The Bertini building in Bridgeton, the building that launched a thousand tongues in city council meetings as far back as Bud Maxwell as mayor, is now rubble being stuffed into one of those big, industrial Dumpsters (always with a capital D like Kleenex), and, somewhere, Warren Robinson is smiling along with Maxwell because both led the fight to have it torn down, and Maxwell came within one night of having it done until a city councilman at the time said he had a buyer for it — and he did — but the state reneged o providing historical funds to help fix it up, and we also know, somewhere, historical mavens Flavia Alaya and Penny Watson are crying.
By Jack Hummel
Radio: 92.1 FM Saturdays noon to 2 p.m.
U.S. Army: RA13815980
Google all columns at jackhummelblog
Have you ever seen the big windows on the second floor of two of those buildings on North Laurel Street in Bridgeton?
They’re huge and they’re beautiful, even though two of the four are covered with plywood and the other two are shaded by a tree, and, by the way, don’t trim those trees back to nothing anymore. Let them provide shade for shoppers until the city gets enough funds to take them down and replace the big, once considered historic looking brick sidewalks that are being uprooted by tree roots.
That possibility was introduced by public works director Dean Dellaquila back when the new library was going to happen on North Laurel Street.
Dellaquila raised his voice in a council work session, decrying how the trees were the wrong kind for downtown because the roots grow up instead of down and were pushing up the bricks.
In fact, the first sidewalk to get the new look was to be in front of the new library, still a vacant lot and not even being considered for a controlled farmers market with permanent stations.
The man who should run for city office, but wants to preserve his sanity …
“I posted a picture of the Bertini building meeting its demise. I have mixed opinions on the demolition. The city has owned the building for many years as a result of tax foreclosure. The previous owner tried to sell the property unsuccessfully. Once the city owned this admittedly interesting building, what do you propose that they should have done with it? We know that there are real estate developers who will buy “anything” at a tax sale, provided they think that the building can be rehabilitated for a reasonable cost for a suitable use or sale. NOBODY wanted the Bertini building. It was a wreck by the time the city took possession. If it wasn’t in the historic district, it would have been torn down 20 years ago.
“What would you suggest could have been done realistically? How much would you contribute through increased taxes? How many other ‘historic’ buildings would you have saved with city money – which is your money, in reality.
“It would cost a million dollars to save the Ferracute office building. We were told that it will cost a million dollars to bring the Central Methodist Church up to code. The Nail House Museum will cost about a million dollars to rehabilitate.
“Who wants to add 4 or 5 million dollars to save these buildings along with the Bertini building and a few more?”
— Sam Feinstein,
Bridgeton Community Bulletin Board
Sam still lives in the city, and how many professionals can say that?
EMS CAFE ON ROUTE 49 JUST THIS SIDE OF SALEM.
This is Ric Kuhns seeking support from the county for his Trap, Neuter/Spay, Vaccinate, Return program for feral cats:
Mr. Director and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board, 27 June ’17
My purpose here tonight is to request your endorsement for a program designed as a result of and in response to an overpopulation of free roaming cats. It’s a problem in Cumberland County that will not go away on it’s own and left unchallenged will continue to escalate as will the concerns they bring for as long as our current method of control is in use.
The program of which I speak is Trap Neuter Vaccinate Return. It’s a complete system of animal control that effectively and humanely addresses these concerns and to date, the only such method of its kind.
It’s a program that’s been gaining support due to its successful use by cities in 19 of 21 NJ counties and in cities across the U.S. One only need to look as far as Cape May to see a successful TNVR program which is modeled nationally and credited by some as being one of the first of its kind.
Alley Cat Allies has helped the Atlantic City Board of Health turn an overpopulation of free roaming cats living under its boardwalk from an eyesore into a tourist attraction thru the use of TNVR.
The NJ DOH does not endorse or oppose the concept of establishing properly managed cat colonies utilizing TNVR. However, they list a need to establish requirements for managed colony care along with effective animal control in their solution to the free roaming and feral cat situation. They leave the decision of permitting colonies to municipalities and recommend those that do, establish guidelines for proper and managed operation of the colonies. The guidelines they recommend are in line with guidelines recommended by a proper TNVR system.
HOW TNVR WORKS
TNVR works to reduce free roaming cat populations by taking away their ability to reproduce. They are trapped, surgically altered, vaccinated against disease and placed back where they were trapped to live out their 5-7 year life expectancy without the possibility of producing any more kittens.
