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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    That's five times as many Checkers restaurants than N.J. has now.

    Got a taste for funnel cake fries? Or a Baconzilla burger and an Island Slushie?

    Good news! These menu items may be coming to a busy intersection near you.

    The Checkers drive-in restaurant chain is planning to open up in up 60 new locations in New Jersey, a fivefold increase over the 13 stores currently operating in the Garden State.

    The newest location is taking shape at the intersection of Route 130 and Marlton Pike in Pennsauken. Another location is planned for the 6900 block of S. Delsea Drive in Vineland, the site of a former Golden Coral, company officials said.

    "New Jersey folks have very discerning palettes. There's a lot of good food, pizza and Philly steaks," said Bruce Kim, the company's director of franchise development. "But based on consumer feedback there's room for a brand like us that offers delicious food at a value price."

    The company, known as Checkers & Rally's have more than 800 restaurants open in the United States. It bills itself as the largest double drive through restaurant chain in the country.

    Most of the restaurants in the southern and eastern part of the country are Checkers, and Rally's is the predominant name in the West and Midwest.

    Each restaurant typically employs up to 25 workers. The signature modular design of each restaurant echoes a throwback, silver-plated diner and drive-in restaurant in which waitresses raced around the parking lot on skates to deliver food. All of the current restaurants are strictly drive through, but many have umbrella-laden tables on the side.

    The restaurant in Pennsauken will be less than 1000 square feet, which is typical for most locations in the chain.

    IMG_3891.jpgThis location on Route 130 (Cresent Boulevard) near Marlton Pike in Pennsauken will be the location of a new Checkers restaurant. 

    Kim said the average "ticket" or purchase from Checkers & Rally's is under $7.

    "We're a value proposition," Kim said. "Folks want a delicious meal at a good price. No burger chain is selling at this price point."

    Kim said the chain is a value for investors who want to open a franchise, as well. He said it could cost as little as $200,000 to open a store, but the "sweet spot" is an investment between $400,000 to $700,000.

    "New Jersey is underserved by our brand, meaning there's plenty of room for growth," Kim said.

    Most of the chain's 13 existing restaurants in New Jersey are located outside of New York City and Philadelphia.

    11 new restaurants that have finally opened in N.J. (and more on the way)

    Other menu items include Kool Aid Slushies, hot dogs piled with fixings, seven different burgers including the triple-decker Big Buford and signature batter-coated fries.

    Other New Jersey locations include Burlington Township, Camden, Glassboro and Stratford. North and central jersey locations include East Orange, Howell, Jersey City, Linden, Newark, Paterson and Toms River.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

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    Some smaller districts would see their state aid double, triple or even quadruple.

    If you live in New Jersey, there's a good chance your school district is getting cheated.

    The state has a formula that says exactly much money it should give each district so kids get the education they deserve. But it hasn't fully paid in almost a decade, leaving districts to raise taxes, cut jobs and put off new initiatives to make up the difference.

    Things may finally be about to change, however. 

    Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic lawmakers are working on plans to fully fund that formula within the next few years and remove a cap on much new aid a district can get each year. 

    If they can get it done, the impact will be huge. 

    About two-thirds of all districts would see their school funding increase, more than 50 districts would eventually get at least a $10 million boost, and some smaller districts would see their state aid double, triple or even quadruple over time (looking at you, Chesterfield). 

    That could mean modest property tax reductions (or smaller hikes, at least), fewer budget cuts and more spending on textbooks, technology and other classroom needs. 

    But before you celebrate, beware of one thing. Some districts already get more than what the formula says they should because lawmakers previously made a deal to prevent districts from losing state dollars. 

    In order to get every district what it's owed, the state is considering reducing aid to those "overfunded" districts and reallocating funds to those that have been shorted. It's the most controversial part of the plan and could lead to local tax hikes or budget cuts. 

    Time will tell if anything actually changes. For now, underfunded school districts can dream. 

    Use the search tool below to see how much state funding your district receives now and what it could get if New Jersey fully funds its schools in the future.

