• Joseph F. Berenato

Council honors Debra Camorata


Debra Camorata was court administrator for town of Hammonton's court clerk. (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—Town council held their regularly monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on December 21 via Zoom teleconferencing software.


Mayor Stephen DiDonato opened the meeting with a moment of silence in memory of Debra Camorata.


“She was court administrator for our court clerk for a number of years, and she passed almost a week ago due to COVID complications. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” DiDonato said.


Later in the meeting, during the report for the Water and Sewer Committee, Councilman Steven Furgione gave updates and presented several action items related to the Fourth Street water tower.


“MBA (Mumford-Bjorkman Assoc.) is our water tank consultant. They’ve been reviewing the tank; they started in the springtime. They made some initial recommendations for things that need to be done now, and then some recommendations for things to be done in the next three to five years. I’ve been talking about this off and on here, but we’re ready to award some of the work,” Furgione said.


The first phase, Furgione said, will be to drain the water tower completely.


“We’re going to do this in the winter when the use is at its lowest; drain the water tower, clean the inside of the water tower, install a new mixer/power vent for circulation of the water, the drinking water. This will obviously be more efficient; it will be less cost for our power and electric, and it will also provide a better opportunity for the water to mix properly,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that the town put the job out for bid and received one bid back from Derstine Co. Inc. of Souderton, Pa.


“This will be to drain the water tower, clean the inside of the water tower, install the mixer and power vent and then refill it back up. It’s an install-only in the amount of $43,999, and this will come off of the bond from the painting of the water tower,” Furgione said.


The second item, Furgione said, was to authorize the actual purchase of the mixer and power vent—which is called a hydropillar—from PSI Water Technologies, Inc. of Milpitas, Calif.


“They’ve done the shop drawings for us; they’ve reviewed our tower. By purchasing the equipment directly, there’s a savings to the taxpayers, and, since we’ve been working with them and have all the shop drawings done, there’s no need to have our vendor purchase it and mark it up when we can buy it direct ... They are a state vendor, state contractor, in the amount of $45,800, and again, this will purchase the hydropillar—or the mixer and the power vent, whatever you want to call it—they will deliver it to the job site and Derstine will install it. This amount—$45,800—will also come off of the water tower painting bond,” Furgione said.


The last item, Furgione said, was a payment to MBA.


“They are our water tank consultants at Lincoln Street, and they will be our consultant here on this project as well. The amount is $8,125. This will get us a pre-construction meeting, site visits and, most importantly, an inspection of the inside of the tank once it’s drained, so we can figure out if the inside is a clean-only, or if we’re going to need to repaint. We’re not sure yet until we get it cleaned to really see what we’re dealing with there. They will be the ones to inspect the tower and make sure this part of the construction goes well,” Furgione said.


The three items were approved by council.


Furgione said that a preconstruction meeting is to be held in January of 2021, with the work commencing in either January or February.


“The water tower will be down a couple of weeks. This will be a very good test to see how the town’s water system reacts to this as, obviously, this is our main source of pressure for the town. I’ll have more details on that as they become available, but the plan will be to shut the tower down for a couple of weeks, do this work, have the inspection, fill it and we can go on to our additional phases later this year or next year,” Furgione said.


Later in the meeting, Public Works Manager Robert Vettese presented several different action items during his report.


The first regarded the $20,000 grant that the town of Hammonton received from the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters to investigate the feasibility of instituting a stormwater utility.


“The New Jersey League of Conservation Voters gave us a list of consultants. We sent it out to four different consultants to get proposals back; two were returned. We interviewed them last Thursday. Both companies had very good credentials and both were about equal, presentation-wise. There was one a little bit more local and works in New Jersey a little bit more that might be familiar with the town of Hammonton’s concerns,” Vettese said.


Vettese recommended awarding the consultant contract to Princeton Hydro, located in Sicklerville, for a figure not to exceed the grant amount.


Furgione asked that language be included indicating that this is a non-binding exploration, and Vettese affirmed that it was.


“It is not an obligation for the town to enter into a utility. It’s just an evaluation process,” Vettese said.


Vettese also brought to council’s attention another grant for which the town may apply through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), who are supplying funds up to a maximum of $16,000 for completing the application and construction of an electrical vehicle charging station.


