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Archives for May 26, 2016

Your guide to Allentown’s Mayfair: music, art, kids events

In its three years at the Allentown Fairgrounds, the Mayfair Festival of the Arts has more than three times the participants in its artist market than it had in its last year at the often-muddy Cedar Creek Park. And last year, the festival drew 30,000 people over its four days, its biggest attendance in years.

And, perhaps most importantly, Mayfair announced in November it had climbed out of debt.

So when Mayfair starts its 30th anniversary festival Friday, organizers say they’re not straying far from the new winning formula.

It still will be an indoor-outdoor festival, located in and around the fairgrounds’ Agri-Plex building.

Mayfair's music festivals

Mayfair’s music festivals

Allentown’s Mayfair Festival of the Arts will again offer genre-specific “mini festivals.”

Here are the lineups:

BLUES FESTIVAL, Discovery Stage (outdoors, Chew street side),

Brian Brazil/Hard Case Blues Band, 5 p.m. Friday

Dana Gaynor Band, 7 p.m. Friday

Live at the Fillmore: Allman Brothers…

Allentown’s Mayfair Festival of the Arts will again offer genre-specific “mini festivals.”

Here are the lineups:

BLUES FESTIVAL, Discovery Stage (outdoors, Chew street side),

Brian Brazil/Hard Case Blues Band, 5 p.m. Friday

Dana Gaynor Band, 7 p.m. Friday

Live at the Fillmore: Allman Brothers…

Read the story

“After many years of figuring out how to set up the various segments of Mayfair festival in this location, we are settling into a good groove,” Mayfair Executive Director Arlene Daily says. “We tweaked things from year to year, but last year seemed to be the best of everything — layout, hours and programming — so we are sticking with it.”

One significant change will be a higher admission fee.

Mayfair cut in half the price of an all-festival admission pass — from $10 to $5 — when it moved to the fairgrounds three years ago as it looked to regain its footing. But this year, the price goes up to $8. Advance tickets at are $6.

Family: KidSpace at Mayfair offers music, art, theater

Family: KidSpace at Mayfair offers music, art, theater

A folk singer who has played at both Mayfair and Godfrey Daniels will bring his kids show to Mayfair for the first time Saturday.

John Flynn is one of the many entertainers performing on the KidStage at Mayfair Festival of the Arts Friday through Monday at the Allentown Fairgrounds.

The annual…

A folk singer who has played at both Mayfair and Godfrey Daniels will bring his kids show to Mayfair for the first time Saturday.

John Flynn is one of the many entertainers performing on the KidStage at Mayfair Festival of the Arts Friday through Monday at the Allentown Fairgrounds.

The annual…

(Kathy Lauer-Williams)

“It’s really just trying to make this sustainable,” Daily says. “The board decided that, after so many years, everything else in the economy has gone up. We’re trying to figure out how to make it financially doable.

“There are tons of dreams, there’s lots of things that we could do with the festival. But having the money to do it is the question.”

Here is what Mayfair is doing this year.

Mini music festivals return

Mayfair last year expanded its music offerings by organizing them into genre-specific festivals: blues, bluegrass, folk, classic rock and country.

“There was a real excitement about the music festivals,” Daily says. They went over so well that all are back again. They’re even on the same days, with blues offerings again on three nights: Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

This year, there are eight festivals, with the addition of an Americana night. Daily says the biggest reason was to find a place for the festival’s featured artist — Slambovian Circus of Dreams, a theatrical music troupe that mixes genres.

“I think they’re brilliant. It’s such a beautifully weird act,” Daily says. “They fit so many genres that they don’t fit any genre.”

Daily says she was going to put the band on the folk day, but its show requires a lot of time to set up, so it was impractical to have anything but a solo acoustic act (Adam Frei) before it.

So she scheduled Friday as Americana night 5-9:30 p.m. on both the outdoor Liberty Stage, nearest Liberty Street, and the indoor Collectors Café stage.

