• Joseph F. Berenato

William Olivo returns to council

Elected with Steven Furgione, Sam Rodio on Hammonton First Slate

Melanie Olivo (right) held the Bible for newly-elected Councilman William Olivo as he was sworn in by Judge Frank Raso. The oaths of office were filmed in mid-December due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—On January 4, town council held its yearly organization meeting at 6 p.m. via Zoom teleconferencing software.


During his annual address, Mayor Stephen DiDonato noted that 2020 was full of “major, world-shifting events, and incredibly challenging financial, emotional and mentally challenging times.”


“Whether it was a frontline worker, a small-business owner, a teacher, a parent, a grandparent, a caregiver, a friend or a neighbor, as we reflect on the year, we must first take a moment to remember those who lost this year, especially those we lost from COVID. I have never been prouder to be a resident of Hammonton, or your mayor,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato drew comparisons with the previous year, noting that, during his annual address at the 2020 meeting, he said that Hammonton would “stay committed to promoting business, culture, volunteers and special moments that make us all proud.”


“In 2020, those businesses worked harder than ever before to stay afloat, with online, curbside, creative ways to reach their customers. Our grocery stores pivoted, and our frontline workers—our healthcare workers, our public health workers, law enforcement, public safety, first responders, food service workers, public workers and more—took great care of us. Our residents met the challenge, too, by forming committees, supporting businesses and ordering from restaurants. Our volunteers, nonprofits and churches stepped up, and were incredible in 2020, with food banks, helping a neighbor, finding a special way to connect us,” he said.


DiDonato said that residents were still able to have “special moments in 2020, in unique ways.”


“We still had the 16th of July—much smaller, but a wonderful celebration—a beautiful and special tree lighting, virtual and outdoor arts, we had a bunny going around with the police and fire trucks, we had Santa going around with the police and fire trucks, and so much more in this wonderful town. We are Hammonton Strong, and, as a community, we came together while the world was forced to stay apart. I am hopeful in telling you things will be better in 2021,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato took time to thank the members of the Community Goodwill Committee, headed by Councilman Thomas Gribbin and Lisa Maiele-Howell; the Coronavirus Economic Task Force, headed by Councilman Jonathan Oliva and Richard Rehmann; and the Coronavirus Outreach and Communications Committee, headed by Brooke Sacco and Jen Hatfield.


“They had many volunteers on these committees. They’re too numerous; I can’t mention them all. I’ll miss somebody’s name. These committees did tremendous work ... We were very blessed with those three committees alone. There’s more, but those three did a tremendous task, and tremendous work for the town of Hammonton,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato also noted the efforts of the town advocate, Jim Donio, who has helped secure funding through several grant programs.


“Jim Donio, and his powerful state networking, has brought $1.3 million to Hammonton: $684,000 in NPP (Neighborhood Preservation Program) funds that are going to go benefit and offset rent in the NPP district; another approximately $150,000 for FEMA, for reimbursement of some costs the town had during the pandemic; $235,000, which we already received through salary reimbursements through the federal government; $300,000—and I believe Councilman Giralo is distributing approximately $300,000— that’ll be distributed to small businesses from the county, and it was $525,000 that was given from Small Cities for Egg Harbor and Hammonton. So, Jim Donio, I always call you the chief of staff. You’re tops in my book. Thank you very much,” DiDonato said.


Additionally, DiDonato thanked Communications Manager Denise Mazzeo, Business Administrator/ Town Clerk Frank Zuber, Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel and the members of his department as well as the Hammonton Fire Department for their work during the pandemic. He also expressed his gratitude for the Eagle Theatre, MainStreet Hammonton Executive Director Cassie Iacovelli, and Hammonton Revitalization Corporation president Rehmann, as well as John Runfolo and Benjamin Ott from the Greater Hammonton Chamber of Commerce.


“Hammonton is very blessed to have organizations like these who have stepped up ... thank you all. You know who you are. If I missed your name, I apologize, but thank you for everything you’ve done for this wonderful community. We wouldn’t be here without you,” DiDonato said.


