• Joseph F. Berenato

Fiorentino, others retire

HPD captain retired Aug. 1


Sgt. Jason Rigby (right) was presented a plaque of recognition and a shadowbox by Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel (left). (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Capt. Mark Fiorentino, a longtime member of the Hammonton Police Department, announced his retirement.


According to Business Administrator Frank Zuber’s town clerk report at the July 25 meeting of town council, Fiorentino’s retirement date was effective August 1.


Several other retirees were honored at that meeting. Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel spoke about the first two retirees.


“As I always say, to me, our police department is a family; we really are. Sometimes we love each other; sometimes, we get mad at each other—just like siblings do—but we always work together, have each others’ backs to protect our community and keep everybody safe,” Friel said.


The first individual Friel recognized was Sgt. Jason Rigby, who joined the department in 2006 from the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office.


“He was a person who was definitely driven by traffic and by accident and crash investigation. It was his forte; he loved it. He actually was a leader; he received an award from MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] for DWI [driving while intoxicated] arrests. He went on to become one of our drug recognition experts. He then became our traffic sergeant,” Friel said.


Friel talked about Rigby’s dedication to the department.


“He has survived being struck by a vehicle; came back to work. He had his hand broken; came back to work. Unfortunately, then—later on in his career—got sick and, unfortunately, to our loss as a community and as a department, he has had to retire,” Friel said.


Friel said that Rigby’s expertise has been “passed on to many.”


“He was the kind of supervisor that was not just a leader, but a mentor, someone who taught. Every skill that he had, he imparted to everyone that he worked with to make each person better,” Friel said.


Friel called Rigby to the podium and presented him with a plaque of recognition and a shadowbox with department memorabilia.


“You will always, in our hearts, be our brother and be in this uniform. We’re always here for you,” Friel said.


The second individual to be recognized was Paul Sacco. Friel said that, due to a family emergency, Sacco was unable to attend the council meeting, but was nonetheless due recognition.


“He’s someone who started here a year after I did as a public safety telecommunicator and worked way back when we were in the old building in the basement,” Friel said.


Friel said that Sacco dedicated 28 years of service to Hammonton.


“He was a person who started out at the ground floor—actually, like I said, we were in the basement; we were below ground floor—and worked his way up to being the chief public safety telecommunicator. He was certainly a person who was dedicated; he was always here—here way before time—and always here in the same parking spot,” Friel said.


Bobby Bradbury (center) is flanked by Public Works Department Head Scott Rivera (right) and Councilman Thomas Gribbin (left), who presented him with a plaque of recognition. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

Police department employees were not the only retirees honored at the council meeting. Bobby Bradbury announced his retirement after 36 years with the town’s highway department.


Councilman Thomas Gribbin presented a plaque to Bradbury, who was joined at the podium by Public Works Department Head Scott Rivera.


Gribbin said that it was his honor to read from the plaque presented to Bradbury “in sincere gratitude for the hard work and outstanding service you’ve provided to our community.”


“From the thousands of days worked and countless miles driven on our roads, to the everlasting friendships and unforgettable memories, you have been an instrumental source of leadership and success for which we are forever grateful. As you retire, know that we will miss you, and that your shoes will not easily be filled. May all your years ahead have an abundance of joy and fulfillment,” Gribbin read.


Bradbury expressed his appreciation for the accolades.


“Thank you, mayor and council,” Bradbury said.


Zuber’s report also contained the following personnel items, which were approved:


• Accept resignation of Hardik Patel from his position as police officer effective July 16.


• Approval to hire David DeStefano as a part-time Recycling Program Aide (Convenience Station Attendant) effective July 25. $15 per hour, no benefits. Pending civil services rules and regulations.


• Approve payment of accrued benefits balance to Hardik Patel in the amount of $415.49.


• Approve payment of accrued benefits balance to Pedro Benitez in the amount of $553.50.


• Approve payment of accrued benefits balance to Paul Sacco in the amount of $8,246.89.


• Approval to hire Eric Adirzone in the Highway department as a truck driver, fulltime, 40 hours a week, yearly salary of $33,280, single benefits, contingent upon all civil services rules and regulations.


• Approve the two-step advancements in the salary guide for the three full-time police dispatchers, effective August 1.


• Approve payment of the equipment ($1,000, two employees) and CDL ($2,500, one employee) stipends to highway department. Retroactive to January 1, 2022.


While addressing council, Friel spoke about police coverage during the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.


“Since, nowadays, the world is a very crazy place, you don’t know what to expect. We made sure that we took every precaution to make sure that all of our citizens of our community, the participants in the festival and those visiting to be entertained and enjoy it were safe. We will continue to use every measure that we can muster—and that we can legally do—to make sure that our community stays safe,” Friel said.


