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  • Mohammed Fuad

Council begins new year


Atlantic County Clerk Joseph Giralo administered the oath of office to Councilwoman Renee Rodio on January 3. Her son Joseph held the Bible for her. (THG/Betsey Karl)


HAMMONTON— Hammonton Town Council reorganization meeting was held at town hall on January 3. With almost a packed house inside the council chamber, the reorganization meeting saw new members sworn in to town council, the appointment of people to various committees and police officers receiving promotions within their ranks.


Councilman Tom Gribbin was in the mayor’s seat for the town reorganization meeting on behalf of Mayor Stephen DiDonato. DiDonato could not be in attendance as his father, Dominic “Tip” DiDonato died. A moment of silence was held for Dominic DiDonato before the meeting began.


The local dignitaries that were in attendance and recognized by Gribbin were Atlantic County Clerk Joseph Giralo, Atlantic County 5th District Commissioner James A. Bertino, municipal judge Frank Raso and former town councilman Bill Olivo. Assemblyman Michael Torrissi Jr. could not be in attendance as he was administering oaths of office in Shamong.


The meeting began with new members of town council being sworn in. Steven Furgione, Renee Rodio and Sam Rodio were sworn in. Raso administered the oaths of office for Furgione and Sam Rodio, the latter sworn in for his eighth term and councilperson while Giralo administered the oath of office for Renee Rodio. Raso lightened the mood with a joke that was met with laughs by those in attendance.


“It’s always an honor to come back and swear in our new council members. Last week, I actually spoke with Renee Rodio and I asked ‘Renee, do you have somebody who’s swearing you in next week?’ and she says ‘yeah, I’ve asked Joe Giralo to come do it’ and I say ‘well,you might want to think about it because when I swear somebody in, they keep getting reelected,’” Raso said.


After the town council members were sworn in, Gribbin announced to those in attendance the passing of Dominic “Tip” DiDonato and everyone stood for a moment of silence in honor of DiDonato.


“Our mayor is obviously spending this time to be with his family and he has asked me to lead tonight’s meeting in agenda. Anyone that’s had the privilege of knowing or meeting Tip DiDonato knows what an absolute gentleman he was. He was a loving family man, hardworking businessman and he was a proud Marine. Our mayor and the DiDonato family lost a great father and our town lost one of the most respected pillars of our community and our hearts go out to the DiDonato family and I ask you all to join me for a moment of silence,” Gribbin said.


Several appointments were made during the reorganization meeting for one-year terms. Michael Malinsky was appointed as town solicitor, Leon Costello of Ford Scott Associates as town auditor, Anthony Solomini as bond counsel, Steve Barse of Gruccio Pepper DeSanto and Ruth PA as labor attorney, Shirley Grasso as court prosecutor, Adam Barker of Barker Gelfand James and Sarvas as conflict prosecutor, Sam Curcio Jr. as public defender, Linda Goff as conflict public defender, Dennis Yap of DY Consultants for airport consultant, Chris Rehmann of ARH Associates as town planner, traffic consultant and town engineer, Key Engineers as alternate engineer, AtlantiCare Occupational Medicine and Urgent Care as town doctor, Audrey Boyer as deputy town clerk, Frank Zuber as fund commissioner, Sean Macri as fire chief and Dominic Jim Day as assistant fire chief.


Taylor Design Group Inc. was appointed as landscape architect and park designer while Triad Associates were appointed as economic development and grant advisory services, both for one-year terms. Furgione was the lone council person who abstained on a vote for Taylor Design Group as landscape architect.


The following mayor council committee appointments were made for the following, with the first name as chairperson: Gribbin, Jonathan Oliva and DiDonato for administration, Ed Wuillermin, Gribbin and DiDonato for business and industry, Renee Rodio, Gribbin and DiDonato for education, all members of town council for finance, DiDonato, Sam Rodio and Wuillermin for law and order, Sam Rodio, Furgione, Wuillermin and DiDonato for public works and transportation, Oliva, Renee Rodio and DiDonato for quality of life and Furgione, Sam Rodio, Wuillermin and DiDonato for water and sewer.


The meeting then moved forward with the town clerk’s report, with the approval of Memorandum of Understanding for the Superior Officers Association for the Hammonton Police Department and the oaths of office for promotions in the police department, which was led by Hammonton Chief of Police Kevin Friel.


Friel began with the promotion of Sean Grasso as police lieutenant, who was previously the police sergeant since 2012.


“An individual who started in our police station in 2002 and while as a patrol officer, he was on the motorcycle patrol unit, a member of the Atlantic County Emergency Response team as a police sniper, was an SRO (school resource officer) at our high school who stepped up to fill in as the SRO position and did a wonderful job with that,” Friel said.


Friel then announced the promotion of David Reustle as police sergeant, who started at the Hammonton Police Department in 2013, was appointed in the detective bureau in 2017 and was one of Friel’s D.A.R.E. students when Reustle was in the fifth grade.


“He started in law enforcement in 2007. He started out as a special law enforcement officer for the city of Ventnor, was working part-time during the summer and became a full-time special law enforcement officer in 2010 in the city of Ventnor and also went on to be a police dispatcher for the city of Ventnor,” Friel said. “So he knows both sides of the radio console, being out in the field and being behind the Ford, which is something that we work for the police officers to comprehend. He’s done a wonderful job in our detective bureau with a lot of cases that people don’t like to deal with, he does very well handling crimes against children, he’s been very good at investigations with crimes that we had.”


Friel then concluded the promotions with Robert Zbikowski as police sergeant. He was appointed to corporal rank in 2019.


“He was already working at Stockton police department and came to us in 2007 on an intergovernmental transfer. He worked as a patrol officer in 2010, he was chosen to be a K-9 handler and did a wonderful job as a K-9 handler or police agency in discovering narcotics, making apprehension and surrenders,” Friel said. “He was appointed to the rank of corporal in 2019, which was a great thing that I got to do that because he did a great job leading squads because we have had a period of time where we have a sergeant out for a long period, so Corporal Zbikowski was running the show instead of a sergeant on his platoon.”


The town council voted for the following resolutions: defer school tax, with the amount of deferred local school taxes be increased to $9,991,448.50, designating official banks and signatures, with U.S. Bank and OceanFirst as the official depositories, state vendors, designate official newspapers, with The Hammonton Gazette as the official newspaper for the town of Hammonton, authorize temporary budget for 2023, fixing interest rate for nonpayment of taxes or assessments, adopt cash management plan and appointing assessor as agent.


Gribbin concluded the meeting with the mayor’s address, which he gave on behalf of DiDonato.


“As I mentioned earlier in this meeting, my heart goes out to our mayor and the entire DiDonato family during this difficult time. I’d like to first thank everyone in attendance for coming out tonight and to welcome our new councilperson, councilwoman Renee Rodio, and welcome back councilman Sam Rodio and councilman Steven Furgione. As elected officials, it is our job and our duty to serve all 15,000 residents of our town and to make the very best decisions that we can for the good of Hammonton. I would like to say that Hammonton is the quintessential, All-American town because it is. Hammonton was built by values, which continue to thrive here today, hard work, honesty, determination, respect, faith and most importantly family. Because we have held true to those values, our town has experienced tremendous success and we will reach higher. Aided by our values and diverse economy helped grow and has positioned Hammonton to be the benchmark by which all surrounding communities look to emulate and while other towns may look to emulate our economy and see it as our key to success, we fellow Hammontonians know that the real secret to our success is our people and the values that we hold,” Gribbin said.


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