Mayor apologizes to residents for council’s poor behavior
HAMMONTON - Hammonton Mayor Steve DiDonato opened the monthly Town Council meeting on Oct. 24 with an apology and a pledge.
The statement read by the mayor was in response to behavior from Hammonton Town Council members during the previous two meetings, but especially the monthly meeting on Sept. 26 at Town Hall, which ended abruptly after bickering among the councilmen.
At the center of the contentiousness was a vote rescinding advertising funding for the Eagle Theater, which was originally funded in June of this year.
During the October meeting, the mayor read a statement to apologize to residents, as well as bring council together.
“I would like to apologize for my actions the last two meetings to all 15,000 residents of this community,” the mayor read. “It is my job as mayor of the community to lead by example and to work with the entire council no matter their political affiliation. I always said that leadership matters and tonight I vow to renew my leadership role.”
DiDonato also encouraged his fellow council members to come together.
“I would like to challenge council tonight to renew our commitment to each other and put politics behind us for the greater good of Hammonton and its people,” he said.
During the meeting Town Council also reinstated Firefighter Joseph Caruso Jr., who has been suspended since September of 2015 for undisclosed reasons. Council approved reinstating him to Fire Company No. 2 on advice from Solicitor Michael Malinsky.
“Just for the record, I want to maintain that I have been innocent throughout this whole process,” Caruso Jr. said during the public portion of the meeting. “It has been 13 months without a hearing you arbitrarily suspended me and arbitrarily put me back. Although I am grateful to be back because that’s where I belong, I don’t understand how that process worked out.”
Malinski countered that the process wasn’t arbitrary and that Caruso was notified why he was suspended.
Town Council also honored the Hammonton High School Marching Band, which captured the state championship on Oct. 23 at Rowan University in Glassboro.
The Blue Devils, which were undefeated in five previous competitions, took first for its Dr. Who-themed performance, besting 11 other teams.
Hammonton’s season is not done yet, as they are busy performing for the national competition on Nov. 6 in Allentown, Pa.
“It’s all a credit to the hard work of students and of course the parents, bringing them to rehearsal,” band Director Tim White said. “We also had a lot of alumni helping to build the TARDIS and the platforms and the props and what not.”
“It’s not just a music program, it’s a family spanning back many generations,” said Assistant Music Director Ashley Mathis.
Town Council also:
• Approved the use of Town Hall for Nov. 6 debate for Town Council candidates.
• Discussed residents’ request to add a stop sign at the intersection of Central and Grape after a few accidents this year. According to town Business Administrator and Public Works Administrator Jerry Barberio, after discussing the intersection with the county, it doesn’t seem to qualify for a traffic study.
Some of the criteria needed to be met is five accidents in a 12-month period and 300 cars per hour in an eight-hour period. The intersection does not meet either criteria. Town Council did agree to try to work with the county to improve site lines.
•Approved a bid for $2,650 for plans for sub drip irrigation at the Boyer Avenue Complex. The step is a mandate from the state at the completion of the project. According to council, it needs to be completed for the town to get reimbursed funding from the state. The town is still owed $450,000.
“It’s critical that we get it done,” Councilman Steve Furgione said.
• Tabled second reading of peddlers and transient merchant ordinance to make sure the wording benefits veterans.
• Agreed to send letter to state Senate opposing potential recreational use of marijuana bill.
The next scheduled meeting is 7 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the Town Hall.