Joseph F. Berenato
Town buying $1.6M fire truck
HAMMONTON—Council members voted to approve the purchase of a $1.6 million fire truck at the February 27 meeting of town council.
The matter arose under Resolution No. 040-2023, Temporary Capital Budget for purchase of Fire Truck Purchase
“The need has arisen to introduce bond ordinance to provide funds for the purchase of a new fire truck (Model 225, 100-ft platform ladder truck) and accessories, including all appurtenances necessary and related thereto,” the resolution states.
According to the resolution, the total cost of the purchase is $1.6 million. The resolution authorizes $1.52 million in debt with an $80,000 down payment.
Hammonton Fire Chief Sean Macri addressed council on the matter. He said that the original timeline for the town to receive the ladder truck was 36 to 40 months.
“Now, everything the way it’s going, they’re getting their workforce back in order; COVID kind of decimated them, also, and the material’s becoming more readily available,” Macri said.
Macri said that the new estimated time of arrival is the end of 2024 to the beginning of 2025.
“As we get closer in time, that’ll shift here and there, and I’ll be able to give a report to Law and Order and the town council as we get it,” Macri said.
Councilman Edward Wuillermin asked Macri to explain to Hammonton residents the necessity for replacing the existing truck, and Macri obliged.
“Our tower ladder out of Station 1—which is considered our ladder company—is a first-out piece. NFPA [National Fire Protection Association] guidelines state that any first-out piece should be replaced within 25 years, not because it doesn’t work anymore or because it can’t get tested; the parts to maintain it are to the point where it’s not economical and it’s not financially responsible to keep fixing it,” Macri said.
Macri said that there were other considerations, as well.
“When they come in and they do an insurance review of the fire department and the dispatch and all that, they look at the tower ladder and aerial. We need one because we have buildings that are over three stories—and a two-story with an attic is considered a three-story building.
Because of that—and your businesses—we need to have one that is within 20 years,” Macri said.
Having outdated equipment, Macri said, affects insurance.
“That affects homeowners’ insurance and it affects business insurance. What we’re trying to do—I’m not saying it’s going to reduce the insurance—we don’t want to give them any reason to jack it up on us,” Macri said.
Mayor Stephen DiDonato commented further, noting that this truck is the second of two new acquisitions.
“We should have two trucks in ’24, and we’ll have some of the best equipment—if not the best equipment—in South Jersey. We have the best fire department, so we have to give them the best equipment to handle situations,” DiDonato said.
Councilman Sam Rodio made a motion to approve the resolution; Councilwoman Renee Rodio seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
Later in the meeting, council held the introduction of Introduction of Bond Ordinance No. 003-2023 – Purchase of Fire Truck.
“The average period of usefulness of said improvement or purpose within the limitations of the Local Bond Law, according to the reasonable life thereof computed from the date of the said bonds authorized by this bond ordinance, is 10 years,” the ordinance states.
The ordinance passed introduction.
During the meeting, council also honored four members of the Hammonton Fire Department for their 50 years of service to the town.
Councilman Thomas Gribbin spoke about the first honoree, Joe Donio, who has, during his tenure, held the rank of lieutenant and served as a representative of the Local Fireman’s Relief Association.
“In his many years as a member of the Hammonton Fire Department, he has served as a mentor and a role model to many, and I know that we are certainly inspired by Mr. Donio’s dedication to the safety of the town, of its people and thankful for his bravery and dedication to Hammonton,” Gribbin said.
Gribbin then recognized Dennis Berenato, who has held the positions of lieutenant, vice president, trustee and representative of the Local Fireman’s Relief Association.
“In his many years as a member of the Hammonton Fire Department, he has also served as a mentor and role model to many, especially many of our young firefighters, and we’re inspired by his dedication and safety to the town and its people, and thankful for his dedication and bravery,” Gribbin said.
Councilman Jonathan Oliva then spoke about John Warren Jr., who has held the positions of lieutenant and safety officer, assistant department chief, department secretary, president, treasurer and officer of the Local Fireman’s Relief Association.
“John Warren currently serves as treasurer for Company No. 2 and vice president of the Local Fireman’s Relief Association,” Oliva said.
Oliva then recognized Ralph Perna, who has held the positions of firefighter and assistant chief.
“In his many years as a member of the Hammonton Fire Department, he has served as a mentor and as a role model to many in the community. We continue, as the deputy mayor said, to be inspired by all of our firefighters, and specifically our four firefighters who we’re recognizing this evening, their dedication to our community, and we thank them for their bravery,” Oliva said.
