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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Town, feds: Lead water pipes must be replaced


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HAMMONTON—At the November 21 meeting of town council, Councilman Steven Furgione spoke about lead water pipes in the town of Hammonton.


“The federal government has mandated that all lead service lines in the town of Hammonton serving water be replaced within 10 years, and also any lead line that services a residential home or apartment be replaced as well,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that the federal government will fund the replacements.


Furgione said that it would submit its Lead Service Line Identification and Replacement Plan to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) during the week of November 28. The next step, Furgione said, is to identify how much lead is actually in the water service system.


“We think anything in our service lines will be minimal, at this point in time. We haven’t come across any, but that doesn’t mean there’s not any that service from the curb to your home,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that there is a link on the town’s website explaining how to identify lead service lines into the home.


“We need to get this information for two reasons: one, to set up funding; and two, to figure out how we’re going to handle it,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that Adams, Rehmann and Heggan Associates (ARH) has completed geographic information system (GIS) mapping of the town’s water and sewer lines.


“We’re going to take any home that is 1985-built or older, and we’re going to notify the residents—probably via a letter in the next couple of weeks—as to what to look for, a phone number to contact with our water department, so we can come in and check for you,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that the survey portion of this project needs to be completed within the next several months so that the town can move forward with funding. The town, Furgione said, will be financially responsible for replacing individual water lines from curb to home.


“What we’re thinking is, the town will qualify five or six plumbers. If you do have a lead line, once the funding is established you would have access to those plumbers, and the town would reimburse the resident for that work to remove the lead line and convert it to something—probably PVC,” Furgione said.


Furgione reiterated that the federal government’s mandate—which went into effect in 2022—is for the work to be completed within 10 years, but of importance to the town now is to determine the scope of the work.


“Is it five homes? Ten homes? A hundred? I don’t really know yet. What I will say to you is, if you live on a road that has been reconstructed in the last 10 or 15 years, as we’re reconstructing the roads we’re checking your service laterals—and if we come across something, we notify the residents,” Furgione said.


Mayor Stephen DiDonato commented further.


“You need to go in your basement, and you can identify the pipe that’s servicing the house that’s coming through the wall—and you need to do that sooner rather than later, because there’s not going to be enough dollars for the federal government to go around. So, the first ones in are going to get the money; the ones at the end are not going to get any money,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato advised residents to act to ensure that such line replacements are not taken out of their personal budgets.


“Get down in that basement. Get down in that crawl. Get a plumber. Check it out. Call us—but let’s get it done quickly, please, for your own safety,” DiDonato said.


Furgione said that anyone with any questions can call the town’s water department.

“Give them your address, give them your phone number and someone will come out and take a look,” Furgione said.


During his report, Public Works Manager Robert Vettese spoke about the well contamination in the Lakeview Gardens section of Hammonton.


“At the beginning of the December meeting, the mayor and council will hold a special session in the first part of the meeting to bring everybody up to date on Lakeview Gardens, information that we’re getting from NJDEP [New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection] related to the Spill Fund and other information that DEP is passing along to the town,” Vettese said.


Vettese requested that all affected residents attend the meeting, which will be held December 19.


“Also, anyone who has not made an inquiry about that, they can call town hall—and I think we had sent a letter out with that information,” Vettese said.


Vettese said that the town would be contacting individuals who had expressed interest in completing their well testing through the laboratory with whom the town’s water department works.


“We’ll be contacting them, just letting them know that Anthony DeCicco will be contacting them—and contacting the lab—to work out what dates might be available for them to come and sample the well water,” Vettese said.


Furgione expanded on Vettese’s comment.


“By next week, Mr. DeCicco will make the appointments; we’ll do them in one day. We’ll give you a week or two’s notice, but that’ll be the day that the lab’s coming,” Furgione said.


Councilman Edward Wuillermin commented further.


“If anyone is holding back, we’d really like to get this done ASAP. If we only have one shot at doing it with the lab’s cooperation, if you’re thinking about it please make up your mind,” Wuillermin said.


Furgione asked Vettese to confirm that “four or five” wells were identified as exceeding the acceptable level of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Vettese confirmed that association, adding that two individuals are already registered with the New Jersey Spill Compensation Fund Claims Program (Spill Fund).


“The process would be, you test your well. If it tests positive for a certain contaminant, you have to complete a second test. If that test comes in also positive, then you make an application to Spill Fund for installation of a POET [point-of-entry treatment] system,” Vettese said.


Of the two individuals, Vettese said that one has already installed a compliant filtration system, while the town has been continuing to attempt to contact the other.


Furgione said that the second test in the procedure which Vettese outlined will be reimbursed, to which Vettese clarified that the second test will only be reimbursed if the results are positive. Furgione continued.


“The numbers we were seeing out there? It’s not going to all of a sudden get better. So, once that happens, you’ll be reimbursed and they’ll put in a filtration system; they’ll work with you to put in a filtration system on the state’s nickel,” Furgione said.


Vettese said that estimates were provided—should state funding be available—for possible water main extensions in the affected areas.


Furgione commented on the matter.


