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Mar 2016

Berkeley Twp. Town Hall Meeting - March 2016


Discussed at the Town Hall Meeting

By Chris Lundy

    Officials are warning that scam phone calls are making the rounds, and told the public never to give any kind of money or personal information over the phone.


Several of the more popular scams, according to township officials, are:
    •    Someone pretending to be from a court, and making you pay for some kind of fine.
    •    Someone pretending to be from the IRS, demanding that you pay back taxes.
    •    Someone speaking on behalf of a grandson or granddaughter asking to be bailed out of jail.
    •    Unclaimed property is available to you, and you have to send money to get it released.
    •    Someone trying to get a copy of your deed, and they can try to take ownership of your home.


    Once you send money to any of these scammers, it is impossible to get it back, Chief Karin DiMichelle said. The scammers are also using technology to make it look like the phone call is coming from a legitimate phone number. For example, your caller ID will say the number is coming from Washington, D.C.

Super Storm Sandy Woes

The Township Council passed a resolution trying to spare some homeowners from high flood insurance rates brought about by FEMA.

After Super Storm Sandy, many homes were damaged or destroyed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency set guidelines for how high the buildings had to be raised. The agency did this so that they wouldn’t have to pay to rebuild homes in floodprone areas every time there’s a major storm.


However, not every home that was damaged had to be rebuilt. The homeowners who were spared rebuilding were hit with the choice of either raising their homes to FEMA’s standards or else face high flood insurance rates.


The council’s resolution was made to protect these homeowners so that their flood insurance costs wouldn’t increase. The resolution states how the new law is unfair, because homeowners whose homes weren’t significantly damaged don’t qualify for federal funds to raise their homes.

The state had provided some funds for homes made unlivable by Sandy to be torn down, but years later, they are still here. A few years ago, the town submitted 140 buildings to the Unsafe Structures Demolition Program, Mayor Carmen Amato said. Many of them were related to Sandy. The Department of Community Affairs allocated some funding, but many were left to the township to handle.


The township is putting together a different way of dealing with it, Amato said. Officials are planning on having the properties demolished, and then placing a lien on the property for the cost of the demolition. When the property is sold, then the lien will be paid off.

“We’re hoping to improve the quality of life for residents who have been living in neighborhoods with these dilapidated homes for more than three years,” he said.

Meanwhile, Berkeley is still in the process of paying back the $6 million it borrowed to pay for the damage and clean-up from Super Storm Sandy. They had 5 years to repay it. The town owes $1.2 million this year, and $1.2 million for next year. The Township Council asked for an extension, so that they have another 5 years to repay it.

Other Council News

Council President John Bacchione spoke about the need for the MOM line, a proposed train line that would link Monmouth, Ocean, and Middlesex counties. He said it would provide easier transportation to jobs in other counties and bring property values up in Ocean County. The Berkeley Township Council passed a resolution urging the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders to meet with the freeholders from Monmouth and Middlesex to push harder for this train line.

This line has been discussed for years, and every once in a while, there’s a big push toward making it a reality, but it never comes to fruition.


Berkeley will be paying half of a contract to outfit its police officers with body cameras, Chief  DiMichelle said. Officers have had them since 2012, and the old ones will be traded in as part of this purchase. Berkeley’s half of the cost will amount to approximately $37,000. The other half will come from the New Jersey Attorney General’s office.


The township is purchasing a new trailer for animal control at a cost of $112,000. Approximately $80,000 of this is coming from the animal control trust fund.


The Township Council also approved the ability for fiber optic companies to come in to Berkeley, with Bacchione abstaining. A few months ago, Fred Brody, representing a company called Cross River Fiber, made a presentation to the Township Council asking for permission to add Berkeley to a “fiber optic backbone throughout the state.”


His company provides fiber optic wiring that would be installed on existing telephone poles. If businesses needed their services, then they would pay. The general public would be unaffected by these transactions.

The council voted to approve companies coming in to Berkeley. Bacchione abstained.


In other news, Matthew Heagen was appointed as a conflict public defender, and the Institute for Forensic Psychology was named to handle the township’s Psychologist and Psychiatrist Services.


What’s the difference between a law and a bylaw? How do you run a meeting? How does a community retain its senior status when not everyone living there is a senior?


These questions and more were the focus of an intensive three hour course held on Feb. 1 at the Silver Ridge Park clubhouse. Ruth M. Deane, a local attorney, handled the class. It was held through Ocean County College’s Department of Continuing Education, and it was sponsored by the Holiday City/Silver Ridge Park Coalition.

The event was attended by 55 people, said Blanche Reyes, a secretary for the Silver Ridge Park West, and one of the attendees.

There were a lot of topics discussed, she said. For example, the difference between the role of a trustee versus the role of a member of the board of directors. Deane outlined what each title’s job entails, and the structure of the government within homeowners associations.

There was also an overview of Robert’s Rules of Order, which sets the standard on how to run a meeting. The attorney spoke about how to bring some outdated bylaws up to date and how to enforce them. Attendees learned how to resolve disputes and how to survey the population to ensure the area maintains its senior status based on the age of the residents.

 “A lot of people had questions,” specific to their own associations, and she was able to help them with more specific information, Reyes said.

One of the messages she taught was “Be as transparent as possible, and as open to the community as possible,” Reyes said.

The information was good to hear, especially in the rapidly changing climate of rules and regulations that affect senior communities.

“You hear something through word-of-mouth, but it’s good to hear it from an expert,” she said.

Pat Fenn, assistant vice president of continuing education at Ocean County College, said this is just one of the many ways they reach out to the senior community. For example, there is a senior expo at their Toms River campus in March. There are 93 senior communities in Ocean County, she said.


People in these communities were looking for expert help in training them on some of the finer points of homeowners associations, she said.

“We began finding that people were lacking in how to run a meeting,” she said, for example. “Out of the goodness of their hearts, people volunteer to these positions without realizing the full breadth of their responsibilities.”

There are many laws that they have to abide by, and this class served as an overview.

“The state comes up with more and more regulations,” she said. It’s difficult to stay on top of all of them. It’s good to have an expert who is up on the latest laws available to help.


If you are interested in attending continuing education classes at OCC, and would like more information, or to suggest something that there is a great need, contact Fenn at (732)255-0400 or [email protected].