MIDDLETOWN, NJ: Middletown residents gladly spoke their minds about various local issues in Middletown, such as roads, parking, and speed limits in certain neighborhoods, during the Middletown Township Committee’s “Mobile Town Hall” meeting at Luftman Towers in Lincroft on Aug. 19th, which also featured the announcement of several proclamations. 

The meeting began with Mayor Tony Perry presenting two of these proclamations, with the first one honoring National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery month and presented to Robert Bucco, who chairs the Middletown Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse, a local organization that helps combat drug and alcohol addiction. 

“We will treat anything, any type of addiction; whether it’s drugs, alcohol, gambling, you name it,” Bucco said.  “Our door is always open.”

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The second proclamation that Mayor presented honored Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which was received by John and Lois Gorsegner, local residents whose granddaughter Natalie developed and survived childhood cancer a few years ago (and who is currently cancer-free). 

“You and the rest of your family are in our prayers each and every day,” Mayor Perry said. 

Lois Gorsegner then thanked the township and those in the local community who helped support her family throughout its struggle against Natalie’s cancer. 

“Our granddaughter is a cancer survivor,” Gorsegner said. “We like to say that we are fortunate because our story has a happy ending. Unfortunately, everyone hasn’t been that lucky. The town has been absolutely wonderful and supportive.”

Other proclamations were for Patriot Day to honor the sacrifices of those who were directly affected by and/or who were first responders in the 9/11 attacks; as well as for the annual Middletown Day festival that will take place on Sept. 28th, and in recognition of Ovarian Cancer Month, among other things. 

Next, Rebecca Stouffer, the director of the Middletown’s Senior Center, gave a brief presentation about some of the center’s new services, such as a Spanish and Italian language class, computer classes, and a book club.  During the presentation, Stouffer mentioned that the center now has a transportation bus running on Natural Gas. 

“Everybody loves it, especially the driver,” Stouffer said. 

Afterwards, Middletown residents began voicing their opinions about the various local issues affecting Middletown residents.   The first to speak was Douglas Brown, who lives in Luftman Towers, and asked why Broadway and Center Avenues in Leonardo will have their speed limits lowered from 35 miles an hour to 25. 

Mayor Perry said the two main reasons for this was for consistency, since these roads start in Leonardo and end in Atlantic Highlands, and Atlantic Highlands set its speed limits at 25mph in that area whereas Middletown sets up speed limits at 35mph. 

“It’s very difficult to even go the 35 mph,” Mayor Perry said. “Obviously, we want folks to slow down in the area. There are a lot of children (in that area).”

Pamela Bertoncin, of Alexander Drive located in Middletown’s River Plaza section, said she was thankful for street parking being restricted there, especially since many children use that street. 

“For the children in our community, it’s a dangerous situation,” said Bertoncin. 

George Whitelaw, of Middletown’s Indian Terrace, located near Atlantic Highlands, asked whether Grand Tour and Indian Terrace would definitely be paved by the upcoming September. Township Committeeman and Deputy Mayor Tony Fiore replied that the road project is taking longer than expected to, and would take until 6-8 months from now to complete in order for it to be finished properly and at a reasonable cost from vendors.   

“If we rush them in, we’re going to wind up with a project that’s going to cost twice the amount, that I can’t promise I’m going to vote for,”. “It’s just the nature of the beast.”

Next, Township Committee members gave their remarks, beginning with Settembrino thanking those who attended the meeting. 

“Hopefully, if you are not able to get to our committee meetings during the year, you see a little bit of the process and we’re able to bring it to you,” Settembrino. 

Committeeman Hibell then encouraged people to donate unused toys to the Second Chance Toys group, followed by Committeewoman Snell asking everyone to thank a police officer, and Deputy Mayor Fiore commenting on the meetings agenda. 

“It’s a rarity that we approved something for every section of town,” Fiore said. 

Mayor Perry then said that Middletown Township has recently been ranked as the seventh safest small city in the U.S., and the safest city in New Jersey; adding that the credit belongs to Middletown’s Police force and the broader community.

“I am very honored to have had this happen during my tenor as Mayor, but I’m not the one who deserves a round of applause,” Mayor Perry said. “It’s our community and our police department that deserves all the credit”. 

Lastly, Mayor Perry announced that Middletown Township has withdrawn from an affordable housing mandate compliance agreement a few weeks ago, after growing frustrations with the state on what should count towards compliance. 

Perry said the Township was trying to explore other options concerning having more affordable housing; such as dedicating half of the town’s required affordable housing toward helping police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other public service - and having that count toward it’s affordable requirements; as well as having senior housing to count toward affordable housing - but the state rejected both options, prompting the Township to withdraw from the agreement.

“This building (dedicated to senior housing) we’re sitting in – that doesn’t count (according to the state’s new affordable housing rules),” Perry said.  “I want the 4thgrade teacher who teaches our kids to be able to live in this town - and for them (meaning the state and potential developers) to say that they don’t want that (to count toward meeting Middletown’s affordable housing obligations), that is shameful.  I will never apologize for standing up for the people of Middletown”