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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Four issues facing the Town of Hammonton right now

Town of Hammonton - Courtesy Photo

OK, time for a quick team meeting.

There are a lot of issues facing Hammonton right now. We’re going to look at the four top ones this week.

Let’s get right into them.

1. Conduct an audit of the municipal water system and its employees. The Gazette had an editorial on this subject last week. The town council needs to find an independent firm to audit its entire municipal water system, including the employees. Any corrective action plan that is produced by the audit should be enacted immediately. The bacteria in the water from October of 2022 and the alleged error by a municipal employee that led (according to Councilman Stephen Furgione and Mayor Stephen DiDonato’s comments during the February 27 council meeting) to the state mandating letters being sent to all municipal water users about the bacteria is just one example in recent years regarding the water and testing. Anyone else remember the Volatile Organic Compounds in 2021? It’s time to face the facts about the water, council. Cancer, multiple sclerosis, kidney disease, infertility, autoimmune diseases—far too many incidences of all of these in a town of less than 15,000 people, in my opinion.

Council must do the audit, make the results available to everyone in as many formats as possible, and act on the corrective action plan the auditors provide. Nothing is more important than the health and welfare of Hammontonians. Inaction on this issue has already gone on long enough. It’s time we found out what is in the water, and how it may be impacting the water users.

2. Should the town purchase the former Wells Fargo bank building and parking lot? Compared to the water, this item seems trivial. See our editorial on page 6 for the details. The main question is, why does the town need to purchase a bank building and a parking lot? Do we need it for something? Public statements by the council appeared to make it sound that they did not have a tenant for the building. Given that they voted without it being on the agenda, they may have a tenant and are just not telling us. How would we know?

Let’s assume they don’t have a tenant. That means they’re using public money—they say grant money—to purchase a building and parking lot for $675,000, but they say they don’t want to tell the public the exact source for the money. They authorized $10,000 on February 27 and voted to move ahead with the purchase. So, no funding source, no tenant, but we’re buying the building.

Could you imagine if Wells Fargo Bank was still in the building and the town council went into the bank with the same business plan?

“We’re not going to tell you how we’re financing the purchase of the bank and the parking lot. And we’re not going to tell you who the tenant is going to be. But we want your support.”

I’m pretty sure they would be laughed out of the bank. I wonder if the public is laughing.

3. Affordable housing. A growing concern throughout the community. Eastern Pacific came before council recently with a proposed 70-unit affordable housing project on 11th and Washington Streets. There is a 94-unit addition to the Hammonton Gardens apartment complex on 12th Street, which also contains a component of affordable housing. These apartment complexes and others like them will impact our school district and municipal services with their increased population density. I understand that we are under a state mandate from the Department of Community Affairs’ Council On Affordable Housing to build more units of new affordable housing, but it feels like (as usual) locals and non-locals are taking advantage of the situation for personal profit, in my view, seeking to build housing units on top of the housing we have to build. Which brings me to the final issue…

4. Council, schools wasting the public’s time, land and money. Buying the bank for $675,000? Why not spend $675,000 on recreation? Build some fields, repaint the former Hawks building at the lake park. At the schools, the solar array looks like garbage. Instead of getting grants from newly-installed grant firm Triad Associates and paying newly-installed landscape architect Taylor Design Group to mask this solar array (which is probably what’s going to happen), why don’t we just tear it down? To paraphrase what President Ronald Reagan once said about another blight in Berlin, Germany: “Mr. Mento, tear down this wall.”

It’s time we put our public funds into something more important.

If you’re wondering what I mean by “more important” read number one above again.

Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.


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