Stafford Leader

New Neptune Basin Snag Among Assorted News Items in Stafford Township

Oct 14, 2016
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

The Neptune basin project in the Ocean Acres section of Stafford Township, after a four-year struggle to get approval from the Pinelands Commission, may be going back to the drawing board, it was reported at the Oct. 11 township committee meeting.

Several years after the application was first filed, this April the Pinelands Commission finally granted the town a waiver of strict compliance, by an 8-to-7 vote, to allow construction of a secondary stormwater management basin on a 7.2-acre township-owned property on the forested south side of Route 72. The new basin would accept overflow, via two boxed culverts under the highway, from the existing basin on the residential north side of Route 72. The project’s whole purpose is to protect the properties in the vicinity from chronic flooding during major storms and rain events.

The town had adopted a $3.3 million bond ordinance to cover the entire estimated project cost, anticipating up to 50 percent reimbursement in a grant from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, with another 25 percent repayable at zero percent interest and the remaining 25 percent repayable at market rate.

But contractors’ bids ranged from $3.9 million to over $7 million, according to Township Administrator James Moran. (Resident and former councilman Robert Kusznikow had asked for an update, and the answer was no contract has yet been awarded because the bids were all way too high.) And then there was more bad news: The NJEIT apparently changed its funding formula in January, and held a public hearing on it but no one in Stafford knew; so, what originally was a $3.5 million project with 50 percent principal forgiveness is now more likely a $4.7 million project with a guaranteed maximum $1 million forgiveness.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” Moran said. “We may change direction altogether.”

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During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s regular meeting of mayor and council, Joe Mazzola of Galley Avenue raised the topic of Chromium-6 in the drinking water, in light of articles published in late September after a nationwide study was released about levels of the carcinogen found in the drinking water of 200 million Americans. According to the report, 75 percent of samples tested by local water utilities on behalf of the federal Environmental Protection Agency since 2013 contain Chromium-6 levels at or above .03 parts per billion. California has set its maximum contaminiant level at 10 parts per billion.

If a sample from Beach Haven West contained .0487 ppb, Mazzola said, should anyone be concerned? Officials said no.

“That lump of chromium doesn’t even begin to approach the level set by the EPA and DEP,” Moran said.

Chromium-6 is a naturally occurring chemical in the water, and there is nothing the town would or could do about it, unless it were actually dangerous. Treatment is enormously expensive, he said, and no one would treat for it unless it were at a toxic level.

Stafford has used all available platforms to notify residents that the press had painted an inaccurate picture, according to Moran. “We are fully compliant, both with our testing regime and with our water,” he said.

Council President Dave Taylor said it’s like radon in the refrigerator. Every time you open the door you get exposed to it, but it’s not a big deal.

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To follow up on the issue of Steve Jeffries’ infrequent attendance at council meetings, Mazzola addressed him directly: “You’re out of here more than you’re here. How can you serve the people that voted you in?”

Jeffries explained that, shortly after the election last year, he was offered a lucrative job he believed would be temporary. But that business is growing and has become a lot more time consuming than anticipated.

Jeffries said he has discussed the possibility of his resignation. The trouble is, if he vacates his seat, the Ocean County Republican Committee would have a say in his replacement. “You’ll end up with someone sitting here who is obligated to (Ocean County GOP Chairman) George Gilmore,” Jeffries said. “And many of us have fought for years to get out from under that.”

Township Attorney Christopher J. Connors said the state statute sets forth parameters for a vacancy: One is eight consecutive unexcused absences. In the event of a vacancy, the county committee submits three names to be considered, giving the governing body a certain number of days in which to make a choice. If the governing body fails to act within the given time frame, the county committee makes the choice. The county committee is made up of representatives, a man and a woman, from each voting district.

“If the people of the town voted for my replacement, I’d resign tomorrow,” Jeffries said.

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Beach Haven West Civic Association President Dawn Papatheodorou asked for an update on the Bay Avenue Community Center.

The interior is all done, Moran said. The building will be ready and usable within the next few weeks, once the exterior contractor finishes and the parking area is finished. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be announced.

— Victoria Ford

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