than honor their contractual obligations, these defendants betrayed the victims’ trust in favor of their own unjust enrichment, and now they will be made to answer for their unscrupulous behavior,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.

Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the Stafford Township Police Department, Little Egg Harbor Police Department, Toms River Township Police Department, Long Beach Township Police Department, Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs, and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, for assisting the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in conducting this very extensive and thorough investigation.

The public and media are reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Governor Signs Dancer Legislation Allowing Employees To Live On Horse Farms

January 7, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Home is where the horse is— at least that’s the case in New Jersey after Gov. Phil Murphy signed Assemblyman Ron Dancer’s bill permitting full-time, year-round farm employees to reside on premises where horses are boarded. 

“Groomers, trainers and other full-time farm employees often need extended access to the horses they care for,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “Permitting them to live on the premises will allow them to fully perform their duties and take better care of these animals.”

The legislation (A2768/S1245) amends the Right to Farm Act to allow housing for equine-related farm employees as long as it is in a separate area or level from the horses, has its own ventilation system and meets all uniform construction code standards, including fire ratings. The Right to Farm Act protects responsible commercial farms from public and private nuisance actions and unduly restrictive municipal regulations.  

“Taking care of a horse is one of the most demanding and worthwhile jobs one could do,” said Dancer. “The horse industry is important to New Jersey’s economy, providing over 13,000 jobs, as well as to our environment with more than 7,200 horse farms providing 176,000 acres of green pasture land and open space.” 

New Jersey has more horses per capita than any other state in the nation. Horses are so important to the state’s economy, history and culture that they are designated the state animal. 

Murphy Administration Reminds New Jerseyans of Coverage Benefits for COVID-19 Vaccine

January 7, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–As New Jersey continues to scale up its statewide vaccination program, the Murphy Administration today reminded New Jerseyans that the COVID-19 vaccine will be available without cost sharing barriers. Pursuant to the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement, all providers must vaccinate individuals regardless of whether they have health insurance coverage or what type of coverage they have, and are prohibited from balance billing or otherwise charging vaccine recipients.

“As we continue to roll out our robust statewide vaccination program, we want to make it clear to New Jerseyans that no one will have to pay for the vaccine itself, regardless of whether or not they have health insurance coverage,” said Governor Murphy. “We strongly encourage everyone to join hundreds of thousands of their fellow New Jerseyans in preregistering to receive the vaccine and taking another step toward ending this pandemic.”

“As residents begin to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, they should know that the vaccination will be provided with no out-of-pocket costs,” said Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride. “We issued guidance reminding insurance companies of this requirement as the state works to protect the health and safety of our residents in response to the global pandemic.”

“The Department of Health is thankful to the many providers who have signed agreements with the State to administer vaccines in communities throughout New Jersey,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “This has been a complex process of linking all types of providers to deliver vaccines to New Jersey residents without cost to those residents. The goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population in New Jersey is going to be met through these partnerships and through the thousands of New Jersey residents who recognize that vaccines matter.”

“NJ FamilyCare recipients can get the COVID vaccine at no cost and at any vaccination site,” said Human Services Deputy Commissioner Sarah Adelman. “That means zero co-pays for the vaccine and its administration, no matter the provider, so we urge everyone to sign up and get the vaccine when they are eligible.  We are all eager to end this pandemic and save lives. For NJ FamilyCare recipients, you can protect yourself at no cost.”

“As vaccines become available to more residents, all New Jerseyans should know that they will be able to access the COVID-19 vaccine from participating providers and that insurance coverage or cost sharing should not be barriers,” said Shabnam Salih, Director of the Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity for the well-being of themselves, their families and their communities and to help prevent the further loss of human life.” 

Coverage Information

  • If you are covered by a private health plan (whether obtained directly through the individual market or through your employer): All group and individual comprehensive health insurance plans must provide coverage for COVID-19 immunization and its administration. During the federal public health emergency, these plans must provide this coverage without cost sharing, regardless of whether the provider is in or out of network. For more information, please contact your insurance provider or visit
  • If you are covered by Medicare Part B: The vaccine and the administration of that vaccine will be covered without coinsurance or deductible.
  • If you are covered by a Medicare Advantage Plan: Beneficiary copayment, coinsurance and deductible are waived for COVID-19 vaccine and its administration for calendar years 2020 and 2021.
  • If you are covered by SHBP or SEHBP: The vaccine and the administration of that vaccine will be covered without coinsurance or deductible for in or out of network providers.
  • If you are covered by NJ FamilyCare (Medicaid or CHIP): The vaccine and the administration of that vaccine will be covered without copays for in or out of network providers.
  • If you are uninsured: health care providers that participate in the Center for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 Vaccination Program must agree to administer a COVID-19 immunization regardless of an individual’s ability to pay or health insurance coverage status, and may not seek reimbursement from the immunization recipientFor information on sites that are providing the vaccine, please visit: This site will be updated as more locations are added.

