MIDDLETOWN, NJ: Middletown Township residents, among other items, witnessed the annual proclamation of the winter holiday season’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, as well as a brief appreciation ceremony for the local fire department, at the Township Committee’s Dec. 16th meeting. 

The meeting began with the appreciation ceremony, during which Mayor Anthony Perry presented a $6,700 check to the fire dept.’s leadership, representing the proceeds from the Mayor’s 5K race fundraiser that took place in October.  During the ceremony, Mayor Perry thanked Recreation Dept. Director Janet Dellett for helping pave the way for the Mayor’s 5K. 

“Early on, she came to me and said ‘I think Middletown should join the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign initiative’, and mentioned that we were one of the few towns in Monmouth County that does not participate,” Mayor Perry said, adding that the Mayor’s 5K, organized as a firefighter’s fundraiser was his way of getting Middletown to join the initiative. 

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The Mayor then said that he took part in the 5K himself and joked that there he discovered that his athletic abilities were not what he hoped them to be.  You could hear the audience chuckle when he continued; “I’m thinking I’m 29 years old; I’m going to breeze through this thing,” he said. “Well, let me tell you, I almost died out there.”

Mayor Perry then said he was honored to present the proceeds from the 5K fundraiser to the fire dept. as a way of paying it forward for the good work they do for the community, as well as a way of showing the community’s trust of its local firefighters – and hopes to do more of these events in the future. 

“This wouldn’t be possible without the incredible staff and all the supporters of our first responders,” he said. “You guys put your lives on the line each and every day, the least we can do is run in support of you.  I know this money is going to be put to good use. We will build on that and continue to do this.”

After the ceremony, the township committee approved the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” proclamation, which launches the annual program of enhanced law enforcement efforts against drunk driving that happens each winter holiday season. 

Following this came a brief talk by Township Planning Director Sanyogita Chavan  about a study recently conducted with the support of the U.S. Defense Dept., as well as various state and county-level government agencies, on potential engineering projects in roughly about a dozen areas near properties owned by Naval Weapons Station Earle, especially in areas located along the Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays.   

The purpose of these potential projects is to make these areas less vulnerable, and more resilient, to sea-level rise, coastal storms, and other coastal disasters; and these projects consists of dune/marsh restoration, shoreline erosion protection, and stormwater management, Chavan said. 

Chavan asked the Township Committee to pass a resolution to endorse initial plans to re-engineer these areas,  and mentioned that four of these areas are in Middletown 

“It’s not just something that’s on paper,” she said. “We’re going to go ahead to get the monies to do the projects.”

After this came township committee comments, which opened with Committeewoman Patricia Snell talking about an event at Thorne Middle School by a group called ‘Wreaths across America,” which lays wreaths in hundreds of locations throughout the Northeastern U.S.

“The Thorne students were lined up across the driveway,” Snell said. “As a school, they raised over $4,800 for this cause.  Wreaths Across America is a very worthy organization.”

Snell then mentioned her experience of a recent concert by the NJ State Youth Orchestra at Middletown High School South. 

“If you closed your eyes, you would have sworn you were at Carnegie Hall,” Snell said. 

Committeeman Kevin Settembrino then followed up with commenting in jest about Mayor Perry’s athletic skills. 

“I don’t want anyone to think the Mayor stopped being athletic after the 5K,” Settembrino said. “This past Saturday, he was seen at the dodge ball tournament with the township staff, and he did a great job.”

Settembrino then mentioned that this year’s Christmas Tree Lighting featured a larger turnout, as well as a larger tree, compared to last year. 

“It just keeps getting better and better every year,” he said. 

Committeeman Rick Hibell thanked Middletown’s Fire Dept. chiefs and volunteers for the work they do in serving Middletown. 

Meanwhile, Mayor Perry thanked everyone on the Middletown Township Staff for their work and commitment during his past year as Mayor. 

I’m humbled by everyone’s dedication and professionalism,” Mayor Perry said.  “I could not have done it without our great staff. Your success is the success of all of us.”

Mayor Perry then closed with additional reflections on his past year as Mayor. 

“It has been a real honor for me to serve as the youngest Mayor in this town’s history,” he said.  “You were all met as I promised, with an open mind and an open-heart. We’ve accomplished a lot.”

Last but not least came the meeting’s public comment portion, in which Tom Gaffey, a resident from Middletown’s Locust section, located near Atlantic Highlands, suggested that the Township Committee pass a municipal ordinance requiring runners and bicyclists to wear reflective clothing from one hour before sunset to one hour after sunrise; and mentioned how he recently nearly ran over a bicyclist while driving in his neighborhood, but managed to miss the bicyclist at the last minute. 

“It’s not going to be a fortunate incident every time,” Gaffey said. 

Mayor Perry responded by saying that he and the rest of the Township Committee will consider weighing that as a potential option among others.