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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Council honors Cpl. Pinto

THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel (left) presented a shadow box and a plaque to Cpl. James Pinto, who retired from the Hammonton Police Department on March 31.

HAMMONTON—Cpl. James Pinto, who retired from the Hammonton Police Department on March 31, was honored at the April 24 meeting of town council.

Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel introduced Pinto, who joined the department in 1996.

“Throughout his career, from stepping in the door as a new patrolman, he excelled at traffic investigation, DWI patrol and was recognized several times over with the MADD award for a high amount of DWI arrests in our community. He was a drug recognition expert for the town of Hammonton when our pilot program started out. He had overseen traffic investigation for fatal accidents in our community,” Friel said.

Friel said that Pinto is an “all-around, knowledgeable, good guy.”

“He was always there to give new people—as he would call it—his ‘tutelage.’ He is a great gentleman. It is definitely a loss to our HPD family with the amount of knowledge he has in Title 39 and traffic investigation. He was always a team member that, no matter what he was doing at home, when he got a call to come in for an incident that we needed help, he was there; even if it wasn’t his week, he’d be there,” Friel said.

Friel presented Pinto with a commemorative plaque and a shadow box with department memorabilia.

“In recognition of 27 years of dedicated service with the town of Hammonton, presented to you on behalf of all the members of the police department. Congratulations, sir,” Friel said.

Friel invited Pinto to provide “pearls of wisdom and tutelage,” and Pinto addressed the crowd.

“I would like to say thank you first to my family for being understanding for everything that we do. Secondly, I would like to thank the police department for all the wonderful men and young ladies that are serving our community at the time. Again, I would also like to thank mayor and council for giving me the opportunity and allowing me to serve the community for 27 years. Also, we must not forget, thank you to our dispatchers,” Pinto said.

Mayor Stephen DiDonato addressed Pinto.

“Jay, please enjoy your retirement with your family. God bless you,” DiDonato said.

Later in the meeting, under the report from the Law and Order Committee, Friel said that the town was still underway with the state’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign.

“Our agency received $7,000 in an enforcement grant from the state; we will be wrapping that up on April 30. Right around the corner, starting May 22, we will be eligible for a Click It or Ticket grant to help to keep our community roadways safe,” Friel said.

During the meeting, council held the Public Hearing of Ordinance No. 008-2023 – Fixing Salaries Police Department.

According to the ordinance, salary minimum and maximums are as follows: Police Chief/Emergency Mgt Coord, $110,000 to $200,000; Police Captain, $100,000 to $175,000; Police Lieutenant, $95,000 to $155,000.

The ordinance was adopted and published.

Council also entertained Resolution No. 059-2023, Setting Salaries for Police Chief and Captain. According to the resolution, the salaries are as follows:

• January 1 to December 31, 2023: Kevin Friel, Chief, $169,054; Donald Kunen, Captain, $151,001.80

• January 1 to December 31, 2024: Friel, $173,305.35; Kunen, $154,692.98

• January 1 to December 31, 2025: Friel, $176,371.12; Kunen, $158,470.43

The resolution was approved unanimously.

A related ordinance was introduced during town solicitor Michael Malinsky’s report, which was not on the agenda as released by the town on April 21 but was part of the amended agenda available at the meeting.

The item was the introduction of Ordinance No. 010-2023, which is an ordinance to amend Chapter 25, Articles I and II of the General Ordinances of the Town of Hammonton.

Malinsky said that the ordinance came at the request of Hammonton Fire Chief Sean Macri.

“For operational purposes, the chief requested that we expand the fire department from one chief and one assistant chief to having a chief, a first assistant chief and a second assistant chief, so we’re adding one assistant chief now to our fire department as an official position. That’s the only thing this ordinance does, and it’s the only changes it makes to Chapter 25,” Malinsky said.

Councilman Renee Rodio made a motion to approve the introduction, which Councilman Thomas Gribbin seconded. The ordinance passed introduction.

During the meeting, council invited the town’s tax assessor, Mary Joan Wyatt, to discuss her role and her department.

“Every couple months, we have a different presentation from a department; today, it’s our tax assessor,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato invited Wyatt to the podium to discuss her department.

“What am I discussing?” Wyatt said.

Wyatt then thanked council for the invitation and described her duties.

“I assess all properties in the town of Hammonton—real properties—no matter they’re vacant land, residence, farmland, commercial, industrial, apartments; I assess them all,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt said that she recently assessed New Standard Senior Living of Hammonton.

