Committee, professional appointments spark debate at reorganization meeting

Council’s appointments were the subject of much discussion Monday night.

Mayor Lisa Petriello said her hope for the new year is that council will have greater transparency and communication. With that sentiment in mind, council went about making professional appointments a little differently this year, according to Petriello.

“We’ve already started to address some of this by opening up our professional appointments to participation by staff and all council members, and we’ve been more inclusive with respect to our township committee appointments,” Petriello said.

Despite the more inclusive process, council’s committee and professional appointments were the subject of much debate at last Monday night’s reorganization meeting. Councilman Michael Locatell and Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano questioned a variety of committee appointments as well as the decision to forgo utilizing Taylor Design Group.

Locatell sparked the discussion by asking why Jack Twomey and Vinny Napolitano were denied returning seats on the township’s Economic Development Advisory Committee. He said while he understood the political inference that Napolitano has a relationship with someone on council, he did not understand why Twomey was rejected. He said Twomey has served for four years on the committee and helped successfully orchestrate the food truck event along Main Street.

Petriello said she felt the township needed to “reset the relationship” with the businesses in town. She said when Nicole Gillespie and Brian Donnelly were on the campaign trial, they consistently heard feedback the township could be doing more to support local businesses’ needs.

“I thought this was a good opportunity to inject some new ideas and creativity into that [committee], and that’s why we have the recommendations that we have here,” Petriello said.

Napolitano said, to her knowledge, local businesses were happy with EDAC’s recent work, in particular the food truck event.

“It was my understanding that the Main Street businesses, in particular, were really happy with how that event went and wanted to see more of the same, so I would hate to kind of pull the rug out from that momentum,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano also questioned why members who were “proven contributors” on the Sustainable Mooretown committee had to give up their seats to make way for new members.

In response, Petriello explained that, right now, 10 percent of all committee members are serving on 20 percent of all committees. She said given they received a multitude of applications, they chose to have people who were serving on more than one committee, appointed to just one.

“We have a lot of people that want to serve, and we have a limited number of seats,” Petriello said. “We need to create better parity and balance in these committees. That was one of the guidelines I used.”

Locatell also questioned why Taylor Design Group was not appointed as an alternate township landscape architect/park design consultant. He said with the township in the midst of rolling out the Lenola Town Center Camden Avenue corridor overhaul, he fears if Taylor Design is taken off the project, they will not have the project completed in time, which would put the township’s Department of Transportation grant in jeopardy.

Napolitano expressed similar concerns.

“It has taken us an exceedingly long time to get to this point in the project, and we’re now almost at the finish line, and if we don’t get this done on time, all of this work is going to be for naught,” Napolitano said.

Township Manager Thomas Neff explained that if council decides it wants to use Taylor Design at a later date, there are several options it can utilize allowing them to continue the work. Petriello said they would discuss Taylor Design’s involvement at a future meeting.

The next meeting of council will take place on Monday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.