Free roaming cats gather in places where resources such as food, water, and shelter are abundant. They share these resources and live as a colony where they bond very closely to colony mates and become very protective of the resources available. The number of cats in a colony vary by how many cats the available resources will support, and they will fend off unfamiliar cats intruding on their territory in order to protect those resources.
Our current method of animal control traps these cats and removes them to the shelter where they’re held for 7 days at the expense of the taxpayer, and then killed. Because they’re unsocialized and fear interaction with humans, only those appearing friendly and kittens between 6-8 weeks of age are spared.
Those spared are fostered for socialization and human interaction and offered for adoption. In all, 70% of all cats taken to shelters are killed, and due to their unsocialized and unadoptable status, 100% of the feral cats are killed.
The feral cats are cats that for any number of reasons have lost their homes and while living outdoors, revert back to a wild status. Mating in the wild with other free roaming or feral cats, their offspring are born with feral status.
The process used to kill these cats is called euthanasia, which, unfortunately, is a necessary evil in the sheltering process. Euthanasia is used to end the life of animals suffering from disease or injury and done out of respect for the animals pain and suffering. That’s not what’s happening with free roaming cats. These cats are being flat out killed for no other reason than that they exist.
They exist because of irresponsible pet ownership and ineffective animal control laws and methods designed to regulate household cats.These are cats living in the wild as wild animals and can’t be controlled by methods and laws that depend on an owners ability to control the actions and movements of their companion animals for compliance.
An overpopulation of a domestic companion animal is a problem we’ve never had before and demands a system of control more suited to the characteristics of its targeted species. And any system designed to control an overpopulation of free roaming cats that doesn’t include taking away their ability to reproduce will fail.
Attempts to trap and kill these colonies of cats is called eradication and as described by the ASPCA are unsuccessful because even if you’re lucky enough to trap all the cats in the colony, other cats will move in to the territory to take advantage of the available resources and will reproduce with a higher rate of survivability in order to bring the colony back to the number the resources will support. This is a species protecting phenomena known around the world as the “vacuum effect.”
TRAP AND KILL AND DISEASE
Our current trap and kill method not only allows the overpopulation to increase each day it remains as our preferred method of gaining control of this problem, it also does nothing to address the concerns of zoonotic disease, that being disease that can be passed from free roaming cats to humans. Diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis are among the most serious concern of those who oppose TNVR, although the DOH clearly calls the threat of contracting zoonotic disease low but important to human health.
Because increasing numbers of free roaming cats allowed by trap and kill increases the likelihood of their exposure to a disease like rabies, we share that concern. TNVR defends against the possibility in two ways, by vaccinating these cats at the time of their surgery which also serves to raise the total number of cats protected and by lowering the number of cats in a colony through attrition.
Toxoplasmosis on the other hand, is a disease transmitted by cats to humans through our contact with their feces. The overwhelming majority of cases of humans contracting toxoplasmosis comes from the consumption of undercooked food, the manner in which the food was cooked, and from the utensils used to consume the food.
FERAL CATS KILLING BIRDS
Another concern associated with free roaming cats is their effect on wildlife and birds in particular. It’s estimated that cats account for the killing of over one billion birds annually.
I don’t know what that translates to locally, but the fact that cats attack birds is a fact that can’t be denied. Therefore, it only makes sense to reduce the number of cats that these birds and other wildlife are exposed to. TNVR does this through attrition with no possibility of a next generation to contend with. Land development remains the number one threat to birds and wildlife, yet developers remain unchallenged as they continue chewing up hundreds of acres at a time building houses that most of us can’t afford to live in that force wildlife closer to where these cats are.
The number of free roaming cats being complained about today that are preying on birds and threatening the wildlife will have increased as you begin each future Freeholder meeting until trap and kill is replaced as our method of control.
In a poll taken by Alley Cat Allies of people who admitted to disliking cats as a species resulted in over 80% who said that they didn’t want removed cats killed if they could instead be relocated, and approx. 55% said they could remain in their neighborhood if something was done to eliminate the constant flow of kittens, the large gatherings that fight, spray urine everywhere and yowl at all hours of day and night.
