MIDDLETOWN, NJ: The Township celebrated the promotion of a police officer to sergeant, plus the appointment of four new police officers, at a swearing in ceremony in town hall on Sept. 23rd, which was followed by the Township Committee meeting featuring a mentioning of a traffic calming project at Taylor Lane.
The swearing-in ceremony featured five members of Middletown Township Police Dept., who are Matthew Geiss, Daniel Flannigan, Michael Masielo, Michael. R. Allen, and John Soltysik. Soltysik was the one promoted to sergeant, while the others were the newly appointed officers.
One by one, the officers, once sworn-in, shook hands and took pictures with Mayor Perry and the other Township Committee members; after which there was one photo with all the newly sworn-in officers and the Township Committee members coming together.
Afterwards, Police Chief Craig Weber and Deputy Chief Robert Stefanski gave some remarks about police officers, with Stefanski commenting on some of the officers’ previous positions.
“All these officers were with other agencies at some point in time, they wanted to be here,” Stefanski said. “That is the commitment of the cops of this town.”
Mayor Anthony Perry then followed with his own remarks, in which he gave accolades to the police department for their role in keeping Middletown safe. “I say it everywhere I go. We’re incredibly fortunate to have such an incredible police department,” Perry said. “It’s no accident that Middletown is rated not only the safest town in New Jersey, but (also) the seventh safest in America, and it’s because of these young men here. Our police department is the greatest department in the State of New Jersey bar none – I will debate that every single day of the week, anytime, anyplace.”
Once the swearing-in ceremony wrapped up, Mayor Perry announced that the Township Committee was introducing an ordinance to install traffic calming measures such as modified pavement to reduce speed, signage, and traffic rotary (similar to a traffic circle) on Taylor Lane. Mayor Perry also mentioned that he met with residents of the neighborhood around Taylor Lane to discuss this topic.
“Those were incredibly productive conversations, and I appreciate the time residents of Taylor Lane and that neighborhood took to discuss those issues.”
Taylor Lane is a street off Route 35 South, across the from the Palmer Avenue and Cherry Tree Farm Lane traffic light areas.
Next came the Township Committee comments, starting with Committeewoman Patrician Snell, who mentioned that she attended a youth outreach program at Middletown High School South about drug and alcohol awareness that was dedicated for fourth and fifth graders. “The big topic is vaping,” she said. “The students were very engaged. The kids asked very pointed questions. I’m glad to be a part of that.”
Committeeman Kevin Settembrino then mentioned the 9/11 remembrance ceremony that took place at Middletown’s 9/11 memorial located near the Middletown Arts Center. “No one had to listen to any politician speak,” he said. “It was just a time to remember and to never forget.”
Committeeman Rick Hibell mentioned that he has been friends with police officers since his youth, and that he was proud of Middletown’s police force. “Hats off to the police officers and the promotion to sergeant,” Hibell said.
Deputy Mayor Anthony Fiore mentioned that one of the most contentious issues he has had to grapple with since joining the Township Committee was the topic of real-estate development, and how the State of New Jersey approaches affordable housing – but also that he was glad to be able to work with local residents to make the best of it. “The goal posts keep moving when it comes to affordable housing (construction) mandates that come down from Trenton,” Fiore said. “While I personally do not want to see any residential development on a large scale, unfortunately the land use laws kind of dictate that the courts overturn any denial decision (on certain types of residential real-estate developments where affordable housing is at stake). The best you can do is to do the best you can do with the situation, and the residents deserve real credit for working with this municipality to make that happen.”
Mayor Perry said that when it comes to police officers’ safety, his main focus is not only on the officers themselves but on their families as well. “Police officers are not in it alone, we’re in it together” he said. Perry then announced there would be a 5k race and a 1 mile “fun run”, at Poricy Park on Oct. 19 as part of the Mayor’s Wellness Initiative, and that a Halloween-related activity will also take place on the same day.
Middletown resident Tom Gaffey, of Locust Avenue near Claypit Creek in Middletown’s Atlantic Highlands section, said that the Monmouth County Parks Commission wants to build facilities at Hartshorne Woods Park, along with a 25 space parking lot and a possible campground site in the future – which Gaffey said would not be in line with the character of the neighborhood. “I for one will fight this tooth and nail,” he said.
Mayor Perry and other Township Committee members expressed surprise at not being made aware of this beforehand, and said they would speak to the County Board of Freeholder’s liaison to the Park’s system, Lillian Burry, as soon as possible about this supposed project. When Gaffey asked if there was a way the township could publicly oppose and/or block such a project, he was told that although they likely could not block it because it would technically be on county property, they could try to find out what the project would entail.
Lastly, Brian Johnson of Taylor Lane thanked the Township Committee for working with him and other residents to try to work a reasonable compromise in which the development would feature building about half of the originally planned 350 homes. “My last words to you are thank you,” Johnson said.