A third stage, the Discovery Stage, is on the Chew Street side of the Agri-Plex parking lot.

Performers are a mix of local and regional acts, including folksinger John Flynn, blues rocker Craig Thatcher, Live at the Fillmore Allman Brothers Tribute, Crazy Hearts, Eric Mintel Quartet and Large Flowerheads.

Visual arts

More than 100 visual artists will participate in Mayfair’s Artist market, with most artists inside the Agri-Plex but some outside.

Some of the new vendors are Goldie’s Creations ceramic flowers, Mary-Lynn Moffett’s whimsical sculptures, Mistura Timepieces selling watches made from wood, Timber Tiki Traditions fashions and True Blue Collections selling cotton hand-dyed with indigo plants.

But the market again will feature traditional wares such as pottery, photography, jewelry and paintings.

The juried arts exhibition is back, with a display of 25 pieces chosen by Christine I. Oaklander, the former director of collections and exhibitions at Allentown Art Museum and arts coordinator for Lehigh Valley Health Networks. All the artists are from the Lehigh Valley region except two from New Jersey and one from Denver, Colo. Prizes will be awarded for three selections of artwork, and a jury prize for one artist, funded by Oaklander.

The gallery will offer an exhibition from last year’s winners — Steven Sitrin, Anita Gladstone and Jacqueline Lewis.

New is a sculpture garden combining landscape art with metal sculptures by Liberian-born Eugene Perry. Many of his pieces are colorful and move with the wind to complement foliage and flowers.

Landscaping has been featured for three years at Mayfair by landscape contractor John Sunny of Sunny Lawn and Landscape. This year, Perry’s sculpture will be added.

“Instead of a sculpture sitting inside a 10-by-10-foot booth, it will show what it really would be like in landscape,” Daily says.

Also exhibiting in the sculpture garden will be Hershel Dorney, a retired landscaper whose work was featured in previous years. The garden is designed as a walk-through exhibit, Daily says.

The Pigpen Project in the livestock pens behind the Agri-Plex will once again offer experimental art from Allentown Arts Collective, a group of new and established artists offering not only installations, but poetry and music 6-8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Other art “events” include Barnaby Ruhe conducting a marathon portrait painting in the indoor Artists Market noon-6 p.m. daily, and Dave Terwilliger, founder of Appalachia Brooms, with his wife, Judy, demonstrating traditional crafts of broom-making and spinning with fibers including llama, angora and silk during artist market hours.

Food and drink

There will be about 20 food vendors, the same number as last year, with many of them being food trucks.

Most of the favorites will be back: Vince’s Cheesesteaks, Bull Bear Restaurant and Heaven on a Bun, as well as an ice cream vendor and kettle corn.

Concessions include Asian Fusion, Edie’s Eatery, Karas Grill, MMG Concessions, Rose’s Concessions and Mr. BBQ911.

Beer and wine booths are back, open 4-9 Friday, noon-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and noon-5:30 p.m. Monday. Beer and wine booths will accept cash, but you still have to pay food vendors with tickets, again in 50-cent increments.

For children

Mayfair’s KidSpace also is back, with a crafts pavilion offering activities as varied as building your own robot, a chance to participate in a Middle Earth Studios theater production and musical performances.

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The White House Inn is ready for summer

WILMINGTON — The White House Inn’s back in action.

“The White House is one of our off-mountain properties,” said Matthew St. Pierre, director of restaurant operations for the Hermitage Club. “It’s our jewel on the hill.”

Starting Friday, the restaurant will reopen to the public. Sunday brunches, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., are set to begin this weekend too.

Brunch will be served a la carte with live music. Eggs Benedict, egg sandwiches, stuffed challah bread french toast, Belgian waffles, yogurt parfait, smoked trout, salads and fried chicken are some of the selections.

A sushi bar will be set up for the summer. Burgers, a big part of the menu, are sold at prices between $12 and $15.

