Joseph F. Berenato
Kunen promoted to captain
HAMMONTON—Hammonton Police Department member Lt. Donald Kunen Jr. was promoted to the rank of captain at the September 26 meeting of town council.
Police Chief Kevin Friel addressed council regarding Kunen, who has been a member of the department since 2001. Friel said that Kunen was promoted to sergeant in 2015, and in 2019 he attained the rank of lieutenant.
“This young man—I’ll say because he’s younger than me—has definitely dedicated his self to the profession of law enforcement and keeping our community safe,” Friel said.
Friel said that Kunen has been on the town’s emergency response team and is always thinking tactically regarding town events.
“In the event planning, he’s always looking out to make sure that our community is safe. We had our Mt. Carmel festival, and he was the person that I left it in the hands of, figuring out the tactics and dynamics for our procession to make sure that our community—and those visiting our community for the procession—would be safe,” Friel said.
Friel spoke of Kunen on a personal note.
“He’s a person that I proudly call my brothe
r in blue—and also my friend,” Friel said.
Friel then officially presented Kunen to council to be promoted to the rank of captain.
Councilman Thomas Gribbin made a motion to officially promote Kunen. Councilman Sam Rodio seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously. Councilman William Olivo administered to oath to Kunen, who was joined by Terry Kunen.
Mayor Stephen DiDonato offered his congratulations.
“Well-deserved; you do a tremendous job for the town of Hammonton and with the police force. We’re very blessed to have your services, and it was our honor tonight to promote you to captain; the honor was ours. Congratulations,” DiDonato said.
After the ceremony, Friel continued, presenting the report from the Law and Order Committee.
“We’re going to be asking for some more promotions along the way. We’ll be promoting an individual to the rank of lieutenant, and we’ll be promoting more individuals to the rank of sergeant as those lists become available,” Friel said.
Friel said that the department is currently waiting on civil service lists and entrance lists, and that the department is currently at a deficit regarding the number of its officers.
“I know that mayor and council fully support that we want to keep our community safe, and keep our staffing where it should be. We are kind of, unfortunately, at the hands of civil service waiting for that, unless we could get a couple interested lateral transfers from other civil service communities that are going to get signed off on for an intergovernmental transfer, and that’s not very likely at this point because most law enforcement agencies are a little bit short,” Friel said.
During his report, Friel said that the town of Hammonton has had approximately 80 Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) arrests thus far this year, which is 20 more than in 2021.
“Thank goodness, not mostly our community residents but people driving through. I just want to commend the police force for doing a great job of making sure that we’re taking dangerous individuals off the street that should not be driving,” Friel said.
Friel also discussed the St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Fall Festival and Carnival.
“I’m asking mayor and council for the support of providing police officers out there for this event. It’s going to be a four-day event this year instead of one, so we want to make sure the community’s safe. We’re not sure how much of a draw it’s going to bring, but we want to make sure that we’re safe with that,” Friel said.
Olivo also discussed upcoming events during the report from the Business and Industry Committee.
Olivo said that, on October 19, the Chamber of Commerce will be sponsoring the International Wine and Beer Expo from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Kathedral Event Center. October’s Third Thursday, “Ghosts,” will be held on October 20. Downtown Trick-or-Treat will be on October 22, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and the Kiwanis Halloween Parade will be on October 26 at 7 p.m.
Olivo said that the Hammonton Cancer Foundation will hold their annual fundraising dinner at Winslow Manor at 6 p.m. on October 15. Olivo also spoke about the homecoming game for the Hammonton Hawks on October 1 at William T. Capella Memorial Field.
“They’re also welcoming back Frankie LaSasso, and they’re honoring him at the varsity game—and that varsity game is at 7 p.m. I just wanted to make mention of that; Frankie LaSasso’s going to be back, and I believe he’s ready to play,” Olivo said.
On September 29, the Hammonton Hawks announced that the homecoming game was rescheduled for October 8 due to expected inclement weather on October 1.
