• Joseph F. Berenato

Olivo reports on business, industry


Council OK’s $40,000 in funding for Eagle Theatre. (THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Town council held their first regular meeting of the year at 7 p.m. on January 25 via Zoom teleconferencing software.


At that meeting, Councilman William Olivo spoke about economic successes in 2020 during the Business and Industry Committee report, noting that 10 businesses opened and several expanded, and that at least three—Perhaps, Bounce House and Blue Rascal Distillery—were expecting to open within a month.


“That’s pretty impressive, considering what was happening last year,” Olivo said.


Olivo then provided an overview of grant money received in 2020, noting that some of it may have been “discussed in the past, but I want to go over it one more time, too, so that everybody in the town understands it even if it’s being repeated.”


“Due to the town partnering with MainStreet Hammonton and working together with the Eagle Theatre, the state of New Jersey designated downtown Hammonton a Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP) area in 2019. Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver held a press conference at the Eagle Theatre to formally announce the entire statewide program here. Hammonton was only one of four towns in New Jersey to be awarded the NPP grant and a MainStreet transformation grant totaling $150,000. It was also the only town to tie two grants together to maximize their impact,” Olivo said.


Olivo noted that Oliver said that Hammonton’s efforts were “a model for other towns throughout the state to follow,” and that the NPP designation proved to be valuable once the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began.


“The state awarded a COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to all NPP districts that applied. Downtown Hammonton was initially awarded a grant for $164,000 in October of 2020. Then, because of how effectively the funds were used, an additional $20,000 was awarded in November. Another request was made in December, and the state awarded an additional $500,000 grant to downtown Hammonton due to the outstanding performance with its first funding,” Olivo said.


Olivo said that the majority of the grant funds—which totaled $684,000—was used for direct business relief grants.


“This provided small businesses in the downtown crucial funds just as a second wave of the coronavirus was escalating and before the next phase of the federal stimulus was launched. These grants were lifelines for businesses; 93 grants were issued to small businesses in the downtown from October to December. A portion of the funding also provided a resource for a downtown-wide public address system, along with parklets, outdoor dining enhancements, patio heaters, social distancing initiatives and public improvements,” Olivo said.


Additional grant funding has been formally requested for 2021, Olivo said, and should be announced “soon.”


“That was through the cooperation of Cassie (Iacovelli) from MainStreet, Rich Rehmann, working together with HRC (Hammonton Revitalization Corporation), MainStreet board, Jim Donio and the mayor,” Olivo said.


Olivo also spoke about the Community Development Block Grant.


“Hammonton chose to participate in competitive statewide small cities programs several years ago, which led to the town’s access to community development block grant. The town has requested that those funds, initially $315,000, be used for a proposed downtown-wide business grant program. Many small businesses throughout the town that had been negatively impacted by COVID-19 will be eligible to apply for vital funding. More details for that will be announced soon. That was in cooperation with the mayor working very hard with Triad (Associates) and also with Jim Donio,” Olivo said.


Olivo then updated council about the involvement of the Eagle Theatre in these efforts.


“Additionally, the Eagle Theatre founded and spearheaded a Destination Hammonton initiative, which is DMO (destination marketing organization) for the town of Hammonton and greater Hammonton area. The state of New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism recognized the values of these efforts due to Hammonton’s unique location, access and desire to assist Hammonton in becoming a destination for visitors. The state of New Jersey initially awarded approximately $20,000 to The Eagle Theatre to promote the town as a destination in 2016. Then, the theater helped the (Greater Hammonton) Chamber (of Commerce) receive grant funding in 2017, and MainStreet Hammonton in 2018,” Olivo said.


According to Olivo, the state “generally” awards the three organizations a total amount of $60,000 to promote Hammonton and its surrounding environs as a destination. Olivo said that the organizations work collaboratively to “promote various festivals, events, parades, activities, etc. throughout the town.”


