They could probably list it as a ‘handyman special’

CODA

GREG BEAN

File this one under: Better Late Than Never. For years, I’ve thought that if I lost my home and needed a place to live for a very long time, I’d just break into the McGinnis School building on the intersection of Dunhams Corner Road and Hardenburg Lane in East Brunswick, and squat.

We could have made ourselves at home, secure in the knowledge that if the owners of the building — East Brunswick Township, and by extension the community’s financially strapped taxpayers — continued to dither about what to do with the dilapidated structure, we’d have a roof over our heads for years, maybe decades, to come. That may finally be about to change.

The building, which was last used as a school in the 1970s and has been vacant since it was used for school offices in the 1980s, is an attractive nuisance — which means it’s nothing but inviting for anyone with a screwdriver who wants to break in. It wouldn’t take much more than that for a semi-competent invader to come in and make themselves at home. I know, because I’ve cased the joint.

The place is not quite an eyesore, although it’swell on the road to becoming one. The corrugated metal awning over one of the back doors is falling down, the other doors (except for the main one) are boarded up with weathered plywood. One of the wooden doors at the back of the building is broken and has a gaping hole that provides an opening for any critters looking to get out of the rain. Some of the old window-box air conditioners are sagging and about to fall off, which would leave more points of access. There’s graffiti on the brick walls out back.

I’m not sure what the roof looks like, and I don’t know what condition the inside is in. I’m guessing the whole place is a mess. If the owner of an abandoned home or business let it degenerate to that point, the town would make him pull it down.

Even so, there are some people who are interested in buying the property — which the township purchased about 12 years ago — and have been for some time. Then-Mayor William Neary wanted to sell the place as surplus in 2007, but the council turned him down. But last March, they gave current Mayor David Stahl the go-ahead to start getting appraisals; he says he gets inquiries all the time from people who might want to buy the place. And it turns out, those appraisals suggest the property is worth more than anyone thought.

The council recently voted to take a little time to think about the appraisals and consider its options, and it will take up the discussion againMay 23. On one hand, I suppose they figure there’s no need to rush, since it’s taken over 20 years to get this far. On the other, I sure hope they decide to sell before the folks interested in paying hard cash for the old dump get a case of buyer’s remorse and change their minds.

  

Considering the alleged expense-related shenanigans of former Brookdale Community College President Peter Burnham and other allegations about Gloucester County Community College, I’ve got to applaud Assemblywoman Amy Handlin’s call for an audit of similar perks and spending practices at all the other community colleges in New Jersey. Handlin recently wrote a letter to the Office of the State Comptroller requesting the audit, but it turned out the state office was already in the preliminary stages of its own review of compensation for community college presidents, which could take six months to a year to complete.

As Handlin told The Star-Ledger last week, “This being New Jersey, if there’s more than one instance of [this type of case], there’s a realistic possibility that this is a systemic issue.”

That’s a sad statement, but judging by

our state’s longstanding culture of fraud and malfeasance among public officeholders, high-level administrators and hangers-on, it’s very true. If they ever had to round up the “usual suspects” around here, they’d need to rent Giants Stadium as a holding area. That’s not to say that there are no honest politicians, cops or public administrators around here — there are lots of them. It’s just too bad they have to ride herd on so many of the rest.

  

If you watch the Discovery Channel, you probably know by now that wild animals have apparently had enough and are trying to kill us. I was horrified by one program last weekend called “Hogs Gone Wild,” which told us that vicious feral hogs have pretty much taken over the southern portion of our nation and are spreading north like kudzu. Before long, we’ll likely have feral hogs running down Route 1, although I imagine they’ll avoid the Turnpike and theGarden State (no pockets to carry spare change for the tolls).

And although we might be safe from feral hogs on the ocean, we’re not even safe from marauding fauna 20 miles out at sea. Infinitely more unsettling than “Hogs Gone Wild” is another Discovery program called “When Fish Attack.” Last week there were two amazing segments.

In one, a guywas hand-feeding a moray eel when the eel bit off his thumb. That was not the amazing part, however. The amazing part was when they grafted one of his big toes onto his hand to replace the missing digit. And it worked! Incredible visuals!

In another segment, a guy who had hooked a 600-pound black marlin was a bit surprised when the marlin jumped into the boat with him and stuck its bill in his mouth. The guy survived, and so did the marlin, but here are a couple of philosophical questions for you sportsmen out there. Considering the way these contests usually turn out, don’t the fish deserve to win one once in a while? And considering the fact that the marlin was pretty much just minding his own business before that guy in the boat put a big hook in his mouth, was his action really an “attack,” or more like inspired self-defense?

Forget Gerry Spence. I think a first-year public defender could have gotten the marlin off on that charge.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.