Joseph F. Berenato
Cypress well contaminated
HAMMONTON—During the April 25 meeting of town council, Councilman Steven Furgione informed his colleagues that notice had been received from a resident on Cypress Court of elevated levels of PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl substances) in their drinking well test.
“They’re man-made chemicals like Teflon,” Furgione told The Gazette.
During the meeting, Furgione described the public lines in the area of Cypress Court.
“The Lakeview Gardens section of town was done years ago—many, many years ago. Lakeview Drive has got public water, Holly Lane has public water, Poplar Street has public water, but Cypress Court does not. It services eight, 10, 12 homes; something like that,” Furgione said.
Furgione made the suggestion that Public Works Manager Robert Vettese contact the homeowners in the area.
“We should have them get their wells tested to see where all the other homeowners stand. We could arrange help with the DEP [New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection], because they’re private wells—whether there would be help with a POET [Point-of-Entry Treatment] system or whether the state would pick up the tab and have us run a water line, but we’re going to have to do something even though they’re private wells and it’s not a town water line. We should go in there and give them some assistance,” Furgione said.
Furgione said that a list should be made of all homeowners in Lakeview Gardens whose homes are serviced by private wells. Mayor Stephen DiDonato concurred.
“I believe, if you want to add to that, Mill Run and Moss View Lane. It’s also over there; those flow from Cypress ... I know there’s dirty wells on Moss View Lane. I know there’s some issues there. I don’t know what the exact contaminants are, but I know there’s some issues there,” DiDonato said.
Vettese also suggested contacting the Atlantic County Division of Public Health.
“I think they would probably provide a service—or at least a reduced cost—on maybe some well testing. We’ll make that inquiry also,” Vettese said.
Speaking with The Gazette following the meeting, Furgione said that, thus far, there is only the one notice from the resident on Cypress Court, but he does not know how many homeowners are actively testing their wells.
“I want to find out, one, who’s testing, I want to see what assistance we can get from the town and the DEP. Then, if it’s a widespread issue, then we believe we can get funding from the state and run a water line, if that’s the way it needs to be,” Furgione said.
Furgione said that the DEP will determine if POET systems are needed for the private wells.
“It depends on how many; is it one? Is it two? Is it five? I don’t know that yet. I need to get a handle on what we’re dealing with here, and make sure everyone’s testing—most importantly, that they’re testing. That’s why I want Mr. Vettese to organize that through the DEP. We’re going to need those test results in order to either help the residents get POETs for their private wells, or get financial assistance for a water line ... I want to get a handle on this,” Furgione said.
In other council news, DiDonato opened the meeting with a moment of silence for the late Richard Jones, who retired from the Hammonton Police Department as a corporal in December of 2021. Jones, a former Student Resource Officer, died on March 31 of this year.
Later in the meeting, DiDonato spoke further about Jones.
“Richie grew up behind the bowling alley. He and his wife bought their first house when he was a baby still; he was in his 20s, I guess, behind the bowling alley on Moss Mill Road, and he was always there,” DiDonato said.
DiDonato said that, at Jones’s funeral Mass, the priest read a letter that a former student had written to Jones.
“The young man was having some issues, and Richie spent a lot of time with this young man, and he wrote him a letter when he graduated thanking Richie for making him the man he was today, and he wouldn’t have accomplished what he accomplished and have the chance for a future if it wasn’t for Cpl. Jones,” DiDonato said.
Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel commented further.
“He believed in him when the child couldn’t believe in himself,” Friel said.
Councilman Sam Rodio echoed their sentiments.
“I know there’s many kids and students through the high school that Mr. Jones—I’m going to call him Richie—touched, and there are kids there that really followed him and he helped out with on his part there, and was really special,” Rodio said.
Councilman Thomas Gribbin offered his thoughts on Jones’ passing.
“It seems like just yesterday we were handing him his plaque on his retirement and shaking his hand, and I know that that came as a big shock to all of us—and a great loss for our community,” Gribbin said.
Gribbin also noted the death of Dawn Baldwin, the owner of Dance Magic and a former member of the Hammonton Board of Education. Gribbin described Baldwin, who died on April 13, as a “longtime business owner and a very longtime town volunteer.”
“My family was very close to her, having three girls that danced for Miss Dawn—and a wife who danced for Miss Dawn, too. I was very close with Miss Dawn, especially with her being a volunteer with MainStreet and taking the helm of the tree-lighting ceremony. There are a lot of great things about our town, and we have a lot of great events and a lot of things that make us special. That tree-lighting event was something that, at the beginning of the holiday, people look forward to—and it was a big undertaking. Miss Dawn did that year after year after year. She had a lot of help, but she did a yeoman’s task of doing that work. It’s going to be hard to fill those shoes,” Gribbin said.
Rodio also noted Baldwin’s longtime involvement with the spring musicals at Hammonton High School.
“It was really special; I didn’t realize until I was told how much she was really involved with that—even right to the end, she made sure she made that play this year. She will be missed very much,” Rodio said.
Gribbin offered condolences to both families.