The Hermitage Club announced its acquisition of the inn in June 2015. The business reopened in January under the company after various renovations were completed.

Executive chief Chris Bonnivier said the inn was sited to be a farm-to-table property last year. He spent the last few weeks visiting local farms such as Boyd Family Farm and Adams Farm, both in Wilmington, and Jersey Girls Dairy Farm and Ephraim Mountain Farm.

“Farm to table is such a cliche statement, if you will. It’s a practice I’ve been in for my career for the extent of 35 years. I’m from Berkshire County (Massachusetts). It’s important that this property and all the properties are sustainable,” said Bonnivier. “It’s important we’re giving back the community. You put great product in, you put great product out.”

St. Pierre showed the Reformer a space for wedding nuptials in the backyard, saying the finishing touches were being put on landscaping. A 40-by-50 foot vegetable garden will help sustain the kitchen through the summer, he said, and all the meat products are smoked onsite.

The living room will be set up as the main dining room in a redesign of the space.

“We will keep the integrity of the original dining room,” said St. Pierre.

Some plans for additional growth are in the works. Keeping the inn’s historic nature is one of the main goals for the company.

“The property is still evolving for us but the template is here,” said St. Pierre, hopeful that Starbucks coffee products will soon be sold there. “The area is lacking in coffee.”

Movie nights using an inflatable movie screen are being scheduled. And sledding during the winter will return to the hill outside the inn.

Mrs. Brown, the original owner of the property, is said to still be seen sometimes walking around the property. According to St. Pierre, her ghost has been sighted by both staff and guests.

“They catch a glimpse of someone turning a corner,” he said. “But the energy is friendly.”

Matthew St. Pierre, left, director of restaurant operations for the Hermitage Club, Chris Bonnivier, center, corporate executive chef for the HermitageMatthew St. Pierre, left, director of restaurant operations for the Hermitage Club, Chris Bonnivier, center, corporate executive chef for the Hermitage Club, and Brendan McGrail, right, director of communications for the Hermitage Club, stand by The White House Inn, in Wilmington, Vt. (Kristopher Radder — Reformer Staff)

A room upstairs previously belonging to Mrs. Brown is rented at a slightly higher price than others. But it’s not just because of the lore. The unit overlooks the Deerfield Valley and downtown Wilmington.

Altogether, 23 guestrooms are available. And there’s a secret stairwell that has sparked some ideas for future plans but nothing concrete just yet.

“It will be integrated into the flow of the building and business as well,” said St. Pierre.

Brendan A. McGrail, director of communications at the Hermitage Club, said members would be returning for Memorial Day activities planned by the company, which runs a private ski resort at Haystack Mountain, the Deerfield Valley Airport and a golf course open to the public Monday through Friday. Restaurants at the golf course, Hermitage Inn, and Piacenza’s at the Inn at Sawmill Farm are also open to the public. A restaurant at the clubhouse and eateries on Haystack are for members only.

The Hermitage Inn has options for fine dining or tavern food. Build-your-own selections will give customers a chance to mix ingredients for macaroni and cheese, burgers and pasta. The restaurant will be open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but it will close until June 17. Then tavern food will be available seven days a week with fine dining on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Piacenza’s operations will start up again on June 17. Food will be served Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

“Piacenza’s is going to be identifiable,” said Bonnivier, adding that the Italian menu has been remade into a more Americanized and affordable one.

Contact Chris Mays at or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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News Release: Assemblyman Williams Urges Water Conservation, Demonstrates Drought-Conscious Landscaping