The meeting itself opened with a video showing the administration of the oath of office to the three councilpersons-elect. The swearing-in ceremonies had been pre-recorded in council chambers on December 17, 2020.


Judge Frank Raso administered the oaths for Councilmen Steven Furgione, who was joined by his wife, Brandy, and children, Lorenza and Giacomo; William Olivo, who was accompanied by his wife, Melanie; and Sam Rodio, who stood with his son, Sam Rodio, Jr.


Councilman Sam Rodio (left) placed his hand on a Bible held by his son, Sam Rodio Jr. (right), while being administered the oath of office by Judge Frank Raso. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

DiDonato noted that such proceedings were irregular for the swearing-in of council members.


“That wasn’t quite the way we normally do it, but in coronavirus, and for the safety of everybody, that’s the way we did it this year,” he said.


DiDonato then took a moment to acknowledge Olivo, who previously served on town council during the planning stages of the construction of the current town hall.


“He swore in in the building he was instrumental at keeping at 100 Central Ave. He served on council in 2005, if I have my dates correct, and prior, and he was instrumental—at the time he ran as a Republican—and he did a tremendous job, and he felt that town hall should be kept in the location it was. I want to thank him; I think that’s a proud moment in Hammonton’s history, and I know it’s a proud moment in Mr. Olivo’s history to get sworn in,” DiDonato said, and offered his congratulations to all three council members.


Later in the meeting, Olivo said that he was proud to be back on town council.


“It’s been a number of years since I’ve been here. I’m looking forward to working back in the town hall on council with you, and I hope everything works out really well. I hope 2021 is a better year than 2020, because we had a rough year. It can only be better,” Olivo said.


Oliva offered Olivo his congratulations, noting one possible challenge facing council in 2021.


“This was the first of what I think will be many confusing council meetings between the O and the A, but I think we’ll make it. I think we’ll get there. I’m looking forward to the honor of serving with you,” Oliva said.


Rodio also commented about the coming year.


“I’ve been on a few councils, but this looks to be one of the best councils I ever sat on ... like Bill said, it’s going to be a tough year here in the beginning, but hopefully it’ll be better in the end. We are Hammonton Strong, as you say,” Rodio said.


For his part, Furgione thanked the residents for their support, and recognized the Hammonton Board of Education for their work during the pandemic.


“They are really, really giving it their all to keep our kids in school as much as possible. I know, as a parent, we appreciate it, my wife and I. I wish them the best this year; they have a lot of tough decisions to make. I really am appreciative for all the volunteers you mentioned; in a year like this, when people could have just stayed in their basements, they didn’t. They came out in droves, and that’s what makes Hammonton so unique,” Furgione said.


Michael Malinsky of Fox Rothschild LLC was appointed as solicitor for the town of Hammonton for a term of one year. The solicitor has agreed to provide the legal services for the sum of $125,000 with extraordinary services (including litigation) billed at a rate of $300 per hour at an anticipated annual total cost of $40,000 for services rendered.


Raso, who administered the oath to Malinsky live via Zoom from council chambers while Police Chief Kevin Friel held the bible for Malinsky, noted that he was proud to be able to swear in Malinsky.


“You guys might not be aware of this, but he is beginning his fifteenth year of service to the town of Hammonton. He was our solicitor for the land use board for 10 years, and now he’s starting his fifth year as our solicitor,” Raso said.


Council also voted to appoint Sean Macri as Fire Chief and Dominick DiGiovannangelo as Assistant Fire Chief for a term of one year, per Fire Company elections.


The council unanimously voted to adopt the rules of council, and DiDonato made the following council committee appointments (first-named individual is that committee’s chairperson)—Administration: Gribbin, Olivo, DiDonato; Business & Industry: Olivo, Gribbin, DiDonato; Education: Councilman Joseph Giralo, Oliva, DiDonato; Finance: All; Law & Order: DiDonato, Rodio, Olivo; Public Works & Transportation: Rodio, Furgione, DiDonato; Quality of Life: Oliva, Giralo, DiDonato; Water & Sewer: Furgione, Rodio, DiDonato.


