Time to deal with Hammonton’s unfinished business
In the 24 years since I started The Gazette, I have published a column every week.
That’s a lot of columns.
In the space of all those columns and all that time, a lot has been accomplished.
There is, however, some unfinished business the town and the school district need to complete. There are many examples of this unfinished business (Maybe you can think of a few examples yourself and send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org?) but in the interests of space I limited myself to four topics this week.
• The cleanup over the Hammonton Water Department’s two wells at 12th and Lincoln Streets. We don’t hear the town council speak much about this remediation project, which was funded by South Jersey Gas. The gas company also gave the town a significant amount of money. What did the town council do with that money? What is the latest update on the plume under the ground from the manufactured gas plant as well as any other contaminants in the ground over two of our town’s municipal water wells? Maybe the mayor and town council can provide us with the latest information at the next council meeting.
• Revitalizing the downtown area. People often mistakenly think the work on revitalizing the downtown is finished because it looks so much better than it did 25 or 30 years ago. Nothing could be further from the truth. While placing the town hall at the corner of Central Avenue and Vine Street was a game-changer, there are still many buildings that need to be cleaned up, vacancies that need to be filled and many areas that need better streets, sidewalks, landscaping and lighting. Events need to be promoted and grown, and new events need to be added. Then the process needs to be repeated uptown, in Hammonton’s Little Italy and in the Hammonton Business Park.
The “Railroad Corridor” would be a great way to push back on the blight and crime that have kept streets like N. Egg Harbor Road, Railroad Avenue and Orchard Street lagging behind the rest of the revitalization downtown. Banners representing the old Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad trains, as well as the New Jersey Central’s famous Blue Comet, all of which used to come through town—along with the current NJ Transit Atlantic City Rail Line (ACRL) train that currently rides the local rails—would be a great addition to the area. The buildings and homes on these streets should be revitalized as well.
• Bringing the recreation areas at Hammonton Lake Park, 11th Street and Boyer Avenue up to where they should be. Hiring a landscape architect isn’t a bad idea, but the town can’t use the landscape architect as an excuse for work not moving forward in a timely manner in our municipal parks. All our municipal parks are important, including the smaller ones, but the three big ones need major attention. How hard is it to paint press boxes down at Hammonton Lake Park? If we’re going to keep it, then let’s finish the rink at the 11th Street Fields. Make the basketball courts playable again and irrigate the baseball/softball fields. Put in some new uniform fencing and signage and make the parks look beautiful. Do the same at Boyer Avenue—and unify all the municipal parks’ signage, fencing, lighting and overall “look.” How hard could this be? What I don’t understand is: Why is it all taking so long? At least paint all the press boxes at Hammonton Lake Park this fall. Then it would look like something was getting done.
• Solar panels on the school district’s properties. This may take the prize for worst-looking government project in recent memory (that prize was going to go to the Hammonton Water Department building at 12th and Lincoln Streets but it was somewhat corrected and unified.) Maybe the school board will come to its senses and correct this offensive project by either moving it somewhere else on the property or discontinuing it altogether. If the board is wondering what the problem I have with it is: you cannot see the building from Old Forks Road as you drive toward the White Horse Pike (Route 30) anymore because it is blocked by solar panels. Also, the panels are a blight on the previously green expanses of ground on either side of “The Road to Excellence.”
By the way, the board (and the town) may have to consider a new name for the road. These days “excellence” wouldn’t be the word I’d use for how the town council and the school board are handling the municipality’s and the school district’s unfinished business.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.