Stafford Is ‘Downtown Driven’ With Chamber of Commerce

Plastic Bags, Doggy Business Also Ongoing Topics
Feb 27, 2019

The Stafford Township mayor and council, at the regular meeting of Feb. 19, fielded residents’ concerns about the ban on single-use plastic bags, effective in December, as well as about dog parks and, more specifically, dog feces; they also heard about a chamber of commerce partnership that aims to boost economic development and strengthen the business community.

Lori Pepenella, CEO of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce (this year marking 105 years of continual nonprofit service to the area), addressed the governing body to thank them for partnering with the chamber on its Downtown Driven Economic Development Program, established in 2017 to help towns foster strong business communities. The six towns already on board are Beach Haven, Tuckerton, Barnegat, Ship Bottom, Little Egg Harbor and now Stafford, by way of a resolution passed at the Feb. 5 council meeting.

“Together we’re working to make really innovative things happen,” she said, naming the water ferry that runs between Beach Haven and Tuckerton Seaport, as well as research and marketing, articles, and panels for the League of Municipalities.

The purpose of the program is to work with local governments and merchant-led groups to identify immediate and long-term needs and to build a network to distribute resources to community-based organizations, focusing on improving aesthetics and writing ordinances that will help drive new business/employers to the various commercial opportunities within the township.

Stafford Township, which has several thriving business and commercial hubs, will utilize the chamber’s programs and analyze smart growth strategies to best complement the community. The chamber has many active members located in Stafford and holds its formal meetings in Manahawkin, as well as Women in Business, After Hours, and consumer events such as the Wedding Road Show and Party Planning Tour and the Southern Ocean Made Brew Trail.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Ralph Trimarchi of Warren Court asked about repealing the town’s single-use plastic bag ban, which he described as “a nightmare.”

“It’s just very inconvenient,” he said. “I wind up coming home with more, heavier plastic bags than I did before.” He anticipates the “nightmare” getting worse when the summer people come down and are caught by surprise.

Mayor Greg Myhre said officials have discussed it and will continue to consider the options and take input from local businesses and consumers.

As former Mayor John Spodofora asserted before leaving office last year, the heavier, so-called reusable plastic bags grocery stores are selling at a dime apiece are not a good solution to the plastic problem and are not meant to be used the same way the single-use bags were used. The public should be aware by now that the idea is not to use plastic bags at all, but rather to bring and use their own canvas totes.

Stafford’s plastic bag ban ordinance was adopted in August 2018 and took effect Dec. 5. It was put in place quickly in order to preempt a statewide ban, which the state has yet to enact. Former Councilwoman Sharon McKenna said a new, more restrictive bill is wending its way through the legislature that would ban plastic bags, straws and polystyrene.

“This is going to be a very big deal to all the businesses in the state,” she said. “We got a head start, our businesses are in a good position, and I say that we stay the course.”

In response to Trimarchi, Myhre said, “If we went ahead and repealed the ban, the state could wind up putting a ban in place anyway, and then we really won’t have achieved too much. There obviously are a lot of people in favor of it for environmental reasons, so we’re trying to get as much input from as many people as possible before we do anything.”

Environmental advocate Barbara Reynolds of Pennsylvania Avenue countered Trimarchi’s comments by announcing the Atlantic County Utilities Authority’s upcoming series of presentations on the current plastic problems worldwide, not least of which is that China no longer accepts the United States’ plastic trash.

“So, ‘reducing, reusing, recycling’ – we need to take it up a step,” she said.

Sal Sorce of Island Woods Estates spoke for five minutes about the dangers of dog feces and the liabilities of dog parks (“all facts, all based on facts from a veterinary professor”) and how he doesn’t want his tax dollars supporting something that is merely a convenience for the relatively small dog-owning percentage of the town’s total population (based on dog registration numbers, roughly 3,600 a year, not actual dog ownership, which is likely much higher). His comments were in response to a resident who had spoken up at a prior meeting advocating for a dog park in town. Not wishing to be mistaken as anti-pet, Sorce shared again with everyone his anecdotes about his old dog Butchy and his daughter’s cats, as well as his admiration of police K-9s and service dogs.

Nevertheless, “owning a dog is not a right. It’s a choice,” he said. “The very few people that own dogs want a convenience that is going to cost me money.”

Former Councilwoman Joanne Sitek reminded the public a dog park was approved in 2011, “and then it just got buried.” She said she doesn’t care either way about the outcome, but “I think you should find out what happened with it.”

Former Councilwoman Sharon McKenna said the dog park was adopted on first reading in 2011 but lost public support and did not pass on second reading.

Myhre said they will do their due diligence. He noted dog parks do exist in many towns, so it’s definitely within the realm of possibility. He also encouraged every pet owner to clean up after their pets no matter where they go.

Joe Mangino of William Cook Boulevard asked if the council might post agendas and minutes to the town’s website. Myhre said maybe.

Beach Haven West Civic Association President Dawn Papatheodorou conveyed the need for a crosswalk at Mill Creek and Charles Boulevard, near the Hometown Deli plaza. Charles Boulevard has one, but residents would like to see one across Mill Creek.

During council reports, Mayor Myhre gave the monthly rundown of police activity: There were 2,542 calls for service, seven On-POINT referrals (mental illness encounters); 186 medical assists; 11 fire; 77 motor vehicle accidents, seven of which were hit-and-runs, six with injuries; in total 1,208 motor vehicle stops, resulting in 347 summonses, 55 arrests, six driving-while-intoxicated charges and 31 local and out of town warrants. A stolen vehicle valued at $29,499 was recovered.

Also in the last month, AtlantiCare and the Rotary club presented three AEDs to the township. One will be used by police, one will go to the recreation department for use by the lifeguards at the Jennifer Lane beach, and one stays in the town hall lobby.

Councilman Anthony Guariglia reported Stafford Township Emergency Medical Services has had 408 calls year to date, with 156 of those so far in February. A January membership drive produced 20 applicants; new members will undergo orientation followed by six months of extensive training.

The snowstorm of Feb. 10 and 11 cost the town just over $21,000, according to Councilman Michael Pfancook: $2,730 for brining, $13,144 for plowing, $5,325 for 100 tons of road salt. He also reminded residents to move their cars off the streets when snow is predicted, for the plow truck drivers’ ease of maneuverability.

Patty Jo Lane in Beach Haven West is getting its pothole repaired; anyone with potholes to report should call the township at 609-598-1000, extension 8556.

— Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

 

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