Stafford Could Hire New Administrator by Next Month; Township Urged to Become Stigma-Free Zone

Feb 13, 2019

In the absence of a township administrator, Stafford Mayor Gregory Myhre said he is currently performing the functions of acting administrator. He reported at the Feb. 5 council meeting that the town has received a number of applications from qualified candidates and hopes to hire a new administrator by next month.

In related news, the police department is looking for a new dispatcher and is currently accepting inquiries and applications. And Stafford EMS Squad 38 – which had 252 runs in the month of January, as reported by Councilman Anthony Guariglia – is seeking new members for its auxiliary. Those interested can visit squad38.com to apply.

At the meeting, the mayor also defended the appointment of the law firm of Gilmore and Monahan when questioned by Ernest Boerner, who lives at Atria Stafford, during the public comment period.

Boerner said he had been surprised by Stafford’s appointment of Gilmore and Monahan as municipal attorney. “It might have been quid pro quo because of the help the county (GOP) gave you during the election,” he said. In light of Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore’s recent indictment for tax evasion, Boerner said, “I understand people are innocent until proven guilty, but right now I think there’s a cloud over the (law) firm for the council. I don’t know how that would affect us, but … I think the council should seriously consider a different counsel.”

“Every single appointment was made in the best interest of Stafford Township,” Myhre responded. “And that has to do with the best performance we could get. And that’s it. That’s how decisions are made.”

In an effort to promote awareness of mental health problems, treatment options and available services, Stafford Township’s On-POINT Program Coordinator Meghan Corrigan from Ocean Mental Health Services urged the governing body to declare Stafford Township a Stigma-Free Zone.

Corrigan is also co-chair of Ocean County’s Mental Health Awareness Committee and coordinates On-POINT at Little Egg Harbor Police Department. On-POINT stands for Proactive Outreach In Needs and Treatment. The program was designed to address the mental health-, substance abuse- and social service-related calls and incidents that utilize considerable police and emergency resources.

Stigma surrounding mental illness proves a huge barrier to treatment, Corrigan explained.

By way of resolution, towns can designate themselves as “stigma-free” simply by pledging to “do something” to change perceptions about mental health, to take some kind of educational action: form a committee or task force, create a course or panel to educate employees and residents, establish an area within town hall for resources. The more creative the action, the better. The motto of the grassroots initiative is “Anyone can educate about mental health.”

The county will offer mental health first aid training to township employees and volunteers in Stigma-Free towns.

All throughout New Jersey, police departments, health departments, schools and colleges, churches, libraries, civic organizations, businesses and others are taking on the mantle.

Towns across New Jersey are taking part in these countywide initiatives, which have existed in some form since 2011. As of last year, 69 out of 70 towns in Bergen County were onboard, but so far in Ocean County, Pine Beach and Ocean Gate are the only two towns to have embraced the idea.

In his report, Councilman Michael Pfancook announced on behalf of the Department of Public Works’ Road Division that the problems on Bolton Lane are being addressed. After the January meeting, where two residents complained about the dangerous and nearly un-drivable condition of Bolton Lane due to potholes, Roads Foreman George Yockachonis responded immediately and the road was patched by noon the next day, with repaving planned for milder weather.

He added brining operations are back up and running, as evidenced by treatment of the roadways prior to Sunday night’s snowfall.

During public comment, Gary Molnar of Rudder Avenue returned before the council to argue for a dog park. “I really believe it would be like an inexpensive community center,” he said. He and his wife were members of the dog park at Robert J. Miller Air Park for two years, but the 25-mile roundtrip, “just to let your dog go out and play,” became tiresome. Molnar said 3,454 dogs were issued licenses last year, and everyone he talks to at Lighthouse Park would welcome a proper dog park.

“We’re not asking for much,” he said – an acre of land, with a fence around it and a fence down the middle to separate the dogs by size. “It’s really a wonderful thing.”

Councilman Michael Pfancook said officials are already looking at the possibility of designating a portion of Lighthouse Park and will get prices on fencing and benches. Myhre acknowledged a dog park is definitely on the minds of a lot of residents, though some are opposed to it, and there are costs associated with insurance and other factors, but “it’s something we’re going to explore.”

Richie Gilchrist of Virginia Drive expressed concern for a small park in Beach Haven West near Walter Boulevard and Jennifer Lane, which was recently beautified but is now being used by utility trucks that are tearing up the earth. When the ground starts to thaw, he said, it’s going to be a mudhole. “For the money you spent – and it looks nice – to ruin it is crazy.” Additionally, the park near Marguerite Lane and Walter could use some shrubs or planters, he said. Neighbors and dog walkers congregate there.

Myhre agreed: “We want our parks to look nice, so that’s a good idea.”

Before plans get underway for a new season at the Mill Creek Community Garden, Gilchrist also reminded the council that access to electrical power is important to the garden, for the barn, office, lighting and equipment. Since the garden is adjacent to the new Mill Creek Pavilion, the garden group had been told electric would be installed at the pavilion and garden at the same time. On Feb. 22 they’ll meet to discuss what’s growing this year, and April 7 is the kickoff for volunteers.

Myhre couldn’t say what the timing of the electrical work might look like.

— Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

 

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