Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung has called for the replacement of “recycled athletes” as the Ministry of Sports draws the curtain on this year’s National Youth Games in Ilorin today.The 2017 National Youth Games, which was held at the University of Ilorin, is the 3rd edition and featured over 5,000 athletes from 31 states of the nation.In a press release by Nneka Ikem Anibeze, SA to the Minister on media, Dalung said: “We have continued to recycle athletes over decades and now they have reached their peak.”The closing ceremony witnessed the handover of newly discovered talents to various National Sports Federations for proper development and monitoring by the Talent Identification Committee, a committee made up of grassroots coaches, ex-internationals, and technical officials.“We need to replace or augment with younger athletes so that as the older ones are slowing down with age, the next generation can understudy and step into their shoes.” the Minister added.The Minister also hinted that intensive training of the discovered talents will begin in earnest as Nigeria prepares for next year’s Africa Youth Games and the World Youth Olympics, in Algiers, Algeria and Buenos Aires, Argentina respectively. RelatedAUDIO: Sports Minister Charges Team Nigeria To Dominate African Wrestling ChampionshipsNovember 28, 2017In “Africa”Sports Ministry Promise Facelift of Lagos StadiumJanuary 5, 2019In “Nigeria”2017 Commonwealth Youth Games: Nigeria To Be Represented By Two Athletes In NassauJuly 20, 2017In “Sports”
By John Burton FAIR HAVEN – “It has been an interesting year. There’ve been a lot of challenges.”That is Mayor Benjamin J. Lucarelli’s assessment about his nearly year-long tenure as an appointed mayor.Lucarelli, who was sworn in on Jan. 1 following his election in November for a two-year term, now looks forward to the next two years as the borough’s mayor.“A lot of great things have happened and some difficult things happened,” during 2012, he said.Lucarelli noted that a high point was the borough’s centennial and its long planned celebrations, including the daylong event featuring a parade, picnic and fireworks.The day was deemed so successful that officials have decided to schedule it as an annual event. “It was absolutely wonderful,” he said. It had “all the highs that a mayor can have.”Super Storm Sandy, that wreaked havoc on much of the Jersey Shore, was at the other end of the spectrum.Fair Haven is situated on a higher elevation than many of its neighbors and was spared the flooding that other communities experienced. However, the storm caused a remarkable number of downed trees and residents and businesses in the 2.1-square mile community – like many other communities in the area – endured about two weeks without electric power.Restoration of power to the borough’s roughly 6,000 residents was also impacted by the nor’easter that blew through the area shortly after Sandy. The Dec. 26 storm, with its high winds and heavy rain, Lucarelli also noted, again caused some limited power outages in the town. “That shows you how fragile our [power] grid is,” he said. The power grid and other issues will have to be addressed in the coming year, he said.Lucarelli was selected last February as the borough’s mayor by a 5-0 vote of the all-Republican Borough Council . He replaced Michael Halfacre, who stepped down in January to become director of the state’s Division of Alcohol Beverage Control.Lucarelli was named to the council in January 2009 to fill a vacant seat and then went on to win a full three-year term to the council in November 2009. He ran unopposed last November for the remaining two years of Halfacre’s four-year term, which runs through December 2014.Lucarelli, who operates a commercial real estate and property management firm in Red Bank, talked about what the coming year will mean for him as mayor and the community as it continues to recover from the storm.One of the most pressing issues, he said, will be the council’s ability to address its increasing employee pension and benefit obligation. For about the last five years the municipal budget has been flat or even with a slight reduction in the tax levy. But the pension and benefit obligation – which has grown in recent years from being a relatively small budget line item to an $800,000 item – is now about 12 percent of the entire budget. The governing body will have to look at ways to address that, he said.“It’s going to be a real challenge trying to keep a lid on expenses as we go forward,” he acknowledged, especially having to address requirements imposed on municipalities by the various levels of government.Surprisingly, though, the costs to the borough for Sandy weren’t as overwhelming as in some communities. Overtime, obviously, increased during the emergency, but, Lucarelli said, department heads, especially the Department of Public Work’s, kept a tight rein on it, sparing taxpayers.The borough’s initial claim submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was for $50,000. Most of that, he said, was for fuel reimbursement as DPW workers collected and chipped 100,000 yards of brush and cut up trees.Despite the demands the office places on its holder, Lucarelli said he looks forward to the next two years and is mindful of the work so many do, including the professional staff and the many volunteers who give up their time to help the community function.The key to continuing, Lucarelli said, is to “plan and try to make the right decisions.”