“If and when we can install water mains down there, it’s going to be timely—probably a year, 18 months at best—if we can even go forward with the project, so if you are contaminated—the four or five; two have already done it—please. Get hooked up to the POET system. It protects you and your family,” Furgione said.


Councilman Thomas Gribbin asked about the scope of the PFAS contamination.


“Do we know if the contamination in that area is limited to that area of town, or is there any indication that it is found in any other areas of Hammonton?” Gribbin said.


Furgione replied.


“As of now, we haven’t heard otherwise,” Furgione said.


Also during his report, Vettese said that the town applied through Triad Associates for funding to complete an application to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) for transportation alternatives.


“That’s to run some curb and sidewalk along Linda Avenue and a cross-section across the middle school property to Liberty Street and some additional areas for walking, pedestrian and also bicycle paths—and that’s $1.5 million,” Vettese said.


Vettese said that representatives from Triad Associates feel that the town has a “half-way decent shot.”


“Maybe not getting $1.5 million, but whatever we can get, we’ll take,” Vettese said.

Gribbin commented about Triad Associates.


“They’re on a roll, so cross your fingers,” Gribbin said.


At the top of the meeting, council honored the Hammonton Hawks organization. During the presentation, Gribbin noted that both the varsity and junior varsity (JV) teams were the 2022 Jersey Shore Youth Football League champions.


Members of both teams, along with JV and varsity cheerleaders, filled the front of council chambers as Gribbin addressed the gathered crowd.


Gribbin started the presentation by speaking about the JV team, which finished the season with a record of 8-2.


“They held off a late drive in the closing minutes of last Saturday’s game to beat Somers Point 7-6. They overcame some unfavorable calls at the end there—a couple of fourth-down conversions—but the defense stepped up, and held Somers Point to win that game, and we couldn’t be prouder,” Gribbin said.


Gribbin then called up Head coach Dave Maimone—who has been with the Hammonton Hawks for 29 years—to speak. Maimone thanked the coaches, staff and volunteers, as well as the mayor and council for their continued support and recognition of the team.


“These boys put in worthy efforts to accomplish what we set out to do every year: win the championship,” Maimone said.


Maimone also thanked all the coaches and teams that came before them.


“We are an organization built on tradition and doing things the Hawks way—and that way was started a long time ago and passed down through the years. We hope to be back here again next year celebrating two more championships,” Maimone said.


Maimone read the names of the JV players, after which cheerleading coach Inez Steur read the names of the JV cheerleaders. Each stood and was recognized.


Gribbin then continued, speaking about the varsity team, which finished the season with a record of 8-1 and which beat Linwood 38-8.


“It was total domination of a team that had been a thorn in our side for so many years. The game plan was flawlessly executed—even the cheerleaders’ halftime routine—and there were so many great plays in that game,” Gribbin said.


Gribbin then turned the microphone over to Coach Bobby Frederico, who said that Hammonton is “a great town to be in.”


“I don’t know what our bleachers hold, but I know they were packed—and that’s not just parents. It’s people that just love to see you guys play. This is a great town for that. They support you,” Frederico said.


Frederico praised the work of his coaching staff, as well as the fortitude of the players.

“We had three guys start on defense that never played football before, and, if you watch the game, they played their hearts out,” Frederico said.


Frederico then read the names of the varsity players, and Steur read those of the varsity cheerleaders.


Gribbin then presented Hammonton Hawks president Clark Hovermale with a proclamation.

“Mayor and council of the town of Hammonton, county of Atlantic and state of New Jersey do hereby recognize and express their congratulations to the Hammonton Hawks varsity and junior varsity football teams,” Gribbin read.


In other business, while presenting the report from the Administration Committee, Gribbin gave an update about equipment within town hall.


“The Administration Committee has approved the purchasing of new microphones for council chambers, which should be installed and operational, we hope, come this January,” Gribbin said.


Gribbin also said that the studio for Access Hammonton, on the third floor of town hall, is nearing completion.


“We’ve had the installation of carpet and doors, and the final phase will be the migration of the equipment from the current office to the new space and the delivery of furniture for the studio. We anticipate that all of that will be completed, as planned, by the end of the year,” Gribbin said.


During the Business and Industry Committee report, Councilman William Olivo gave an update regarding outdoor dining in the state of New Jersey and in the town of Hammonton.


“The temporary dining that was established a couple years ago in regards to COVID has been extended for another two years. It’s my understanding that anybody that has that outdoor dining already, they really don’t need to do anything—but any new applications would have to come forward,” Olivo said.


Under the Law and Order Committee report, Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel said that the town has secured funding through Atlantic County in the amount of $3,740 for a “drive sober or get pulled over holiday crackdown.” This will take place from December 2 through January 1, 2023.


“We will have extra officers out there on DWI patrols to make sure that the streets and roadways in the community of Hammonton are safe for all traveling it,” Friel said.


Friel also said that the town will be utilizing pedestrian stanchions at the Hammonton Fire Department Christmas Parade on December 10.


“We seem to, as a magnet community, garner a lot of people to come out for our holiday events—and that’s a great thing—but I just want to make sure that it’s done safely, so we will be testing this out to see if it’s a viable way for us to separate our parade from our parade onlookers,” Friel said.


