Joseph F. Berenato
Carpo sworn in as police officer
HAMMONTON—An official swearing-in ceremony was held for Richard Carpo Jr., the newest member of the Hammonton Police Department during the September 27 meeting of town council.
Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel said that Carpo is now the 32nd officer in the department “as we’re moving to the number of 34.”
“We have a young officer who comes to us that was an officer with the city of Egg Harbor. Through the new program that we have run through the new law in the state of New Jersey, we were able to hire him not from our civil service list, which, to me, is a way to enhance the way that we protect and serve our community with officers who have experience and training. Luckily, this officer also is Hammonton-born and bred; he is a graduate of Hammonton High School, has lived here all of his life. I just want to welcome Richard Carpo to our department,” Friel said.
Friel said that Carpo had been sworn-in previously, but requested a formal ceremony with council so that Carpo’s family could enjoy it.
Councilman William Olivo administered the oath to Carpo, who was joined by his parents, Richard and Anni.
After the oath, Friel discussed the economic impact of a hiring like that of Carpo.
“Normally, when we hire an officer, you have at least 21 weeks of academy training; this is officers being paid by the town of Hammonton to learn, then you have an additional up to three months of field training that an officer is going to be maintaining, learning with an officer that we have specialized training with experience to train new officers. This is plug-and-play out of the box, someone who has a year’s experience as a full-time officer, two years’ experience as a Class II officer—so that’s someone that, within one week, we were able to put on a shift,” Friel said.
Mayor Stephen DiDonato agreed.
“Chief, find us two more, so we can get to 34 by the end of the year,” DiDonato said.
Later, while presenting the Law and Order Committee report, Friel noted that a member of the department has recently been deployed for six months.
“He left last week, and will not be returning until March. That’s why, as I said, economically I’m trying to be very, very frugal with our budget, and hiring another couple officers within the next month would certainly greatly improve our ability to properly police our town and our community safely, without having to go crazy with our budget,” Friel said.
Also during the report, Friel said that there have been two recent pedestrian fatalities.
“In general, people’s driving habits have been in decline, so we need to work hard to make sure that we’re more attentive, and we need to be very attentive as pedestrians walking, not to be cycled in on our smartphone, and to be attentive as to what’s going on around us,” Friel said.
Friel also said that crime has been on the decline as of late.
“We’ve had a decrease in incidents of drug and other crimes. Motor vehicle thefts are way down, which is great; everyone’s heeding the ‘make sure you lock your cars and keep all your outbuildings and garages locked’ and that’s a great thing,” Friel said.
Before Friel left the microphone, DiDonato expressed sympathies to Friel over the recent loss of a family member.
“My condolences to you and your family. Danny Marro was a tremendous young man, and it’s a great loss to the town, and, I can imagine, your family ... I’m sorry, Chief,” DiDonato said.
“He was a genuine nice guy that would help anyone, and was always kind and concerned for everyone that he always met. Thank you,” Friel said.
In other council business, Councilman Thomas Gribbin said that the Administration Committee worked on a solution to allow the replay of town council meetings.
“With the upgrades to our Access Hammonton channel and its equipment, we lost some of the capabilities, and that included the ability to replay council meetings at fixed times on a particular day without having a town employee manually doing so. But, after our meeting, I’m happy to report that, after some creative discussions with Denise Mazzeo and our business administrator, Mr. [Frank] Zuber, we have devised a way to rebroadcast town council meetings on Mondays,” Gribbin said.
Gribbin said that such rebroadcasts commenced on September 13.
“That will continue on all Mondays on which there is not a council meeting,” Gribbin said.
Shortly thereafter, Gribbin discussed a project in the works at Hammonton Veterans Memorial Park.
“We are coming up on a situation in which we are running out of space for names of Hammontonians that have served in several different wars. So, I would like to see if we can form a committee of councilmembers and members of the vets. I’d be happy to reach out to them and talk about that,” Gribbin said.
Gribbin said that he was seeking council’s approval to do so “in order to continue that tradition of honoring all of our veterans.”