For more information, please visit:

Governor Murphy Signs Historic Economic Recovery Legislation

Bill Will Provide Aid to Small Businesses and Usher in New Era of Economic Development

January 7, 2021

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today signed into law the landmark New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020, which will provide economic support for small businesses, while propelling New Jersey’s economic recovery and growth for much of the next decade.

“These programs are the product of nearly three years of hard work, during which we received input from hundreds of voices on how best to structure our state’s recovery and growth,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “I am immensely proud of the result, which will not only provide much needed relief for our small businesses, but will also fundamentally change economic development in our state while creating thousands of high-paying job for our residents.”

The legislation includes a host of new initiatives including the Main Street Recovery Finance Program, which will provide a direct $50 million appropriation for grants, loans, loan guarantees, and technical assistance to small and micro businesses. 

This bill will also bolster the state’s startup and entrepreneur economy through implementation of the Innovation Evergreen Fund, a first-of-its-kind program that will combine state funds with private capital to support innovative new businesses.

The new legislation also includes several cutting-edge programs designed to promote growth in New Jersey’s urban centers, including the Brownfields Redevelopment Incentive designed to facilitate the redevelopment of environmentally contaminated properties; the Historic Property Tax Credit, which will incentivize the restoration of historic buildings, many of which are located in New Jersey’s oldest and most distressed neighborhoods; and the Community-Anchored Development Program, which will incentivize the construction of innovative new developments by partnering with universities, hospitals, arts, and cultural organizations and give the state an equity stake in the development. 

“This incentives package will not only help strengthen our economy, but it will help address some of the longstanding inequities faced by the most distressed communities in our state,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “These renewed incentives are specifically directed toward reviving our local economies and helping main streets thrive throughout this crisis and beyond. I want to commend Governor Murphy and the legislature for their leadership in passing this bill which will put our state on a renewed path to prosperity.” 

“The New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 presents a strong recovery and reform package that will position New Jersey to build a stronger and fairer economy that invests in innovation, in our communities, and in our small businesses the right way, with the protections and oversight taxpayers deserve,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Tax incentives and other investment tools are critical to economic development, and when used correctly they can drive transformative change that uplifts communities and creates new opportunities for everyone.”

“Renewal of New Jersey’s tax incentive program was essential to ensuring our state’s competitiveness in attracting and retaining jobs and businesses in our global economy,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “I am pleased that the compromise we reached includes a sufficiently high cap on total incentives to enable New Jersey to compete for mega-projects, and that it ensures that all regions and sectors of our state will benefit from the various programs. I would like to thank Senators M. Teresa Ruiz and Paul Sarlo, former Senator Ray Lesniak, who served as our special counsel, and of course, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Governor Phil Murphy for working together to bring this legislation to fruition.” 

“This is comprehensive legislation which will grow new industries and foster innovation around the state. It will create greater investment in our communities by providing further incentives to locate in distressed municipalities, build affordable housing and redevelop brownfields,” said Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, the prime sponsor. “This law will help increase access to employment in high-growth industries, drive sustainable economic development and most importantly help our state to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This effort is balanced in its approach, it will ensure responsible investment, greater oversight and tangible community benefits.”

“This legislation provides the tax incentives we will need to spur business and job growth as we come out of a pandemic crisis that has devastated broad sectors of our economy,” said Senator Paul Sarlo. “Most importantly, it will provide tax incentives to attract the jobs we want – jobs that pay high salaries in cutting edge industries that will transform communities, partner with our higher education sector on R&D, provide valuable job training and be good corporate citizens.”

“This new law builds a new economic recovery and incentive program that will bolster businesses from Main Street small business to attracting new and larger job-creating corporations to make New Jersey home,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. “This legislation also creates programs that address the problem of food deserts giving families fighting hunger greater access to healthy food options in the future as well as others similarly aimed toward historically underserved communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Reauthorization of a large scale job incentive package has been a long time coming in this state. This is a plan that will lead New Jersey to a stronger economic future.”