“We’re asking for the town’s approval to have EV Connect assist the town in making an application. They’ve done a couple different applications to the state and a couple of other states that would give us a better opportunity of getting funded for that particular program up to the maximum amount of the grant from DEP,” Vettese said.


Vettese then mentioned an issue related to the restoration of the town clock, located at the intersection of Third Street, Central Avenue and Vine Street.


“Two of the roadways are county roadways. Part of the fountain and the clock are within county right-of-way, so we have to apply for a county roadway opening permit. The county reviewed the permit request, and they asked for an agreement to be formulated between the town and the county associated with work within the county right-of-way,” Vettese said.


Vettese said that the town was supplied with an agreement by the county to which several modifications were made, and that the town solicitor, Michael Malinsky, was reviewing the final version of the document.


“We would ask for approval of the agreement, subject to Mike finalizing the document with the county, and then authorizing the signature once it’s finalized,” Vettese said.


Councilman Jonathan Oliva asked for clarification on the matter.


“It’s just an agreement; there’s no financial contribution for that work, correct?” Oliva said.

Vettese said that the cost to the town was negligible.


“They waived the fees. I think it might be a dollar, because we’re working within their right-of-way,” Vettese said.


Vettese also informed council of a program through DEP related to radon awareness programs that the state agency has established.


“The town could apply for an up-to-$2,000 grant that would allow for the purchase of radon test kits; it would probably allow us to purchase 50 test kits,” Vettese said.


Vettese said that there are some parameters to that particular grant, and, as such, he was asking two things of council. The first was for the passage of a resolution authorizing the month of January 2021 as Radon Awareness Month—which appeared on the agenda as Resolution No. 138-2020.


According to the language of that resolution, radon is a “naturally occurring radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer; and whereas, prolonged exposure to radon can kill as many as 500 people in New Jersey each year; and whereas, families who reside in homes with elevated radon levels are at risk of developing serious health problems; and whereas, any home could have high levels, even when neighboring homes do not; and whereas, radon testing can be done with great ease at a relatively low expense to the homeowner, with the cost of reducing radon concentrations being comparable to a home repair; and whereas, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Environmental Protection Agency are collaborating during the month of January to promote the need for radon testing in an effort to protect the lives of our State’s residents. Now, therefore, be resolved that the mayor and town council of the town of Hammonton ... call upon all residents who have not yet tested to test their homes for radon and to reduce radon levels if elevated levels are found, to protect their families from the serious health risk of radon.”


The second request was for an application to be filed with DEP in the amount of $2,000. Vettese said that one of the requirements is to advertise in “a couple newspapers,” providing the information related to the state’s program.


“With the town use of Channel 9 and with the website the town has, that might satisfy those items, so we’ll check with the DEP on that. If there’s any additional cost we’re not aware of, it will not be covered by the $2,000,” Vettese said.


All of Vettese’s items—as well as Resolution No. 138-2020—were passed by council.

During the town solicitor’s report, Malinsky presented one action item for council’s consideration: a motion to approve the disciplinary action taken by the volunteer fire companies against Robert Thornewell.


“This was pursuant to Ordinance Section 25-9. the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Company’s recommended a 45-day suspension, mandatory ventilation class and an approved fire academy. In accordance with Section 25-10 and 25-8, volunteer fire companies are seeking town council to adopt a resolution to approve the recommended discipline,” Malinsky said.


After a pause, Councilman Sam Rodio made the motion.


“No one makes a motion? This is from the fire department; am I correct, Mr. Malinsky?” Rodio said.


Malinsky responded, noting that, with the adoption of Ordinance No. 012-2019 on July 22, 2019, fire companies “can do everything except suspend.”


“There was a disciplinary hearing held with members of Company 1 and Company 2, and there was a decision made by them. Since council is the only entity with the authority to suspend, they are seeking a resolution approving their recommendation for discipline against Mr. Thornewell. We have a decision that has been received by the Hammonton Fire Department, which has been executed by all people involved in that hearing,” Malinsky said.


DiDonato seconded the motion.


“The reason I’ll second is because this is the department head—the chief—this is his recommendation along with a board after they had a hearing, so this is an internal investigation and a hearing done by the firemen, and this is what they recommend, and this is the new process,” DiDonato said.


The motion carried.


The reorganization meeting for town council is scheduled for January 4, 2021 at 6 p.m. The next regular meeting of town council is scheduled to be held on January 25, 2021 at 7 p.m.