Joseph F. Berenato
Police hires, promotions
HAMMONTON—During the March 27 meeting of town council, Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel announced four promotions and three hires.
Friel said that, in a civil service department like Hammonton, there are titles that are appointed by the chief, one of which is detective.
“The other one is a signification of a senior patrol officer in absence of a sergeant to be in charge of the shift and responsible—and I think that, in the society we live in today, being responsible for our patrol staff is tantamount of having a great police department,” Friel said.
Friel said that he was then going to appoint four individuals to the rank of corporal.
“It is an appointment; it is a responsibility. There are individuals who had to apply for it. They had a selection panel that they had to interview before. It also was part of their work productivity, their disciplinary file; all of these measures were taken in account,” Friel said.
The first individual, Friel said, was Officer John Amendolia, whom Friel said he also wanted to recognize for “the wonderful job that he has done for the year of 2022.”
“The supervisory staff and administration of the police department was given the opportunity to nominate individuals for Officer of the Year. This gentleman has been with us since 2015; he came here from the Atlantic County Sherriff’s Department and has served the community in many ways—and served the county of Atlantic in a few ways, as well,” Friel said.
Friel called Amendolia to the podium and presented him with a plaque naming him as the department’s Officer of the Year.
“Congratulations to John A. Amendolia III in recognition for your exceptional performance in protecting and serving our community,” Friel read.
Friel then announced Amendolia’s promotion to corporal. Friel spoke further of Amendolia’s background, noting that he is a veteran of the United States Air Force and has served on the Atlantic County SWAT team for several years.
“John was recognized most specifically for his job in 2022; we had a residence in our community that was shot at with six rounds—and John wouldn’t let it go. He was tenacious—’Can I come in? I know I’m off; can I come in and work the case?’—and brought the case to its prosecution,” Friel said.
Friel said that the work by Amendolia and others on the case was one of the examples of “the caliber of officer that we love about our department.”
In addition to serving on the SWAT team, Friel said that Amendolia is the department’s range instructor and is dedicated to his job.
“The seven years that he has been here? Zero sick days,” Friel said.
The next individual to be promoted, Friel said, was Cpl. Kyle Ambrozaitis, whom Friel said has “technically” been with the department since 2012.
“He was here as a Class II. We wanted to keep him here as a full-time officer, but, again, sorry—we’re a civil service agency and there are certain rules we have to follow—and we unfortunately had to let him go,” Friel said.
Friel said that Ambrozaitis went to work in Sea Isle City, but was not satisfied in the position and eventually returned to Hammonton.
“He has been recognized as a MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] recipient from the MADD organization because of his DWI enforcement skills for three or four years—I’ve lost count, it’s been so many,” Friel said.
Friel said that Ambrozaitis has also been recognized as a New Jersey Traffic Safety Specialist Level One. Additionally, Ambrozaitis has been a field training officer (FTO) with the department for several years; Friel said that field training is one of the facets of being a corporal.
“This way, he can impart his pearls of wisdom and his skillset so that we can have even better officers here in our community,” Friel said.
Friel then spoke about Cpl. Renzo Mendoza’s promotion. Friel said that Mendoza has been with the department since 2016 and has previously served in the National Guard.
“He is a certified bilingual officer in the language of Spanish, which is something we are striving more and more to achieve so that we have a more connective capability with our community. He is also a certified FTO,” Friel said.
The final individual to attain the rank of corporal, Friel said, was Cpl. Gordon Ellis III, who started with the department in 2015.
“He also started as a Class II officer, and was able to stay here and be actually be on our list and hired full time—so he didn’t have to spend any time missing all of his brothers and sisters here at the Hammonton Police Department,” Friel said.
Ellis is also FTO-certified, Friel said, and is “very astute in Title 39.”
“Every time there’s additional classes for any type of motor vehicle enforcement, he’s the first one up there asking to go,” Friel said.
Friel also said that there are several new members for the department.
The first one, Friel said, was Officer Alexandra Mardell, whom Friel noted “isn’t brand-new, because she’s been with us in the last quarter of 2022.”
Friel said that Mardell is a Hammonton resident, graduated from Hammonton High School in 2019 and is currently in her final semester at Rowan University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in criminal justice.
