Dredging Equipment Mustered for Osborn Island Homeowners Project

Work Scheduled to Begin Sept. 27
Sep 19, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson The Little Egg Harbor Township Committee and Mayor Ray Gormley welcome two new police officers.

The Little Egg Harbor Township Committee introduced an ordinance to appropriate $2,077,000, borrowing $1,973,000, to buy a slew of township equipment, including a trash truck, ambulance for Great Bay Regional EMS, four police utility vehicles and two pickup trucks with snow plows, plus pay for various road, sidewalk and drainage projects. New township Chief Financial Officer Rodney Haines said a second trash truck had already been approved in a previous ordinance dating back to 2014 but was never purchased.

During the Sept. 13 committee meeting, a second ordinance, approved on first reading, was to utilize $480,000 from the town’s Open Space Trust Fund to pay for site work and recreation amenities at Veterans Park, located on Radio Road in Mystic Island.

Also, two new police officers, recently graduated from the Ocean County Police Academy, were introduced to the public: Michael LaMontage and Daniel Grundtish. Both have criminal justice degrees from Stockton University, and both received high marksmanship scores while at the police academy. LaMontage was previously employed in the Ocean County Department of Corrections, and Grundtish was a special officer in Ocean City.

Both are expected to be assets to the community, said Chief Richard Buzby. The two hires do not increase the 44-officer police force.

The committee also accepted the retirement of 10-year veteran K-9 Officer Matthew Pretty and paid him $72,706 compensation in accumulated time. The care of his K-9 dog was included in the sum.

Some confusion lingered over an explanation made by Mayor Ray Gormley over a resolution refunding $30,000 in grant money obtained in 2014 from the National Fish and Wildlife Fund, commonly known as the $2.1 million NFWF shoreline protection grant that is shared by Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton. As it was explained, the township used the $30,000 to apply for a permit to use dredge material to build up the saltwater marsh on the Great Bay Wildlife Management Area using clean dredge materials from lagoons in Mystic Island and on Osborn Island.

The practice of  “thin layer deposition” was an experimental attempt, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection was considering Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton as pilot projects for this new use of clean dredge materials. However, last year the DEP Fish and Wildlife Division reversed its thinking on the practice, saying there was not enough evidence to support thin layer deposition as helping the marsh; in fact, it could harm the habitat by increasing phragmite invasion, or by even causing the marsh to sink.

Gormley implied that the DEP would allow the township to use the money spent for a permit to dredge in Mystic Island, but then acknowledged that the expended $30,000 would have to go back to NFWF.

But all the work done to survey the lagoons and test the material that was done using the rest of the NFWF grant money will not go to waste, as the information can be used when the lagoon projects get off the ground.

Meanwhile, Osborn Island residents are seeing the first fruits of their five-year struggle to get parts of their lagoons dredged. The contractor, Wickberg Marine of Belford, has started to mobilize its equipment, and dredging is scheduled to begin Sept. 27. The Osborn Island Residents Association paid for the dredging permit. The amount of material that is to be dewatered and then trucked away is approximately 14,000 cubic yards. Each waterfront property owner will be assessed approximately $5,213, which may be paid over 10 years. Special assessments like these are attached to properties in the case they change ownership.

During his report, Township Engineer Jason Worth said the roof of the senior community center on Radio Road would have to be replaced. The center has been closed since August. The township’s public works department had attempted to patch the roof but didn’t solve the problem. In response to a question by resident Art Mooney, Gormley could not give an approximate date for the replacement but said it would be repaired soon.

During the public portion of the meeting, retired Little Egg Harbor Police Lieutenant Thomas Williams asked Township Attorney Jean Cipriani what the township’s position or policy was on employees using social media. Williams went on to say that he had applied for the position of business administrator when an opening occurred, but before he was even asked to interview, Committeeman David Schlick allegedly posted a comment on his reelection campaign Facebook page that Schlick had stopped another “good old boy network” appointment.

Williams felt that Schlick was an employee because he is paid (like other committee members and the mayor) and “had no business posting township business on a Facebook page.” But Cipriani said although the township does have a social media policy for township employees, elected officials are not the same as employees, and the governing body does not have the authority to discipline as such.

Later, the township committee and public listened to Committeeman John Kehm voice his animosity toward Schlick, despite Cipriani’s attempts to stop him. Schlick asked Cipriani to explain that his filing a tort claim against the township is not the same as filing a lawsuit, but rather a warning that a lawsuit is pending if things don’t change. Schlick said in his tort claim that Kehm bullies and insults him and creates a hostile work environment for him in observance of his duties as committeeman. Later, during committee comments, Kehm said he would never insult members of Schlick’s family, and he called Schlick “a compulsive liar.”

Cipriani said if the two committeemen escalate their animosity, then they could take their complaints to the state Local Finance Board. Later she explained that according to local government ethics law, the Local Finance Board of the state Department of Community Affairs would be the investigating agency.

— Pat Johnson


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