“They have 166 single-beds, eight double bed rooms, and I think it’s like $6,000 a month to live there for a single room, if you can afford it. I can’t; not on my salary,” Wyatt said.

DiDonato laughed, and commented further.

“Wait a minute; with that, how many years have you been with us, Mary Joan?” DiDonato said.

Wyatt replied that she has been employed by the town for more than 50 years, and DiDonato asked Gribbin for confirmation. Gribbin responded by holding up a plaque and approaching the podium.

“Oh, no; I thought so. Do you really want to know about what I do?” Wyatt said.

Gribbin replied.

“The tax assessor’s office—while it is very exciting—we know,” Gribbin said.

Town Business Administrator Frank Zuber presented Wyatt with a bouquet of flowers, and DiDonato continued.

“See, we don’t give you a lot of pay, so we brought flowers,” DiDonato said.

Gribbin said that the council wished to recognize Wyatt.

“Mary Joan is the longest-serving town employee in the history of the town of Hammonton.

She just started her 50th year of service that began on April 1, 1973,” Gribbin said.

Gribbin read from a proclamation.

“Mary Joan has always been known as a detail-oriented team player whose extraordinary commitment to maintaining accurate property assessments has positively impacted our community,” Gribbin read.

The proclamation stated that Wyatt’s service to the town is “praiseworthy.”

“Mary Joan’s record-setting tenure will continue to build, as she has no plans to retire from her position anytime soon,” Gribbin read.

Wyatt expressed her gratitude.

“Thank you, everyone. I’m really—I’m overwhelmed. I knew there was a catch to this,” Wyatt said.

In other business, while presenting the report from the Quality of Life Committee, Councilman Jonathan Oliva discussed the necessity for construction permits. Oliva said that, recently, individuals appeared before both the Hammonton Planning Board and the Hammonton Environmental Commission who had not applied for the appropriate permits.

“The permit application process is not an opportunity for the town to extract $65 or $75 from somebody’s pocket for permit for it to be filed here. It’s an opportunity for individuals who have a series of expertise to help make sure that what’s going to be built—what’s going to be on your property—is structurally stable, meets appropriate fire codes. It’s going to ensure that, when you go step on that deck, they’re going to review the appropriate information and make sure everything is designed, signed and sealed by professional engineer and make sure that, when a storm comes, nothing’s going to collapse,” Oliva said.

Such permits, Oliva said, allow the town to make “one final check to ensure your safety.”

“I’d like to just make sure everyone, if you’re going to have some work done, if you’re unsure if you need a permit—maybe you’re just not sure; I’ve never done this work before—please give town hall a call,” Oliva said.

During the report from the Education Committee, Renee Rodio gave an update from the most recent meeting of the Hammonton Board of Education.

“They approved Reese Investigations, LLC to perform residency investigation services to remove any non-resident students from the schools,” Rodio said.

While presenting the report from the Public Works and Transportation Committee, Councilman Sam Rodio said that members of the town’s highway department recently performed landscaping on Bellevue Avenue and in several of the town’s parks.

“Our landscaper is getting back on track, and, of course, we’ll continue through the summer trying to keep the town looking as well as we could—especially main street,” he said.

In other business, council held the public hearing of Ordinance No. 005-2023 – Sale of Town Owned Property Lot 3 Block 1602.

According to the ordinance, the minimum amount for the lot will be $22,300, and the public sale will take place at 10 a.m. on May 12 on the third floor of town hall.

According to Zuber, the property in question is located at 149 Golden Eagle Dr.

The ordinance was adopted and published.

Council then heard the public hearing of Bond Ordinance No. 006-2023 – Athletic Field Lighting and ADA Lake Park Upgrades. This ordinance appropriates $740,000 and authorizes the issuance of $323,000 in bonds or notes of the town.

According to the ordinance, for the ADA improvements to the facilities at Hammonton Lake Park, the total cost is $440,000; the total from the Capital Improvement Fund is $2,000, the amount that will be grant-funded is $400,000 and the debt authorized is $38,000. For the lighting for athletic fields and improvements to various recreation facilities, the total cost is $300,000; the total from the Capital Improvement Fund is $15,000 and the debt authorized is $285,000.

The ordinance was adopted and published.

Zuber had two items under the town clerk’s report:

• Accept the retirement of Louis Marshall from the active role and accept Justin Day as a regular member of Fire Company No. 2. Approved at Fire Company meeting held on April 12.