“We worked to develop a comprehensive piece of legislation that will put New Jersey on a path to economic recovery post-COVID-19 and beyond,” said Assembly Budget Chair Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin. “It includes a wide range of critical business and redevelopment incentives, which will spur growth in many areas that have been longstanding concerns for the state. New Jersey has been without an incentive program for over a year and a half, and this measure will make our businesses competitive with those in other states again. When combined with incentives to invest in technological innovation, developing brownfields, and eliminating food deserts, among others, we can help those struggling and drive the entire state forward.”

The legislation also includes a groundbreaking Food Desert Relief program designed to ensure that all communities have access to fresh, healthy food. Incentives would offset the cost of development of a fresh-food grocery store in an area designated as a food desert, while also strengthening existing community assets like bodegas, corner stores, and mid-sized retailers by equipping them with the necessary equipment and infrastructure to provide healthier food options.

The legislation reforms the state’s two main tax incentive programs, placing caps on the amount of incentives awarded each year, as well as over the life of the programs. The programs, which incorporate many of the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on EDA’s Tax Incentives, greatly enhance compliance restrictions to ensure that money is being well spent and jobs are being created, including the creation of an inspector general post to investigate claims of abuses within the programs.

The New Jersey Emerge program is a job creation tax credit focused on bringing new middle-class and well-paying jobs to our communities, with base and bonus structure for targeted industries and geographies.

The New Jersey Aspire program is a gap financing program to support commercial, industrial, mixed-use, and residential real estate development projects, with an emphasis on higher need communities.

Separate from the Emerge and Aspire program cap is a set-aside for large, transformative projects. There can be a maximum of ten such projects over the life of the incentives program.

This legislation will provide additional protections for organized labor, a longstanding promise of the governor’s, as well as community benefit agreements, which are designed to ensure an award recipient will engage and stay engaged with local government. For the first time, New Jersey’s economic development programs will include prevailing wage for building service work and labor harmony provisions, which will protect building trades and building service workers from unfair practices.

This sweeping legislation revamps several existing programs, including the successful Film and Television Tax Credit, which was expanded and enhanced to attract large studio construction to New Jersey, and the Offshore Wind Manufacturing credit, which now encompasses the entire state and will allow more businesses to qualify.

Several existing NJEDA programs have been folded into the legislation as well, including the Angel Investor Tax Credit, the Net Operating Loss Credit, and the New Jersey Ignite Program.

For a list of over 100 New Jersey leaders – spanning government, the private sector, and organized labor – who urged passage of the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020, please click here.

Hamilton Township Woman Indicted With Stealing $268,000 By Fraudulently Collecting Survivor Benefits From Deceased Husband’s Pension After She Remarried

January 7, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a woman was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $268,000 by fraudulently collecting survivor benefits from her deceased husband’s pension for nearly 10 years after she remarried and allegedly knew she was disqualified for such benefits.

Sandra VonScheven, 44, of Hamilton, Mercer County, N.J., was indicted yesterday by a state grand jury on a charge of second-degree theft by unlawful taking.  The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and the Pension and Fraud Abuse Unit of the New Jersey Department of the Treasury’s Division of Pension and Benefits.

In November 2001, VonScheven began collecting survivor spousal benefits from the pension of her deceased husband, who was a retired municipal police officer in New Jersey.  Surviving spouses are entitled to widow or widower’s benefits under the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System.  Survivor benefits continue for life or until the surviving spouse remarries.

In November 2019, the Division of Pensions and Benefits notified OPIA that VonScheven had continued to receive survivor spousal benefits from her late husband’s pension despite the fact that she remarried on Jan. 15, 2010.  It is alleged that VonScheven knew that her survivor benefits ceased when she remarried and nevertheless continued to receive the benefits every month until November 2019.  In total, she received more than $268,000 in benefits to which she was not entitled. 

Deputy Attorneys General John Nicodemo and Adam Gerken presented the case virtually to the state grand jury for the OPIA Corruption Bureau.  Detective Sonya Carney was lead detective for OPIA, and Deputy Attorney General Mallory Shanahan also assisted.  Attorney General Grewal thanked the Pension and Fraud Abuse Unit of the Department of the Treasury’s Division of Pension and Benefits for its investigation and referral.

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000.  The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw in Mercer County, where VonScheven will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.

Defense Attorney: Undetermined

Remarks by Governor Murphy on Yesterday’s Violent Insurrection in Washington, D.C.

January 7, 2021

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)– “The fact that we all woke up this morning to the reality of President-elect Joe Biden’s election formalized by the United States Congress is proof that our democracy is stronger than an unhinged mob.

The scene that unfolded yesterday in the Capitol Building will go down as one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. Every insurrectionist who tried to overthrow the free and fair election of President-elect Biden should be identified, arrested, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for desecrating the cradle of American democracy. They should be given no quarter. They are not patriots. They are the antithesis of what it means to be an American. 