During the report from the Quality of Life Committee, Councilman Jonathan Oliva said that the committee met with Friel to establish the date and time for Trick-or-Treat, which will be held on October 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Prior to 2020, the hours were from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. We expanded that in 2020 to 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. It gives about an hour and 15 minutes during the daytime, and about an hour and fifteen minutes of dark hours for older kids to get out and have a little bit of fun,” Oliva said.
Oliva made a motion for council to approve the date and times, which Rodio seconded. The motion carried unanimously.
During the Education Committee report, Oliva said that the Hammonton Education Foundation will be having their inaugural Thanks for Giving Gala on November 19 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in The Cart Barn at Pinelands Golf Club. Oliva also said that the Hammonton Home and School Association will be holding a trunk-or-treat on October 23 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Hammonton High School student parking lot.
During the Administration Committee report, Gribbin said that the new studio for Access Hammonton, situated on the third floor of town hall, is “coming along as scheduled.”
“We’re waiting for a few other items, but everything’s still, like I said, on schedule. So, we’re hoping that we can have that completed by the end of October or into November,” Gribbin said.
While presenting the report from the Water and Sewer Committee, Councilman Steven Furgione said that, per Councilman Edward Wuillermin’s research, there are discretionary funds available from the state, some of which has been set aside for water projects.
“I’d like to send a letter to the state requesting discretionary funds. I thought we can go after Route 54—the First Road/10th Street project—and just list Lakeview Gardens as a potential candidate,” Furgione said.
Furgione suggested sending the letter to N.J. Assemblyman Michael Torrissi “to have them attach a letter as well for support.”
Furgione put that in the form of a motion, which Wuillermin seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
Furgione gave an update regarding the Boyer Avenue land application site.
“We’re loading two trenches, currently; the other three are just a little bit of groundwater.
They’re going to till those in the next couple of weeks and get them prepared for winter. The lagoon is low—probably two feet or a little bit less, so we’re in good shape going into winter,” Furgione said.
Furgione also said that the town received an update on the centrifuge for the sewer plant, which is now scheduled for delivery in January of 2023.
“In anticipation of that, the electrician already did the rough and electrical work to convert from the filter press over to the centrifuge. We’re going to bring the plumber in here this fall; there’s two new pumps to install, and they’ll get all the rough plumbing done. We’re trying to coordinate this so the centrifuge comes, we tear down the block wall and put the stainless steel door in all at one time,” Furgione said.
In other business, Town Solicitor Michael Malinsky had three action items under his report.
“The first, if council’s so inclined, a motion to approve my representation of the town of Hammonton with regard to the litigation involving the accident at the intersection of Broadway and Park Avenue as discussed in closed,” Malinsky said.
Olivo made the motion, which Wuillermin seconded. The motion was approved.
Malinsky made his second request.
“I need another motion to approve my representation of the town of Hammonton with regard to the litigation involving the accident at the intersection of U.S. Highway 30—well, it didn’t occur at the intersection—involving the light at the intersection of U.S. Highway 30 and County Route 542, as discussed in closed,” Malinsky said.
Wuillermin made the motion, which Olivo seconded, and the motion was approved.
“The next motion is to approve my representation of the town of Hammonton and Chief regarding the litigation filed involving certain officers, as discussed in closed,” Malinsky said.
Gribbin made the motion, which Oliva seconded and the motion was approved.
In other business, council held the second public hearing of Bond Ordinance No. 020-2022 – Bond Ordinance Computer Equipment & Airport Taxiway. The ordinance provided for the following acquisitions and improvements: for new servers and computer equipment accessories for upgrade of town hall computer systems, $250,000 in total, $237,500 authorized debt with a $12,500 capital improvement fund (CIF) down payment; for municipal airport improvements and the rehabilitation and construction of a taxiway, $604,954 in total, $504,954 in anticipated Airport Improvement Program grant funds from the Federal Aviation Administration and $95,000 in authorized debt with a $5,000 CIF down payment.
The total modification to the capital budget is $854,954, with $504,954 in anticipated grant funds and $332,500 in authorized debt with a $17,500 CIF down payment.
