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6th
Nov 2015

Berkeley Township Town Hall Meeting - October 2015

 

By Chris Lundy

 

Discussed at Town Hall Meeting


   The pink and blue were out at last month’s Township Council meeting, as officials urged breast cancer awareness, and police officers showed up en masse to protest a potential change in retiree health benefits.


   The Township Council named October Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Several members wore pink to show support, and a few people came up to speak on the matter.
 

   Former Council President Karen Davis, a cancer survivor, addressed the audience. “Everyone’s aware of breast cancer. Everyone knows it exists,” she said. What advocates are trying to make people aware of is that early detection is literally a life or death matter."
 

   Diana Dozois, who helps organize the local Relay for Life, said she survived two bouts of breast cancer and one diagnosis of colon cancer. She spoke of how the American Cancer Society helps those in need. Donations improve not only the quality of life, but the length of life. She said she has seen women’s lives extended ten or twenty years through treatments made available through ACS, made possible by donations and fundraising.
 

   Meanwhile, police came out in force to show resistance against a township letter they received that, if it had been enacted, would have made a change in retirees’ health benefits. Many of the police were retirees. The town hall was close to filling, and even the illegal parking spots near the helicoper landing pad were filled.
 

   Ultimately, the change was pulled from the agenda, but officers from the present and past made it a point to come out to the meeting.
 

   Don Rowley, president of Berkeley’s Policemen’s Benevolent Association, said members received letters that said the retirees would have a choice, either reduce their coverage or pay more in premiums.
 

   In one instance, it would cost a retired officer $147.10 a month, he said. To put it in perspective, some of these officers retired a decade or two ago, when the pay scale was less.
 

   “Whether you have the right to do it or not, it will have to be determined in court, but you have to decide whether it’s the right thing to do,” he told the governing body.
 

   Each member of the governing body went on record stating they were against the change, and that was why it was pulled from the night’s agenda.
 

   Given how everyone was against it, Rowley wondered how it made it this far, he said outside the meeting.
 

    After the meeting, Mayor Carmen Amato said the “cart was put before the horse.” The administration was going to meet with the union first, and discuss it. Instead, letters accidentally went out as if it were definitely happening.
 

   Township officials were considering the change in benefits, as one of several cost-saving measures, he said. It would have saved the township about $200,000 in taxes.


   Running a business in Berkeley township was a foremost concern during last month’s Township Council meeting. Officials wanted to award people who take pride in their business along Route 9, and wanted to penalize those running illegal businesses out of their homes.

 

   Township Attorney Lauren Staiger said that a proposed change to the property maintenance ordinance specifically targets people who are obviously running a business out of their home. When there are huge piles of dirt, brush, and tree trunks, “It’s very clear these items are being shipped elsewhere for sale.”
 

   The new section of the ordinance specifically outlaws transporting, storing or processing “wood, trees, plants, dirt, fill, stone, sand, metal, glass, scraps, recyclables” unless they are being used for the property itself, and stored safely.
 

   Another ordinance change stated that if a resident has an invasive plant species on his property, such as bamboo or ivy, and it crosses property lines and causes damage, the original owner will be responsible for returning their neighbor’s property to its original condition.
 

   Councilman Jim Byrnes talked about giving incentives to businesses in the Route 9 corridor that make improvements to their appearance. If a business is cleaning up or renovating their facade and property, perhaps they could be rewarded with tax incentives or by the township waiving construction fees.
    
Financial Issues

The Township Council awarded bids to contractors, and appointed an interim business administrator.

A contract was awarded to Snap-On Industrial to sell tools to the township on an as-needed basis. It was the only bidder on the job.

Earle Asphalt Company was awarded a bid for the reconstruction of Korman Road, at a bid of $166,713. Earle also won a $245,013 bid for improvements to Plymouth Drive, Balmoral Court, Trent Drive, Auburn Road and Mill Creek Road.
  

Berkeley chief financial officer Fred Ebenau was named interim business administrator after the departure of Chris Reid. The business administrator is the person who oversees the daily work of the township.
 

   Reid held the position since April of 2013.
   Mayor Carmen Amato said he and Reid had a mutual parting of the ways. Ebenau will be paid a daily stipend for his additional work. The exact amount wasn’t worked out as of press time.

 

   Ebenau had done the job before. A few years ago, Leonard Roeber was the town’s business administrator. He resigned when then-mayor Jason Varano lost the 2011 election to Amato. Ebenau stepped in to do the work in the meantime, which lasted from the beginning of 2012 to April of 2013, when Reid was appointed.

Coastal Concerns
   The Township Council reworked a shared services agreement with the Seaside Park Fire Company for fire protection in South Seaside Park. The town had contracts with this company in the past, but it expired in 2014. Under this new contract, Berkeley will be responsible for purchasing one vehicle, priced at approximately $33,000, for the squad, Amato said.

 

   Also of concern to shore residents, the governing body requested that the Federal Emergency Management Agency remove the changes proposed for people building homes along the water.
 

   In the past, FEMA put every property into different zones. The most stringent was labeled “V.” People living here had to elevate their homes greatly, along with other requirements.
 

   Berkeley, and other towns and groups, fought against the V zone, and it was changed.
   Now, a new zone, Coastal A, has been introduced. “It backdoors the V zone,” Amato said, indicating that it was a way to get the V zone requirements passed after all.
 

   Specifically, the Federal Emergency Management Agency outlined the suggested heights at which homes should be built. The National Flood Insurance Program based its premium costs off of these figures. The state’s uniform construction code will make the guidelines be built to V requirements.
 

   It would affect about 400 homeowners in Berkeley. Those who are actively rebuilding would be grandfathered and not changed, he said.
   Amato and Byrnes noted that since 2013, the insurance money and grants have dried up, so people facing these new restrictions would have to do so on their own.    

 

   According to FEMA, Coastal A includes areas with a potential for breaking waves and erosion during a flood. It is further inland from a V zone, or on the shore if there is no V zone. Even waves 18 inches high, with standing water, have caused walls to collapse. Therefore, homes in these “Coastal A” zones, that may flood, should be built to V requirements.
 

    Building requirements for a V zone include elevating the home on pilings, making the structure out of floodproof materials, and stories being bolted together instead of attached with light gauge straps.
 

Groups Needing Help
    
   The township council altered the affordable housing spending plan to include a $200,000 donation to the Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity for housing projects in Manitou Park.
 

The spending plan is funded by development fees. Whenever a builder wants to build in Berkeley, they must put money aside for this cause. Amato said that Habitat’s fundraising efforts fell short, and Berkeley will fill in the rest.
  

Habitat executive director Suzan Fichtner thanked the township for the donation. After the meeting, she said via e-mail that Habitat built three homes in Manitou already, placing 5 adults and several children in safe housing. She noted that two of the families were technically homeless, living in other people’s homes because they had nowhere else to go.
  

Beyond the initial houses being built, the neighborhood revitalization includes repairing homes, paving the path to a community welcome garden and taking part in potentially revitalizing the old historic schoolhouse as a community center.
  

“The number of partnerships, sponsorships, and volunteers will enable us to stretch that $200,000,” she said.

  

Not everything is available in the military stores. The following items were specifically requested:

  • overnight pads
  • tampons
  • clear/nude nail polish
  • Jam hair products
  • bobby pins (black and blonde)
  • hair ties (black and blonde)
  • little makeup kits
  • panty liners
  • leave-in conditioner
  • brown hair dye (natural colors)
  • hair spray
  • Midol
  • Advil liquigels
  • hand lotions
  • eyebrow shaper
  • facial cleaners
  • pore strips
  • polish remover
  • Keratin treatments
 
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