Council meeting establishes Halloween hours, talks local road projects

Officials also reappoint township tax collector, discuss meeting with senator

Mt. Laurel Township Council met Oct. 5 for its first regular session of the month, a virtual meeting that yielded an in-depth discussion about road projects from township to federal levels.

But council also had some much-needed news to share in the passage of Resolution 20-R-47.

“Halloween is on! That’s a big deal,” Councilman Kurt Folcher declared before an enthusiastic, unanimous yes vote established the 2020 Mischief Night and Halloween hours for Oct. 30 and 31, respectively.

A 9 p.m. Mischief Night curfew will be in place for residents younger than 18, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Halloween trick-or-treating hours will begin at 3 p.m. and end at 9 p.m.

While council was eager to declare Halloween one less facet of normal life disrupted by  the pandemic, it addressed a number of changing traffic patterns, temporary detours, upcoming improvements and even the status of projects that locals have clamored for for decades, many of which were delayed because COVID-19 created a material scarcity, especially in township projects.

Municipal Clerk/Registrar Meredith Tomczyk said that while there are no immediate plans to make any improvements to the area of Union Mill Road between ShopRite and Mt. Laurel Road in the next phase of repairs, the township did apply to the Department of Transportation (DOT) to receive funding for the project.

“It’s not part of the phase, but I anticipate that we’ll get DOT funding, so I anticipate that it will get done,” she affirmed, clarifying that the work won’t begin until 2021 or spring of  2022 at the latest. Updates will be available on the township website, mountlaurel.com.

“It depends on the bid process,” Tomczyk added. “We are still going out to bid — for instance, we’re going out to bid for the light on Academy Road, we are going for a lane over there. Unfortunately, contractors are having a really tough time getting supplies.”

Tomczyk also explained that Remington & Vernick, the township’s traffic engineer, has recently performed a study of the intersection at Union Mill and Academy roads. The findings, she said, are that the area merits a traffic light, and going out to bid is the next step in making that happen.

Mayor Irwin Edelson recounted how he and Tomczyk met with state Sen. Troy Singleton Oct. 2.

“We talked about a few of the projects going on in town: First thing was Route 73 and Fellowship (Road): That’s completely in motion,” the mayor said. He explained that there will be “a turnaround coming off the (New Jersey) turnpike Exit 4,” and drivers will no longer be able to make a left turn onto Fellowship Road,  adding that “we’re going back to Jersey circles” to handle the new traffic pattern. A safety sidewalk will also be installed to protect pedestrians near the area hotels.

Centerdon Bridge and Creek Road were also topics of discussion with the senator, who  explained that putting in another bridge is strictly a county issue in which the state will not get involved, according to Edelson.

The mayor reported that their conversation also addressed the backups between Route 38 and Interstate 295, “which has been going on for 20 years.” The township is still waiting for a DOT plan, even after Deputy Mayor Linda Bobo said that she and Councilman Folcher had met with the department through Singleton three years ago.

The delay, Edelson noted, is due to two things: money and acquisition of land needed to expand on- and off-ramps. 

“The state is open to looking at the plan to see if they can scale it back to help us alleviate some of the traffic and get something, but maybe not have such a complex plan,” Tomczyk explained.

She added that Mt. Laurel is back on the TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan) List, which bodes well for resolving the 38/295 issue if it can be “scaled back.” Still, Tomczyk cautioned residents to manage their expectations, as it’s “definitely not an improvement that’s going to be anytime soon.”

All in all, she and Edelson agreed the council session was a good and productive meeting, and the next steps entail Tomczyk reaching out to the DOT.

Early in the session, council voted to authorize the reappointment of township tax collector Kim Muchowski, who expressed both gratitude and ongoing dedication to Mt. Laurel during public comment. Tomczyk praised Muchowski’s positive attitude and for being “an asset to the township,” while council members thanked the tax collector for her work.

In addition, the meeting addressed the governors’ annual Best Practices list, which recently required officials of each municipality to answer 24 questions to determine  eligibility for state aid. A score of 16 meant those funds would continue uninterrupted: Mt. Laurel scored 22.5.

“We will not lose any state aide,” Tomczyk noted. She added that the Best Practices format was a little different for 2020, with its other 25 questions acting as more of a survey inquiring about COVID-19 measures a municipality might plan to maintain post- pandemic.

Residents, elected officials and township employees alike expressed their delight at the meeting for Money Magazine recently declaring Mt. Laurel the 16th best town in the country, and No. 1 place to live in New Jersey.

Council will continue to hold meetings remotely, with the next one on Oct. 26. Login information can be found by visiting mountlaurel.com/government/meetings and following the instructions by selecting Zoom Registration for Council Meetings from the yellow menu.

A drop box video of the Oct. 5 meeting is available at bit.ly/36CssBU.