“In 2020, due to the COVID, all three organizations adapted their plans to attract visitors to Hammonton in a safe way on their own schedule so no large crowds visited the town at the same time. The state endorsed this concept, and a major tristate campaign was implemented using TV commercials, visual advertising, social media and other methods. The state of New Jersey recently announced that The Eagle Theatre, the Chamber of Commerce and MainStreet Hammonton were all awarded approximately $60,000 again for the calendar year of 2021. These funds will be used to market the town of Hammonton as a destination for visitors to enjoy in a healthy way during our crisis,” Olivo said.


Olivo said that it was important that “the town understands that there is a lot of money that collectively were worked upon to help with our businesses in the town and the people of the town at this time.”


“That was all done through all the different organizations that we have in the town. It sounds like a lot of money here, but it was distributed wisely and, without the efforts of people like the mayor working effortlessly along with MainStreet and the businesses, this stuff wouldn’t happen. I’d like to thank them for that, and I wanted to update the town with that,” Olivo said.


Later in the meeting, council approved Resolution No. 023-2021, Approving Economic Development, addressing economic development in the town of Hammonton.


The resolution states that the governing body of the town of Hammonton “believes that, in order to sustain Hammonton’s positive revitalization efforts, a coordinated economic development plan shall be necessary.”


“Much of the Town’s downtown revitalization can be attributed to the exponential growth of its arts community ... the governing body desires to capitalize and expand upon those successes and, as permitted by New Jersey Law (N.J.S.A. 40:48-1(30)), fund a local arts entity with a broad geographic reach to advertise to the Delaware Valley and the entire State of New Jersey Hammonton’s advantages including its open space, its geographic proximity to Philadelphia, Atlantic City and New York City and all points in between, its favorable tax structure, its thriving downtown and its traditional focus on family and education including its public and parochial schools and its affiliation with Stockton University, all of which have served as economic drivers,” the resolution states.


The resolution further states that mayor and council authorize approval of a resolution “authorizing funding via a professional services contract in the amount of $40,000 of a broad-based advertising program through the vehicle of a non-profit 501(c)(3) arts entity focused on attracting visitors to Hammonton and in turn stimulating economic growth and attracting new residents and businesses to build upon the successes of the last decade and N.J.S. 40:48-1(30).”


Speaking with The Gazette after the meeting, the town’s business administrator, Frank Zuber, said that the 501(c)(3) listed in the resolution is the Eagle Theatre.


According to the resolution, the $40,000—originally noted in the agenda as $10,000, which Zuber corrected during the meeting—will be paid “as follows: $40,000 in January 2021.”


The resolution was approved.


During the town engineer’s report, David Cella presented the following information items:


• NJDOT Local Aid FY 2020—14th Street Roadway Improvements, Phase III (ARH No. 11-40058): The contractor previously started by installing initial traffic control measures. To date there has been little activity in part due to weather. The contractor intended to start on drainage work, however work is currently on hold. Temporary restoration is impacted by the asphalt plant being shut for the winter. Project on hold pending contractor mobilization and winter weather.


• NJDOT FY2021 State Aid Applications (ARH No. 11-40041): No status change. NJDOT (New Jersey Department of Transportation) has announced municipal aid allotments. The town is receiving $310,000 for roadway reconstruction along Valley Avenue from Broadway to Central Avenue. It should be noted the total estimate submitted to NJDOT was over double the allotment. ARH will discuss with PWTC and determine the full scope of work to be bid in relation to the budget available. ARH will submit a proposal for final design and construction administration once the scope is defined.


• Mazza Muffler Site/104 S. Egg Harbor Rd. (ARH No. 11-01102): No status change. The HDSRF (Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund) grant application valued at approximately $31,000 has been submitted for a preliminary assessment and site investigation. Application is currently under review by NJDEP (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection).