“I think it’s very special that Hammonton not only honors our fallen veterans that served in wars but even those that have served. I know that that’s going to take the addition of some plaques; it may even take the addition of some new stone. Obviously, we’re going to want to come up with a plan that costs that out that meets the design elements of what is existing there as well. It’s going to be an endeavor and a project that I think deserves a certain level of seriousness,” Gribbin said.
DiDonato suggested the formation of an ad-hoc committee with Gribbin as chair; Councilman Jonathan Oliva and Councilman Joseph Giralo also volunteered for the committee, which council approved.
“At the next meeting, I’ll report back after having spoken to members of the Tri-Vets, and we’ll come back with names, and we’ll start the work that needs to be done to continue honoring all of our veterans at Hammonton Veterans Memorial Park,” Gribbin said.
While presenting the Quality of Life Committee report, Oliva discussed Trick-or-Treat, which will be held on October 31 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“That mimics the hours that Trick-or-Treat was last year, which extends Trick-or-Treat beyond two hours to two-and-a-half hours, as we did last year. Also, dusk is 6 p.m., so that puts half of Trick-or-Treat at dusk, and it puts half of Trick-or-Treat in daylight, which can be a lot of fun for the kids—and, also, both the Eagles and the Steelers play at 1 p.m., so at 4:30 p.m., both of those games should be over, barring any overtime,” Oliva said.
Oliva then presented a motion for council to approve the hours for Trick-or-Treat, which was seconded by Giralo and approved unanimously.
After presenting the Education Committee report, Giralo discussed voting procedures for the upcoming elections.
“Our vote-by-mail ballots went in the mail on September 18; I know that several of you in Hammonton have already received them. If you receive a vote-by-mail ballot, you have to vote it—if you’re going to vote—and send it back. You cannot discard it and then go to the polls, because, if you do, they’re going to make you vote provisional,” Giralo said.
Giralo said that early voting—what he has termed as “election season”—begins on Saturday, October 23 and continues until Sunday, October 31. Early voting will take place in the town of Hammonton at the Hammonton Family Success Center, located at 310 Bellevue Ave. Voting hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
“There will be no challengers—from what we understood today—in the polls. It’ll be the poll workers, and there’ll be 10 voting stations within there,” Giralo said.
Giralo said that he saw the new voting machines that will be used for early voting.
“They’re very sophisticated, and they are large enough; they are actually easier to read than the machine that you vote on on Election Day ... The new machine is quite neat when you go down and you look at it and you vote, because you can be from anywhere in the county and go to the six polling locations throughout the county, technically, and the ballot comes up for your municipality. Before you hit that you agree to that, it prints it on a paper, and you see who you voted for to make sure that that’s your ballot, then you hit it and it gets into a machine,” Giralo said.
Giralo said that there will be no voting on Monday, November 1.
“On Tuesday, November 2, you can vote in your own municipality in your regular district,” Giralo said.
During the meeting, Councilman Steven Furgione made a request of Public Works Manager Robert Vettese.
“Can we send another letter to NJ Transit? The railroad from Fairview to Bellevue, they cut the trees down, but the fence is a disgrace, and they have all this growth through the fence. Can we finish the project? Please?” Furgione said.
Council also held the public hearing of Ordinance No. 014-2021 – Amend Chapter 211, Article IV of the General Ordinances of the Town of Hammonton. This ordinance eliminates Article IV in its entirety.
According to the language of Article IV, it was the town’s “purpose and intent to establish a process to address the deterioration and blight of neighborhoods caused by an increasing amount of abandoned, foreclosed or distressed real property located within the Town of Hammonton, and to identify, regulate, limit and reduce the number of abandoned properties located within the town.”
“It is with further intent to participate in the County-wide registration program established by the Atlantic County Improvement Authority as a mechanism to protect neighborhoods from becoming blighted due to the lack of adequate maintenance and security of abandoned and foreclosed properties,” the article stated.
At the August meeting, Town Solicitor Michael Malinsky explained the purpose of the new ordinance.
“This is an ordinance in which mayor and council are eliminating the current section of the ordinance that deals with the registration regarding properties of individuals that don’t pay their mortgage payment in which there’s foreclosure or lis pendens filed,” Malinsky said.