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    Carla Astudillo may be reached at castudillo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @carla_astudi. Find her on Facebook.

    Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption from shelters and rescue groups.

    Here is this week's collection of some of the dogs and cats in need of adoption in New Jersey.

    We accept dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey. If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on nj.com, please contact Greg Hatala at ghatala@starledger.com or call 973-836-4922.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    In South Jersey, food insecurity affects nearly 200,000 - including 20,000 seniors and 57,000 children.

    The Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) recently partnered with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and the United States Postal Service (USPS) for Stamp Out Hunger(r), the country's largest single-day food drive. The event raised nearly 90,000 pounds for the Food Bank of South Jersey.

    Local residents supported the FBSJ by leaving bags of non-perishable food items next to their mailboxes or on their porches for their letter carrier to pick up and deliver to the FBSJ. In South Jersey, food insecurity affects nearly 200,000 - including 20,000 seniors and 57,000 children.

    "We are so grateful for the support Stamp Out Hunger receives each year," said Tom Sims, Chief Development Officer, Food Bank of South Jersey. "We truly appreciate the United States Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers for helping to make this food drive happen each year, and we appreciate our sponsors who made this year's Stamp Out Hunger food drive so successful."

    This year's event sponsors included: Aetna, Beneficial Bank, Subaru, Westmont Associates, Inc., ShopRite, RLS Logistics, State Farm, Dunkin' Donuts, Jefferson Health and PSE&G. 

    Stamp Out Hunger is a nationwide food drive held in 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.  Over the past 25 years the event has raised nearly 1.6 billion pounds of food. It remains as important as ever, with many people facing economic struggles. Hunger affects about 50 million people around the country, including millions of children, senior citizens and veterans.


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    Some parts of New Jersey were drenched with 5 to 6 inches of rain from a stalled storm system, causing flash flooding that closed some roads and major highways.

    Maybe it wasn't enough for Mother Nature to pester New Jersey with seven straight weekends of rainy weather. So she decided to punctuate the bashing with a big wet squall of heavy downpours early Monday morning -- enough to trigger flash flooding on some highways and more than a month's worth of rain in several hours.

    The meteorological explanation for this sloppy mess was a mid-level frontal boundary that stalled over the Philadelphia metro region and a sliver of western and central New Jersey. In simple terms, "heavy bands of rain set up and didn't move for a few hours," said Alex Staarmann, a forecaster at the National Weather Service's regional office in Mount Holly.

    As a result, the same areas of the region got blasted by rain, including the section of Burlington County where the weather service office operates. The rain gauge outside the office measured 4.98 inches Monday morning, and another rain gauge about a mile away, in Eastampton, collected a whopping 5.64 inches of water.

     

    Those weren't even the highest rainfall totals in the Garden State. The Burlington County town of Westampton was drenched with 6.65 inches of rain, and Riverside, also in Burlington, picked up 5.97 inches of rain from this slow-moving storm system.

    To put this into perspective, most areas of central and southern New Jersey normally get between 3.1 and 4.4 inches of rain during the entire month of June -- not all in several hours.

    Here's a look at some of the highest rainfall totals reported across the state Monday morning by the National Weather Service and the New Jersey Weather & Climate Network, based at Rutgers University. 

    Len Melisurgo may be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @LensReality or like him on Facebook. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Monmouth Park is planning to start accepting bets Thursday morning. Watch video

    Get ready to place your bets, New Jersey. 

    Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signed a law that finally authorizes legal sports betting in New Jersey, both online and at the state's casinos, racetracks, and former racetracks.

    Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport is tentatively planning to become the first place in the state to accept bets, starting Thursday at 10:30 a.m., track operator Dennis Drazin told NJ Advance Media.

    The signing caps a seven-year saga in which New Jersey spent $9 million in taxpayer money on a court battle to legalize such betting at casinos and tracks. 

    It comes about a month after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state, overturning a 1992 federal ban on sports wagering and allowing states across the country to legalize it. 