Oliva then called the honorees to the front to be presented with plaques; AJ Berenato accepted on behalf of Dennis Berenato, who was not in attendance.
DiDonato addressed the audience, including the dozens of members of the fire department who were in attendance.
“I want to thank all the firemen for coming tonight to support those four individuals. Hammonton, we truly are lucky to have fantastic volunteerism in our fire department, and we thank you all very much for keeping us safe,” DiDonato said.
Oliva concurred with DiDonato.
“It’s always wonderful to see so many individuals here when we recognize members of our police or our fire, to see everyone who comes together,” Oliva said.
At the top of the meeting, DiDonato held a moment of silence for Chris Rehmann, the former town engineer and former president of Adams, Rehmann and Heggan Associates (ARH); Rehmann died on February 24.
“Chris was a tremendous individual … If you looked in the dictionary and you saw the word ‘gentleman,’ you’d see a picture of Chris Rehmann. He was that type of a man. He’s going to be sorely missed in this town. He was a great engineer. He was a great family man. He was a great father. May he rest in peace,” DiDonato said.
Later in the meeting, Gribbin spoke further about Rehmann.
“Enough good things can’t be said about the man. As you said, he was the definition of a true gentleman. What I always think really defines a man is, are they a good family man? Without question, Chris Rehmann was a good family man,” Gribbin said.
Wuillermin also expressed his condolences.
“Back in the day—I think it was 1978—I was a 28-year-old professional working in Atlantic County, and Mr. Rehmann offered me a position at ARH, which was tremendously gratifying and a tremendous experience, learning under his tutelage,” Wuillermin said.
Town Engineer Mark Herrmann thanked the town on behalf of ARH and the Rehmann family for the “honor and recognition bestowed on Chris.”
“He loved this town. He loved its leaders. He loved the residents, and he loved serving this town. He was very passionate about this town. We could spend all night listing good words to describe him, and it’ll never be enough. He was a mentor to me, and he taught me a lot about being an engineer, and he was a good person. I’ll miss him a lot,” Herrmann said.
Public Works Manager Robert Vettese said Rehmann will be sorely missed.
“I was fortunate enough to work for the family—because it was a family operation—for 48 to 50 years. I’ve been acquainted with Chris, and actually I consider him probably the E.F. Hutton of engineers, because, although he was soft-spoken, you knew when he was telling you, he had a lot of thoughts, and he thought things over, and everything he would say, people paid attention to him. I appreciated his guidance through the years,” Vettese said.
DiDonato also held a moment of silence for Hugh LaMonaca, who served on town council in the 1970s; he died on January 22.
“He served the town very well and worked hard to do the best thing for Hammonton,” DiDonato said.
Gribbin spoke about LaMonaca, who was his neighbor.
“He achieved the status of master gardener after he retired, and anyone that knew Mr. LaMonaca and saw his property knew that he was a master gardener,” Gribbin said.
In other business, council also held the second public hearing of Ordinance No. 002-2023 – Fixing Salaries of Police Officers and Sergeants.
“The salaries, clothing allowance, education stipend, health insurance buyout, cell phone reimbursement, sick time, vacation time, personal time, comp time, holidays and overtime have all been set for the calendar years Starting January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2025,” the ordinance reads.
According to the ordinance, the minimum salary for a police officer shall be $45,000, and the maximum shall be $115,000. The minimum salary for a sergeant shall be $113,000, and the maximum shall be $125,000.
The ordinance was adopted and published.
While presenting the report from the Law and Order Committee, Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel said that, as of December 22, 2022, the application fees for handgun permits, firearms identification cards or permits to carry have increased.
“I think they said that it’s been 20 to 30 years since any of the fees have gone up, so I just want to let people know that the permits are no longer $2; they are now $25. The firearms ID cards are no longer $5; they are now $50. The permit to carry would be payable $50 to the state of New Jersey and $150 to our community—to the town of Hammonton,” Friel said.
Friel explained how the town will spend the revenue from the fees.
“They’re going to be used to make sure that we have the materials to do the permitting and to do the background investigations and the checks,” Friel said.
Friel also asked for patience on the part of the applicants.
“Every time that you call to see where your permit is, and the 15 minutes of conversation that we have is 15 minutes less that I’ve had to process the other permits and things that are going on, so, again, patience is a virtue—and I think it’s actually one of the requirements, having a person that can be patient, and conduct themselves and control their emotions,” Friel said.