“She served in law enforcement in the city of Ventnor as a Class I and in the city of Stone Harbor as a Class II. She’s been working with us the last quarter of 2022, and as she just finished her field training here right now about a month ago, now she’s going to be going back to our Atlantic County Police Academy as a full-time officer,” Friel said.
Friel then asked council for a motion to hire Mardell as a full-time officer. Councilman Edward Wuillermin made the motion, which Councilman Sam Rodio seconded. The motion was approved unanimously.
The next new hire was Zachary Moninghoff.
“Our next candidate that we’ll be bringing before mayor and council has been a career military Air Force personnel for the past 13 years, a graduate of Montclair State University with a bachelor of arts in justice studies and a wonderful Atlantic County resident that we were lucky enough to be able to get far enough on our list to bring in,” Friel said.
Wuillermin made the motion to hire Moninghoff, which Councilwoman Renee Rodio seconded. The motion was approved unanimously.
The final hire introduced by Friel was Skye Hebert.
“She is a New Jersey state corrections officer. She has a bachelor in criminal justice and sociology from Rider University, and she is a wonderful person who volunteers time helping out at a hospital for mental health—so it’s another facet of improving our police department and the way that we interact with the individuals that we deal with in our community,” Friel said.
Wuillermin made the motion to hire Hebert; Councilman Jonathan Oliva seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
Councilman Thomas Gribbin administered the oath individually to the three hires.
“I want to thank the chief for the presentations tonight. I want to congratulate our new corporals. Mayor and council—as we have been—is very supportive of our law enforcement officers here in Hammonton, and dedicated to keeping the town one of the safest towns in New Jersey. I know that we do that with the finest officers in the state of New Jersey,” Gribbin said.
Later in the meeting, while presenting the report from the Law and Order Committee, Friel said that a mobile motor vehicle inspection checkpoint was scheduled to be held on April 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at NAPA Auto Parts at 301 S. White Horse Pike.
“Especially for our senior members of the community, not having to drive out of town to have your motor vehicle inspected is a wonderful thing that we like to allow,” Friel said.
Friel also said that Hammonton received a $7,000 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Distracted Driving “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign.
“That is going to be going on from April 1 to April 30, so we’ll be funding extra officer time on the roadway looking for distracted drivers—looking for people that are texting or not driving properly through our community, so there will be extra hours, grant-funded, to support our community,” Friel said.
In related business, council held the introduction of Ordinance No. 008-2023 – Fixing Salaries Police Department.
According to the ordinance, salary minimum and maximums are as follows: Police Chief/Emergency Mgt Coord, $110,000 to $200,000; Police Captain, $100,000 to $175,000; Police Lieutenant, $95,000 to $155,000.
The ordinance passed introduction.
Additionally, council passed Resolution No. 049-2023, Setting Salaries for Police Department.
For a complete list of police salaries, visit hammontongazette.com.
Council also held the second public hearing of Bond Ordinance No. 003-2023 – Purchase of Fire Truck. According to its language, the ordinance appropriates $1.6 million for the purchase and authorizes the issuance of $1.52 million in bonds.
The ordinance was adopted and published.
In other business, council entertained Resolution No. 045-2023, Temporary Capital Budget – ADA Lake Park and Lighting for Athletic Fields.
“This is for ADA improvements to the Hammonton Lake Park, which we have a grant for—but we have to bond first to get the grant dollars back—and the other is for lighting for the practice field—the old band field—at the middle school so our Hawks can use that for practice and move their total operation to William T. Capella [Memorial Field] and behind,” Mayor Stephen DiDonato said.
According to the resolution, for the ADA improvements to the facilities at Hammonton Lake Park, the total cost is $440,000; the total from the Capital Improvement Fund is $2,000, the amount that will be grant-funded is $400,000 and the debt authorized is $38,000.
For the lighting for athletic fields and improvements to various recreation facilities, the total cost is $300,000; the total from the Capital Improvement Fund is $15,000 and the debt authorized is $285,000.
The total cost of the projects in the resolution is $740,000; the total from the Capital Improvement Fund is $17,000, the amount that will be grant-funded is $400,000 and the total debt authorized is $323,000.
Sam Rodio made a motion to approve the resolution, which Oliva seconded. Councilman Steven Furgione commented further.