    New Jersey is now the second state outside of Nevada to authorize betting on sports games. Delaware beat the state by about a week. 

    Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

     

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    Trooper pleads guilty to lesser charges after internal investigators accused him of harassing women on the road.

    A New Jersey state trooper accused of pulling over two women to ask them out will avoid prison time after pleading guilty to lesser charges of improperly accessing a federal database.

    Eric Richardson, 32, pleaded guilty to a single fourth-degree charge of obtaining personal information from a motor vehicle record, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice, which brought the charges.

    richardson.jpgEric Richardson 

    The Camden resident was accused of repeatedly pulling over the women and harassing them "about beginning an intimate relationship with him," according to state authorities.

    He was indicted in April on six charges including official misconduct, criminal coercion and records tampering.

    Under a plea deal, state prosecutors are recommending he receive probation and be barred from public employment in New Jersey. His attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

    Richardson was suspended last year following an internal investigation launched in response to a complaint filed by one of the women. 

    In one case, authorities claimed at the time, Richardson pulled over a woman and, discovering she had an active warrant, threatened to arrest her unless she gave him her phone number. He was also accused of communicating with the women on social media and via text message.

    2 troopers accused of stopping women for dates

    Documents submitted by internal investigators and later obtained by NJ Advance Media through a public records request alleged the trooper avoided detection by turning off recording devices in his troop car during stops and misreporting the gender of motorists he pulled over.

    The trooper did not plead guilty to charges stemming from those accusations, however. 

    According to the state Attorney General's Office, Richardson admitted to illegally accessing an FBI database in May 2017 in order to perform a "driver inquiry" on a third woman employed by one of his friends. 

    Authorities say the friend wanted to know whether the woman had any warrants or a history of drug activity, and Richardson admitted to photographing her driving record and sending it to him. That instance was also uncovered during the internal investigation, authorities said. 

    Richardson is scheduled for sentencing on August 3. 

    Another state trooper facing similar accusations of improperly stopping female drivers last year, Marquice Prather, also received a plea deal that allowed him to avoid prison, records show. 

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at ssullivan@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Photographers from NJ Advance Media are covering proms around the state. Check out the list below with our most recent prom photo galleries from the past week. Be sure to check out our complete prom coverage at nj.com/prom. Patti Sapone may be reached at psapone@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Instagram @psapo, Twitter @psapone. Follow NJ.com on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

    Photographers from NJ Advance Media are covering proms around the state. Check out the list below with our most recent prom photo galleries from the past week.

    Be sure to check out our complete prom coverage at nj.com/prom.

    Patti Sapone may be reached at psapone@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Instagram @psapo, Twitter @psapone. Follow NJ.com on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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    We answer the questions you may have after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law authorizing legal sports betting in New Jersey.


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    The final rankings of the 2018 girls lacrosse season.


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    A new reporting project looks at New Jersey's economy through the lens of all the hustlers in the state. Watch video

    We want to hear how people in New Jersey are hustling to make ends meet.

    You could be in the circus. You could be selling jewelry on Etsy. You could be working five jobs. Whatever it is you're doing, we want to hear about it.

    Here's why we are launching this summer project: New Jersey is at the bottom of the list of states in terms of economic growth. For many people, jobs are hard to come by. For others, their paychecks don't cover the bills.

    In spite of this, people choose to stay and live in the Garden State, even though they have to hustle to make it work. We want to celebrate that.

    We want to highlight all of the hardworking people of the Garden State who are doing wonderful and unique things to get by.

    Through our reporting, we hope to understand better how New Jersey got to where it is today, how people have coped - or thrived - and what life might look like for people in the future.

    We can't do this without you.

    We want our project, "The Jersey Hustle," to be driven by you, the people of New Jersey. We're looking for people to tell us their stories or stories about others in their communities.

    If you're interested in speaking with us, please fill out the form below. If you want to provide information about someone other than yourself, there is a dedicated space for that in the form.

    We can't wait to get started, and we look forward to hearing from you!