“I want, on behalf of my family—and I know on behalf of mayor and council—to express our sympathies, not only to the Jones family but to the Baldwin family. They’re going to be very missed in this town. They gave a lot to Hammonton, and our town is definitely much better off because of them,” Gribbin said.
“Richie did touch a lot of lives at that school. Dawn touched a lot of lives in her program. Two huge, huge, huge hearts; smaller people, but monster hearts. They will be missed,” DiDonato said.
In other business, council heard an application by Daniel Borrelli and Zachary Sawyer of The Minnow Seafood Co. for permission to park a food truck in the parking lot located at 17 Horton St.
“It’s Bellevue Drug’s parking lot. It’s next to Chimney Rustic Ales; I also own Chimney. We have a lease for the parking lot from the pharmacy that owns that to park the truck there,” Borrelli said.
Borrelli said that, since the truck is parked there anyway, it is their hope to be able to operate there as well. Borrelli also said that they wished to offer an outdoor dining area for the truck.
“That was mimicking the parklets outside of Chimney to make them as similar as possible to continue that look, clean up that lot and make it accessible for the people in town rather than just having an empty parking lot,” Borrelli said.
DiDonato asked if the proximity to the brewery—and that fact that Borrelli is a common owner—would create a conflict with the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
“I’m allowed to own other businesses,” Borrelli said.
DiDonato reiterated his concerns regarding the proximity.
“Will that create a problem from the state? And do you have approval from the state?” DiDonato said.
“I did not tell the ABC about the food truck, because the ABC doesn’t govern food trucks. I spoke with our brewers’ association lawyer about it—and also my own—and they basically told me I’m not the first one to do this; a lot of people do it,” Borrelli said.
Furgione said that the state statute is “pretty inclusive as to what a brewery can and can’t do regarding food.”
“The way I read this, the only thing that can actually be done—this is from the state, not from the town—is, food can be ordered by patrons and delivered. There could be menus provided from local restaurants, but they’re pretty specific here on not collaborating with food entities,” Furgione said.
Borrelli said that it is a separate business.
“The brewery’s not collaborating; it’s just a different business that just happens to be next door,” he said.
Councilman Edward Wuillermin commented on the matter.
“It’s hard to understand how the right side of the brain doesn’t collaborate with the left side of the brain if you are both the same owners of two specifically different entities, but the right side of the brain says ‘park the food truck in front of the brewery; we’re not collaborating.’ I don’t know how that works without a certain amount of collaboration,” Wuillermin said.
Sawyer conceded the issue.
“I’ll be honest; it’s a fair point. Obviously, the food truck’s next door to the brewery,” Murray said.
DiDonato also commented regarding other food trucks in Hammonton.
“You’re also aware that this entity has not approved food trucks in the downtown area; we’ve denied in the past? The only food truck that was approved was one that was there for 18 or 20 years, so we have not approved any new food truck in the downtown area,” DiDonato said.
Borrelli said that he was unaware of that fact.
Gribbin said that he has opposed food trucks in the downtown.
“I was an advocate for the change in our ordinance to do that because of my belief to support the downtown; I want to support the brick-and-mortar businesses,” Gribbin said.
Town solicitor Michael Malinsky noted that past practice has been to deny such applications.
“Since I’ve been here, since we enacted this ordinance, I can’t recall one time where you guys have approved a food truck—other than one that was in existence prior to our adoption of the ordinance at a location that it’s been operating at forever,” Malinsky said.
Councilman William Olivo asked if the application could be revisited at council’s May meeting to allow Malinsky time to research the state statue regarding collaboration. Malinsky replied.
“If you guys need that information, I can look into it for the next meeting ... If you feel you’ve heard enough, and there’s enough before you to render a decision this evening, you can render a decision,” Malinsky said.
Malinsky said that a motion in the positive would be appropriate for such a decision, so that a ‘yes’ vote would approve the application and a ‘no’ vote would deny it.
DiDonato made the motion, which was seconded by Gribbin. Olivo voted in favor of the application; the other six councilmen voted against the application.
The application was denied.
Council also entertained Resolution No. 060-2022, Approval to submit application for Capital Needs Grant.
According to the language of the resolution, the town of Hammonton “desires to apply for and obtain a grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Community Capital Needs program for an amount not to exceed $250,000 for the Central Piazza project.”
“The town of Hammonton does hereby authorize the application for such a grant; and recognizes and accepts that the Department may offer a lesser or greater amount and therefore, upon receipt of the grant agreement from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, does further authorize the execution of any such grant agreement; and also, upon receipt of the fully executed agreement from the Department, does further authorize the expenditure of funds pursuant to the terms of the agreement between the town of Hammonton and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs,” the resolution read.
During the meeting, Gribbin noted the importance of applying for grants, as well as the importance of “utilizing grant dollars given to you in the hopes that they see you put that money to good use.”
“The next time around, when you ask for more—or eligibility on a new project—if they see success with a previous grant, the likelihood of being awarded a second grant becomes higher,” Gribbin said.
The next meeting of town council is scheduled for May 23 at 7 p.m. in town hall.