Marlboro hires company to conduct reval

The Marlboro Township Council has hired Realty Appraisal Company, West New York, to perform a revaluation of every piece of property in Marlboro.

A contract to hire the firm was approved at the council's March 6 meeting. The cost of the firm's services is not to exceed $900,000.

Four companies responded to Marlboro's request for proposals. Realty Appraisal Company submitted the lowest bid. Appraisal Systems Inc., Morristown, submitted the highest bid at $949,900.

According to municipal officials, the revaluation of every property in Marlboro will bring the assessment of each parcel up to its current market value.

The purpose of the revaluation, according to the Realty Appraisal Company Internet Web site, is to redistribute the existing tax burden more fairly based on current market value: If your home is worth $300,000 you should be assessed at $300,000. If your home is worth $500,000, you should be assessed at $500,000. This principle is established by the New Jersey Constitution, and spelled out specifically in statutory law.

As a result of the revaluation, some property owners will see their total property tax bill increase, some property owners will see a decrease in the amount of property taxes they pay, and some property owners will not see any change in their property tax bill.

In 2004 the Monmouth County Board of Taxation ordered that a complete revaluation be conducted. The previous revaluation was conducted in 1992.

Mayor Jonathan Hornik said Marlboro has been in violation of a court order for the past two years with its lack of a revaluation. Most surrounding communities have conducted a revaluation of all property within the past few years. Some area municipalities are undergoing revaluation this year.

To pay for the revaluation an ordinance was adopted on March 6 that authorizes a special emergency appropriation of funds. Township Attorney Ronald Gordon explained that the funds will be paid out in 20-percent increments over a five-year period.

Council Vice President Steve Rosenthal suggested that information explaining the revaluation process be sent out to property owners.

Hornik agreed with Rosenthal's suggestion and said he would try to arrange a meeting at which residents would be able to speak with representatives of the revaluation company and ask questions about the process.

Marlboro's administration office said that with the passage of the resolution to hire Realty Appraisal Company, the revaluation process would start as soon as possible.

Marlboro ponders its next move after indictment vote

MARLBORO - While seeing President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney led away in handcuffs may be enough to motivate some towns to attempt to indict them for war crimes, the concrete steps to take after the vote need to be more down to earth.

A vote of 45 to 23 started the wheels rolling last Tuesday to pass a nonbinding resolution requesting the Marlboro Selectboard draft an indictment plan and pass it on to law enforcement.

The Selectboard met for its first official meeting Monday night and Jonathan Morse, the resident who originally brought up the discussion, attended to see what the board planned to do next.

Morse assured the board that "people in Brattleboro and around the country are working to see what can be done."

Brattleboro also approved a special article last week calling for the indictments.

Individuals calling for a federal indictment on a local level is a first, so there is no set path to take, let alone a guarantee that the idea is even legal.

Morse admitted that the idea was not necessarily meant to be realistic.

"I brought it up as another way to express displeasure with the way the Bush administration had handled the war. I can't ask you to do anything yet because I don't know of anything for you to do," Morse told the board Monday, but added that he was "hoping that you will give your blessing. I'm hoping you will stay open to an idea that perhaps the town could do something."

Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark said he would need the Selectboard to take action rather than making any arrests on the request of the residents at Town Meeting.

Even then, he said he would not make an arrest without probable cause. "I certainly would question whether I have the authority," he said. "At this point, I have not seen anything that would show probable cause. A public voice vote does not meet the requirement for probable cause."

Brattleboro attorney Bob Fisher said before the vote at a Selectboard meeting that the indictment would not be legally enforceable.

Marlboro Selectboard members were hesitant to act Monday night.

Member Gail MacArthur said she thought it was "a great discussion," but because it wasn't a warned article, residents who might have wished to speak about it but didn't know it was coming were not represented. "They didn't have a chance."

Newly appointed Chairwoman Lucy Gratwick agreed. "For us to speak for the town with that number of votes makes me uneasy."

This did not mean she personally disagreed with the statement, but she was elected to represent the town, she said. "My opinion as a private citizen is one thing and my response as a public official is a little different. I'm not sure what we should do."

She stressed that the board is "certainly not closing the door," but asked that Morse make an effort to hear a more inclusive opinion of the community.

Philip Morris didn't deliberately boost nicotine

 The recent Harvard University report that concluded Philip Morris USA and other tobacco companies have deliberately increased the amount of nicotine that smokers get from cigarettes over the past seven years, if true, raises legitimate public and scientific concerns. ("Help is smoke screen for global profit," by Allan M. Brandt, March 1).

News of this report has increased the volume of those voices that favor regulation of cigarettes by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Philip Morris USA continues to support the legislation introduced in 2005 to grant the FDA authority over the product, including the regulation of tar and nicotine. Such authority would directly address the concerns raised in the Harvard report. It's a comprehensive bill, and Philip Morris USA is the only major cigarette manufacturer that supports it.

Cigarettes are addictive and cause serious diseases. The nicotine in cigarette smoke is addictive and an important health issue. But the conclusion from the report, that there was a trend of more and more nicotine in cigarettes between 1997 and 2005, and that the cigarettes were designed to yield greater amounts year after year, is not true for Philip Morris USA. We recognize that is a strong statement. And we understand it is important for us to demonstrate why and in what ways this conclusion is not accurate.

Contrary to the implications of the report, we have not changed the design of our cigarettes with the intention of increasing nicotine yields to make the product more addictive. The Harvard report itself also found no upward trends in Marlboro cigarettes for measures that the authors concluded were related to cigarette design and increased nicotine yield, including puffs per cigarette, nicotine content per cigarette or nicotine concentration in the tobacco rod.

In fact, the machine test data we submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health show that year-to-year variations in nicotine occur. They are part of the normal processes of growing tobacco and manufacturing cigarettes. But the nicotine yields in Marlboro cigarettes were the same in 1997 as in 2006: 1.86 milligrams per cigarette. That's not a trend up or down.

We understand that many are skeptical of what we say and do, but our actions and the data are transparent.