• Joseph F. Berenato

Boutique hotel for downtown?


There was discussion to redevelop 108 Bellevue Avenue for hotel use. (THG/Kristin Guglietti. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Town council held their regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on March 22 via Zoom teleconferencing software.


During the meeting, while presenting the report from the Business and Industry Committee, Councilman William Olivo discussed a possible avenue of economic development in the downtown section through Triad Associates, Inc.


“We’re going to look to Triad to develop a grant for a feasibility study to redevelop 108 Bellevue Avenue for hotel use,” Olivo said.


The building located at 108 Bellevue Ave. is a three-story structure originally constructed in 1896 by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Winslow Lodge No. 40. The first floor of that building, once rented as office space to Hammonton Telephone and Telegraph Co.—owned by Andrew Jackson Rider—most recently housed Advocare Advanced Primary Care, Advanced Chiropractic Associates and South Jersey Gastroenterology.


In related business later in the meeting, council entertained Resolution No. 039-2021—Approval to Apply to the USDA Grant Program and Appointing Representatives.


According to the language of the resolution, the town of Hammonton “desires to study the feasibility and redevelopment options for the building at 108 Bellevue Avenue for adaptive reuse as a boutique hotel.”


“The town of Hammonton desires to pursue the technical and financial resources available through the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Business Development Grant Program to study the feasibility and develop the redevelopment plan for adaptive reuse of this property ... the town of Hammonton will apply for a USDA RBDG Grant in the amount not to exceed $75,000 for the study of feasibility and redevelopment options for the property,” the resolution states.


The resolution, which named Mayor Stephen DiDonato and Audrey Boyer as authorized signatories, passed unanimously.


In other council business, Councilman Steven Furgione, head of the Water and Sewer Committee, discussed Resolution No. 040-2021—Temporary Capital Budget Utility Equipment Purchases.


The language of the resolution states that “the need has arisen to introduce a bond ordinance to provide funds for the Centrifuge Purchase and Installation, Purchase of a Jet Vac Truck, and a UV Disinfection System in the Water/Sewer Utility Capital Fund, including all appurtenances necessary and related thereto.” Furgione explained further.


“This is for the purchase of a centrifuge. We currently use two filter presses in our plant to process our material. We’re going to replace one of the filter presses with the centrifuge, run this thing full time in lieu of the filter press,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that, in 2020, the town of Hammonton spent a total of $390,128.55 processing its waste material with the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA).


“We negotiated about April or May of last year a little bit of a lower rate, at the lower range because we were hitting that lower range and it was never an issue before. If you take last year’s usage and you extrapolate it into the new rates that we negotiated, the costs would have been $309,288. We run, consistently, the same amount of material every year; it’s about 96 loads. If we stay with the filter press, we’re paying $309,000, based on 96 trips at an average rate of 16.3 percent; that’s our rate of solids that we send to ACUA currently,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that, the drier the material, the less it costs per cubic yard to be processed.


“If we take 96 trips in 2021 times the rate of 18.1-20 percent solids, it’s $6,594 per cubic yard. Total cost would be $180,336, representing about a $128,000 per year savings in processing ... When I saw the centrifuge run, and we saw it for a few weeks, here’s what I would say to you without getting gross and nasty: the material comes out the consistency of a cross between sawdust and what you would buy if you are composting your garden in bags. That’s what the material looks like, versus what it currently looks like, which is different,” Furgione said.


Furgione also said that the centrifuge may reduce by one-third the number of trips necessary to the ACUA because of the presence of drier material.


“If they’re right, and cut this down to 60 trips, the cost for this year will be $112,710, so we’d pick up almost a $200,000 savings,” Furgione said.


Furgione noted that there would also be a savings in labor, as the centrifuge does not need to be as closely monitored as the current filter presses, nor does it need to run as much as it can process more gallons per minute than the current equipment.


According to the resolution, the price of the centrifuge purchase and installation is $700,000. Furgione explained that figure further.


“In addition to the centrifuge, here’s what you’re going to get: centrifuge cost of $388,000; a new polymer mixer, $28,495; a conveyer that moves the material outside of the building into the can that connects to the centrifuge, $39,210. We need to upgrade our sludge pumps to produce the additional gallons per minute; there’s two pumps, $37,000. Two metal roll-up doors; one door is $18,461 and the second roll-up door is $12,469. We have a very hard labor estimation of $175,000 to put all this together ... The $175,000 includes all the plumbing that’s involved in hooking this thing up, all of the electrical work that’s involved in it, demoing the existing wall and installing the two metal roll-up doors,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that the plan is to keep one of the filter presses in place as a back-up, and the other will be moved into storage for parts.


The resolution also listed the purchase of a Jet Vac truck for $455,000.