“Regarding the lights at the school, the town—the taxpayers—have paid the entire freight for lights at Capella Field, correct? We’ve also paid to fix the bleachers at Capella,” Furgione said.
Furgione said that he spoke with Hammonton Board of Education President Sam Mento III regarding “getting some consideration from the school to help us fund these lights on the practice field.”
“I think it’d be prudent here, number one, to send them a request to have them look at this in more detail. I watched the school board meeting a couple of weeks ago, and they’re talking about some public safety issues in the back of the property. One of the light poles that is being proposed here, you could add another light to it and that would take care of your basketball courts, that would take care of your pickleball area and that park,” Furgione said.
Furgione said that he was in favor of the resolution provided that the school district would “kick in half.”
“I think the taxpayers and the town have done plenty out there, and we need some help from the school,” Furgione said.
DiDonato asked for clarification.
“Are you requesting the first and second to be tabled? Is that what you’re asking?” DiDonato said.
Furgione replied in the affirmative.
“Yes, I would table this. Let the school give us an official ruling on this before we proceed,” Furgione said.
DiDonato then asked Sam Rodio and Oliva if they wanted to remove their motion; both replied in the negative. Sam Rodio commented further.
“The school board president, he has chased him for over a month now, and he actually told me with his own words that he’s willing to give us his official—he’s OK with it—but they don’t have a dime to put in it, and they were his words to me,” Sam Rodio said.
“I think we owe this to the kids of the town. It’s been long enough trying to get the Hawks over there, and making that Little League down there a baseball program—not a football/baseball program—and move this whole thing forward. If it takes that kind of money, I’m willing to put my name on the line, and whether it costs me a vote or not I could care less,” he said.
Sam Rodio addressed Furgione.
“Am I correct, Mr. Furgione? You’ve chased him for a month?” he said.
Furgione replied in the affirmative.
“I have,” Furgione said.
“I think asking in writing for them to embark on this journey with us, and then receiving—either via vote or response back—a formal communication back that they have no plans to assist, then that’s good for us to know, as a council,” Oliva said.
Sam Rodio concurred.
“I have no problem with that at all,” he said.
“I want a letter sent to the board, and I want a vote,” Furgione said.
DiDonato summarized the conversation.
“Will the first and the second amend it to send a letter to the school board care of the business administrator, Barbara Prettyman, from our business administrator requesting that they share in the lights?” DiDonato said.
Both Sam Rodio and Oliva said that they would amend the original motion.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Later in the meeting, council held the introduction of Introduction of Bond Ordinance No. 006-2023 – Athletic Field Lighting and ADA Lake Park Upgrades. This ordinance appropriates $740,000 and authorizes the issuance of $323,000 in bonds or notes of the town.
“This is contingent upon sending a letter to the school to see if they will help in the cost,” Business Administrator Frank Zuber said.
Sam Rodio said that the letter should be sent to the board of education before its next meeting on April 13.
“Let’s get it there, if we have to get it certified. There’s no excuse that it wasn’t there the night of their board meeting, so it doesn’t go another month,” he said.
“We’ll get it to them this week,” Furgione said.
Gribbin asked for clarification.
“The ordinance is not contingent on that?” Gribbin said.
Zuber replied that it was not.
The ordinance passed introduction.
While presenting the report from the Quality of Life Committee, Oliva said that the Hammonton Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee would like to add new members who have been supportive of the committee’s initiatives.
“Mayor, with your concurrence, we have four new members we’d like to add: Lisa Campanella, Kathia Ramirez, Mary Young and Copelia Morales. With my recommendation and your concurrence, we would like to have them added to the committee,” Oliva said.
“I concur. I agree; great job,” DiDonato said.
Under the Water and Sewer Committee report, Furgione said that work was anticipated to begin on turf field at Moss Mill Park on April 3.
“Parks and Rec has asked—as well as St. Joe Academy—if we could do some sort of weird groundbreaking, even though the ground’s already broken. We’re looking for April 22 at 10 a.m. It’s two weeks after the start, but I’ll find a patch of dirt we can go dig,” Furgione said.
Under Business and Industry, Wuillermin said the Greater Hammonton Chamber of Commerce was scheduled to host a program called “Business Education Series Today” at Stockton University’s Kramer Hall on April 13 at 7 a.m.