The ordinance was adopted and published.
Business Administrator Frank Zuber presented the following items in the town clerk’s report:
• Approval to hire Michael Zingrone effective as of September 1 in the Highway Department.
Yearly salary of $33,280, Single Benefits, 40 hours per week. Contingent upon all civil service rules and regulations.
• Approve Alexandro Rodriguez as regular member of Fire Company No. 1 effective as of September 26. Background check complete. Approved by Fire Company at their meeting on September 21.
The items were approved.
Council entertained Resolution No. 129-2022, Annual Audit and Resolution No. 130-2022, Audit Corrective Action Plan. According to the language of the latter resolution, a calculation of the “actuarially calculated Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) obligation for the future cost of dental and vision insurance coverage to be paid by the town for retired employees was not obtained.”
The Corrective Action Plan recommended that the town obtain said actuarially calculated OPEB for the future costs of dental and vision coverage. However, according to the corrective plan, in New Jersey, municipalities and counties report and budget under regulatory accounting practices and therefore are not required to ‘book’ OPEB future obligations.”
“The town carries its medical health insurance with the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP). The required disclosure, with which the Town complies, only references where information can be found on the SHBP and is not required to include any future obligation,” the resolution states.
The coverage, which is contracted through a private carrier, represents less than 10 percent of the total SHBP obligation, the resolution states.
“As preparing such calculations would represent a cost to the taxpayers—and there is no cost for not doing so—the town will “continue to evaluate the cost/benefit of budgeting taxpayer funds in future budget years in order to solely comply with a financial disclosure requirement that has no financial impact on the town’s current operations,” the resolution states.
The resolutions passed.
Council also voted to adopt Resolution No. 136-2022, Support Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day on October 6.
Olivo implored residents that if they see opioid abuse at home to “please try to correct it at home.”
“You need to do it. We have friends that may be involved in that crisis—it is a crisis. Me, being a pharmacist that doesn’t fill prescriptions anymore, I’ve seen it, whether doctors carried the medications too far and sometimes people just get hooked on medications,” Olivo said.
Olivo said for people to say something if they see something.
“Help your family member out, help your friend out if you notice that they’re kind of going down the wrong path in that situation,” Olivo said.
DiDonato commented further.
“It’s sad. It’s very sad to see, in some cases we’re losing a whole generation, I believe—or quite a bit,” DiDonato said.
“You see sometimes, you’ll be reading the newspaper and you might read the obituary and you’ll see a young person—it doesn’t have to be a young person, could be anywhere—and all of a sudden when you’re reading it, it says support people for awareness or whatever it may be, but they need some support. Support begins at home,” Olivo said.
DiDonato amended his previous statement.
“I shouldn’t have said we’re losing a whole generation. We’re losing a large portion of generations,” DiDonato said.
Council also entertained the following resolutions en masse:
• Resolution No. 126-2022, Award Specialized Service Contracts;
• Resolution No. 127-2022, 159 Budget Addition Mazza Property for funds in the amount of $151,160 from the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund;
• Resolution No. 128-2022, 159 Budget Addition 224 Vine Street (K&K) for funds in the amount of $223,647 from the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund;
• Resolution No. 131-2022, Approve MainStreet Hammonton Town Tree Lighting Event from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on December 3 with a rain date of December 4;
• Resolution No. 132-2022, Authorize Electronic Tax Sale;
• Resolution No. 133-2022, Authorize Contract for Electronic Tax Sale with ROK Industries, Inc. d/b/a NJTaxLienInvestor.com and Real auction.com;
• Resolution No. 134-2022, Authorizing Tax/Water/Sewer refunds;
• Resolution No. 135-2022, Approval of Saint Mary of Mt Carmel Church Fall Festival and Carnival on from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on October 6, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on October 7-8 and noon to 6 p.m. on October 9 on the grounds of Saint Anthony of Padua Church on Route 206.
The resolutions passed unanimously.
The next meeting of town council will be on October 24.