Absentee Councilman Gets a Pass; Resident Speaks Out Against Boat Ramp
By way of resolution at its regular meeting of April 11, the Stafford Township Council formally excused the extended absence of Councilman Steve Jeffries, who has missed far more meetings than he has attended, which has prompted citizens to question his usefulness as a member of the governing body.
“We’ve had discussions with Mr. Jeffries,” Mayor John Spodofora said. “He is waiving his salary, and he is still tied up with his job, so he will be starting to attend the next couple of meetings by phone so he can take part in the meetings. So the fact is we are going to consider his absence as an excusable absence.”
According to Township Attorney Christopher J. Connors, Jeffries has acted within the provisions of the law, which allows for as many as eight unexcused absences before creating a vacancy; nevertheless, residents and council members agree Jeffries’ inability to represent taxpayers and participate in township matters is unfair to everyone.
Jeffries readily admits the situation is unfortunate, and says he had not anticipated the conflict. Shortly before the 2015 election, in which he ran on the “Common Sense Conservatives” ticket, Jeffries got a job offer in South Dakota he believed would be a short-term project, but it turned into a permanent position. He hadn’t foreseen the professional opportunity during his run for the council seat. Now he maintains his Manahawkin residency but spends most of his time out in the Midwest. In the meantime, he said, he stays in touch with township business via email and meeting minutes.
While he has agreed not to take pay for the job, the democratic process being what it is, the only recourse residents have is not to re-elect him.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Anita Corcoran of Mill Creek Road in Beach Haven West shared some of her thoughts on the fate of the Mill Creek Park. She suggested pickle ball and water access for non-motorized watercraft and paddle sports. Both could be incorporated at low cost and without interfering with the other existing features of the park, she said.
She continued: The idea of installing a boat ramp could have negative consequences for the neighborhood. Additional cars, driven and parked on the shoulder, would make a challenging road even more so, she said. As it is, Mill Creek Road needs to be driven slowly and with care and attention. A boat ramp would increase SUV and trailer traffic, potentially making a bad situation worse – and dangerous. Plus, once in the creek, boats would face a 1.6-mile “no wake” zone before they reach the bay, and those are “slow, hot miles” during the height of greenhead season, she pointed out. Manahawkin residents have four other boat ramps to choose from nearby, in Barnegat, Surf City, Ship Bottom and on Dock Road. Her feeling is a new one would either waste taxpayer dollars, or cause negative impact with car and boat traffic. Neighbors on the creek are aware of the “no wake” zone and are respectful, she said; outsiders might not be so mindful.
“We are at the mercy of the good will and the ethics of the boaters that use the creek,” Corcoran said. “If council feels that Stafford needs a public boat ramp, I would urge you, I would beg you, to find a location that’s not in the middle of a residential area, and not a mile and a half up the creek.”
Spodofora said he would see about getting some no wake signs installed. He would contact the state police for permission and purchase the signs if necessary.
— Victoria Ford