Construction Begins on Little Egg Harbor Streetscape
Construction has started on the Little Egg Harbor Township streetscape for the area bordering the municipal and justice complex at the intersection of Radio and Mathistown roads, said Township Engineer Jason Worth of T&M Associates at the Sept. 22 township municipal meeting.
This past summer the township awarded a $732,679 contract to S. Batata Construction of Parlin to construct sidewalks and add attractive lighting and benches along the north side of Radio Road from Little Treasures Playground through the intersection and south on Radio Road to connect with the new sidewalks already in place. From the intersection west on Mathistown, sidewalks will go to the new Wawa. The project is funded through a grant from the state Department of Community Affairs.
Committeewoman Lisa Stevens thanked Worth and the contractor for preserving a private memorial to a woman who was killed on Radio Road a few years ago.
Worth said the Ocean County Road Department will come back to complete paving of a section of Hay Road and Forest Edge Drive in the Nugentown section, now that New Jersey Natural Gas is done installing gas to customers.
Worth said the township is in a good position to receive 10 percent of its debris and emergency money back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because it was judicial in providing the documents needed.
The township was unable to accommodate T&M’s request for a fourth change order to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation Marsh Restoration grant. It had requested an additional $23,240 in early September, “due to an increase for a hydrographic survey, collection of sediment cores, sample analysis and dredge design.” The change order resolution was carried from the Sept. 8 township meeting so that Tuckerton, the partner in the marsh restoration grant, could look over the request. However, with no explanation, the township tabled the resolution on Thursday night.
“In case you are wondering what tabled means, it means we do not go forward with this,” said Mayor Gene Kobryn.
In July, T&M Associates was awarded an additional $252,223 from the $2.1 million NFWF grant to cover expenses associated with additional testing of dredge materials in Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton as required by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection. This was the third change order requested by T& M since it was awarded the job in 2015 with a base contract of $309,330; the cost has more than doubled, to $660,838.
The committee approved a resolution awarding a contract to Nassau Capital Financial Advisors to help with shepherding the township’s Affordable Housing Plan before Superior Court Judge Mark Troncone. The contract is not to exceed $1,000. Township Attorney Robin LaBue said the township would discuss in executive session whether to settle out of court, as Barnegat Township has, and save court costs.
The history behind the court case starts in 1999 when Gov. Christie gutted the Council on Affordable Housing before it could establish the third round of affordable housing numbers for each town in the state; instead, the courts would decide the requirements for each municipality. In 2015, the case was remanded to Judge Troncone and the process has been winding its way through the halls of justice but is due to be back in court in October.
Deputy Mayor Dave Schlick wanted to clarify some misconceptions that may have occurred at the last meeting. “Someone said that we make $30,000 a year, and that’s not correct. Committee members get $10,000, I get $11,000, and the mayor gets $12,000.”
He also asked LaBue if the township could make attorney Salvatore Perillo’s report on Police Chief Richard Buzby and Chief Operating Officer Garrett Loesch available to the public. LaBue said it could not because it is a personnel document, in the personnel files, and not a government file.
Schlick asked, “What if the two men involved want it to be made public?”
LaBue said if they made their request in writing and the township first redacted some information that could be damaging to others, then she would consider it. Both Buzby and Loesch could request a copy for themselves, but it would also have redacted parts.
Schlick also asked when the township could expect a sexual harassment case to go to trial. “It’s been six months since (township labor attorneys) Holtzapple, Cita and Zabarsky have had the information; it’s been pending since late March. The person who has been sexually harassed is asking questions on why it has not moved forward.”
“That’s an understandable request. I will ask them,” said LaBue. She emailed the attorney and found the answer was the union representing the employee had asked for an extension of time so it could hire a new attorney.
During the public portion of the meeting, Tom Meridith asked if the township had decided who would be the liaison to the Pinelands Regional School District and said Interim Superintendent Maryanne Banks was interested in working with the township. Kobryn said he would follow up on that.