• K&K Linens Property/224 Vine Street (ARH No. 11-01094.01): No status change. The HDSRF grant application has been submitted and is under review by NJDEP.  As previously authorized ARH is preparing to work on the removal of an underground storage tank. Notification that they have permission to enter the site was recently received. Once the work is scheduled, they will report back. Generally, the work will include removal of the underground storage tank, sampling in and around the excavated area. The sampling/lab result will dictate the need to either do additional work or allow for the NJDEP-UHOT case to be closed.  Tank removal is pending by ARH (and sub), to be scheduled. Additionally, the scope of work included the HDSRF Grant, the underground storage tank removal and a permit application to Pinelands to remove the structure. It should be noted, ARH’s scope of work did not include demolition plan and/or specifications. Prior projects were handled by the administrator; if a plan and specifications are desired for public bidding ARH can provide an additional proposal for this work.  


• Octagon Oil/Vine Street Parking Lot (ARH No. 11-01060): No status change. ARH is currently preparing a Remedial Action Permit application for ground water impacts. Once prepared they will coordinate with administration related to the content of the plan and for applicable application fees.


• Celona Site Remediation/130 Railroad Ave. (ARH No. 11-01054): As previously reported; three permanent wells were installed and tested. Currently, ARH is taking periodic samples and tests. This is anticipated to extend into the first quarter of 2022. The first samples of 2021 have been taken and they are currently waiting for lab results.


• Boyer Avenue Pump Station Design (ARH No. 11-50144): The alternatives analysis for the collection system and pump station location has been submitted to the Pinelands Commission. Once the Commission has reviewed and commented, ARH will be able to move forward with the required NJDEP Treatment Works Application. Pending Pinelands review. It should be noted, since the last reporting period Pinelands did have a few questions related to the alternatives analysis. A conference call was held on December 23, 2020 to walk through the plans. No additional information was requested after the call, and ARH currently waiting for the review to be completed.


Town solicitor Michael Malinsky introduced three action items during his report.


The first, Malinsky said, was for authorization “to represent the town with regard to a litigated matter involving an order to show cause for pre-litigation discovery as discussed in closed.”


The item was approved.


“The second action item is authorization to represent the town in a separate litigated matter filed in December of 2020 as discussed in closed,” Malinsky said.


The item was approved.

Malinsky also introduced Ordinance No. 002-2021, which amends Chapter 190 of the General Ordinances of the Town of Hammonton. The ordinance changes the title of Chapter 190, Article I, Section 3 to read “Noise prohibited at certain times,” and adds Section 190-7, which states “Noise prohibited at all times.”


According to the language of the ordinance, notwithstanding Section 190-3, “it shall be unlawful for any person to make, continue or use to be made or continued any loud or disturbing noise that significantly interferes with the public peace, the public comfort or the public convenience of others within the Town of Hammonton, at any time. It shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this Section if the noise is plainly audible at a distance of 1,320 feet (0.25 miles) from the building, structure, vehicle or place in which the noise is emanating. The exceptions set forth in §190-5 shall be applicable to this §190-7. Any person who shall violate this §190-7 shall be subject to the violations and penalties set forth in §190-6.”


The introduction was approved.


In his report, Mayor Stephen DiDonato issued a correction from the reorganization meeting of council held on January 4.


“Inadvertently, the representatives from council for HRC, I think I mentioned Oliva—Jonathan Oliva—and the second was Thomas Gribbin, Deputy Mayor Gribbin. I have to correct that. The first is Olivo—Billy Olivo—and the second is Jonathan Oliva. That’s in regards to the MainStreet Hammonton Revitalization Corporation,” DiDonato said.


During the Public Works Manager’s report, Robert Vettese gave an update regarding the Radon awareness program discussed at the December 21, 2020 meeting of town council.


“Council asked us to make that application last month, we did, and on January 19 we did get a letter from NJ DEP indicating the town was awarded a $2,000 grant for the purchase and distribution of radon test kits. We did solicit three price quotes from three different vendors that were received today. We’re in the process of reviewing those and we’ll update council for the February meeting to seek an award for supply of those and testing, then return the information back to the property owners and NJ DEP,” Vettese said.


Zuber introduced the following items in the town clerk’s report:


• Approval to extend the leave of absence for Michael Kerbowski with Highway Department for three months: February, March and April of 2021.