“We currently have a vac truck that’s 20-plus years old. It’s a vac truck that was built to clean sewer lines going to your home. We have used this thing way beyond its capacity of what it really should be used for. We cleaned all the new roads that were done last year before they were videoed. We had a price of approximately $30,000 to clean and video; we did the cleaning and the video was done by Video Pipe. We paid them $14,500, so we saved over $15,000 by us cleaning the existing sewer lines and the sanitary sewer. Our old vac truck really is not made out to do what we’re trying to do with this thing,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that the town received a price quote to have the existing truck refurbished: $250,000. Given the age of the truck, the decision was made to purchase a new one.


“With this new truck, we’ll be able to clean all the lines and video them as we do our road program. We have approximately 600 to 700 storm drains that need to be cleaned; these storm drains are 10, 12, 14 feet deep. We’ll have the ability to take out all the debris and clean them properly. It gets a 1,300 gallon water tank, so we can jet properly. It’s a much bigger unit,” Furgione said.


The third item in the resolution is a new UV disinfection system at the sewer plant for $420,000.


“Currently, we pay $3,000 per 140 bulbs for the UV that we currently have. There are 280 bulbs, so we pay $6,000 a year in bulbs. That’s not a lot of money, but that’s what we pay. The new UV system is much more efficient; it’s the same cost for bulbs, but a little different configuration, but we’re going to be buying those every three years as opposed to every one year. You pick up a savings in bulbs, but the real savings for the town here is in the electric. The new UV system is approximately 40 percent more efficient in electric than the old UV system,” Furgione said.


The resolution passed.


Council then introduced Utility Bond Ordinance Bond No. 003-2021—Utility Purchase of Equipment. This ordinance provides “for various 2021 utility capital acquisitions and improvements, by and in the town of Hammonton, in the county of Atlantic, state of New Jersey; appropriating $1,575,000 therefor and authorizing the issuance of $1,496,250 bonds or notes of the town to finance part of the cost thereof.”


According to the ordinance, the financing breakdown is as follows:


• Purchase and installation of a centrifuge for the Utility Department; Appropriation, $700,000; Authorization, $665,000; Down Payment, $35,000; Useful Life, 15 years.


• Purchase of a Jet Vac Truck and all related accessories for the Utility Department; Appropriation, $455,000; Authorization, $432,250; Down Payment, $22,750; Useful Life, 5 years.


• Purchase of a UV Disinfection System for the Sewer Plant; Appropriation, $420,000; Authorization, $399,000; Down Payment, $21,000; Useful Life, 20 years.


Total: Appropriation, $1,575,000; Authorization, $1,496,250; Down Payment, $78,750.

“The approximate $130,000 per year savings will cover the entire cost of this bond. We’re covered; we’re taking on additional debt, but we have enough of a savings to cover it without burdening the taxpayers,” Furgione said.


The ordinance introduction passed.


Furgione then made a motion to award the purchase of the centrifuge to Gea Mechanical Equipment U.S. for a cost of $388,000. Councilman Joseph Giralo seconded the motion, which was approved.


Furgione said that the UV system would have to be put out to bid.


“The price we came up with of $420,000 is based on our consultant, so I make a motion to have the specs prepared and put the UV system out for bid. There is no state vendor on this to purchase,” Furgione said.


Giralo seconded this motion as well, which was approved.


Furgione then addressed the purchase of the vac truck, which he said would have to be done in two motions.


“The first motion will be for the actual unit on the truck. The name of the company is GranTurk Equipment; they are a state vendor. We will be able to purchase this through Sourcewell, which we’ll obtain an additional discount. Sourcewell is new; we started with this last year, and it’s basically one step past your state contracts. We get an additional discount here of $10,000 on this piece,” Furgione said.


The total cost for that part of the truck, Furgione said, is $334,284.71.


“For the purchase of the cab, it’s the same company but two different divisions. The name of this division is Hunter Truck. They will do the assembly of the actual unit. We received a $53,675 discount from Sourcewell on this, so we did great on it. Total cost of the cab, $119,926... Lastly, the total cost of the truck, for anyone who’s interested, is $454,210.71,” Furgione said.


Both motions were approved.


Several infrastructure concerns were also expressed at the meeting.


During committee reports, Giralo thanked Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-8) for a recent trip to Hammonton to inspect the current condition of Route 54.


“You, mayor, are in contact of a letter that she has written to the state. She sees firsthand what needs to be done, just hoping for a little bit of help, more than a patch on Route 54,” Giralo said.


During the Public Works and Transportation Committee report—which Furgione presented for Councilman Sam Rodio, who was absent—Furgione asked for a letter to be sent to New Jersey Transit.