Meridith also asked about the reports on the Internet about cancer-causing chromium in New Jersey’s drinking water and said Little Egg Harbor had been mentioned as having it.
Jason Worth, the township engineer, said he could answer that. He also had seen the reports and they seem scary, but New Jersey’s drinking water follows the federal guidelines for allowed parts per billion in drinking water and falls within not only the federal standards, but also the stricter California standards of 10 ppb – a very small amount akin to 10 drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
“The MUA does extensive testing of our drinking water, and our quality of water has always been within approved limits,” said Kobryn.
Resident Mike Polito asked the mayor and committee to stretch their minds back to the last meeting, which was mainly focused on the Perillo report and the findings that money for the PWD superintendent and the police chief’s cell phone usage was approved by the former mayor and Township Administrator and CFO Garrett Loesch, but not the entire governing body.
“Where do we go from here?” he asked. “I’m confused about the lack of policy that allowed something to happen outside normal policy and we accepted it.”
Stevens said she had abstained. “In my opinion, the public was forcing a vote.” She said she was continuing to search out avenues to take the matter to the state and was asking LaBue to help her without costing the township any more money.
Both Kobryn and Schlick said if the public would have been able to read the entire report as they had, they would have come to the conclusion the mayor and deputy mayor did in voting to drop the matter entirely.
Kobryn said that although there are state statutes and guidelines that Loesch operates under, there are no written guidelines particular to the township.
Schlick said he stood by his motion to drop the matter. “After I read the report, I did what I felt was best for the town. There was no ill will meant, and whether there was a violation or not, I don’t think there was anything done improperly.”
Polito said the report should be made public “so that, like Mr. Schlick, we can form our own opinion.”
Mystic Island resident Ilene Crane said she wanted to bring to the attention of the township that boaters are speeding in the little creeks that run to the bay and are putting kayakers and small boaters at risk and also eroding the banks along the creeks so that eventually no one would be able to get out to the bay.
Police Lt. Troy Bezak said the issue falls within the State Police Marine division and although the township does have a police boat and could patrol the waterways, it’s a question of manpower, and a decision the township would have to make.
Crane said it was only a matter of time until someone was hurt in a boating accident.
At Schlick’s request, the township’s animal control officer, George Garbaravage, came to give a report for August. Garbaravage said his service took 132 calls that month and did 88 investigations. They also did 60 patrols of the township and gave out two summonses and 15 notices of violations. They picked up 62 animals: 25 cats, 12 dogs, one lizard, 12 raccoons, two woodchucks, five possums, two seagulls, one deer and two birds. “This time of year and in the spring is when we get a lot of transition animals, and we have to check for rabies and distemper.”
Stevens asked what happens to the animals.
Garbaravage said he notifies the county contractor if a deer is found dead on the right of way. The dead deer he responded to was in someone’s backyard, and he took it to the roadway.
Small dead animals are taken to the Ocean County Animal Facility, where they are kept in a freezer till they are collected by a contractor for disposal. Live cats and dogs or pets are taken to the Southern Ocean County Animal Facility in Manahawkin, where they are kept for at least 10 days and then become the property of the county and can be adopted out. Sick-appearing woodchucks or raccoons are euthanized and sent to Trenton for rabies testing. Injured wildlife are taken to wildlife rehabilitators; healthy small wild animals can be relocated 5 miles from the township.
Schlick asked if there were 132 calls, why did he respond to only 60. Garbaravage said multiple calls might come in about the same stray animal as it makes its way around the neighborhood.
Because Ocean County is also a taxing district, Little Egg gets the first 50 animals it leaves at the shelter “free.” After that if a stray is kept for 10 days and no one claims it or adopts it, the charge is $45 a day per cat and $55 per dog, said the animal control officer.
Mayor Kobryn asked Garbaravage to give monthly reports as well as an annual report to the township.
“By the way, George,” said Kobryn, “since it’s getting close to November, I hear you captured a couple of wild turkeys …”
“No, Mayor,” said Stevens. “You may not have the wild turkeys for Thanksgiving.”
— Pat Johnson