Masonic Lodge Relocates to Stafford; Bolton Lane Potholes to Be Addressed

Jan. 11 Snow Shower Cost Town $43,000
Jan 23, 2019

Stafford Township’s new mayor and council are putting their best feet forward in serving the public. The Jan. 14 meeting, the first since the reorganization on New Year’s Day, drew a nearly full house of spectators, though only a handful were feeling chatty – Mud City’s Michael Penrose came seeking assurance the new administration would pick up where the last had left off with regard to the standing-water problem on Avenue B; three members of Sextant Lodge No. 286 of the Free and Accepted Masons wanted to introduce themselves to the community; self-proclaimed public advocate Sal Sorce of Island Woods Estates, in his usual style, presented to the governing body a folio of handouts containing records relating to the Neptune Basin project dating back to 2013, which he pulled from his “five hard drives, probably about a half-million Stafford files”; and two Bolton Lane residents complained about potholes and were met with immediate responses by councilmen eager to help.

Councilman Michael Pfancook, as liaison to the Department of Public Works, announced the winter “storm” of Jan. 11 cost the town a total of $43,816. Cleanup costs for the couple inches of snowfall amounted to $15,975 for 300 tons of road salt and $27,841 in wages for the personnel who salted and plowed.

Mayor Greg Myhre’s report on police activity for the month of December illuminated some law enforcement numbers: Police made 786 traffic stops and issued 264 summonses; responded to 2,122 calls for service, 165 of which required medical assistance, 11 fire; logged 112 motor vehicle accidents; arrested 38 adults and three juveniles; charged three DWIs; issued 16 local and out-of-town warrants; recovered $321 in stolen property of a total $5,559 reported.

During public comment, Penrose explained previous Township Administrator James Moran had said storm drains would help resolve the water issue on Avenue B but would require approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The work could be done in a matter of months, he said – ideally by spring, before the mosquitoes come back.

“We all agree the storm drain is the best solution,” Penrose said.

“We’ll see what the township engineer (Frank Little of Owen, Little and Associates) has to say about it,” Myhre told him.

Worshipful Master Joe Schwartz, presiding officer of Sextant Lodge No. 286 of the Masons, along with his masonic brothers Senior Warden Warren Jeffrey and Junior Deacon Arnaldo Cruz, dressed and adorned in their regalia, greeted the mayor and council and explained their lodge has recently relocated to Manahawkin after 70 years in Beach Haven. Their new home is at 575 Route 72 (in the BuyRite plaza), Unit 3, and they’re “looking for good men, 18 and older” to join in the humanitarian work they do. New member recruitment was one of the driving forces behind the move from Beach Haven to Manahawkin.

The local lodge is part of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, in the 20th Masonic District, which extends from Toms River down to Mystic Island. Sextant members have come from Long Beach Island, Stafford, Barnegat and Little Egg Harbor.

“We’re known as a secret society, but if you go to Google, you can find everything you want to know about us,” Schwartz said. “We are not a religion; we are a fraternity of men.”

In fact, Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest men’s secular organization, described as spiritual in nature, not religious, although members are required to profess a belief in a Supreme Being. The organization is patriotic, rooted in tradition, family-oriented, “sensitive to the needs of each community where it exists,” and “open to men of good character regardless of race, creed or religion.”

One of the most important principles of Freemasonry is charity.

“We are an organization that looks to help,” Schwartz said. Over the last 10 years, according to Schwartz, Sextant Lodge has awarded $100,000 in scholarships to Southern Regional and Pinelands Regional students; donated $25,000 to victims of Superstorm Sandy; in 2017 raised $65,000 for the Coast Guard Enlisted Men’s Memorial Fund; and lends its support to the Maximilian Foundation and the Boy and Girl Scouts.

Extensions of Freemasonry include Shriners (known for work with children’s hospitals), Scottish Rite (whose chief cause is dyslexia), York Rite, Knights Templar and others. The Masonic order for adult women is Eastern Star, for teen boys is DeMolay, and for teen girls is Rainbow.

Bolton Lane neighbors Mary Ann Rostein and Chrystal Rife each in turn pleaded for something to be done about the potholes in their road – a situation so dire even Rife’s son’s school bus driver has expressed concern.

“We have a really bad problem on Bolton Lane,” Rostein said. “We bought our house in ’81, and the sewer went in a few years later, and the road never got redone. It’s solid potholes – you can’t get away from them.” She had with her an electronic tablet containing photos, which Councilman Pfancook said he would be happy to see right after the meeting.

Rife said she and her family moved to Bolton Lane because it was quiet and tucked away, and she thought she wouldn’t have to worry about her son getting hurt. But her son has special needs and wears leg braces, and he can’t play in the road due to the danger of falling down.

Councilman Michael Williams volunteered to accompany Rife to her home immediately after the meeting to take a look at the problem in person.

— Victoria Ford

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