April Is Full of Observances and Celebrations in Stafford Township

Budget Introduction Includes 1.3-Cent Tax Rate Reduction
Apr 04, 2018

Stafford Township has recognized National Library Week, this year observed April 8 to 14 with the theme “Libraries Lead.” The American Library Association’s National Library Week, first sponsored in 1958, celebrates the contributions of libraries – school, public, academic and special – and librarians and promotes library use and support.

“In the mid-1950s, research showed Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments,” according to the ALA. “Concerned that Americans were reading less, the ALA and the American Book Publishers formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee in 1954. The committee’s goals ranged from ‘encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time’ to ‘improving incomes and health’ and ‘developing strong and happy family life.’”

The theme of the first National Library Week was “Wake Up and Read!”

Ocean County Library’s Stafford branch manager Natalie Niziolek and adult reference librarian Marisa Ganguzza gratefully accepted Stafford Township’s proclamation at the regular meeting of mayor and council on March 27.

Niziolek offered an outline of the “year in review”: In 2017, the branch had 9,500 registered borrowers and 125,120 visitors, who checked out 185,000 items, including books, video games, music, movies, magazines and e-books; 8,300 people attended 600 programs/events; and the library staff got out into the community 67 times.

The library’s third annual spring carnival is coming up on April 6, Niziolek announced, from 2 to 4 p.m., at which time families can drop in for some activities, games and prizes.

Another upcoming event is the free six-week workshop series “Cancer: Thriving and Surviving”, starting April 11, in conjunction with the Ocean Monmouth Health Alliance. It’s designed for cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and anyone interested in information and tips for coping with the challenges of the disease and for caring for oneself or others during treatment. Each participant will receive a companion book and a CD (Mind and Body) and learn about local resources. Phone 609-597-3381 and register for the first date of the series to reserve a spot.

At the same time, Mayor John Spodofora hailed National Service Recognition Day on April 3 and National Volunteer Week, April 15 to 21, with this year’s theme “Engage at Every Age.”

“I don’t know what our community would be without our volunteers,” Spodofora said. “We saw a lot of that during times of disaster here.”

The mayor and council announced the town’s annual Arbor Day on April 27, among the largest celebrations of its kind in the state, will have planned activities, tree planting and more to educate the public about the benefits of vegetation and trees.

“We’ve been a Tree City for a lot of years … and it’s something the township is very proud of,” Spodofora said.

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Township Administrator James Moran announced the 2018 municipal budget totaling $48,863,885. The public hearing will be held in the municipal meeting room on April 24 at 7 p.m. Moran said the budget represents a fiscal plan that moves the town forward while protecting its fiscal future beyond 2018.

The municipal budget reflects a 1.3-cent tax rate reduction, and projects a debt reduction of $8.9 million this year and $45 million over the last eight years.

Of the total budget, Moran said, $958,000 is the FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant for house raising in Beach Haven West; $900,000 was an appropriation from surplus to buy garbage trucks; and $600,000 is the first repayment of a FEMA Community Disaster Loan after Sandy. (The loan amounted to $3.2 million that will be repaid over five years.) Set aside all of that, he said, and the overall budget increase is about $550,000.

Mayor Spodofora thanked Moran, CFO Doug Gannon and the council, calling it “a very responsible budget.” The anticipated reduction in bonding debt is “where we want to be,” he said. “We don’t want to carry bonding debt because debt is expensive.”

The total tax impact on residents is not yet known, Spodofora said, because it will be influenced by the school and county budgets.

Moran said residents in certain sections of town, where property values have rebounded and risen the most dramatically, could see a tax increase. For the average homeowner the increase could range from zero to $40 for the year, but for Beach Haven Westers it could be considerably more. Moran said it’s a case of “no good deed goes unpunished.” Because Stafford has come back strong since the 2012 superstorm, the town is less eligible for loan forgiveness and other assistance, so residents are now, in a sense, paying the price for prosperity.

By resolution, the council decided to purchase a Dragon asphalt machine, which makes road repair and paving jobs faster and easier by heating and producing asphalt on demand – far more rapidly than conventional machines.

“Considering that we are doing significant water projects ourselves now, and saving millions of dollars as a result of that, putting a machine like this in service helps us do a more efficient and effective job and ensures the safety of the roadway after it’s complete,” Moran explained.

Councilman Dave Taylor gave “an attaboy to the guys in Public Works” for all their hard work to clean up after the recent winter storms, which cost the town over $241,000 in overtime, salt, plowing and fallen tree limb and brush removal. He gave the breakdown as follows: The Jan. 3 storm that dumped 17 inches of snow cost $105,000; the storm of March 6 brought 1.5 inches, at a cost of $26,000; and the March 20 storm, totaling 13 inches, cost $110,000.

“They did a bang-up job of getting it done,” Taylor said.

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During his council report, Councilman Steve Jeffries took the opportunity to reiterate his opposition to the plastic bag ordinance currently being considered. He sees it as nothing more than “the incestuous step of government into our lives and controlling our lives.”

It’s not about the plastic bags, he said. It’s about government bureaucracy.

“Thirty years ago the liberal environmentalists were telling us we had to get off paper bags because we were killing too many trees.” The real problem, as far as he can tell, goes back 50 or 60 years to the creation of federal bureaucracies. The trouble with bureaucracies is, in Jeffries’ view, they never go away, they rarely get smaller, they produce nothing, they contribute nothing, and the only way they grow is by convincing politicians to give them more money and more authority. From that process, he said, bureaucrats have learned that fear and guilt are effective tools for growing their agencies.

“The point is this environmental stuff has been built to the point that it just keeps going,” he said. “It’s never enough, it never stops. We are going to end up where California is before long. It’s time to start standing up to it and saying, ‘Wait a minute, 30 years ago paper was bad, and now plastic is bad, we’re going to go back to paper.’”

No one has suggested paper bags are the solution. Reusable, washable, canvas totes are generally understood to be a best practice.

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In his administrator’s report, Moran said the state Department of Transportation anticipates awarding contracts in early June (currently out to bid) for the project to reconfigure and streamline the intersection of East Road and Route 72. Within the 18 months following the contract award, the repaving work should be finished from ShopRite to the Parkway and out past the Parkway to Ash Road, including the new interchange and entrances and exits to the former Kmart plaza.

In other news, the township has acquired a piece of property out on Route 72 near the Neptune Basin which, according to Moran, may be the method by which Stafford can ultimately construct a four-way intersection at Mermaid Drive, to alleviate westbound traffic and cross-traffic trying to go west on 72. It’s a couple of years in the offing, he said, but with this piece of property, the town has leverage to “horse trade” for a state-owned piece of property adjoining the southern side of 72 across from Mermaid.

Along with the changes at Barnacle Drive, according to Moran, these measures would significantly enhance the traffic patterns there, in “the deadliest corridor in Stafford Township.”

— Victoria Ford


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