Friel thanked Lt. Donald Kunen for his assistance in coordinating the coverage, as well as all the members of the department who participated.


“It was an all-hands-on-deck event. We will always make sure: safety in our community is job number one for us. That is the most important thing,” Friel said.


Mayor Stephen DiDonato commented further.


“Just for the record: they were not snipers. They were police officers that were there just for the better vantage point to make sure everybody was safe, because when you have statues going through town that have money on them—cash on them—and we live in a world where things are evolving and changing every day, you just need to take precautions,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato reiterated that the police officers seen on building roofs on Bellevue Avenue during the procession on July 16 “were not snipers.”


“They went up there with their equipment—and proper equipment for the conditions,” DiDonato said.


Friel explained further.


“We have only one officer that’s still certified as a sniper, and he was not on the building with a long gun, so we’re good on that,” Friel said.


DiDonato thanked Friel for the clarification.


“If Lt. Kunen’s running the operation, you know it’s going to be—we’re going strong, and that’s where we’re going,” DiDonato said.


In other business, Public Works Manager Robert Vettese discussed well contamination in the Lakeview Gardens section of Hammonton. Vettese said that 54 letters were sent to residents in that area; thus far, 11 responses have been received, three of which have tested positive for per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS).


“We’re looking at a couple different options that we could probably apply to make the cost for the testing maybe a little easier on the residents themselves,” Vettese said.


Councilman Steven Furgione said that Municipal Utilities Superintendent Anthony DeCicco contacted J.R. Henderson Labs regarding the matter.


“They will offer the town a rate of $360 per home—if the town does all the coordination. They won’t offer the discount to the residents directly ... The town will facilitate it through our testing company. The residents will pay us the $360; we will turn around and pay Henderson Lab,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that there were, however, conditions to the arrangement.


“Depending on how many people want their private wells tested, Henderson’s only going to be here for a day or two days; they come from North Jersey. So, we’re going to need to know, number one, how many residents want to get tested under this reduced rate ... And two, we’ll give you ample notice, but if they say it’s two days, and you can’t, for some reason, have your home available during those two days, then we’re back to square one again,” Furgione said.


The next step, Furgione said, is to make telephone calls to the remaining residents and to place door hangers on all affected homes in attempt to learn how many residents wish to participate. That number will then be provided to J.R. Henderson Labs, who will determine the testing days.


Vettese noted that many of the residents no longer have landlines, and cell phone numbers are not listed in a phone book.


“Please give town hall a call. You can call me at (609) 567-4300 ext. 101,” Vettese said.


Furgione said that this arrangement with J.R. Henderson Labs only applies to the initial test for PFAS.


“If you test positive for the first test—meaning you’re over the current limit—you would be on your own for a second test, but would be reimbursed by the Spill Fund. This is to generate the balance of the residents in that area for the first test,” Furgione said.


Councilman Edward Wuillermin asked Furgione to clarify his remarks, and Furgione did so.


“If you test positive the first round—you pay your $360 to the town, the town pays Henderson Lab—if you go for a re-test and you test positive, you will be reimbursed by the Spill Fund for that test,” Furgione said.


Councilman Jonathan Oliva inquired about the 11 tests already received.


“If we were to get this reduced rate for people who have not tested, is there something we can do for the 11 people who already tested?” Oliva said.


Furgione replied.


“If you already got your well tested—or you’ve already called and scheduled your well testing ... if you spent more than $360, the town will reimburse you for whatever’s over,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that the priority was to try to determine how many wells in that area are contaminated with PFAS in order to decide on a future course of action.


“There’s a couple ways we can go. One is, if you test positive, in the short term I think the best way to handle it is you get a POET [point-of-entry treatment] system for your existing well, and you get reimbursed by the Spill Fund. That’ll give us time to either say ‘Do you want us to run a water line, or don’t you?’ And we’re going to have to see where we are with participation from the residents,” Furgione said.


Furgione further explained the need for testing.


“You have the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] giving health advisory levels, which are more stringent than the current state levels, but they haven’t been adopted yet. What we’re being told is it could be three or four years before the health advisory gets converted into something that’s more strict, more stringent. We’re just trying to get ahead of this to see what the scope and the limit of the problem is, and figure out how best to solve it,” Furgione said.


In other business, Councilman Sam Rodio made an announcement regarding the Hammonton Little League board meeting.


“It’s going to be August 21, 2022 for anyone that would like to become a new board member. I know there’s some change going on down there; it’s all good, but anyone who is looking or is possibly interested in being a board member at the lake should be at the meeting on August 21,” Rodio said.


Rodio revisited the matter later in the meeting.


“I didn’t mention that the Little League meeting of August 21—it’s a Sunday night—it’s at 6 p.m.,” Rodio said.


The next meetings of town council are scheduled for August 8 and 29 at 7 p.m.