By JOE ZELNIK
This continues a series of occasional columns called, Herald Readers Want to Know. A new feature has been added: Good Question.
Q: I note the state and federal governments have decided this county is not a likely terrorist target, and cut homeland security funds accordingly. Will it be necessary for Emergency Management to return the million dollars already awarded?
A: The money has already been spent and none of the items are returnable except for two cases of Ragu spaghetti sauce ordered in case personnel had to spend a long period of time in headquarters.
Q: I read that all but $7000 of a $127,778 federal homeland security grant will go for pay and benefits for two full-time and two part-time staffers. Were these people on staff before there were homeland security grants and how were they paid?
A: They were there before, but if you are suggesting this money didn't really increase security in the county, you are unduly cynical and probably don't think there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Q: Are you going to let that carpetbagger letter writer from New York get away with calling you a putz?
A: My lawyers are talking to this schmuck's lawyers, but the problem seems to be that I am frequently a putz.
Q. Why is the "county" dog park in Ocean City and what did it cost?
A: It's in Ocean City to make up for the fact that Ocean City taxpayers help pay for a county animal shelter even though they have their own. It cost $243,991. A Herald investigative team staked out the park for a week and found it was used by seven dogs: Buster, Ruby, Mack, Muffy, Molly, Topper and Fang. That's $34,855.86 per dog.
Q.: What has happened to the 78-year-old gentleman from Harrisburg who was arrested in Stone Harbor after allegedly using a 17-inch baton to intimidate a contractor into completing his work?
A: Quite a bit, actually. Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew has introduced legislation to amend the Criminal Code making any baton under 18 inches a misdemeanor. The county AARP will present the Pennsylvanian with its "Citizen of the Year" award. And the Stone Harbor Senior Citizens are conducting a fund drive to purchase a clock honoring the Harrisburger that would appear across 96th street from the ROA clock. Borough Council dares not turn down the offer, but tearing up the sidewalk and running electricity to the clock will cost about $200,000.
Q: Speaking of Stone Harbor police, how come the paper never reports any arrests in neighboring Avalon?
A: Funny you should ask. Avalon police sent to county offices for special training went to the wrong location and sat in on a tourism program that stressed being kind to tourists with the theme, "We're Glad You're Here." As a result, the police put away their arrest pads and have been giving flowers to people parked illegally, chocolates to motorists violating traffic laws, and counseling to drunks thrown out of bars. Tourism is up.
Q: Atlantic City Electric sent me a brochure called "85 Ways to Save Money and Energy." One of the ways was to "cook in the early morning and late evening hours." We are not up early in the morning and if we eat late we get acid reflux. What are we to do?
A: Apparently the manufacturer of Prilosec conspired with Atlantic City Electric to get that recommendation in a booklet originally called "84 Ways to Save Money and Energy." I would suggest eating whenever you feel like it, but not when the meter reader is around.
Q: The Herald is my only source for news, so I did not know Pluto had been downsized from a planet, which I was taught 70 years ago, to something else. When I went to Motor Vehicles to renew my license, I flunked because I said "nine" to the question, "How many planets are there?" What recourse do I have?
A: First, thank you for your loyalty to the Herald. Motor Vehicles made a mistake; they thought you were applying for a pilot's license. We have evidence the Pluto downgrade is the result of a conspiracy between astronomers and astronomy book publishers to force the sale of new textbooks. Hang on to yours. In 20 years, Pluto will be readmitted to the solar system.
Q: Home prices are so high on Seven Mile Beach, I've about decided to sell. Any advice?
A: I think you might do better to buy. There's a glut of properties for sale and home prices are falling faster than prices for Mercury Grand Marquises. A bayfront home in the 111th block of Stone Harbor has dropped from $3.2 million to $2.2 million. That's a 31 percent drop. A home in the beach block of 93rd Street has dropped $375,000 from its asking price of $1,575,000. That's 24 percent.
Q: Why didn't Lower Mayor Walter Craig do what Coors executive Pete Coors did when he was charged with DUI: apologize, plead guilty and avoid all the bad publicity for himself and others? Coors got a sentence of a three-month suspension of his driver's license and 24 hours community service.
A: That's a good question.