(Carpinteria, CA) – With the end of the drought nowhere in sight and after months of legislating on state water conservation, Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Carpinteria) is urging constituents to do their part to protect water resources. Williams is attempting to lead by example, by recently landscaping his own backyard with native and drought tolerant plants and materials. Watch this Assembly Access Video to learn how Assemblymember Williams is doing his part to make his home more water sustainable: Watch the video here:
Williams believes that by demonstrating water saving techniques in his own life he can set an example for others. Here are some helpful tips and facts that are presented in the video:
Drought tolerant landscaping and water conservation are important year-round. During times of drought water conservation is especially important, but creating a lifestyle of water savings will result in conservation year-round, even if drought conditions are not present.
Monkey Flower (Mimulus) is an excellent way to add color to an outdoor space without sacrificing water savings. These plants renew continually, so they will keep their color throughout the year.
Planting milkweed (Asclepias) in both native and non-native varieties are highly nutritious for caterpillars, especially those that will become Monarch butterflies. The Monarch population is suffering across California, so planting the drought-tolerant milkweed is a great way to save water and help replenish our butterfly population.
South African Red Fern (Leucadendron) comes in a variety of colors and is a highly drought tolerant plant, making it a great plant for front yards and planter boxes.
White sage (Salvia apiana) The flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other insects. A low maintenance ornamental plant.
To prevent animals from digging up root systems, chicken wire can be used to make small baskets that protect the roots of plants. Pre-made chicken wire baskets can also be purchased at your local hardware store.
Laying down black landscaping fabric before covering an area with mulch will help prevent weeds and allow the soil to retain more moisture during extremely dry periods. Rolls of landscaping fabric can be purchased at most hardware and gardening stores.
Mulch makes for a great ground cover that retains water and prevents weeds. Mulch comes in a variety of colors, allowing for unique styles and low-maintenance ground cover. Free mulch is available to Santa Barbara County residents.
Drainage is crucial! In order to distribute water effectively and avoid flooding during heavy rains, it is important to make sure your drainage system is free of clogs and able to handle rainfall. Placing river stones over drain covers can help prevent debris from clogging drain inlets.
Planting vegetables like arugula and snap peas as part of drought tolerant landscaping is an excellent way to grow food and maintain water savings. Using a drip irrigation system will allow the plants to get just the right amount of moisture without excessive waste.
While thoughtful landscaping is a great way to save water and keep California beautiful throughout the drought, it’s only one of many things residents can do to increase the state’s water sustainability. For other ideas about how to save water throughout your home and in your everyday life, visit Save Our Water is a statewide program aimed at helping Californians to reduce everyday water use through conservation ideas, inspiration and tips.

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Turfing lawn for lettuce, micro-clover or even polypropylene greens

It’s the time of year when Canadians start watering, weeding and mowing the green, green grass of home.

North America has long had a love affair with the lawn as a symbol of domestic pride and the scene of summer fun. But is that relationship souring?

Lawn alternatives gaining ground

Increasing concerns about climate change, water shortages and the environmental impacts of fertilizers and pesticides have some Canadians rethinking the conventional lawn and considering alternatives like food gardens, fake turf or xeriscapes — landscaping with low-water needs.

Turf Grass

Canadians are rethinking the conventional lawn. This UBC Botanical Garden lawn includes clover, yarrow and tall fescue grass to make it more drought-resistant. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Even the traditional uniform “carpet” of Kentucky Bluegrass is beginning to evolve, as heartier micro-clovers and tall fescue grasses enter the market as an answer to drought and pests.

A troubled relationship

The conventional turf grass lawn began to take hold in North American during the post-Second World War real estate boom.

“Suddenly people were homeowners like never before … so these landscapes and suburbanization just mushroomed,” said Paul Robbins, author of Lawn People: How Grass, Weeds and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are.

Turf grass was an easy way to for developers to fill up the tracts of land surrounding these new houses, but lawns proved to be incredibly difficult for homeowners to manage in the decades that followed.

“As I’ve learned about birds and insects, and the inter-relationships, when I look at a lawn like this, I see diversity, and that to me is beautiful.”
– Egan Davis, UBC Botanical Garden Horticulturalist

“Once you have a lawn, you are expected to mow it, you have to keep it green,” says Robbins. “It isn’t just having grass. It’s having a nice, well-maintained landscape that doesn’t look overrun and give you frowns from your neighbors.”