The ordinance was adopted and published.
Under the town clerk’s report, Zuber had the following items:
• Accept Samuel Gardner as a regular member of Fire Company No. 2. Background check complete, approved at Fire Company meeting on September 8, 2021.
• Approval to hire Frank Sacco full-time as Code Enforcement Officer Effective as of November 1, 2021 for 32.5 hours per week, yearly salary of $40,560, single benefits, contingent upon all civil service rules and regulations.
• Approval to hire Anthony Sirolli as public safety telecommunicator in Police Radio Dept. Part time, 20 hours a week, no benefits. Contingent upon all civil serves rules and regulations.
• Accept retirement of William J. Esposito from his position as Construction Code Official and Electrical Sub code Inspector effective as of August 26, 2021.
• Accept resignation of Linda Slimm from her position as police dispatcher effective as of September 20, 2021.
• Approval of an additional 40 hours for Linda Rehmann for deposition for $120 per hour
Furgione commented on the last item.
“Mayor, number six should take us through depositions and trial prep,” Furgione said.
The items were approved.
Council also introduced two ordinances during the meeting.
The first was Ordinance No. 015-2021 – Amending Chapter 271 Turn Prohibitions. This ordinance will prohibit U-turns on North Liberty Street, between Fairview Avenue and East Pleasant Street, and on North Fourth Street, between Fairview Avenue and Walnut Street.
“This is going to go over like a lead balloon ... it’s so overdue, but this is going to be interesting,” Furgione said.
Friel explained further.
“It’s something actually that’s been recommended every year by the school board to the parents, but, again, there was no teeth to be able to enforce it, and this is to be able to give us teeth,” Friel said.
Furgione said that the ordinance, designed to prevent U-turns in front of schools during drop-off and pickup, is “needed, and it’s time,” and Councilman Sam Rodio concurred.
“They brought it on themselves,” Rodio said.
DiDonato commented further.
“Basically, it’s in front of the schools, gang. You’re picking up the kids, you can’t bang a uey. I’m sorry, but we’ve got to keep everybody safe,” DiDonato said.
The ordinance passed introduction.
The second ordinance to be introduced was Ordinance No. 016-2021 – Amending Chapter 75 Alcoholic Beverage Consumption Hours.
According to the ordinance, Chapter 75, Section 8, Paragraph A is amended to: “No licensee shall sell, serve or deliver any alcoholic beverages on any weekday or weekend between the hours of 2:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.”
Olivo asked if the hours were being changed, and Zuber explained.
“The issue was that the old ordinance said no liquor served on Sundays at all ... it was old,” Zuber said.
DiDonato, a liquor-license holder, recused himself from the vote. The introduction passed.
Council also approved the following resolutions en masse:
• Resolution No. 119-2021, Authorizing and Endorsing Kiwanis Club Halloween Parade on October 27.
• Resolution No. 120-2021, Approval to Issue a Request For Proposals, Under State Competitive Contracting Guidelines, for Engineering Services Pursuant to A FY2020 Small Cities Award to the Town of Hammonton to Provide ADA Compliant Facilities at Hammonton Lake Park.
• Resolution No. 121-2021, Support “Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day” on October 6.
• Resolution No. 122-2021, Awarding Various Specialized Services Contracts and Quotes.
• Resolution No. 123-2021, Authorizing Inter-local Sales Agreement with Shamong Township for the Town of Hammonton Utility Department’s 1999 2100 Vac Truck for $15,000.
• Resolution No. 124-2021, Authorizing the following Tax/Water/Sewer/Refunds: JSS Realty LLC, 254 Bellevue Ave, $5,796.17 (tax) and $390 (utility), Refund/Overpayment; Fenwick Holdings LLC, 118 Railroad Ave., $1,065.85, Refund/Overpayment; Lereta, $1,966.17, Refund/Overpayment; Lereta, $1,545.19, Refund/Overpayment; Horoski, Anthony, 31 Leah Ct., $3,448.85, Cancel/Tax Exempt; Jones, Joseph, 425 E. Pleasant St., $2,398.13, Cancel/Tax Exempt; Jones, Dale and Stacy, 301 Locust St., $2,451.70, Cancel/Tax Exempt.