This was not a protest. It was an act of domestic terrorism spurred on by the president himself and his minions. 

The president’s refusal to accept the reality that he lost an election created this. His years of lies and willful misinformation created this. His belief that the laws don’t apply to him created this. His spewing of unfounded conspiracy theories created this. His unwillingness to understand even the basic precepts of the Constitution created this.

I am relieved that the members of Congress were all safe and were able to complete their Constitutionally mandated task of counting and formalizing Joe Biden’s election as our 46th President. In two weeks, with his inauguration, the renewal of America will begin in earnest.

I have deployed 500 members of the New Jersey National Guard to Washington, DC, to assist in the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another. I trust they will represent the highest values of our state and our republic. I wish them well. And I thank Interim Adjutant General Colonel Dr. Lisa Hou and State Police Superintendent Colonel Pat Callahan for their leadership.

Make no mistake, yesterday was no accident. 

It was the result of four years of gaslighting and concerted attempts from within to weaken our democracy. But our democracy proved more resilient than the deranged conspiracy theories.  

And for that, I say, God bless America.”

Governor Murphy Announces Deployment of 500 National Guard Troops to Washington, D.C.

“Upon the request of the United States National Guard Bureau, I am authorizing the deployment of 500 members of the New Jersey National Guard to Washington, D.C. to protect our democracy and facilitate the peaceful transition of power. Our republic is built on the principles of democracy, peace, and the right of the American people to freely choose their leaders. The brave men and women of our National Guard will be deployed in order to preserve these sacred principles. May God Bless America and our brave men and women in uniform.”

Governor Murphy Signs the “Dominick Marino PFRS Enhanced Benefits for Surviving Spouses Act”

January 7, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Today, Governor Phil Murphy signed S487, also known as the “Dominick Marino PFRS Enhanced Benefits for Surviving Spouses Act”. The legislation is named after Dominick Marino, a former professional firefighter and past President of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ), who passed away earlier last year. The new law will provide financial security for a member’s surviving spouse by ensuring that the accidental death benefit provided by the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System cannot be below $50,000 annually.

“A fierce advocate who put his heart and soul into everything he did for his PFANJ brothers and sisters, Dominick was a dear friend to me and to so many of us,” said Governor Murphy. “It is my great honor to sign this bill to cement Dominick’s legacy and help ensure that our first responders’ loved ones who are left behind are taken care of.”

“The health and well-being of his firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, as well as their families, were very important to our father. He continued to work hard and fight for them every day,” said the Marino Family. “This bill is just one example of his hard work and dedication to them, and we are honored to have this bill named after him.”  

“Senate Bill 487, named after Past-President Dominick Marino exemplifies ‘Donnie’ and all that he represented as President of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ) before his untimely death in April 2020,” said Steve McConlogue, President of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey. “He was the driving force behind this bill and felt passionately about ensuring that the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice are taken care of regardless of years of service. As firefighters, we show up each and every day knowing the danger and risks involved and, just as we believe in the importance of protecting and serving the members of our communities, we believe in taking care of each other. This bill helps to ensure we are doing just that. Thank you to the members of the PFANJ who have worked tirelessly to help move this bill across the finish line and to the members of the General Assembly and Senate for passing this bill unanimously. Thank you Governor Murphy for signing this bill into law.”

“Members of the public safety community put their lives on the line every day to protect and save the lives of every person in New Jersey,” said Senator Brian Stack. “So, it is absolutely a tragedy when they die in the line of duty, and even worse when they leave behind a surviving spouse. This is why Senator Sacco and I worked to enhance the accidental death benefit of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System. Collectively, we have to look out for these families when they lose loved ones.”

“As a mayor, it breaks my heart when I read about the accidental death of a police officer or firefighter,” said Senator Nicholas Sacco. “And if I find out they left behind a surviving family; my first instinct is to do whatever I can to help regardless of where in the state they may be. Enhancing the accidental death benefit in their pension to provide a minimum amount will prevent them from having financial issues due to the loss of their spouse.”

“Too many of our first responders, unfortunately, give their lives to keep their communities safe. We will never be able to fully give back to those brave heroes, but the very least we can do is make sure their families are cared for,” said Assemblymembers Angelica Jimenez, Pedro Mejia, and Carol Murphy in a joint statement. “Expanding the accidental death pension will benefit many families of fallen police officers and firefighters. It’s another way we can continue to express our utmost respect and gratitude for their loved one’s service.” file:

File video: Dominick Marino testifies at the NJ Statehouse on June 16, 2011