That can be costly, in more ways than one. Canadians spent more than $2 billion on lawn and garden supplies in 2015. At the same time water shortages in parts of North America, including most of British Columbia in 2015, led some municipalities to reconsider the perpetually green lawn.

Robbins, who is also the director of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says parts of California and Arizona offer “lawn buy-backs” where homeowners get a rebate for every inch of turf they take out.

Trading turf for turnips

Anna Galvin is one of an increasing number of Canadians who’ve opted to exchange all or part of their lawn for a food garden. After fighting a losing battle with the European chafer beetle, she contacted Victory Gardens, a Vancouver-based company that helps people grow food.

Turf Grass 2

Lisa Girody of Victory Gardens is helping homeowners convert their lawns to foodscapes. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

They completely replaced Galvin’s ravaged lawn with lush vegetable and herb plots, berry bushes and fruit trees, and she has no regrets.

“I don’t think anyone feels good about watering a lawn just to make it look green, particularly when there are watering restrictions. And when you’re battling beetles and a shabby-looking lawn, why not get rid of it and do something useful with your garden?” said Galvin, who is looking forward to learning how to grow food with her 12-year-old daughter.

Lisa Girody of Victory Gardens says the company is seeing a steady increase in customers year after year, as people embrace less lawn and more food.

“They believe in supporting local agriculture and putting food in their bodies that they feel good about and feeding that food to their families,” said Girody.

 “It’s the people who are already invested in a healthy lifestyle, and one that supports them and the planet.”

Plastic paradise?

For people who want the look of the lawn but not the hassle, artificial grass is becoming an increasingly popular option. Lawrence McClure of Syn Lawn Vancouver says the company went from 180 home installations a few year ago to over 450 last year.

“The technology has come a long way in the last 15 years,” said McClure, who admits a synthetic lawn is not for everyone. “Every year it gets more and more popular, as people become aware of the business.”

Turf 3

Some homeowners are opting for artificial grass as a permanent solution to damage from pests and pets. (SynLawn Canada-Vancouver)

McClure said the polypropylene and nylon surfaces are popular with customers who are looking for a permanent solution to chafer beetle and pet damage. A 650-square-foot lawn can cost between between $7,000 and  $8,000, which is what McClure estimates the average homeowner spends in a six-year period on a conventional lawn.

Redefining expectations

Landscaper and educator Egan Davis thinks North Americans need to redefine what they expect from their yards.

“It’s astonishing how much water a lawn and garden takes, and it doesn’t need to be that way,” said Davis, head of horticultural education at the UBC Botanical Garden.

He recently installed low-maintenance xeriscapes for clients who no longer wanted put water and time into a conventional lawn. These gardens incorporate native grasses and wildflowers, alpine plants, and trees that require little-to-no water.

For those who want to keep a lawn, Davis recommends incorporating drought-resistant micro-clover, tall fescue grasses and even yarrow — plants he would have considered weeds 20 years ago.

Turf 4

Landscaper and horticultural instruction Egan Davis wants people to consider alternative landscapes, like this collection of native plants at the UBC Botanical Garden. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

“As I’ve learned about birds and insects, and the inter-relationships, when I look at a lawn like this, I see diversity, and that to me is beautiful.”

Defending turf

The lawn still has staunch defenders. Turf grass makes up the majority of home landscapes Canada, and with good reason, according to Professor Katerina Jordan of the Guelph Turf Grass Institute.

“It’s just an amazing plant,” said Jordan.

“There are not too many plants out there that you can cut and they’ll grow back, that you can fall on and not get hurt, that can stop soil erosion, and that actually return water to the groundwater system and filter pollutants.”

Jordan said turf grass also cool cities and give people a place to play.

“It’s more than just about aesthetics,”said Jordan, who believes a well-maintained lawn is a sustainable lawn.

“You get so many incredible benefits from turf.”

To hear the Victoria Day special Lawn Gone? about our changing relationship with our lawns, click the audio labelled: Lawn Gone?