“That’s just what we need: a bunch of high-strung yahoos running around carrying a gun.
That’s good; that’s good. I’m all for that. I want to sit next to that person. Wow,” DiDonato said.
During the report, Friel also said that the town will be holding a motor vehicle inspection check-point event “within the next month.”
“I like to do that especially for our senior members of our community that don’t like to drive out of town to have their vehicle inspected,” Friel said.
Friel said that the event will once again be held in the parking lot of NAPA Auto Parts at 130 S. White Horse Pike.
“They’re kind enough to let us use the parking lot; it’s a nice, safe place,” Friel said.
Friel said that vehicles that are not inspected will be pulled into the check-point.
“Yes, sometimes we do have to issue some citations for people that don’t have things up to snuff, but the main purpose of it is that if there are some individuals that have their inspection coming up, as long as it’s within a month of that period of time, they can come in and
voluntarily inspect their vehicle,” Friel said.
During the report from the Business and Industry Committee, Wuillermin said that members of the planning board and its professionals met with a potential applicant for development on the White Horse Pike.
“It is not a formal application yet, but, if it does materialize out of the ether, we’ll be talking about a pretty nice ratable that will be inclusive of retail, commercial and restaurant spaces there,” Wuillermin said.
Under the Water and Sewer Committee report, Councilman Steven Furgione said that discussions have been held to paint the water tower on Fourth Street.
“I’d like to award MBA—Mumford-Bjorkman Associates—they would be providing us with the specs and all the bidding services. They would provide us with the tank coating and consultation, as well as the full-time inspection of the painting when it occurs,” Furgione said.
Furgione said that MBA was the tank consultant when the water tower on Lincoln Street was repainted, and they are currently coordinating with Verizon for the installation of cell antennae on the Fourth Street tower.
“For this year—we already have an ordinance set up from a couple of years ago—I’m asking for $12,000 to complete the specs and the bidding services, and another $8,000 for the tank coating consultation work,” Furgione said.
Furgione made a motion to award a contract to MBA not to exceed $20,000, which Wuillermin seconded. Furgione continued.
“They gave us a price for a full-time paint inspection, which we can cover at the time of award, of $61,500, and the plan would be to put this work out summertime—early summer—so that we start painting the tank, try to do it for September; try to get this thing done before winter of ’23, if possible,” Furgione said.
The motion passed unanimously.
During his report, Herrmann had five action items. The first related to the work on Vine Street/School House Lane; Herrmann said the project was complete.
“We’re doing punch list items now. We had a meeting today to discuss some outstanding claims; I think we resolved every one,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann said that a payment of $78,301.89 was submitted for approval.
“We also have a small change order, number three, that needs to be considered and approved to the contract to pay for certain quantities that were over the amount of the contract,” Herrmann said.
The change order, Herrmann said, is in the amount of $19,373.69.
Furgione made the motion to approve the change order, which Sam Rodio seconded. Furgione commented further.
“We’re down to one open item on both projects, total. Valley, all the changes are settled; we can get final quantities done next month. All but one change order is settled on School House Lane and Vine; it’ll come through next month,” Furgione said.
Furgione said that some of the final quantities involve the concrete work that was done in conjunction with St. Joseph Academy, and that a letter will be sent to the school soon.
“It’ll be the amount of money owed for the concrete work, and then a list of all the extra work we did out there with the amounts—water line, sewer line, storm sewer—as it related to the school,” Furgione said.
The motion was approved unanimously.
Herrmann’s second action item related to the Route 54 water main replacement project.
“We need to obtain legal description signatures for the easements for all of the homeowners along 54. We were asked, and we provided, a quote to help facilitate that work by tracking people down, meeting with people as we need,” Herrmann said.
The proposal as submitted, Herrmann said, was for a not-to-exceed price of $3,000.
Wuillermin made a motion to accept the proposal, which Oliva seconded. Vettese explained further.
“There’ll be a plan that shows the easement across their property, and then a legal description. If everything’s OK with that, they’ll let us know, and then we can properly advise Mike [Malinsky, town solicitor] to draft the deeds for that easement. Then, we’ll go back to them to execute those deeds,” Vettese said.
Gribbin asked how long the easements would be in place, and Malinsky responded.
“In perpetuity,” Malinsky said.
The motion passed unanimously.