• Resolution No. 125-2021, Authorizing the Police Chief to Sell the Following Town-Owned Inoperable Police Vehicles for Scrap Value: 2000 Ford Crown Victoria, 2003 Ford Crown Victoria (2); 2005 Ford Crown Victoria (2), 2006 Ford Crown Victoria, 2009 Ford Crown Victoria, 2004 Ford Expedition, 2006 Ford Explorer, 2007 Dodge Durango and an old ERT Panel Van.
• Resolution No. 126-2021, Appointing Anthony J. Berenato as Construction Official for the Town of Hammonton effective as of August 26, 2021.
• Resolution No. 127-2021, Approve Chimney Rustic Ales Event “Hops Against Homelessness” for Family Promise of Burlington County on October 15 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
During the first public comment portion, Walter Kelley, of 31 Alexander Dr. spoke about the fence around the retention basin for Traditions at Blueberry Ridge, a matter about which Kelley had expressed concern at a previous council meeting.
“I’d just like to thank you, mayor, for addressing the matter with the fence real quickly. We did have an incident the other day of kids in there again, so they cooperated and left. I was talking with the chief—and, by the way, Chief, thanks for the idea—so he suggested in the future that we call him so that we can get this matter handled. We’ve had two incidents in the last three months, and—as you know—the condition of that basin is very poor, so we certainly don’t want to have a tragedy,” Kelley said.
Mark Santora of 385 Old Forks Rd., also addressed council regarding the aforementioned retention basin. Santora noted that he has been “coming to the meetings now for several months, and asking for the same documents of public record over and over.”
“I haven’t gotten a reply from the town, whether it would come from mayor and council or Mr. Malinsky, and what I asked for I think we all know. It was the soil samples from when it was in the planning stages, their location in proximity to the basin, the soil samples when the boring rigs came out and drilled in the basin and the complete history of any bonds pertaining to the project—and any maintenance which has been done, a history of any maintenance done to that basin. I would like to know when I’m going to receive the documents I’m requesting,” Santora said.
DiDonato asked Vettese if he could contact Remington & Vernick Engineers regarding the documents in question.
“I went into the town records. The town might have some of the records in the dead files that are down in the basement, so I can call Remington & Vernick and see ... what we do have is a report that Remington & Vernick had done associated with the basin,” Vettese said.
Santora reiterated that he was seeking documents from the planning stages of the basin as well as soil samples taken from the boring rigs.
Gribbin noted that there are Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request forms, and Zuber explained further.
“Mark, just come up to the third floor and fill out an OPRA request so it’s in writing so we have it, and I’ll get it right to Bobby and we’ll get it for you,” Zuber said.
Santora said that it was his opinion that the only way to fix the water issue would be to get said water “back to what has been referred to as the Blue Line Stream.”
“You’d have to overcome a sizeable elevation berm, I’d guess you’d call it, and then I guess maintain it out to the Pike, because it would have to go through wooded areas ... I’m not against trying to help the town, if they want to run the water across the back of my property, provided it’s done right and there’s maintenance,” Santora said.
DiDonato noted that such cooperation would be necessary.
“It’s going to take all parties working together, from the high point—which is behind Judge [Michael] Donio’s property there on Ranere Avenue—all working together, the high point all the way through Trotter’s Run, through Blueberry Ridge and out to the wetlands. It’s going to take us all working together, all sitting down, hashing it out and coming up with a solution to this problem,” DiDonato said.
Before the conclusion of the meeting, Gribbin expressed gratitude to Atlantic County Commission James Bertino, who was in the gallery in the beginning of the meeting.
“Earlier in the month, right before school started, I had noticed that the bridge on North Liberty Street and also over on Linda [Avenue] had a lot of growth hanging over it. School was starting the next day. I called Mr. Bertino, we worked it out and he had county crews there the next morning and got it cleaned up the day before school started, so that there would be easy passageway for students that walk to the middle school,” Gribbin said.
The next meeting of town council is scheduled for October 25 at 7 p.m.