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Pleasant Ridge Home & Garden Tour highlights new, classic styles June 4

The small city of Pleasant Ridge (population 2,569, area 366 acres) is the location of many historic homes and gardens. So it’s no wonder the local historical society wanted to show them off in an annual fundraising tour.

The home and garden tour is a chance to get inside historic properties, see how the owners live and collect new ideas for decorating and gardening.

“This year is a unique tour for us in that we have several recently built and renovated homes which are vacant and therefore entice realty sales and give visitors a renewed appreciation for custom architectural details and a fresh perspective on imagining interior design possibilities,” Pleasant Ridge Historical Commission Chairman Don Hoefler said in a public statement.

The 12th Annual Home and Garden Tour of Historical Pleasant Ridge, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 4, features eight sites in a combination of home styles and garden designs. They include:

• 21 Kenberton (home and garden), a 1938 art deco-style home with wonderful detail at the front, new door and shutter detail and art tile on the front façade.

• 2 Kensington (garden), an eclectic 50×120 lot garden of a 1928 home, matching many varieties of plants and flowers.

• 5 Kensington (home and garden), a 1950s bungalow being remodeled into a craftsman/prairie craftsman style home with an added second floor.

• 57 Maywood (home and garden), a 2016 construction with details showcasing current trends in the home-building industry.

• 92 Oakdale (home and garden), a 1925 English Tudor with great brick work, an addition in the rear, beamed ceilings and new front landscaping.

• 7 Oakland Park (home), a 1937 brick Georgian colonial saved from condemnation, which is yet to be rehabbed but has intricate details and lovely bones.

• 17 Oakland Park (garden), a beautiful traditional garden given loving care by the same owners for more than 42 years.

• 37 Oxford (home and garden), a 1936 English Tudor that stands out on a street full of Tudors, it has hip roofs, fancy brickwork on the gables and nice copper details over bay windows.

Mayor Kurt Metzger thanked those who opened their properties to the public.

“The Pleasant Ridge Home and Garden Tour is one of the many special events that take place in our city — an opportunity for visitors and residents alike to look beyond the front doors that hold the key to the diversity of our community’s fabric,” he said in a statement.

“I want to extend my appreciation to the residents who open their homes to the public, the docents who will be on hand to inform visitors about the history of the homes, the members of the Pleasant Ridge Historical Commission who sponsor the event, and everyone else who works so hard to make this event a continued success.”

Proceeds from this year’s tour will fund improvements and maintenance of the Pleasant Ridge Historical Museum and surrounding gardens, as well as supporting ongoing events such as the Pleasant Ridge Speaker Series.

Advance tickets are $15 at or at the Pleasant Ridge City Hall on Woodward Avenue or the Recreation Center, 4 Ridge Road. Tickets purchased on the day of the tour are $20, available from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. behind City Hall. For more information, call 248-541-2901 or visit

Pleasant Ridge was incorporated in 1927 and many of its homes are part of a nationally recognized historic district. The Pleasant Ridge Historical Commission was established in the early 1960’s, and operates the city’s historical museum, known affectionately as the Police Booth, during monthly open hours at 23925 Woodward Ave.

— Nicole M. Robertson

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Mulch and the mob: NJ recycling is dirty business, commission says

TRENTON—€” Investigators said they tracked the trucks carrying dirt and construction debris from a development site in the Bronx to a Hurricane Sandy-damaged beach along the Raritan Bay in New Jersey.

There, a middleman with ties to organized crime arranged to use the contaminated fill to replenish erosion at Cliffwood Beach in Old Bridge, violating local and state regulations, authorities claim.

At a Statehouse hearing Wednesday, an attorney from the State Commission of Investigation, Andrew Cliver, had questions for the so-called dirt broker: How did he set up the deal? How much did he pay the guy who dumped it? How many truckloads did he send there?

Frank Gillette wasn’t talking.

