Tense Moments Erupt at Stafford Meeting; Mallard Island Residents Have That Sinking Feeling

Mar 08, 2017

Most of the Stafford Township Council meeting of Feb. 28 was business as usual except for the part where a fight nearly broke out between two audience members.

An argument nearly came to blows when Beach Haven West resident Bob McManus of Phyllis Lane first verbally confronted Township Administrator James Moran, and then laid a hand on Ocean Acres resident Joe Mazzola, who removed his eyeglasses and jacket in preparation for a fight.

McManus had taken the lectern during public comment to ask about seeing the floor plans and bids for the Mill Creek Road pavilion that may or may not ever be built. “I asked to see it and have never been able to see it,” he said.

One of the iterations of the plans was presented in the meeting room at town hall and made available for public input, Mayor John Spodofora said. As for the bids, Moran said the Beach Haven West Civic Association has spent about $560 in Open Public Records Act requests in order to see the bids, so they will be issued.

McManus then re-raised an issue from a couple months ago involving an alleged incident that occurred after a meeting, in which he says Moran treated him gruffly. Witnesses reported McManus was “out of line” by putting his hand on Moran’s arm while he was in the middle of a conversation with a reporter.

“I’ve asked for an apology from Moran. He stated that I assaulted him, and if that’s the case I want him to arrest me now, or let’s get the apology.”

“You touched him; I was right there,” Mazzola said, avowing to back Moran up.

“I didn’t touch him! I put my hand up to stop!” McManus said.

“I saw you grab his arm. You did grab his arm,” Spodofora said.

Even if he did grab Moran’s arm, McManus said, in his opinion it was inappropriate for Moran to silence him. “He told me I couldn’t stand up here anymore and make a comment,” McManus said.

“You’re a liar,” Moran said. “And I’m going to call you that to your face. I said to you that I was not going to discuss Mill Creek any further.”

While making his way back to his seat, McManus walked past Mazzola, who was sitting down, and paused to say something to him and appeared to poke him in the shoulder or chest – which set Mazzola off.

“Take your glasses off!” Mazzola barked as he rose from his seat and started to remove his jacket. “He just put his hands on me! I’ll wipe the floor with him!”

After a tense minute or two, the men settled down and kept their composure for the duration of the meeting. But McManus would have the final word, when he approached the lectern once more to confirm that he would see the bids he was interested in seeing, and then left the room through the door with a dramatic bang.

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Councilman Paul Marchal announced 3rd District Rep. Tom MacArthur will hold a town hall meeting at Bay Avenue Community Center on March 31 at 6 p.m. to discuss the opioid epidemic. Joining him will be a professional speaker to talk about addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. Call Betti Anne McVey at 609-597-1000, extension 8557, to reserve seats.

During public comment, some Mallard Island (a.k.a. Mud City) residents spoke about ongoing flooding problems in their community.

David Long said the recently completed repaving work was “95 percent excellent,” but some issues remain in need of tweaking, in spots where people still can’t get to their front door without walking through water. For Judy Antona, who lives on East Mallard Drive, the water is there almost all the time. Every time she lets her dog out, he needs a bath. “I can’t afford to fill my property there. I raised four kids there and it was never this bad.”

“It’s a proven fact the water level has gone up in the bay,” Spodofora said.

MaryAnn O’Neill has observed problems worsening over time in certain areas, such as Teal Bend. Is the roadway sinking, she asked. Is the work warranteed?

It could be settling, Spodofora said.

“There are maintenance bonds,” Moran said. “We will have the contractor look at it, but, quite honestly, if the subsurface conditions are the cause of any sinking in the road, it can’t be corrected, and therefore, the contractor might not be liable for it.

“Unfortunately, the property is marsh,” he continued. “And putting a paved road on top of a marsh without any support structure underneath of it, the only way you can effectively put a road out there that’s not going to sink, is to put pilings under the entire road and then put concrete bond beams, and then put the road over top of it. That will work, but it will also cost millions of dollars.”

O’Neill said former residents used to put old mattresses, box springs, wood and other bulky objects down and then fill in on top of it. When the sewer system was done and the new road was put in, all that filler was taken out. Maybe that’s why it’s sinking, she suggested. Additionally, she noted, during the last nor’easter, a lot of marsh grass washed up and it may be blocking the drainage boxes.

As a final news note, O’Neill and some colleagues provide free income tax filing help as certified tax counselors for the IRS and ARC. “Most all returns we will do,” she said – federal, state, property tax reimbursement and 1040-H forms. Tax help is available Monday and Thursday at St. Mary’s Parish Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. “This Monday, we had to turn people away as early as 9:30,” she said. People started lining up at 8, and by 9:30 there were 62 people in line.

— Victoria Ford


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