Williamstown Year in Review Part 2

Year brought COVID surprises but community spirit

Municipal news 

Mayor DiLucia swore in new Police Chief David Daily on August 24, 2020. Pictured left to right: Public Safety Director Joe Kurz, Councilwoman Katherine Falcone, Chief David Daily, Mayor Rich DiLucia, and Deputy Mayor Joe DiLolle.

 

The Monroe Township council met last in February to provide reports and vote on plans to further the community’s well-being. The most noteworthy plan was for a forthcoming dog park, about which Mayor Richard DiLucia offered details at the meeting. “The reports that were made on the dog park … I just want to bring you up to date,” the mayor told meeting attendees. “The engineer will meet with us … to go over the conceptual plans. ” DiLucia reported that the original park grant given to the township five years ago is financially back dated.

“When we put it out for a bid, the bid exceeded the amount of money we had been awarded in the grant by about $400,000,” he added. “We decided to do all the work in house, with the exception of some of the things we can’t do. We believe we can come within budget.”

Miss Cape Shore Outstanding Teen 2020, Alyssa Peacock, also addressed township officials about her efforts for the community and local animal shelters.

Monroe Township Council livestreamed its March 23 regular council meeting in accordance with temporary provisions encouraging self-isolation and barring many large gatherings in order to minimize the spread of COVID. The session closed with council members largely forgoing their opportunity for comments and reports, electing instead to remind residents that, in order to keep the unprecedented heath crisis at manageable levels, they must continue practicing an abundance of caution, vigilant hygiene and social distance.  

DiLucia was among those who expressed his gratitude for individuals who have helped instill a sense of order in uncertain times. “I wanted to thank the police department for the tireless effort and time they put in, and public works, the road department, all the directors and supervisors, particularly (Business Administrator) Jill McCrea,” he said. “She has kept the operations running from an administrative standpoint.”

Council continued with its plan to bring regular meetings to the public through teleconference. Speaking on behalf of the police department on April 14, Chief James V. DeHart III brought attention to the township having the third highest number of confirmed COVID cases in Gloucester County. The statistic underscored the importance of addressing government and municipal duties during the pandemic’s unprecedented upheaval of daily life.

“Keep your distance, stay in your house and, hopefully, this thing will end soon,” said DiLucia. Council and township leaders reminded everyone that while municipal buildings, like so many other public spaces, were indefinitely closed, departments such as Economic Development were still available to residents. Councilwoman Katherine Falcone encouraged business owners to visit monroetownshipnj.org/economic-development for available resources and information about loans. Councilman Cody Miller reminded everyone that the food pantry at Pfeiffer Community Center is open every Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The mayor also extended gratitude and recognition to township police officers; the fire department; and health care workers of all kinds, from doctors and nurses to nursing home staff.

In the Spring, Monroe Township Council passed six ordinances on first reading including those to approve property tax agreements with three local businesses. The three property tax agreements on the agenda were between the township and Autumn Lake Winery, Grindstone restaurant and Best Western Monroe Inn and Suites. All three businesses are located in rehabilitation zones within the town. Among the other three ordinances passed on first reading is one to establish a two-year, trap-neuter-vaccinate-release (TNVR) pilot program. TNVR programs legislate the humane trapping of feral cats in the township. The cats are then spayed or neutered, given their vaccinations and then returned to the area where they were originally found. Councilwoman Katherine Falcone discussed the possibility of a new grocery store moving into town and Monroe Township Police Chief James DeHart gave a brief update on COVID-19 totals during his report at the end of the meeting. The chief said while case totals across New Jersey have seen a marked drop in recent weeks, residents shouldn’t let up their guard yet. 

Monroe Township Council also passed a resolution this year to show support for new legislation to help municipalities during the pandemic. 

Council added a resolution to its agenda supporting the passage of a bill in the state legislature that would permit municipalities to use coronavirus relief bonds to offset revenue losses from the pandemic.  Monroe Township officials joined the Cecil Fire Company on May 23 in a groundbreaking ceremony for planned renovations to the fire station. They include a rebuilt administration section of the station and improvements to the engine bay, at a cost of $2.3 million. 

The project is scheduled to be completed in March 2021. 

The township also made progress on a parking lot for its bike path that  will be located on the site of what was a vacant home on Sykes Lane,  near Tuckahoe Road.  

Jean Sawers, of Paulsboro, plays giant JENGA with her friends at the Pfeiffer Community Center in Williamstown on Tuesday Sept. 8. This is the first time the community center has opened to the public since COVID-19 shut down many businesses and places of gathering in March.

Monroe council expects to save taxpayers thousands of dollars through collaboration on solar initiatives with the township Municipal Utilities Authority and the Williamstown school district.

Council kicked off the initiative in October, with the first phase involving capping the 13-acre landfill at the intersection of Sicklerville Road and Holiday City Boulevard. 

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) will award the township $750,000 when the cap is complete. The second piece of the project is to create a solar field on the capped landfill built by the solar panel manufacturer Trina Solar, of San Jose, California. The company expects to complete  work in June, 2021. 

Monroe Police Chief James V. DeHart was replaced by David Dailey in August. The latter is of the “if isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality. He said both the community and department are in strong shape, so he has no plans to radically change the way things are done. But Dailey  concedes there’s always room for improvement. “If we can tweak it to make it better, I definitely want to do that not only for our community, but to serve our department,” he said. 

Dailey was promoted from deputy to chief of police on Aug. 24. The new role is the latest in a series of service and leadership positions he’s achieved throughout his career. 

Monroe council held a monthly session on Oct, 26 and discussed new and existing businesses throughout the township. Both the mayor   and Shannon Morgan-Leonen, Economic Development Commission chair, reported on businesses applying for permits and seeking information about setting up in Monroe Township. Some of the businesses discussed included The Learning Experience, which had a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov 2.; construction of the White and Blue painting company headquarters; and a drive-thru safari on the Black Horse Pike. An assisted living facility is also coming and will bring $328 million dollars and 400 jobs to the township.