• Approve hiring of Television personality/Meteorologist per RFQ received on April 11.

Contingent upon agreement of contract. Contract to run from May 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023. Mayor to sign on behalf of the Town.

“There is no increase in the contract. It’s $1,250 a month; it’ll be a total of $10,000 for the year,” said Zuber.

The items were approved.

Council then entertained Resolution No. 057-2023, Authorizing NJ ABC to Renew Conflict Liquor License. The license in question is No. 0113 33 006 for DiDonato’s Bowling Center at 1151 White Horse Pike; the license holder is Stephen DiDonato.

“The applicant is a member of the governing body of the Town of Hammonton, which also acts as the ABC issuing authority, the subject license is a ‘conflict’ license. Accordingly, said renewal application will be forwarded to the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control for consideration pursuant to N.J.S.A. 33:1-20 and N.J.A.C. 13:2-4.1,” the resolution states.

DiDonato recused himself from the discussion and vote; Gribbin presided over the matter.

Oliva made a motion to approve the resolution, which Sam Rodio seconded. The motion carried.

Council also entertained the following resolutions:

• Resolution No. 058-2023, Authorize National Night Out Event & Fireworks Display on August 4 with a rain date of August 5

• Resolution No. 060-2023, Authorize Green Market at Third Thursday

• Resolution No. 061-2023, Approve Application to and Authorizing Local Matching Funds for the United States Environmental Protection Agency Community Projects Funding Grants Program. The town of Hammonton has been awarded FY2022 Congressionally Directed Spending funding in the amount of $395,000 to fund the following project(s): Sewer Infrastructure Study and Minor Repairs at Liberty Street and Park Avenue Pump Stations … The town of Hammonton agrees to provide its required 25 percent local matching share to the Community Project Funding project in the amount of $98,750

• Resolution No. 062-2023, Declaring April 27 and 28, 2023 “Hammonton Arbor Days”

The resolutions were approved.

At the end of regular business, DiDonato announced that council would be going back into closed session.

“We will be coming back into open. I don’t believe any action will be taken, but we will come back into open to close the meeting out,” DiDonato said.

Oliva made a motion to enter closed session, which Gribbin seconded, and the motion carried.

Council was in closed session for 15 minutes before resuming open session.

“We have one thing to do,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato continued.

“I would like to accept a motion from council to go out to advertise for a new position,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato said that the position requires “turf experience.”

“Basically, what we’re doing, Hammonton, is we’re trying to put together a crew—a department—to improve the playability of our parks and recs, and improve the condition of them,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato said that the facilities are in need of improvement.

“We want to improve the turf. We want to improve the playability for the kids and the grandkids. We want to improve the cleanliness of the bathrooms. We want to improve the playground, everything … Put a little more polish on our parks and recs,” DiDonato said.

Sam Rodio commented further.

“And the parks around the town, also: town hall, Key Club, Veterans Park, Ma’s, Front Street, every park we have around the town, also,” he said.

Furgione offered clarification for the position.

“Mayor, when you refer to the word ‘turf,’ in this instance, it’s actually grass,” Furgione said.

Sam Rodio made a motion to advertise the position, which Furgione seconded. DiDonato continued.

“We’re going to advertise for the position, we’ll interview and, like I said, the goal is to get somebody to improve the grass turf at the fields. We currently have an outside contractor who’s doing it, and, at this time, we’re checking all our options,” DiDonato said.

Sam Rodio concurred.

“This department will be there five days a week, eight hours a day, taking care of wherever it needs to be taken care of on that given day or time, whether it’s from mowing the lawn … fertilizing,” he said.

Sam Rodio offered an example.

“In front of the nets at the soccer fields, it’s dirt; it’s not grass. It needs to become grass again, and that can happen. From what I’m being told, that can happen, by a professional that does that in their business,” he said.

The motion carried.

After the meeting, DiDonato spoke with The Gazette regarding the new position.

“The playability of the fields and the condition of the parks is not quite to where we—we would like to see them improve. They’re in need of improvement,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato indicated the landscaping outside of town hall as an example.

“You can see. Just look. They’re supposed to be mowing once a week. Just look … With the prices we’re getting, we’re not satisfied at this time. We want to see what our options are; check all our options and see where we go,” DiDonato said.

The next meeting of town council will be May 22 at 7 p.m.


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