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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Court could welcome 2 more

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Hamilton Twp., Northfield plan move to joint court

HAMMONTON—Two more municipalities, Hamilton Twp. and Northfield, will potentially be joining Hammonton’s Joint Municipal Court, town solicitor Michael Malinsky announced at the April 24 meeting of town council.

At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Stephen DiDonato held a moment of silence in honor of Rene Wuillermin—wife of Councilman Edward Wuillermin—who died on April 22.

“She was a wonderful woman. She was a tremendous mother, wife. Ed and Rene met in Florence, Italy, when they were separately vacationing. She was a high school senior, and I believe he was on a college trip. He saw her across the bridge, and he fell in love with her; he had to find out who that girl was. A wonderful woman, Rene Wuillermin,” DiDonato said.

During his report, Malinksy introduced Resolution No. 063-2023, Joint Municipal Court, 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.

“This is a resolution of the town of Hammonton providing for and permitting both Hamilton Twp. in Atlantic County and the city of Northfield to join the joint municipal court of the town of Hammonton,” Malinsky said.

Malinsky said that meetings were held with representatives from Hamilton Twp. and Northfield following Hammonton’s council meeting on March 27.

“On April 3, 2023, Hamilton Twp. adopted Resolution No. 2023-185, which provided for and permitted Hamilton Twp. to join the joint municipal court of the town of Hammonton. They also passed, on April 3, 2023, a separate resolution to withdraw from the Central Municipal Court of Atlantic County,” Malinsky said.

Malinsky said that Northfield took similar measures on April 18.

“The city of Northfield adopted Resolution No. 103-2023, which provided for and permitted the city of Northfield to join the Hammonton Joint Municipal Court. At that same meeting, they passed another resolution, again, withdrawing from the Central Municipal Court of Atlantic County,” Malinsky said.

Malinsky reiterated that Resolution No. 063-2023 is the town’s resolution approves both municipalities to join Hammonton’s Joint Municipal Court.

“The execution and the joinder of these municipalities is pending and subject to the adoption of Ordinance No. 009-2023, which will be in my report later for introduction,” Malinsky said.

Councilman Thomas Gribbin made a motion to approve the resolution, which Councilman Jonathan Oliva seconded. The motion carried.

The next item on Malinsky’s report was the introduction of Ordinance No. 009-2023, which was also not on the agenda as released by the town on April 21 but was part of the amended agenda available at the meeting.

“This is an ordinance of the town of Hammonton establishing a single joint municipal court with Hamilton Twp., Atlantic County, and the city of Northfield, and amending Chapter 14, Article I of the General Ordinances of the town of Hammonton,” Malinsky said.

Malinsky clarified the ordinance, noting that neither Hamilton Twp. nor Northfield will become members of Hammonton’s Joint Municipal Court until January 1, 2024.

“They’re obligated under their agreement with the Central Municipal Court to stay with the Central Municipal Court until December 31, 2023 and comply with any financial obligations they may have to the Central Municipal Court until the end of 2023,” Malinsky said.

Malinsky continued.

“Additionally, once this ordinance is passed, the approval for both Northfield and Mays Landing to join the Joint Municipal Court, the ordinances, the resolutions of all the municipalities will be sent to Judge [Michael] Blee, who’s the assignment judge of our vicinage—of Vicinage I—and subject to his approval,” Malinsky said.

Gribbin made a motion to introduce the ordinance, which Oliva seconded. The ordinance passed introduction.

“Assuming everything goes well, our Joint Municipal Court—hopefully starting January 1, 2024—will now consist of Hamilton Twp., Northfield, Mullica Twp., Folsom, Buena Vista Twp., Egg Harbor City and the town of Hammonton; seven municipalities,” Malinsky said.

DiDonato expressed his appreciation.

“Thank you, Michael; great job,” DiDonato said.

In other business, Council held the public hearing of Ordinance No. 004-2023 – Re-appropriate American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funding. According to its language, this ordinance provides for the purchase and installation of a drip irrigation system for the town of Hammonton.

The ordinance will re-appropriate $165,109.71 in excess federal funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. These funds were incorporated through Bond Ordinance No. 3-2021, adopted on April 26, 2021, and Bond Ordinance No. 18-2021, adopted on December 1, 2021. According to the ordinance, those funds are “not needed for their original purpose.”