Herrmann said that ARH was asked to provide a quote for similar services related to well testing in the Lakeview Gardens section of Hammonton to contact residents, provide information and coordinate tests.
“We would request a not-to-exceed number of $3,000 just to provide those services as needed,” Herrmann said.
Furgione made a motion to accept the proposal; Wuillermin and Renee Rodio simultaneously seconded the motion. DiDonato asked Business Administrator Frank Zuber how to proceed.
“Wuillermin second? R. Rodio second? Pick a name, Frank. R. Rodio second; we’ll give the young lady,” DiDonato said.
Furgione said that, of 34 certified letters sent to the residents, 10 have responded.
“Please, if you have the letter, and you didn’t participate, please contact Mr. Vettese,” Furgione said.
The motion was approved unanimously.
The next item on Herrmann’s report related to the Mazza Muffler site at 104 S. Egg Harbor Rd.
Herrmann said that four bids were received for the demolition of the building at that location.
“The low bidder was Winzinger, a pretty reputable demo company. The low-bid price was $88,000,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann said that it was ARH’s recommendation that the bid be awarded to Winzinger.
“The grant we received for Mazza Muffler—for that property—our estimate included $95,000, plus a contingency of 15 percent for the demolition, so the $88,000 is under that estimate, and the grant money was received, so the money’s available,” Herrmann said.
Sam Rodio made the motion, and commented further.
“It’s totally not a dollar to the taxpayer, totally grant-funded, and we can move right ahead with it right now,” he said.
Gribbin seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
The final action item related to the second phase of the proposed project on Old Forks Road.
Herrmann said that the town received $287,000 for the second phase.
“We have the first phase pretty much wrapped up. We’ve been working with the county; the county’s coming through to pave Third Street, and, where Third and Old Forks intersect, I’ve been trying to negotiate with the county to provide us with a pipe casing beneath the road so we can put a water main across the road,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann said that, as of the meeting, he had not yet received a cost from the county.
“In the meantime, we submitted a proposal in the amount of $13,500 to continue the design of Old Forks Road,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann said that the second phase of the project anticipates proceeding along Old Forks Road from Lahn Lane at least to the Road of Excellence, if not further, while the first phase will begin at the town line and proceed towards Lahn Lane.
Sam Rodio made a motion to accept the proposal, which Furgione seconded. The motion was approved unanimously.
During his report, Vettese said that conversations have been had with the county regarding Recreation and Open Space funding that can be afforded to eligible communities and properties for consideration for purchase. Vettese said that six areas were reviewed; of those, the mayor and council decided on two to consider.
The first, Vettese said, is the triangle at the intersection of Ninth Street, Moss Mill Road and Egg Harbor Road which is traditionally maintained by the county.
“We’re taking a look at the possible purchase of that; there’s two different property owners in that particular area. We’re trying to also talk to the county about doing some other improvements in that area, so this would help us with that aspect,” Vettese said.
The second, Vettese said, is a recent subdivision at the corner of Packard Street and Bellevue Avenue.
“It used to be the old DeMarco piece. It basically sat empty for as far back as I can remember.
The town’s looking at possibly purchasing that property and then, if we’re eligible for funds, maybe doing something with processing that also,” Vettese said.
Vettese described how the funding would work.
“The county would pay for 50 percent of the cost of whatever the appraised value by a licensed Green Acres appraisal firm, so we’ll keep the mayor and council informed of how that process goes,” Vettese said.
Vettese sought authorization to make the necessary authorization to the county. Sam Rodio made a motion to authorize the application; Furgione seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
Council also entertained the following resolutions:
• Resolution No. 035-2023, Approve shared services agreement with Atlantic County for the use of trailer mounted attenuators and arrow boards for the attenuators; the county and municipality desires to enter into this shared service agreement with the assistance of the Local Efficiency Achievement Program (LEAP) Implementation Grant for a total amount not to exceed $35,316 of which $64,078 will be state funding and a county cash match in the amount of $21,238.67 and an in-kind match in the amount of $1,500 to support implementation of this shared service
• Resolution No. 039-2023, Authorize Tri-Vet Memorial Parade on May 29, beginning at 10 a.m.
• Resolution No. 041-2023, Canceling 2021 NJ Electric Vehicle Charging Station Grant Balance in the amount of $8,000
• Resolution No. 042-2023, Participate Atlantic County LEAP Grant
The motions were approved unanimously.
The next meeting of town council will be March 27 at 7 p.m.