“The condition of the tracks along Egg Harbor Road, especially between Fairview and Bellevue, I don’t know what to say. They trimmed some trees, they cut some trees down, the fence is a mess. Then, there’s other areas where the trees aren’t trimmed and stuff is growing through the fence. It needs to be considered; that’s a main artery of the town, and if I’m a homeowner there, I’d be upset. I think we should send a letter to New Jersey Transit, requesting that they clean up at least all the visible portions of the tracks along the fence line,” Furgione said.


Furgione put that in the form of a motion, which Councilman Thomas Gribbin seconded.


“The more high-traffic areas, they have the benefit of having a lot of their track within the Pinelands, but, in these areas where there are homes, our business district, they really need to step up and help beautify the area,” Gribbin said.


Giralo asked that a copy be sent to the town’s state senator and assemplypeople.


“We have a few of them in a few districts here in this county, and I think that they need to be made aware,” Giralo said.


The motion passed.


One of the information items in town engineer Dave Cella’s report regarded improvements to Schoolhouse Lane as part of the 2021 Roads Program. That item, ARH No. 11-40060, noted that, at the previous council meeting, Adams, Rehmann and Heggan Associates was authorized to proceed with the survey field work and design of the project.”


“At present we have provided a notification and request to the utility companies to identify their respective utilities in the project area. Once the information is received, we can incorporate it into our base plan for design purposes,” the report said.


Cella’s report also contained ARH No. 11-01094.01, which pertains to the former K&K Linens Property at 224 Vine St.


“As previously reported; the HDSRF grant application has been submitted and is under review by NJDEP. The grant request is pending NJDEP review. As previously reported the underground storage tank has been removed, and soil samples were taken in and around the excavated area. At present we are compiling the data obtained and preparing to submit to NJDEP,” the report states.


While presenting his report, Public Works Manager Robert Vettese also addressed the improvements to Schoolhouse Lane/Vine Street, as well as possible future use for the K&K Linens site.


“For the 2021 program, we are going through the list with the PWTC (Public Works and Transportation Committee) to see what roads can be completed, both from a reconstruction standpoint and from a microsurfacing standpoint. I think the mayor, and I think Sam and the PWTC members want to prioritize that section of Vine Street and Schoolhouse Lane, from Third Street to 54, and there’s also a small section in front of the town hall on Vine Street that Dave has included in his proposal to at least take us up to K&K Linens, so we’ll take a look at that,” Vettese said.


That area, Vettese said, has broken up on the easterly lane of that section of Vine Street, but Vettese noted that section is also a shallow grade.


“We’re looking at, talking with Dave, providing maybe a couple other inlets, and one in front of K&K Linens, because we’ll probably need something for when that building is taken down and we put a parking lot in that would be used as an overflow for whatever is installed on that K&K Linens site,” Vettese said.


DiDonato remembered former Mayor Ralph Morano at the meeting.


“He passed today, and we’ll be putting the drape up on town hall first thing in the morning. May he rest in peace, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” DiDonato said.


Later in the meeting, while presenting the report from the Administration Committee, Councilman Thomas Gribbin discussed recent efforts by the town’s Coronavirus Task Force Community Goodwill Committee.


“Earlier this month, on behalf of the committee, along with my co-chair Lisa Maiele-Howell, we put on an infomercial—a call-in show—that was on March 4 to provide some information to our residents with regard to the COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination process. I hope our residents found that helpful,” Gribbin said.


Gribbin noted that there have been several updates since the March 4 information session.


“I’m happy to report that Walmart in town is now offering vaccines, as is Walgreen’s; I recently found out that Walgreen’s is. Many of our residents now know that ShopRite has been designated as a Johnson & Johnson vaccination location; ShopRite of Hammonton will only administer J&J shots. All of those sites, as well as MediLink in town, require appointments,” Gribbin said.


Gribbin said that the committee now has volunteers to assist eligible residents with the vaccine registration process who “may not have computer or internet access, or may find the process to be very overwhelming, and need some help navigating that; they may not have a family member that is able to help them.”


“For eligible residents, residents that are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, our volunteers will be providing this service to help you register, either register through the state’s site, register with any of the local or Atlantic County vaccine distribution sites. We are focusing on the four here in town; that would be MediLink, ShopRite, Walgreen’s and Walmart, and also, for those that have the means and ability to travel to Atlantic City. We hope to have more information about means of travel to the Atlantic City site soon,” Gribbin said.


Gribbin said that interested parties may call the town’s hotline at (609) 925-1166, or email help@hammonton.com.


“A member of the Community Goodwill Committee will return your call, and we will, to the best extent we can, provide aid and assistance to help you register and receive a vaccination shot. We cannot promise that we’ll be able to definitely get you in, but we can help increase the chance that you will ... If there’s a way in which we can help you, we certainly hope that we can,” Gribbin said.


The next meeting of town council will be held at 7 p.m. on April 26.