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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Town government ‘news’


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HAMMONTON—Recreation Leader Denise Mazzeo spoke about updates to Access Hammonton at the May 22 meeting of town council.


“We’re very proud of everything that we’ve been able to bring to the residents of Hammonton, because I know—a lot of people tell me all the time—they watch it to get updates. They watch it to get news and the weather and everything,” Mazzeo said.


Councilman Thomas Gribbin concurred.


“So many people tune in to what we do in town and get their information from that,” Gribbin said.


Mazzeo explained further.


“The purpose of our local access channel is to promote the education of the town’s citizens concerning local government by broadcasting meetings of the governing body and their subcommittees, informational programming regarding local schools, to inform citizens about programs and public services, to present educational and cultural programs and to explain opportunities for citizen participation in programs and services,” Mazzeo said.


Mazzeo said that Access Hammonton also provides information to on public health, safety and welfare issues.


“Since 2020, we have expanded our program to include weather forecasts and monthly features from Nor’easter Nick that showcase the wonderful destination that Hammonton is.

We’ve partnered with the Hammonton Family Success Center to do a cooking feature, and the Hammonton Drug Alliance for Storytime with Santa,” Mazzeo said


Mazzeo spoke about the expansion of Access Hammonton’s studio on the third floor of town hall. She said that the town “sought federal and state grant funding to cover the cost of the studio build.”


“The town was recently advised by the federal government that we were awarded more than $100,000 in grants from the federal and state government to reimburse us for improvements to Access Hammonton and Channel 9,” Mazzeo said.


Those grant funds, Mazzeo said, will reimburse nearly 80 percent of the total cost.

Gribbin said that he was happy that most of the improvements “have been paid for by grant dollars.”


“It hasn’t come at the expense, necessarily, of our general fund and the tax dollars,” Gribbin said.


Later in the meeting, while presenting the report from the Administration Committee, Gribbin commented further.


“We—today, in fact—received our first payment from FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] for our Access Hammonton studio in the amount of $51,200 and change in grant dollars. That’s the first of two installments,” Gribbin said.


Council also heard a presentation by Mica McCullough, the new executive director of MainStreet Hammonton.


Councilman Edward Wuillermin introduced McCullough.


“The small amount of time that we’ve had to interact with each other on projects that the town and MainStreet organization is working on, and new businesses coming in, I think you’ll find that she has a high level of energy—and a great new energy to bring to the position,” Wuillermin said.


McCullough told council that she was very happy to share that she “inherited a great program.”


“MainStreet is not just about events. That’s the visible part of what we do—I think that’s what most people think of when they think of MainStreet—but the nationwide MainStreet America program that MainStreet Hammonton is modeled after is based on four pillars,” McCullough said.


McCullough said that the four pillars are design, promotions, economic vitality and outreach—which includes events and volunteerism.


“I wanted to thank you for your support. Even if you thought it was all about events, we appreciate your support but wanted you to know that there’s a lot more to the program—and we really appreciate your investment,” McCullough said.


In other business, council held the public hearing of Ordinance No. 009-2023—Establishing a Joint Court with Hamilton Twp. and the City of Northfield.


“It is in the best interest of the town of Hammonton to participate in a Joint Municipal Court with Hamilton Twp., city of Northfield, Mullica Twp., borough of Folsom, Buena Vista Twp. and Egg Harbor City,” the ordinance states.


According to the ordinance, both Hamilton Twp. and Northfield will join the Hammonton Joint Municipal Court beginning January 1, 2024.


The ordinance was adopted and published.


Council also held the second public hearing of Ordinance No. 010-2023, which is an ordinance to amend Chapter 25, Articles I and II of the General Ordinances of the Town of Hammonton.


“The Fire Department shall have three (3) officers identified as the Fire Chief, First Assistant Fire Chief and Second Assistant Fire Chief that shall be elected,” the ordinance states.


The ordinance was adopted and published.


Charles Chelotti, of Adams, Rehmann and Heggan Associates (ARH) presented the town engineer’s report in Mark Herrmann’s absence.


There were several informational items on the report of note, including the following:


• Mazza Muffler Site/104 S. Egg Harbor Rd.: ARH held a preconstruction meeting on May 10.

The contractor is preparing for the utility disconnections and asbestos abatement. These items must be performed before the demolition occurs.


• Water Quality Accountability Act Compliance: ARH is currently compiling responses to the Lead Service Line survey they created and sent to the residents. They have received responses from approximately 25 percent of the property owners. Approximately 5 percent of the responses have been confirmed to be a lead or galvanized service. The results have been mapped. Follow-up letters will be prepared and sent to non-responsive property owners.