“This was money that was supplied to the town through COVID a couple years ago, and I guess we’re doing a re-appropriation to the drip irrigation,” DiDonato said.

Councilman Steven Furgione addressed Business Administrator Frank Zuber.

“We have still $700,000 or $800,000 left for infrastructure, right? When does that have to be used by?” Furgione said.

Zuber responded.

“Next year; 2024,” Zuber said.

The ordinance was adopted and published.

Under the Water and Sewer Committee report, Councilman Stephen Furgione had four action items.

For the first, Furgione said that the municipal utility department was contacted by Stockton University.

“They’re looking to provide an intern. This’ll be the first time since before COVID that we had an intern,” Furgione said.

Furgione said that the proposed intern would work 160 hours through the summer at a rate of $18 per hour.

“The intern does all the lake water testing,” Furgione said.

Furgione made a motion to approve the intern, which Oliva seconded. The motion carried.

For the second item, Furgione said that some of the roofs on the town’s existing wells are in need of maintenance.

“What we’d like to do—actually, the school is a member of this already—is have the town join the Camden County co-op purchasing program,” Furgione said.

The program, Furgione said, is at no cost to the town.

“It allows us access to contractors to provide bids at pre-fixed prices—negotiated prices—so we could see if the prices are better for roofing that way, or go out to a full bid,” Furgione said.

Furgione made a motion to join the program, which Councilman Sam Rodio seconded. The motion carried.

Under his next item, Furgione said that the state’s department of health contacted Municipal Utilities Superintendent Anthony DeCicco.

“They’re looking to establish a municipality in South Jersey where they could do some testing on our sewer plant,” Furgione said.

This too, Furgione said, comes at no cost to the taxpayers.

“They’re looking to do testing for COVID, for the flu, for different types of sicknesses. Again, it’s no costs; they’ll provide all the testing kits. They come down and check them. We can get out of the agreement anytime we want,” Furgione said.

Furgione then made a motion to allow the New Jersey Department of Health Wastewater Surveillance Program, which Sam Rodio seconded. The motion carried.

Furgione’s last action item was a personnel matter.

“We’d like to go out and advertise for an employee at water and sewer. Frank [Zuber] and I can work on the appropriate licenses we need, but we’d like to go out and advertise,” Furgione said.

Furgione made the appropriate motion, which Rodio seconded; the motion carried.

Town Engineer Mark Herrmann, of Adams, Rehmann and Heggan Associates (ARH), had two action items under his report.

The first related to the Route 54 Water Main Replacement Project. Herrmann said that ARH has been coordinating with the appropriate property owners.

“We were notified that, since we’re moving the main out of the roadway into grass areas, and we’re going to be doing some land disturbance, we have to go through the process of the Pinelands Conservation District, the Pinelands Commission’s application process,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that ARH prepared a proposal for the applications for both the Pinelands Commission and the Cape Atlantic Soil Conservation District in the amount of $4,000.

“That would include the permits, applications, public notices and all the mailings we do to get that done,” Herrmann said.

Furgione made a motion to approve the expenditure; Rodio seconded, and Furgione commented further.

“The goal here is to get through Pinelands and Soil Conservation—hopefully this year—so we can get this construction going, cleaning up all these easements,” Furgione said.

Furgione encouraged property owners on Route 54 to contact ARH or Public Works Manager Robert Vettese if they receive a letter regarding an easement.

“What we don’t want to do is do this construction project and we have to put a temporary water line above ground to feed you—it’ll be a disaster—and we also want to make sure the construction goes ahead of the 2024 Route 54 project, so if you receive something, please call us so we can get this squared away,” Furgione said.

The motion carried.

The second action item in Herrmann’s report related to the Main Estates Major Subdivision by KMD Construction.

“Let the record show that I’ll be abstaining and pushing back from the conversation on number two,” DiDonato said.

Gribbin presided over the matter.

Herrmann described the matter, which pertained to site improvements along Dogwood Lane, Main Road and Pleasant Mills Road, including perimeter and street landscaping.

“They requested a release of their performance bond. The last time we reduced the bond was back in April of 2009,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that the town currently holds a bond in the amount of $501,567.

