Road safety measures under consideration

Police, county to examine roads

Police Chief Thomas Mills reported at last week’s Harrison Township Committee meeting that law enforcement from the township and county levels will be considering further safety measures at locations such as the intersection of Ellis Mill Road and Richwood Road, a spot of frequent car accidents.

“We’ve talked at length to the drivers involved in the crashes out there and the consistent story is driver inattention,” the chief said.

He explained the most common remarks he hears are drivers either don’t see the other car coming or the driver did not see the stop sign.

Studies have been conducted at that intersection and other areas in the past, and the data is in the hands of the county. The consensus at the meeting was law enforcement presence at the location may be a starting point for improvement in addition to the existing warning signs.

Another area of concern is North Main Street. According to Township Administrator Mark Gravinese, several reports from citizens detail cars passing school buses in the morning and evening.

Gravinese stated he’s been told about occasions when multiple cars pass a stopped bus at one time.

Mills stated law enforcement will look into this potential hazard.

The chief also reported the numbers for January: 330 traffic summances, 32 arrests with three DUI charges filed. The police department patrolled 14,355 miles in January along with receiving 3,059 calls for service. As of Feb. 20, 28 car accidents were reported in the township.

In the traffic vein, residents can expect to see two new signs on Mullica Hill Road in the coming weeks.

Resident Kristen Miller grew concerned for the well-being of turtles crossing the road and brought her idea for turtle crossing signs to the Harrison Township Environmental Commission. The commission then wrote a letter to the township committee detailing Miller’s idea, and public works will soon place one east and one west bound turtle crossing sign on Mullica Hill Road.

In other news:

• The fire district’s proposed budget with a 2 percent tax increase passed 187–104. The increase is the maximum raise permitted under state law; this increase will equate to about one-tenth of a cent increase from last year.

The 2017 tax rate per $100 of assessed property value was 0.076; the 2018 increase will set the tax rate at 0.077 per $100.

Based on the average Harrison Township home value of $340,968, residents can expect a yearly fire tax of $262.55, a $3.41 increase from last year’s $259.14 tax.

With this increase, the district would pull in approximately $24,000 more than it did last year.

The two fire district incumbents up for re-election, Lawrence Moore and Peter Sarkos, retained their seats.

• Dennis Chambers, superintendent of public works, told the committee and audience public works has spent much time in the past several weeks clearing overhead hazards on the township’s primary roads. These efforts include the removal of overhanging limbs, dead branches and sight line obstructions.

In addition, Chambers predicted one more month until the new storage building is complete. The building, also referred to as a pole barn, will be used for storage of township assets such as lawn equipment, tractors and more.

Gravinese explained in a separate interview the main public works building is used primarily for repairs, and the township needs more space to protect equipment to combat its premature weathering.

• A new name may soon embolden the front of the Mullica Hill post office on Bridgeton Pike. Dennis Clowney, former deputy mayor of Harrison Township, recommended the name of the post office change to “James C. ‘Billy’ Johnson Post Office Building.” Johnson, of Mullica Hill, was a second lieutenant in the United States Army serving in World War II. Johnson was killed in action on Oct. 22, 1944, by a direct mortar hit. The name change was brought to Washington as a bill, sponsored by Congressman Frank LoBiondo, and has since passed the House and awaits Senate review. There is a possibility this bill will be “hot-tracked” and sent directly to the president’s desk for approval. Updates will follow as they are provided.

To track the progress of the bill, visit www.congress.gov and search HR4285.

On the agenda was an amendment to clean-up the verbiage in an existing ordinance concerning alcoholic beverages. The purpose is to amend the township’s event approval application process to dictate any eligible township-based nonprofit organization applying to hold an event in the township and serve alcohol must have a minimum $1 million insurance policy in hand. This motion was approved because it removes any liability from the township during the time of the event.

A second ordinance discussed goes into further detail about alcohol-restricted zones, specifically township parks and recreation areas. No alcohol is allowed in township parks or recreation areas, and people are not permitted in the park while under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol, even if substances were consumed before arrival.

However, during events in the park initiated by nonprofit organizations that have gone through the township’s event application process, people would potentially be able to consume alcohol in restricted and contained designated areas.

These motions, explained Mayor Lou Manzo, are intended to give the township committee the potential to entertain requests from organizations.

“To be transparent,” he said, the main purpose is to potentially include a wine or beer tasting event at Harrison Township Days, which would be provided by local wineries or breweries.

• During public comment, resident Hank Teti, a former Marine (1948–1952), urged Harrison Township public officials to discuss their overall feeling toward guns and safety.

“I would hope that you would allow the chief to have a meeting with all of you and discuss what may be cautious things we could do in this township and send the information to the state and federal government,” he said.

Teti made reference to the recent school shooting in Florida during which 17 people, mainly students, were killed.

Looking up at the committee Teti said, “The closest to the general public is the township. I’ve always thought things start from the bottom up, not the top down … This is where things start.”

Teti said he thinks the township is a safe place already, but the conversation about further safety measures is never a bad thing.

Resident Steve Grimshaw also spoke about the topic of gun violence and his comments centered around the human spirit.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” was the value he said should be taught to the children, pointing to the church as a source for change. “All the gun control in the world won’t change the human heart. Until that happens, we need self-control far sooner and far greater than we need gun control.”