• Lake Park ADA Playground/Small Cities: ARH has prepared and submitted a comprehensive proposal for land surveying, engineering, and environmental permitting services for the Hammonton Lake Park project. The scope of work includes the effort necessary to obtain a Pinelands Commission Public Development approval for the entire site. This proposal was submitted to the town for consideration. The cost of the proposal is a not-to-exceed fee of

$140,000.


Chelotti invited discussion on that last item, and DiDonato complied.


“Did we have money in the budget so we can award the surveying to ARH for the lake park?” DiDonato said.


Town Business Administrator Frank Zuber replied.


“We have the ADA grant, but I believe this survey doesn’t fall under that—but we do have recreation money; a recreation trust,” Zuber said.


DiDonato asked if there were enough funds in the recreation trust.

“I’d like to get that started,” DiDonato said.


Chelotti said that the cost of the surveying work is $30,000.


DiDonato asked for a motion to begin the surveying. Councilman Sam Rodio made the motion, which Councilman Jonathan Oliva seconded. DiDonato commented further.


“It will get all the surveying—the topo—so then we could award—maybe at the next meeting; we might have to do a bond—to award the rest to ARH for design, and Taylor Associates, and then they could move on and get the Pinelands,” DiDonato said.


After the meeting, Herrmann told The Gazette that the overall proposal is comprised of three stages.


“Phase 1 is for land surveying, which is $30,000 to survey the entire park within the area of the master plan. Phase 2 is for engineering, and Phase 3 is for environmental permitting. The $30,000 survey phase is included in the overall budget of $140,000. Council awarded Phase 1, so the next authorization would be for $110,000,” Herrmann said.


During discussion of the motion, DiDonato said that town officials recently had a positive meeting with the Pinelands Commission.


“Pinelands is considering our track to be impervious surface because of the way it was used for so many years. If we ever want to asphalt it, or do a more permanent solution, it might not need any basin work,” DiDonato said.


The motion was approved unanimously.


Under his report, Public Works Manager Robert Vettese said that seven more property owners contacted the town to have their wells tested for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These include three for an initial test and four for a second test.


Vettese also said that the contractor is currently at work on the tennis/pickleball courts at Hammonton Middle School, and the base pavement course is set to commence.


Vettese also discussed properties being considered for the Atlantic County Recreation and Open Space Funding application.


“One actually could be placed on foreclosure. Maybe we could authorize the solicitor,” Vettese said.


Vettese said that the parcel is on the triangular piece of land between the intersections of Egg Harbor Road, Moss Mill Road and Ninth Street.


“It was a small piece of ground, but they haven’t been paying taxes for a number of years,” Vettese said.


Rodio made the motion, which Councilman Steven Furgione seconded. DiDonato described the parcel in question.


“It doesn’t encompass the whole triangle. There’s a piece on the end of the triangle closest to the stop sign that is very small, that is owned by another party,” DiDonato said.


Furgione inquired further.


“This is privately owned; it’s not owned by the county?” Furgione said.

DiDonato affirmed that assertion.


“That whole piece is not owned by the county. The county’s maintained it; it’s not owned by the county,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato said the triangle is comprised of two separate parcels, and the one in question is the larger of the two closest to Ninth Street.


“If we can take it back in lieu of taxes, we possibly can close off Moss Mill Road, and bring everybody—if they’re coming down Moss Mill Road—to make a left on Ninth. Maybe, by owning this piece, we could even make a turning lane to make a right towards Hammonton—and maybe then make a much safer situation,” DiDonato said.


Vettese said that if that section of Moss Mill Road—which is a county road—is closed, it could possibly count as credit with the Pinelands Commission for additional work at Hammonton Lake Park.


“That’d be a little bit further down the road. We have mentioned that to the county, just to put it in their ear, but that will be negotiated later,” Vettese said.


The motion passed unanimously.


Also during his report, Vettese said that unlimited bulky curbside pickup will be June 5 through June 9. Curbside brush pickup will be June 12 through June 16. Recycling pickup will be during the weeks of June 12 and June 26.


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


• Accept the retirement of Robert Gazzara from the active roles, accept the resignations of Brendan Sibson and Michael Ruberton III in good standing, and accept Ryan Ulerick, Aiden Nicholls and Daniel Sulzner as regular members of Fire Company No. 2. Police Background checks completed and Approved at Fire Company meeting held on May 10.