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    Kayla Dyke was last seen at her house in Sicklerville on Tuesday morning

    Police are searching for a 13-year-old South Jersey girl who went missing on Tuesday morning. 

    kayla-jpg.pngKayla Dykes (Winslow police) 

    Kayla Dykes was last seen around 10:30 a.m. at her home on South Central Avenue in the Sicklerville section of Winslow Township in Camden County, according to township police. 

    She was wearing a white shirt, tan pants and has her hair braided in cornrows. Kayla is 5-feet, 2-inches tall and about 130 pounds. 

    Anyone with information is asked to call police at 609-561-3300 or dial 911.

    The State Police's Missing Persons Unit is also involved in the search and residents reported helicopters circling neighborhoods near her home on Tuesday.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    Kids missed Field Day and a concert if they didn't pay up.

    First, they missed Field Day. Now, they're missing out on an end-of-year concert. If they want to play, first they'll have to pay up.

    Nearly two-dozen preK to third-grade students at Winslow Elementary School No. 3 have been told they can't participate in extracurricular activities because of being behind on their lunch fees and a parent says the lunch-shaming needs to stop. 

    "They're shaming children and using them as pawns to collect a debt," said Jennifer Mattaliano, who has three kids in the school and is also the school parent's association president. "No other debt collector even does that."

    District-wide, there's a $55,000 tab for unpaid lunch fees and hundreds in arrears in the preK to high school district, Superintendent H. Major Poteat said. It's about the same that's always owed this time of year, but this year the superintendent said they're not going to be the ones eating the cost. 

    Last week at Winslow Elementary #3, about a dozen students were called down to the main office -- one by one -- to be told they couldn't participate in Field Day because of the debt on their accounts, Mattaliano said.

    "It's like the Christmas of school," she said about Field Day, the end-of-school event where kids get to spend the day outside playing games and eating soft pretzels and water ice. "It's the only day they look forward to."

    Mattaliano has started a GoFundMe fundraising campaign to help pay for some of the delinquent accounts at her school. She had raised over $500 by the end of last week but said school officials refused to allow her to pay off any debts.

    Poteat said any money given to the district must be approved by an act of the board as a donation to the district and noted in public accounting. He said Mattaliano's gift would also put the school principal in a position of choosing which accounts to pay. He said there was about $5,000 in school-lunch debts at the school. 

    "She's collecting money for households that probably make more money than she does," Poteat said. "We need to make sure there is a degree of accountability for every parent."

    Poteat said the district accumulates a debt in excess of $55,000 yearly from unpaid lunch fees, largely from families who can afford to pay the $2.75 daily fee. He said 50 percent of the district's 5,000 students receive free and reduced publicly subsidized meals and only about 2 percent of those in arrears in the district could qualify for free or subsidized meals but haven't filled out the paper work.

    Additionally, Poteat said the district, with an annual budget of $117 million, has absorbed a $40,000 debt yearly from text books and other materials not returned. He said no child goes without lunch even if an account is not paid. But he issued a directive earlier this school year that students with delinquent accounts may be prevented from participating in extracurricular activities.

    "We will sit down with any parent and work out a payment plan," Poteat said. "This is a teachable moment for all of us. Where else can you go in society and not pay your bills."

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips
     

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    Twenty-eight contestants compete to be crowned Miss New Jersey 2018.


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    Counting down from No. 50


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    Americana? Something that makes you feel 'at home.'

    "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" - Chevrolet commercial first aired in 1974

    The term "Americana," which covers a diverse range of things, is often the result of the mixing of cultures that make up America. I say it's something that makes you feel "at home."

    As far as I can tell, even if something wasn't truly born in the U.S.A., but makes you think "homegrown," it qualifies as "Americana."

    For instance, it has now been pretty much conclusively established that Abner Doubleday did NOT invent baseball in Cooperstown in 1839; the game evolved from ball games played in England, France and Germany.