“They will have a light breakfast, the chamber board meeting, and then they will do a presentation on how to successfully business succession. They will have three speakers there, and that will give the people that attend some guidance and input in terms of how to go through the process of succession in your business,” Wuillermin said.
Wuillermin said that the cost for non-chamber members is $10.
Gribbin noted that Kramer Hall is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
“I remember sitting over where Councilman R. Rodio is sitting when we first debated bringing Stockton here. I remember the late Mr. Jacobus bringing in an air horn; I remember there were very passionate people on both sides of the issue, but, ultimately I know that the town has a great partner in Stockton,” Gribbin said.
DiDonato commented further.
“That reminds me. That’s the only night—there’s been a lot of high pressure situations as mayor—that’s the only night I almost wet my pants when that horn came out of nowhere. I thought we were getting attacked,” DiDonato said.
Also during committee reports, Sam Rodio spoke of an issue at Hammonton Municipal Airport.
“We’ll talk about it more next month, because I’ve gotten a lot of information the past four or five days. We have a situation with one of the jet fuel tanks down there. I’m learning that there’s many companies out there that would take over something like that. They would put tanks in; they would monitor it. They have key fobs. They take care of the whole thing for you,” he said.
Sam Rodio said that the situation warrants further investigation before council takes action.
“I’d like to get another month under our belt and see where we’re going to go with the whole thing,” he said.
Sam Rodio said that utilizing such a company could represent a financial benefit for the town.
“Instead of us spending the money on a tank like that—which is six figures, like a half a million dollars—maybe it’s time to look and see if there’s something or somewhere else we could go and not spend money like that, especially since it would be taxpayers’ money, because the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] will not fund something like that,” he said.
Zuber presented the following under the town clerk’s report:
• Accept retirement of Michael Perna Jr. from his position with the Hammonton Utility Department as of June 1.
• Accept the retirement of Bart Gelles from the active role of Fire Company No. 2 effective April 1.
• Accept Cody Malia as a regular member of Fire Company No. 2 effective as of April 1. Police Background complete and approved at Fire Company meeting on March 8.
• Accept Thomas Barker as a junior member and the resignation of Alex Rodriguez in good standing from Fire Company No. 1. Approved at Fire Company meeting March 15.
The items were approved unanimously.
Council held the introduction of Ordinance No. 004-2023 – Re-appropriate American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funding. According to its language, this ordinance provides for the purchase and installation of a drip irrigation system for the town of Hammonton.
The ordinance will re-appropriate $165,109.71 in excess federal funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. These funds were incorporated through Bond Ordinance No. 3-2021, adopted on April 26, 2021, and Bond Ordinance No. 18-2021, adopted on December 1, 2021. According to the ordinance, those funds are “not needed for their original purpose.”
“We’re doing this because the project that these were originally for are being moved to the drip irrigation project, and we have to spend it before the end of April next year,” Zuber said.
The ordinance passed introduction.
Council also held the introduction of Ordinance No. 005-2023 – Sale of Town Owned Property Lot 3 Block 1602.
According to the ordinance, the minimum amount for the lot will be $22,300, and the public sale will take place at 10 a.m. on May 12 on the third floor of town hall.
“This is Golden Eagle Drive,” Zuber said.
Wuillermin inquired further.
“This is a non-buildable lot, right?” Wuillermin said.
Zuber replied in the affirmative, noting that the lot is approximately a half-acre in size.
“You need an acre out there for Pinelands,” DiDonato said.
The ordinance passed introduction.
Council also entertained the following resolutions:
• Resolution No. 046-2023, Authorize Downtown Teen Arts Festival on May 10 from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Resolution No. 047-2023, Name Scott Rivera as Certified Recycling Professional.
• Resolution No. 048-2023, Approve Procession of St John Feast on June 23 at 7 p.m.
• Resolution No. 050-2023, Approve Good Friday Procession on April 7 at 4:30 p.m.
• Resolution No. 051-2023, Approve Temporary Emergency Appropriations: NPP Grant 2023 Portion, $125,000; Capital Improvement Fund, $50,000.
• Resolution No. 052-2023, Approving the Program Guidelines for the Town of Hammonton Small Business Assistance Grant Program Funded by Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant COVID-19 Funding.
The resolutions were approved unanimously.
The next meeting of town council will be April 24 at 7 p.m.