“All the improvements have been installed, and we were requested to review that. We did a site visit and confirmed the improvements were installed as per planned,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that he contacted Oliva regarding the Quality of Life Committee’s final walk-through.

“While we haven’t been able to connect, that’ll be done very soon, I would imagine. That being said, we recommend releasing the performance bond contingent upon the final walk-through with the Quality of Life Committee and their recommendation,” Herrmann said.

Oliva made a motion to release the performance bond.

“While he and I haven’t caught up to drive it together, I have driven it after our discussion to review his comments, and I agree,” Oliva said.

Furgione seconded the motion, which carried.

Herrmann’s report also contained the following information items of note:

• Mazza Muffler Site / 104 S. Egg Harbor Road: ARH has received the signed contracts. They anticipate scheduling a preconstruction meeting within the next few weeks and will invite the PWTC committee members.

• Lakeview Gardens Water Testing: ARH is coordinating with the town to contact the residents in the Lakeview Gardens section, to ensure that they are getting the well tests.

• Water Quality Accountability Act Compliance: ARH is currently compiling responses to the Lead Service Line survey that was created and sent to the residents. They have received responses from approximately 21 percent of the property owners; approximately five percent of the responses have been confirmed to be a lead or galvanized service.

• Boyer Avenue Berm Project: ARH has prepared and submitted the Pinelands Commission Public Development Application.

• Lake Park ADA Playground/Small Cities: ARH met with the Pinelands Commission to present the overall master plan concept, and they have provided positive feedback as to the direction of the project. ARH is working with the town and the landscape architect to develop a comprehensive proposal to complete the design of the Hammonton Lake Park project.

• Traditions at Blueberry Ridge: ARH has scheduled the survey work for the basin remediation project and anticipates completing the work in the month of May.

Near the top of the meeting, the Rev. Alberto Torres of the Pentecostal Assembly of God, located at 100 French St., addressed council about the former site of the W. Skinner and Sons Inc. glass factory at 317 Egg Harbor Rd.

“We’ve been here—I’m not a Hammontonian, but I identify with you guys—for 32 years. I’m from Vineland. The Lord has blessed us to be here and work with you and the community,” Torres said.

Torres said that the church has been growing and is in need of more parking space.

“It would be a blessing if it could be on the record that we could be allowed to use the lot that sits right on Pratt Street and Egg Harbor Road for parking, especially on Sundays, when we have outgrown the existing parking,” Torres said.

DiDonato responded.

“I guess we have some environmental issues there, but cars have parked there in the past on the 16th of July and different things,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato described the property.

“It’s pretty flat. It’s graded off. There are some weeds,” DiDonato said, noting that the lot is mowed during the summer months.

Furgione inquired further.

“It’s serviceable for parking?” Furgione said.

DiDonato repeated that the lot has been used for parking during the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

“They use it every year,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato said that, with council’s approval, Malinsky would draft a document between the town and the church. Malinsky concurred.

“I’ll have an agreement for council’s review and approval by the next meeting,” Malinsky said.

During his report, Vettese spoke about two change orders for the construction currently underway at the tennis and pickleball courts at Hammonton Middle School.

“One, we authorized the contractor to proceed in order to keep the project going, but the specifications originally called for milling four inches of material off the existing courts. When we did that, we were assuming that the material underneath that would still look pretty good, but when they did the milling, you could still see evidence of the existing cracks that were in the existing surface,” Vettese said.

Vettese said that the best course of action is to mill the entire surface and form a uniform base that would remove any cracks.

“We’re asking for council’s consideration to approve Change Order No. 2 to complete that milling operation—which has been completed—in the amount of about $10,000,” Vettese said.

Furgione asked for clarification.

“The town’s portion is $10,000, or it’s $10,000 total?” Furgione said.

DiDonato replied that both the town and the school district would pay an equal share amounting to $5,000 apiece, and Vettese concurred.

“We had talked to the school on that, and they said that that’s reasonable,” Vettese said.

The second change order, Vettese regarded the thickness of the base course of pavement.

“Normally when you build a new court, there’s usually three inches of stab [stabilization] base put down, and then two inches of top. The original specs that were drafted up was two inches of base and two inches of top because we thought we might be able to use the existing base material that was there,” Vettese said.