    Hot dogs are, of course, frankfurters named for the German city where they originated. Apple pie has been baked anywhere apples grow as long as there have been pies; according to yara.com, China outproduces U.S. growers, and supplies 40% of the world's apples.

    And since I'm on a roll, Louis-Joseph Chevrolet was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, and developed his mechanical skills in France. Hot dogs WERE first put 'on a roll' in the U.S.; at least there's that.

    Americana? If it takes place in the country and makes people feel good, it can be almost anything at any time.

    In this gallery, we've touched on just a few of the countless ways 'Americana' could be illustrated. If you've got photos that you think would do the job, send them in -- Americana comes from everywhere.

    And here are some links to other galleries you might like.

    Vintage photos of N.J. Americana

    Vintage photos of how things have changed in N.J.

    Vintage candid photos from N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    A Winslow Township school is barring students from big events if parents haven't paid for their lunches. Why take it out on the kids?

    As so-called "lunch shaming" goes, the variety being practiced at a Winslow Township elementary school is not nutritionally harsh. No student, regardless of ability to pay, has had to go hungry because in-school meals were withheld. This is a district where about half the children receive free or reduced-price lunches anyway.

    Still, the policy ostracizes young children for the unpaid debts of their parents, and that's a problem. In close-knit religious communities, what Winslow is doing is called "shunning."

    Anxious to reduce a district-wide food-service debt of about $55,000 annually, administrators called about a dozen Winslow Elementary School No. 3 students into the main office and told them they were barred from the school's Field Day because of unpaid lunch tabs. As described by one parent who is aghast at the tactic, Field Day is a wide-ranging outdoor celebration with games, soft pretzels and water ice. It's easy to see why the day would be important in the social life of a 7-year-old.

    Admittedly, most of the families that haven't paid are irresponsible debtors. Superintendent H. Major Poteat estimates that only about 2 percent of those with outstanding balances would qualify for subsidized meals if they tried to sign up. The superintendent has vowed that the district will not "eat" such a large food-service deficit again. He obviously sees denying participation in extracurricular activities as a way to get the accounts settled. Now that some Winslow No. 3 kids have missed Field Day, an end-of-the-year concert is next on this "no-fly" list.

    We don't want to minimize the issue; taxpayers must cover the food costs of parents who can afford their kids' lunches but refuse to pay. Possibly, some cases are parents who just plain forgot, or who have found themselves in a temporary cash crunch even with incomes too high to qualify for assistance. 

    There's nothing wrong with going after the others who have no valid reason to run up a bill they don't intend to pay. It's how the school district is going about it that seems cruel. Why involve the kids at all?

    Jennifer Mattaliano, president of Winslow Elementary School No. 3 parents' association, says Poteat is "shaming children and using them as pawns to collect a debt." She's right. 

    Meanwhile, a good-hearted effort by Mattaliano and others to reduce the unpaid balance has been summarily rejected by the school district. She started a GoFundMe page that has collected $500 so far, but Poteat says accepting the money would require choosing unfairly whose debt to pay off. It's second-grade math, superintendent: School No. 3's outstanding lunch debt is $5,000, so take the $500 and reduce each account by 10 percent. 

    But, no dice. "She's (Mattaliano's) collecting money for households that probably make more money than she does," Poteat said.

    So what? What business is it of the superintendent to bring up the incomes of motivated, voluntary donors? 

    The district does have other recourse for obstinate parents who rack up big balances and thumb their noses at their obligations. One is to take chronic, long-term cases to small-claims court. Another is to hire a collection agency to strike fear into the hearts of the parents' credit ratings.

    Neither option requires punishing youngsters or embroiling them in monetary disputes for which they, as minors, bear no responsibility. If the district wishes to go all medieval on the adult scofflaws, it has ways to do it. Just leave the children out of it.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    NJ.com releases its final high school baseball rankings for 2018: The Top 50

    NJ.com Baseball Top 50 201852.JPG 

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    The final South Jersey Top 20 for the 2018 season.


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    As prom season winds down, NJ.com compiled a collection of some of the wildest, unique and fun moments from many of the events.


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