• Approve contracts for Municipal Clerk, Police Chief, Municipal Court Administrator, Utility Contracts and Communication manager.


• Approval to hire Jacqueline Martinez in the Municipal Court Office as a Bilingual Keyboard Clerk. Temporary six month position, Hourly rate of $15, 19 to 26 hours per week, contingent upon all civil service rules and regulations.


• Approval to hire Sierra Scola full time, as a Public Safety Telecommunicator in the Police Radio Department. Yearly salary of $28,000 per year, 40 hours a week, single benefits, contingent upon civil services rules and regulations.


• Accept resignation of Anthony Rose in good standing from Fire Company No. 2. Approved at Fire Company meeting January 13, 2021.


The items were approved.


Council then introduced Ordinance No. 001-2020—Fixing Salaries of Certain Employees. The ordinance states that individuals shall be paid pursuant to the contract minimums and maximum salaries / Hourly Rates as per contract are as follows: Confidential Aid/Communication Manager /Recreation Leader—Minimum $20,000; Maximum, $65,000; Municipal Court Administrator—$35,000, $75,000; Police Chief—$85,000, $175,000.

The introduction was approved.


Council also introduced Resolution No. 025-2021, Supporting High Speed Internet.


The resolution states that “the recent pandemic of COVID-19 further illustrates just how vital access to high-speed internet has become to society, especially during times of crisis or emergencies and how not having access to high-speed internet has the potential to cripple a community, particularly a rural one, denying the community the capacity for remote student learning and remote working arrangements with a resident’s employer.”


“The Town of Hammonton believes that the service providers of aerial line high-speed internet in the State of New Jersey are more than capable of and financially sound enough to achieve a 100 percent rate of high-speed internet accessibility but choose not to pursue that goal unless forced to through regulation because the providers feel it is not profitable,” the resolution states.


The resolution further states that the town of Hammonton “is desirous of assisting and cooperating with other public entities, the State Legislature, to pursue a petition before the Board of Public Utilities to enact regulations requiring a 100 percent rate of high-speed internet accessibility in each individual municipality throughout the State of New Jersey.”


“Unless the Board of Public Utilities requires service providers of aerial line high-speed internet to provide 100 percent high-speed internet access in all municipalities throughout New Jersey, the State will have unintentionally subverted the public’s significant investment in the Pinelands Preservation zones, farmland, and open space preservation by not allowing those areas’ businesses to be economically competitive and viable over the long term,” the resolution states.


The resolution then states that the town has requested “to order all service providers of high-speed internet to provide high-speed internet service to all municipalities throughout the State with each municipality being afforded a 100 percent rate of high-speed internet accessibility; and ... that our State representatives use their authority to require service providers of high-speed internet to achieve a 100 percent rate of high-speed internet access for each individual municipality throughout the State of New Jersey.”


A copy of the resolution was ordered to be sent to the offices of the governor, the president of the New Jersey State Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly of the State of New Jersey, the Atlantic County Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Public Utilities.


That resolution, along with the following, was approved en masse:


• Resolution No. 021-2021, Authorizing The Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel procession, carnival and fireworks from July 12 through July 17.


• Resolution No. 022-2021, Approve Good Friday Procession on Friday April 2, 2021 at 4:30 p.m.


• Resolution No. 024-2021, Authorizing Various Refunds.


• Resolution No. 026-2021, Authorizing Tax/Water/Sewer Refunds.


• Resolution No. 027-2021, Authorizing the Transfer of 2020 Budget Appropriations—From: Police – Salaries and Wages, $184,000; Police Radio – Salaries and Wages, $15,000; Gasoline – Operating Expense, $14,000; Electric – Operating Expense, $41,000; Highway – Salaries and Wages, $50,000; To: Highway – Operating Expense, $40,000; Construction – Operating Expense, $10,000; Police – Operating Expense, $254,000.


The next meeting of town council is scheduled to be held on February 22 at 7 p.m.