The necessary milling, Vettese said, removed the previous base completely.

“We’re seeking a change order to increase the base course from two inches to 2.5 inches thick. At least it gives us another half-inch, and possibly you might be able to get 2.75 inches; we’ll have to finalize that. We’re seeking an approval of an amount of $20,000 to complete that,” Vettese said.

Gribbin made a motion to approve the change orders, which Rodio seconded.

“The school has coincided with this also, correct?” Rodio said.

Vettese said that he spoke with the school’s business administrator, Barbara Prettyman.

“She was going to run it by a couple of the individuals at the school and get back to me, so you could make it subject to confirmation of that,” Vettese said.

Gribbin amended his motion accordingly, and Rodio amended his second. The motion carried.

Also during his report, Vettese discussed well testing in the Lakeview Gardens section of Hammonton.

“There were seven wells from individuals that had agreed to the town to complete testing on their individual wells. Some were a second round of tests; I think it was two individuals,” Vettese said.

Vettese said the two wells in question tested in exceedance of the acceptable levels of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Vettese said that the property owners would be applying to the NJ Spill Compensation Fund for financial assistance.

“The other five, there were some that came back also above the limits, and we’re still going through those with Anthony DeCicco, so we’ll update council on that. We did get some other people that called in of interest, so what we’ll do is put together a list of the remaining amounts of people that might be contacted by ARH,” Vettese said.

Under the mayor’s report, DiDonato said that there has been “some confusion as to mayor and council’s direction that they’re trying to push 11th Street, or sell it to low-cost housing projects.”

“All mayor and council is doing is their due diligence. It’s a piece of town-owned property. We have to find out if there’s any people, any parties, that are interested in it, and then it’ll be up to mayor and council to make a decision if they want to sell it, who they want to sell it to and when they want to sell it,” DiDonato said.

Gribbin commented further.

“Correct, and for what purpose and what type of project, if any,” Gribbin said.

DiDonato said that council has not yet made a decision regarding the property.

“We are just fact-finding at this time, simply fact-finding. We may do nothing; we may do something. I cannot tell you definitively yes or no right now. I know where I personally stand, but everybody has to have their opinion heard up here. I don’t want anybody, any entity—whether it’s from up here or the press putting words and spinning a story, or trying to stir the pot, so to speak, to sell their wares. We have not made a decision. We are not doing anything at this time. I want to make that crystal-clear to the town of Hammonton,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato said that residents with questions are encouraged to call him at (609) 517-6324.

“I’ll give you the straight answer. Don’t listen to the spin that somebody wants to give you to sell their wares,” DiDonato said.

Hammonton resident Susan Picchione-Cruz, of 232 St. Washington St., approached the podium to speak on the topic.

“I’ve been following very closely because I’m concerned about what’s going to go up there, and I’ve heard the last two proposals,” Picchione-Cruz said.

Picchione-Cruz said that she summed up her concerns with one word: traffic.

“To have the last gentlemen that were here to talk about that monstrosity that they wanted to build with 156 apartments and 300 parking spots; that’s like a throughway. I just wanted to let you know that that’s my feeling; it has to be something small. We want to keep Hammonton Hammonton, not Haddonfield, and not Marlton,” Picchione-Cruz said.

DiDonato thanked Picchione-Cruz for her comments.

“Please, come every meeting. Your opinion is very important to us,” DiDonato said.

Oliva commented further.

“The two proposals that we heard were not solicited proposals. They were two companies who saw that we had entered into possibly redeveloping that lot, and they said, ‘Hey, this is what we envision it could be,’ but it wasn’t something we actively solicited, so we’re just listening to all options,” Oliva said.

During his report at the March 27 meeting of town council, DiDonato spoke about progress on the acquisition of the Wells Fargo Bank property at 236 Bellevue Ave., which council voted to acquire at its February 27 meeting.

“Wells Fargo, we had a nice conversation with the representatives who are going to help us get the grant—secure the grant—the other day. We’ve made another step in the process in securing that grant, and I hope to be able to report that we’ve gone over the finish line at the April meeting for that grant,” DiDonato said on March 27.

No mention of the property was made at the April meeting.

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


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