Friel also spoke about the use of the town’s recreation fields.


“We would just like to remind people, number one, alcoholic beverages are not permitted in our parks or our recreation facilities,” Friel said.


Friel also said that any organized recreational sport that involves leagues, referees and so forth must apply for a use-of-facilities request.


“This way, we can be fair in the use of all of our facilities and make sure that they’re being properly used and properly up-kept,” Friel said.


Wuillermin suggested that such information be posted.


“The only thing we know when we go to the park is that some of that was done with Green Acres money. If we have an ordinance that restricts the use, or requires a certain set of procedures, it should be made known to the public on some signage,” Wuillermin said.


Friel concurred.


“That would be helpful in the cause,” Friel said.


Councilman Sam Rodio said that he has been working with Recreation Leader Denise Mazzeo to post signs at the Boyer Avenue Recreation Fields. He also spoke with Business Administrator Frank Zuber regarding similar signage at the Hammonton Municipal Airport.


“We will have signage put up there where people can park—and can’t park—especially taxiways and places like that,” Rodio said.


DiDonato asked Mazzeo to confer with Scott Taylor of Taylor Design Group, the town’s landscape architect.


“This way, we get logo, font, everything. We try to get one font, one logo. We have to keep tight and looking good,” DiDonato said.


During the town solicitor’s report, Bridget A. Sykes—of Fox Rothschild LLP—sat in for Michael Malinsky.


“The only item we have for tonight is a new litigation matter that was discussed during executive session. The docket is Maria Burkett v. Kenneth Austin et al. The town of Hammonton is named as a defendant, and a motion is needed to approve appointing Fox Rothschild to represent the town as litigation counsel and handle the defense,” Sykes said.


Wuillermin made the motion, which Olivo seconded. The motion passed unanimously.


Zuber presented the following items during the town clerk’s report:


• Accept retirement of Ernie Geroni from his part time position as a telecommunicator in Police Dispatch.


• Approval to move Sabrina Petkevis from her position as part time telecommunicator to a full time position in Police Dispatch, 40 hours per week, salary $37,680. Contingent upon civil service rules and regulations.


The items were approved.


In other business, council held the public hearing for Bond Ordinance No. 021-2022 – Recreation/11th Street/Bike Path and Old Forks Road, which $2,030,000—including NJDOT grants totaling $1,310,000—and authorizes the issuance of $684,000 in bonds or notes of the town with a $36,000 down payment.


The appropriations are for the following:


• Various recreation improvements, including, but not limited to, tennis courts and pickle ball court, Hammonton Lake Park improvements and also various recreation upgrades:

appropriation, $600,000; authorization, $570,000; capital improvement fund down payment, $30,000;


• 11th Street sidewalk improvement project: $305,000 (including $265,000 NJDOT grant); $38,000; $2,000;


• Phase II bicycle path connector along Veterans Place: $785,000 (including $745,000 NJDOT grant); $38,000; $2,000;


• Old Forks Road improvement project: $340,000 (including $300,000 NJDOT grant); $38,000; $2,000.


The ordinance was adopted and published.


Council entertained Resolution No. 156-2022, Setting time, place and date of Council Meetings for 2023.


According to the resolution, there will be an organization meeting on January 3, 2022 at 7 p.m. “at which time mayor and common council of the town of Hammonton will reorganize for the full year and conduct such business, including emergent matters, as is necessary.”


“Monthly council meetings will begin at 6 p.m. with an executive session, if necessary, which will adjourn to the public portion of the meeting at 7 p.m., in the Town Hall Council Chambers, 100 Central Ave., Hammonton, N.J. 08037. These meeting are subject to change due may be held by way of video conference,” the resolution stated.


According to the resolution, the following is the list of regular council meeting dates for 2022: January 23, February 27, March 27, April 24, May 22, June 26, July 24, August 28, September 25, October 23, November 27 and December 17.


Council also entertained the following resolutions:


• Resolution No. 157-2022, Approve and endorse the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe Spanish Community Procession on December 12 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.


• Resolution No. 158-2022, Identifying Frank Zuber as the CBDG Fair Housing Officer, Public Facilities Fund: Infrastructure Improvements in the Community


• Resolution No. 159-2022, Commit to provisions of Small Cities Procurement Process pursuant to NJSA 40A:11-4.1 through 40A:11-4.5 for certain professional services, contingent upon an FY2023 Small Cities grant award from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs for infrastructure improvements


• Resolution No. 160-2022, Authorize Grant Application to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs for up to $400,000 for Infrastructure Improvements at Hammonton Lake Park


• Resolution No. 161-2022, Authorize Various Refunds


• Resolution No. 162-2022, Tax, Water, Sewer Refunds


• Resolution No. 164-2022, Budget Transfers: from Police Salary & Wages, $47,500 to Group Ins. Operating Exp., $35,000; Court Operating Exp., $3,000 and Interest on Notes, $9,500; and from Salary and Wages, $23,500 to Interest on Notes, $3,500 and Utility Operating Exp., $20,000.


The resolutions were approved.


The next meeting of town council will be held on December 19 at 7 p.m.

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