HAMMONTON - Funding for the Eagle Theatre and a proposed LED project dominated discussion at Hammonton Town Council’s monthly meeting held on March 20 at Town Hall.
The public portion at the start of the meeting lasted nearly an hour and 20 minutes, as both those for and against the theater funding asked and answered questions.
This is the third consecutive year the Eagle Theatre has requested money from the town in order to promote the theater and the town of Hammonton as a destination for tourists and visitors.
Town Council ultimately approved a resolution to pay the theater $32,500 on March 21 and agreed to pay an additional $32,500 in two equal portions in the third and fourth quarters of the year. The latter part of the resolution was agreed upon after council met in closed session.
“Many towns want to be like us now,” Eagle Theatre managing director Jim Donio said after speaking about the growth of the town’s tourism industry. “And we were a part of that.’
Hammonton resident Joseph Caruso of Main Road said he appreciated that the local businesses benefited from the advertising and success of the Eagle Theater, but wanted clarification on how it positively benefits taxpayers that don’t have a downtown businesses.
“How does that help John Q. Citizen?” Caruso asked.
Hammonton Mayor Steve DiDonato answered by telling a story of running into a New York resident at Bagliani’s Market who mispronounced the name of the market but said he was there three weeks after going to a play.
“Bagliani’s makes money, but a family may buy a house here and they may need an electrician and plumber,” DiDonato said.”
“I think the value of a home, I think, is the most important part of it,” said Councilman Sam Rodio. “I know the value of my home is pretty good and I want it to stay there.”
The meeting also was attended by New Jersey Tourism Director Jake Buganski who said that because of tourism in the state, each household saves $1,525 in property taxes.
“Tourism is the front door to economic development,” Buganski said.
He added: “You guys are ahead of the game. I came here tonight to make sure you understand that what is going on is exemplary.”
Hammonton Environmental Commission President Dan Bachalis asked council to have a public forum on the proposed LED project, which would change almost all of the town’s street lights to LED.
However, Town Council members didn’t think they had enough time for a forum because the resolution needed to be voted on in time for the the town’s budget, which must be submitted on April 10. The LED lights are tied to same project to erect lights at both the Hammonton Recreational Fields and at William Cappella Field for the Hammonton Hawks.
Bachalis was worried that the LED lights, if too intense, could have negative effects on residents and wildlife. Council determined only 32 lights may fall in that category and agreed on the passing of the project to work with Bachalis and his organization to find a solution to bring those lights down to a manageable intensity level.
Town Council also heard a presentation from Dr. Raymond Ferrara of Kleinfelder Consultants updating the remediation efforts for Wells 1 and 3. According to Ferrara, contaminates from a long-defunct gas plant (from the 1920s) have been cleaned from the Lincoln Avenue site that is adjacent to the wells.
The contaminates were found roughly 60 to 65 feet below ground-level with clay above the wells, which are 300-feet below ground. Although the wells were not affected, he advised that the town test the water prior, during and after remediation to assure it is safe.
The next town council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 10 at Town Hall.