These are all annoyances associated with the mating process. A female in heat emits a chemical in their urine indicating their fertility that’s easily detected by intact males in the area and their blood curdling yowl indicates their readiness to mate and can be heard by intact males from as far as a mile away. Responding to her calls, males spray and fight to establish dominance and their opportunity to mate. TNVR relieves these annoyances as the colony is stabilized. (term used to describe a colony in which all of its cats are spayed or neutered)
TRAP AND KILL TAXES SHELTER
Trap and kill works to keep our shelter space full, as cats turned in must be held for a week before they can be killed. In Cumberland County, the cost to board a cat for the mandatory hold period before it’s killed and it’s body disposed of runs just shy of $150 per cat.
The 7-day boarding fee of $75 per adult cat is less for kittens, for which we’re charged $45 per, which although less than an adult cat, the average number of kittens in a litter is 3-6.
A cat received that needs to be seen by a vet is examined with an additional $35 fee, and a cat that requires further medical care by the shelter, is cared for with an attached fee of $30 which doesn’t include the cost of any necessary medications. In the case of an eradication of a large number of cats in a colony, this is a very costly venture only to have those cats replaced by additional cats at the same location within a couple short months reproducing at a higher rate of survival in order to protect the species.
Low-cost spay and neutering has been available in Cumberland County since 2010 through AFF’s network of area vets and clinics with our voucher program that reduces the cost to $50 for males and $75 for females and that includes vaccinations against rabies and distemper as well as tipping the left ear, a process that removes the tip of the left ear which is the universal sign identifying that cat as having been spay or neutered as well as vaccinated against disease.
SAVING TAXPAYERS MONEY
With the welcome arrival of another non-profit spay/neuter organization to the area called People For Animals that perform the surgeries from within, spay/neuter services and associated vaccinations are now available to free roaming cats at $35 per cat.
That’s a savings of taxpayer money of well over $100 per cat with no chance of producing more kittens. There’s an old saying that I just made up that states, Neuter and Spay keeps the kittens away. Not many solutions for a local government’s problems include an untapped resource for government funds.
Many towns changing to TNVR use the savings to offset an increase of taxes while others use it to fund other necessary programs or to provide additional low cost s/n services in support of its own program making it self sustaining.
As described, TNVR lessens the strain on shelters in that fewer cats are received to be needlessly killed. Unfortunately,in Cumberland County the shelters hands are tied by the contractural obligations placed on them by the desires of the city’s it serves.
Even with those obligations in place, this years continual flow of intake has twice forced our shelter’s director to make public pleas through her weekly column in the Daily Journal as recently as this morning for people to do everything they can to help spay or neuter any free roaming cat in their neighborhood.
HOW CATS ARE BEING SAVED
The percentage of cats killed by our shelter each year have been historically in line with the national average of 70%. Only in the past couple of years, and due entirely to the creative workings of its director and a staff dedicated to the care of the animals they receive, have those numbers dropped by more than 20% .
This was made possible by agreements made to outsource adoptable kittens to areas where breeding seasons are cut short by longer seasons of cold weather, and by cooperating with local animal welfare groups to return cats with tipped ears back to the care of the managed colony from where they were picked up.
TNVR is currently being practiced by hundreds of citizens in our communities, either on their own, or as part of an existing program in our cities that have previously adopted a feral cat ordinance, but, unfortunately, for different reasons, have not adopted TNVR as the valued resource that it is.
TNVR MUST BE PROPERLY INSTITUTED
As the sponsoring organization of the programs in those cities, Animal Friends Foundation accepts partial blame for sponsoring an ordinance that contained elements contrary to proper TNVR. To our credit, when those elements came to light, we dropped the program and pulled our sponsorship. This was 5 years ago and mistakes were made, some by them and some by us (mostly them, though).
“I’ve been told many times that TNVR is nothing more than a program designed by a bunch of angry, upset, crazy freakin’ cat people who just want to feed cats. And our cities that currently allow TNVR by way of a feral cat ordinance have altered the elements of the system and placed restrictions on it that won’t allow it to work as designed in order to achieve the desired results.
TNVR also provides sample ordinances that allow the program to progress and can also simply suggest the additions and exemptions necessary to make an existing ordinance TNVR friendly. TNVR is a specific recipe for lowering a free roaming cat population and its elements act as ingredients. And everyone knows that you can’t change the ingredients and expect mom’s soup to taste the same.
FREEHOLDER ENDORSEMENT NECESSARY
Your endorsement will give the system the validity it deserves and support for us as we revisit our cities who currently have TNVR ordinances in order to review their program and correct the things that are currently affecting the intended results.