Special auditory devices – such as bells, wind chimes and drums – are also put at the four corners of the playground. The different instruments help children map the structure by associating the sound with a specific area.Courtesy St. Joseph’s School For The Blind“(These features are) about sensory, so everything here engages the senses in some way, shape or form,” said Thrailkill, who is also a certified playground safety inspector.Other possible features include an engraved map of the playground at the entrance so children can feel where certain structures are and a maximum height difference of 6 inches between decks.Thrailkill added that slides and access points are on opposite sides to limit kids’ directional confusion, and that pads with different textures both mark the edge of the structure and are interactive for the children.“If you didn’t know these little details you probably wouldn’t even realize it was a special playground,” said Lotano.The Colts Neck Lions Club, whose parent organization, Lions Club International, has a long history of performing services to help the blind and visually impaired, is looking to use grant money to fund the construction of the playground. In addition, the organization has held events like a pancake breakfast and brewery tour to raise funds for the project.Lotano said while he’d like to build the playground at home in Colts Neck, if the space is not available he’d at least like to keep the project local and within Monmouth County.However, Albert Plevier, vice president of the Monmouth County Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, raised concerns about the need for the project.“In the area how many visually impaired, how many blind children are going to be able to use (the playground),” said Plevier, who has been blind for 42 years. “From my knowledge, from what I’ve experienced (sight impairment numbers) have gone down, so I don’t know exactly what need it is.”Nicole Brossoie, assistant commissioner of public affairs in the New Jersey Department of Human Services, wrote in an email that while “definitions of visual impairment vary greatly, so there’s not a lot of hard data,” there is an estimated 2.3 percent rate of visual impairment in the state.So with Monmouth County’s population of 622,710 people, of which about 150,000 are children, “we can speculate that there are about (15,500 individuals) with visual impairments, including 3,750 children,” Brossoie said.While certainly unique, this type of playground would not be the first in New Jersey. The St. Joseph’s School for the Blind in Jersey City houses one of these specialized playgrounds for children with disabilities.Lotano met with the school’s director of communications to tour their playground and see firsthand how the special features work.Ellen Felicetta, the communications director for the St. Joseph’s School of the Blind, is supportive of bringing a specialized playground to the Monmouth County area. She said that these types of playgrounds are important because they are not just for children with visual impairment.“I think that what’s good about these playgrounds is that they are all-inclusive,” Felicetta said. “They work for children with disabilities, they work for (children without disabilities) as well.” By Dan RussoCOLTS NECK – The Colts Neck Lions Club is raising money to fund the construction of a playground in Monmouth County specially designed for children who are blind or who have visual impairment.The playground will be either a completely new structure or an addition to an existing one. It will include special features that use the children’s senses other than sight, such as touch and hearing, to navigate and interact with the jungle gym.But the project’s goal extends beyond creating a space for children with visual impairment to play. Justin Lotano, president of the Lions Club branch in Colts Neck, hopes the playground will bring together children with and without visual impairment so they may interact and play in an inclusive environment.“(The playground) allows (children with visual impairment) to have a platform to interact with the other children and have something that will help them be more comfortable in that environment,” Lotano said. While the plans, location and contractor for the project have not been finalized yet, Lotano reached out to EcoPlay Playgrounds, Inc. for preliminary design ideas and price estimates.The Georgia-based custom playground design company, which created a jungle gym at the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) in Atlanta, aligns with Lotano’s vision on an inclusive play space.“We as playground designers want our playgrounds to be enjoyed by everyone and that includes potentially those with visual impairments,” said Dan Thrailkill, a commercial playground consultant at EcoPlay Playgrounds.Special features of the playground could include a brightly colored, rubberized surface. As a much softer surface than concrete, this material is used at the access points of the playground so children can feel where the entrance is. It’s also used beneath the jungle gym to soften the landing if a child was to fall, Thrailkill said.