MIDDLETOWN, NJ: The Middletown Township Committee opened their Sept. 21 meeting to the public for the first time since covid-19 related regulations were put into place in March. 

In addition to in-person social distancing practices, the regular meeting was made available live online. 

As each committee member voiced thanks to those involved in planning and preparing this year’s 9/11 tribute, committeewoman Patricia Snell announced that they are now working on next year’s tribute, to be held on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

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"The committee plans to erect a memorial fountain called the Rise of Hope, as well as a first responder memorial at the Memorial Gardens, she said. We are seeking donations for this project. If you would like to contribute, donations can be sent via PayPal to MiddletownWTC@gmail.com. " 

The township committee unanimously consented to a resolution recognizing the community’s support of designating Middletown as a stigma-free community, following many neighboring towns and counties. This resolution aims to diminish stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. 

Mayor Tony Perry voiced his support for lifelong Middletown resident Nikki Tierney, a former lawyer and mother of four who recovered from substance abuse and went on to graduate from Monmouth University with degrees in social work and drug counseling. Tierney is actively trying to shape a career as a counselor, but cannot due to a previous charge.

Last year, after Tierney’s story opened Perry’s eyes to the world of addiction, Perry wrote to Governor Phil Murphy asking him to consider granting Tierney executive clemency, he said.

In light of the stigma-free community resolution passing, Perry urged meeting attendees to call the governor and request executive clemency for Tierney, “so that she can help people, not only just in Middletown, but across Monmouth County and across the state of New Jersey, in helping them get out of the darkness and see that light,” he said. 

TAPinto publisher spoke directly with Tierney, who commented, "I am very grateful and encouraged that our Township Committee unanimously consented to a resolution designating Middletown a stigma-free community.  While I am thrilled that Middletown took the 'official' action last night, I also want to express my sincere appreciation of Mayor Perry, other leaders, and our amazing community who have been incredibly supportive and empathetic to me, since I began my journey of recovery and since my circumstances regarding expungement and clemency have become more public over the past 2 years.  Connection is critical to recovery and Middletown's kindness and support has been critical to my recovery.  So grateful to my community and its leaders"

In addition to five other consented items, as shown on the meeting agenda, the committee approved an ordinance against an all-mail-in election, which will be used to urge Murphy to reconsider his bill declaring New Jersey’s general election to be conducted mainly by mail. 

Despite this, the committee echoed their encouragement for meeting attendees to vote in support of Perry’s open space referendum, a tax increase to the Open Space Trust Fund that will help preserve open space, historic farmland, and more in Middletown, through their mail-in ballots on Nov. 3. The tax was originally approved in 1998, raised by one cent in 2002, and has since helped the town preserve 6,000 acres of land. The Mayor wishes to add more funds to the resource to continue the preservation of Middletown’s land. 

READ MORE: Middletown Mayor and Local Representatives Encourage Citizens to Vote for Open Space Trust Fund Referendum

“I think we all should be voting in public, but use that mail-in ballot and vote for the open space,” said Deputy Mayor Anthony Fiore. 

It is a pressing issue for locals, including one who used the public comment portion of the meeting to raise concerns about intersection traffic dangers surrounding new construction on Taylor Lane. 

“I understand the frustration,” Perry said as he urged voters to support the referendum. 

“We have the opportunity, all of us, the 57,071 voters that live here in Middletown, all have the ability to vote ‘Yes,’” Perry said. “Whether it’s a mail-in ballot, provisional ballot, whatever ballot, I respectfully ask that you vote ‘yes,’ because future generations of Middletown should be able to enjoy what we enjoy today.” 

In response to public concerns, the committee announced that a web conference will be held this week with the Department of Transportation to discuss the growing concerns surrounding construction on Taylor Lane. 

The next Township Committee workshop meeting will be held on October 5.