• Approve hiring of Lorelei Alden full-time as a Keyboard Clerk II in the Municipal Court Office. Single Benefits at a yearly salary of $33,920, 32.5 hours a week effective June 5, contingent upon civil service rules and regulations.


• Approval to transfer Mariela Mondragon from Municipal Court to Police Records Department as a Bi-lingual Keyboard Clerk from full-time to part-time, 19.5 hours a week, $16/hour, no benefits effective June 5, contingent upon civil service rules and regulations.


• Approve salary increase of $2,500/year for Scott Rivera for obtaining Pesticide License. Prorated for the year 2023.


• Accept resignation of Katherine Lawrence from her position as a part-time dispatcher effective May 5.


• Approval of promotion for Robin Ripa in the Assessor office to Keyboard Clerk II effective June 5, with a salary of $34,120, contingent upon civil service rules and regulations.


• Approval to appoint David Diaz to Full Time Officer per PTC certification received effective April 25. Salary per PBA contract salary guidelines, contingent upon civil service rules and regulations.


The items were approved.


Council also entertained the following resolutions:


• Resolution No. 068-2023, Refund Tax –Water –Sewer Overpayments


• Resolution No. 069-2023, Approval of July 4th Parade


• Resolution No. 070-2023, Authorizing Issuance of ABC Licenses Beginning July 1, 2023 and Expiring June 30, 2024


• Resolution No. 072-2023, Authorize Corpus Christi Religious Procession on June 11 at 6:30 p.m.


• Resolution No. 073-2023, Authorize Various Refunds


• Resolution No. 074-2023, Award Bid for Gasoline & Diesel to Wendt Inc. D.B.A. Al & Rich’s as follows: Not more than $.20 Regular Unleaded Gasoline (87 Octane) Mark up per Gallon and not more than $.20 Diesel Fuel No.2 Mark Up Per Gallon


• Resolution No. 075-2023, Transfer of Liquor License to Rodio Restaurant Group from Hammonton Fortuna Inc


• Resolution No. 076-2023, Authorize Auction for Electric, Lighting and Natural Gas Services


• Resolution No. 077-2023, Authorize Agreement with Atlantic County Improvement Authority Lead-based paint inspections


• Resolution No. 079-2023, Award Contract to Musco Sports Lighting LLC under Cooperative Purchasing Agreement for purchase and installation of Football Field Lights under contract number 071619-MSL in the amount of $256,600.


All resolutions were approved.


During the second public comment portion, Carmen Bartolone, of 701 N. Third St., addressed council on behalf of his company High Maintenance Cannabis Company LLC. Bartolone had previously addressed council at their meeting on February 27 to propose a cannabis dispensary in Hammonton.


“I know cannabis has kind of a stigma, but there was a time when alcohol was illegal—and since it became legal, at this point in time, it’s probably in every single house,” Bartolone said.

Bartolone said that he has done recent research regarding dispensary finances.


“At today’s market, if we sell our limit per month, it would be $140,000 directly to the town—and that’s with no investment from the town; that’s just our investment. On a low end, we’re looking at probably $20,000 a month—and that’s what the dispensaries are doing right now,” Bartolone said.


According to Bartolone, 64 percent of Hammonton residents voted in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis.


“The town wants it … You said that, sooner or later, it’s coming, so, when it comes, you want local people to run it. We’re here. We’re local. We’re ready to go,” Bartolone said.


DiDonato invited residents to attend council’s June meeting to discuss the matter, and Bartolone concurred.


“If you want us to bring some people to the June meeting, that’s what we’ll do. You said you were going to put a committee together and have talks about it, and if you want us now to bring people in here, we’ll do it. I could fill the courtroom,” Bartolone said.


Councilwoman Renee Rodio commented further.


“It’s got to be open to the public. Pro, con, and let everybody come in,” she said.

Bartolone conceded.


“Understood—but I just feel that, if 64 percent of the town voted in favor of legalization, at least 64 percent of the people wouldn’t mind a dispensary in their town,” Bartolone said.


Gribbin asked Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel if statistics were available regrading dispensaries throughout the county and state, and Friel replied.


“Your statistics are not going to be very long in nature, as Atlantic City’s first dispensary was only a month and a half ago—so you’re not going to have much raw data on what type of influence, influx or change in pattern of things has taken place,” Friel said.


DiDonato expressed hope that residents would voice their opinion at the next meeting, and that Friel would be able to accrue relevant statistics.


“We’ll get some more data, and we’ll go from there,” DiDonato said.


The next meeting of town council will be June 26 at 7 p.m.

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