It will also indicate the suggested desire for our communities to unify countywide the services we request of the shelter we contract with as we approach the remaining communities where trap and kill is the only option. Recent actions by two more of our communities expressing the desire to learn more about TNVR and the willingness of another to begin the process indicate that support for TNVR in Cumberland County is gaining in popularity. Your endorsement will also lend confidence to local government leaders who have an interest in TNVR, to present that interest to their residents.
The animal control officers that serve our communities can have the largest impact on TNVR and, because they serve the demands of the city, they represent, a city that adopts TNVR would expect their officers to serve as ambassadors to the process and help promote the system to its residents in order to gain public support. For close to four decades we’ve allowed or current system to be our preferred method of choice in our attempts to get control of this problem and as Dr. Phil would say, “how’s that working for ya”?
Many of the people currently practicing TNVR are doing so under the cover of darkness because of local laws that prohibit feeding, and the fear of repercussions from neighbors who simply don’t like cats. Why ? Because it works, and they’ve seen the number of cats in the colony they manage reduce as time passes without the introduction of any more kittens.
HOW RIC GOT INVOLVED
My personal involvement with the colony in our neighborhood began after learning that two of our elected officials had been successfully practicing TNVR for a few years. My wife and I became involved after two free roaming female cats being fed by a neighbor dumped 16 kittens on us between them in less than two weeks and we scrambled to decide how to proceed before number 17 made its appearance. Unfortunately, it took some time to trap them all and have them spayed and neutered and in that time number 17 did make its appearance, shortly before numbers 18 thru 24. That was 5 years ago and the number of cats has dropped to about 14. There are generally one or two that you don’t see for a while and then show up again weeks later.
So TNVR has worked for us in our neighborhood just as it has for the others. Residents only need to support the effort in their own neighborhood and not be concerned with the overwhelming numbers nationwide. If we each support the effort in our own neighborhood, free roaming cats will disappear from city backgrounds. Free roaming cats are community cats. And community cats are a problem that the community needs to fix, together. And the message I want our community leaders to hear is, “Promote TNVR and let us help you with our problem.”
In closing, I respectfully ask that the ladies and gentlemen of our Board of Chosen Freeholders endorse TNVR on behalf of our residents who support all animals whether domestic or wild, the taxpaying watchdog, the quality of life of the citizens of Cumberland Co. and last but certainly not least, the angry upset crazy freakin cat people who just want to feed cats.
Mr. director, and ladies and gentlemen of the board, thank you for your time, and for providing a format that allows me the opportunity to present this issue.
— Ric Kuhns,
Animal Friends Foundation
One year ago today on this site …
“Jerry Young and Terry Gould of Tri-City HOPE and Tri City Boxing programs spoke on some very important issues today for the ‘Takes A Village’ documentary!
“One was about doing community work from the HEART and not for recognition! Intrinsic rewards should be the greatest reward for doing our type of work!
“It’s the only reward and recognition that kept me motivated throughout my 8-9 years of community and youth development!
“Seeing my youth grow and learn is worth more to me than a newspaper article or any other kind of recognition!
“Great Work, Brothers!”
— Bryan Real
So where is the video, Bryan?
Kristi Birtch, one of our favorite teachers in the Bridgeton school system answering back to a tirade against the system …
“That’s all I was saying … that there are positive things happening in the schools. I’m not arguing or saying what you feel isn’t important because it is. We do not set the policies, but I/we do care about education and all children … chiIdren are not livestock at any school.
“I would also encourage anyone to attend board meetings and become involved in the activities in the schools as you are able.
“And to answer the question about being a puppet. I assure you that every day I go to work it is with the focus of educating children and I care. I am very proud of what I do. I am proud of students. I am proud of families and I am proud of the journey we all take in learning.
“Rules are there for everyone, but, again, I am not a puppet. I am a teacher. I am rewarded constantly by students. I follow the guidelines of my job. Doesn’t everyone?
“Please understand that my focus is my students, so if caring about the education of children and teaching them makes others think I am a puppet, so be it. It doesn’t change my focus. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, though.”
— Kristi Birtch
YOU CAN BOOK IT: We have met the teachers and it is us, the parents, not them, who screw up any chance of education succeeding, and the state only perpetuates it with all the paperwork it requires, plus a governor who wouldn’t know a poor community if he fell into it.