“I invoke my Fifth Amendment right,” he said over and over, exercising his right to avoid self-incrimination after being subpoenaed by the SCI as part of its probe into illegal dumping by unregulated recycling companies.

Officials at the independent state watchdog, which was formed in the late 1960s to investigate public corruption and organized crime, say the criminal element cast out of New York and New Jersey’s garbage industries decades ago never really cleaned up their act.

They just got into the recycling business.

Lee Seglem, the acting executive director of the SCI, said Wednesday that licensing loopholes allow dirt and construction fill tinged with cancer-causing contaminants to be used in neighborhood developments, in restoration projects along waterways and potentially end up in residential flowerbeds as topsoil.

While there are regulations in place that specify what kind of fill can be used where, the chain of custody of these harmful materials is often obscured by a series of unlicensed middlemen wheeling and dealing with little oversight, the commission found.

“It should surprise no one that the architects of this toxic trafficking include organized crime associates and convicted criminals,” Seglem said.

Special agents from the SCI testified Wednesday that those looking to get into the trash-hauling or solid waste disposal businesses are subject to detailed background checks conducted by the State Police, and state laws ban anyone with a criminal record from getting a license.

But recycling middlemen like the dirt brokers are exempt from such checks under state law. As one witness told investigators: “All you need is a fax and a phone line and you’re in business.”

Seglem said the result of that loophole is abuse spanning from Palmyra to Newark. Investigators and environmental officials testified the state Department of Environmental Protection lacks the manpower and regulatory muscle to stop it.

Carol Palmer, a special agent with the commission, said the shady dirt brokers undermine legitimate recycling businesses who struggle to compete with their cut-rate prices.

Palmer said the DEP “has been quick to respond” when investigators reported illegal dumping to the agency. But, she added, “the lack of a regulatory scheme for these brokers means the NJ DEP has no way of proactively stopping this behavior.”

The special agent testified that taxpayers can also be left on the hook for cleanup costs when the dumping is discovered too late. 

Special agents from the SCI appear at a public hearing in Trenton.  

In the Cliffwood Beach case, authorities say Gillette worked with another dirt broker, Gregory Guido, who arranged with homeowners near the eroded beach cliff to bring in fill they hoped would stabilize their properties in the weeks after Hurricane Sandy. 

The price was right, said Special Agent Joseph Bredehoft. Guido allegedly offered it free of charge. 

When the homeowners saw what was coming in off the trucks — fill flecked with crumbled concrete, splintered wood and gnarled rebar — they grew suspicious and called the deal off, he said, but the damage was done.

All told, Guido allegedly brought 7,000 cubic yards — 350 truckloads — of construction debris. Much of it spilled onto town-owned land along the beach, and Old Bridge’s business manager, Christopher Marion, testified it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remediate the site, capping the tainted fill in place. 

Gillette has ties to organized crime and has been previously convicted for petty larceny in New York and for passing bad checks in New Jersey, authorities said.

Investigators say they also connected him to a south Jersey recycling facility run by Bradley Sirkin, a Florida man who served time in federal prison on racketeering charges and has his own ties to mob families in New York and Philadelphia. 

Mob is still dumping in NJ, state says

During 2012 and 2013, authorities say Sirkin operated the recycling center, approved only to accept vegetative waste including leaves, branches and grass clippings, which it resold as mulch to landscapers and members of the public. 

Authorities say they connected the recycling center to a company run by an undisclosed member of the Bonanno crime family and affiliated with Gillette.

When they began scrutinizing the business, the now-defunct Jersey Recycling Services, they allegedly found it was taking in more than grass clippings. Special Agent Michael Dancisin testified the center — which was only approved to take in 20,000 cubic yards of landscaping waste — took in more than 380,000 cubic yards of soil and construction debris.

Dancisin said the construction debris sat in the open near the mulch piles, creating the possibility that cancer-causing contaminants from projects in Camden and New Brunswick found their way into topsoil destined for backyard vegetable gardens. 