[A listing of all appointments will be in the January 13 edition of The Gazette.]


DiDonato also named ad-hoc committees and its members, including the town clock committee. He commented on the progress of the restoration of the town clock, currently taking place at The Verdin Company in Cincinnati, Ohio.


“I’m hearing our clock is probably a couple weeks from being done. It probably won’t come back then, because of the delay—I believe Ohio has a 14-day quarantine—but Robert Schenk is working out all of that,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato also announced the mayor’s appointments, which have not, in the past, needed council’s approval, but DiDonato sought their approval.


Those appointments were: Deputy Mayor (one year), Gribbin; Environmental Commission (three year), Charles Crowley and Martha Matro; Environmental Commission (to assume unexpired term of Crowley, which expires on December 31, 2021), Luis Antonio Diaz Campos; Historic Preservation Commission Class A (four year), Jeffrey Michelini; Historic Preservation Commission Class B (four year), Christine McCullough; Historic Preservation Commission Class C (four year), Carol Santora; Historic Preservation Commission Alt 1 (two year), Lorraine Chappine; Historic Preservation Commission Alt 2 (two year), Donna Heggan; Obscenity Review Board Council (one year), DiDonato, Rodio and Gribbin; Planning/Zoning Alt 2 (two year), Jonathan Baske; Planning Board Mayor Seat Class I, Brooke Sacco (or Olivo, in her absence); Planning Board Alternate IV (four year), Ed Marinelli and Ralph Capaccio; Rep. Rev. Comm. Council (one year), Oliva; Alt. Rep. Revitalization Comm. Council (one year), Gribbin.

Speaking with The Gazette following the meeting, DiDonato acknowledged that these appointments did not require council’s approval, but he believed that doing so was proper.


“I want us to act as one. I want to reach out with the olive branch, and let everybody work as one. I also appointed Councilman Giralo to a committee chair, so I want council to work. We’re in different times. We need to be firing on all cylinders, and we need to work together,” DiDonato told The Gazette.


Additionally, Oliva was appointed to the position of Planning Board Class III Member for a term of one year, and Rodio and Gribbin were appointed to the Obscenity Review Board for a term of one year.


The following resolutions were approved en masse:


• Resolution No. 010-2021, Defer School Tax, with the amount remaining at $9,858,847.50


• Resolution No. 011-2021, designating U.S. Bank and Ocean First Bank as official depositories of the town of Hammonton


• Resolution No. 012-2021, authorizing contracts with certain approved state contract vendors


• Resolution No. 013-2021, designating The Hammonton Gazette as the official newspaper for the town of Hammonton for the year 2021, The Hammonton News and Press of Atlantic City as secondary newspapers and The Newark Star Ledger as the newspaper for publications requiring statewide distribution


• Resolution No. 014-2021, Authorize Temporary Budget for 2021


• Resolution No. 015-2021, Fixing Interest rate for Nonpayment of Taxes or Assessments at eight percent per annum on the first $1,500 of the delinquency and 18 percent per annum on any amount in excess of $1,500 and allows an additional penalty of six percent to be collected against a delinquency in excess of $10,000 on properties that fail to pay the delinquency prior to the end of the calendar year.


• Resolution No. 016-2021, Adopt Cash Management Plan


• Resolution No. 017-2021, Assignment of Tax Sale Certificate, Block 4123, Lot 13; Joseph A. Maimone has presented an offer to purchase, by assignment, Certificate of Sale No. 16-00216 on Block 4123 Lot 13, 2 Moss View Ln. in the mount of $10,567.56.


• Resolution No. 018-2021, Assignment of Tax Sale Certificate, Block 4123, Lot 5; Joseph A. Maimone has presented an offer to purchase, by assignment, Certificate of Sale No. 13-00310 on Block 4123 Lot 5, 4 Mill Run Dr. in the mount of $20,117.32.


• Resolution No. 019-2021, Appointing Assessor as an Agent of the town of Hammonton

The next regular meeting of town council will be held on January 25 at 7 p.m.