Sirkin did not appear at the hearing on Wednesday. His attorney sent a letter informing the commission his client would “assert the Fifth Amendment privilege.”

S.P. Sullivan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter. Find on Facebook.  

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Ruth Correll: Gardening tips for May

Plant butterfly weed (Asclepias), parsley, dill, rue and pipevine to encourage butterflies in your garden. The foliage of these plants provides food for the caterpillars. Aristolochia fimbriata is a lovely ground-cover-type of pipevine that is covered each year by the pipevine swallowtail caterpillar at the UT Gardens, Jackson. It may be a little hard to find for sale, but it is worth seeking out. 

Early May is a good time to cut back bushy woody perennials, like rosemary, rue, lavender, Santolina and Artemisia. If you haven’t done so already, prune spring-flowering shrubs (azaleas, flowering quince, Forsythia and Loropetalum), but only if they need it. To keep their forms more natural in appearance, as opposed to looking like a meatball, follow the taller branches down into the shrub and cut just above a joint. 

A good option for Loropetalums that have outgrown their space is to prune them into a tree-form. They easily can be limbed up by removing lower branches. Loropetalum ‘Crimson Fire’ is a dwarf form that has proven to be hardy in all but the coldest part of Tennessee. As with all Loropetalums, they are best planted in spring or summer in insure proper establishment before the winter months. It will mature to 3-feet tall, and can be seen growing at the UT Gardens in both Knoxville and Jackson.

Remove the flowering stalks on yucca as they begin to form if you dislike the look of the bloom. Cut them off down in the foliage at the source, and you won’t even know they were there. Old flower stems can be removed from lungwort so not to distract from the lovely foliage. 

Caladiums and vinca need warm soil. Caladium tubers will rot in cool soil, and vinca will be disease-prone, or exhibit stunted growth. Night temperatures should regularly be above 60 degrees F before planting them.

You can still direct seed easy-to-grow flowering annuals and vegetables. Some easy flowers to grow from seed include marigold, zinnia, sunflowers and cosmos. Beans, peas, corn and okra are some easy direct sow vegetables, while dill, basil and cilantro are some easy direct-sow herbs. If you prefer to get your garden green quickly, gardening shops have plenty of young plants available for sale. Before shopping for annuals, you may want to consult the UT Gardens Annual Herbaceous Plant Trial Program data to see which cultivars of your favorite plant performed the best. Results for the gardens in Knoxville and Jackson can be found at

Azaleas often show symptoms of lace bug and spider mite infestations during the hot months of summer. This damage can be prevented by a one-time, early application of the systemic insecticide imidacloprid. This insecticide should be poured in liquid form around the root system as the flowers fade, spreading the active ingredients throughout the plant tissue where it remains effective through the growing season. Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control is a common brand that contains this safe and effective insecticide. Always follow label directions when applying any pesticide.

Agricultural Market Summary

Cattle Market Trends

Local markets reported higher calf prices over the previous week. Feeder steers, $1 to $4 higher, $122-$197.50; Feeder heifers $1 to $2 higher, $113-$192.50; Slaughter cows steady to $3 lower, $69-$77; Slaughter bulls $3 to $8 lower, $87-$110.

Grain Market Trends

Corn was up; soybeans were mixed; and wheat was down for the week. Corn: Cash price, $3.77-$4.40. July closed at $3.94 a bushel, up 4 cents. Soybeans: Cash price, $10.05-$11.00; July closed at $10.74 a bushel, up 9 cents. Wheat: Cash price, $4.58-$4.71. July closed at $4.67 a bushel, down 7 cents.

For more information, contact the UT-TSU Extension Office in Wilson County at 615-444-9584. You can also find us on Facebook or visit our website at

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. Ruth Correll, UT Extension-TSU Cooperative Extension agent for Wilson County, may be reached at 615-444-9584 or


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Garden Tips: Which geranium should you choose?

You can find a geranium suited to just about any growing spot. 

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