MIDDLETOWN, NJ: Middletown Township residents had an opportunity to comment on local topics in Middletown, as well as learn about the introduction of a new traffic ordinance, Middletown’s stance on how affordable housing should be approached, and an update on the new Town Hall, during the Township Committee’s Oct. 21st meeting. 

The traffic ordinance, introduced at the start of the meeting, concerned installing an all-way stop on the corner of Cooper and Bowne Roads in Middletown’s Navesink section; whereas the resolution, among others voted on at the same time, endorsed a bill in progress at the New Jersey State Senate that would make it easier for municipalities to meet their affordable housing requirements. 

Following the traffic ordinance introduction and the resolution vote, came the Township Committee comments from Committeewoman Patricia Snell, Committeeman Rick Hibell, and Mayor Anthony Perry, with Committeeman Kevin Settembrino and Deputy Mayor Anthony Fiore being absent from the meeting. 

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Snell said that she attended a session of the first strategic planning forum for the Middletown Township Public Schools district, was impressed by what she saw, and urged everyone in Middletown to participate in the strategic planning process. 

“They have a town hall (style segment) where people can speak, at the end of the meeting, so I think it’s well worth attending,” Snell said. “I think it’s important that we all go and see what’s going on.”

Hibell encouraged anyone who could to attend a “blue mass” ceremony for police and firefighters, set to take place at St. Catherine’s Church on Oct. 22nd

“It’s a good time to show appreciation for all that they do,” Hibell said.

Mayor Perry thanked everyone who took part in or was otherwise involved in his Wellness Campaign initiative, which included the first “Mayor’s 5K” race. 

“All the proceeds, registration fees, (etc.), went to our first responders – police, fire, EMS and OEM (Office of Emergency Management),” he said. “We raised just over $7,000. I just want to thank everybody who participated. 

Mayor Perry then joked about his own role in the Mayor’s 5K race. 

“I pretended to be a runner, but I didn’t complete it,” Mayor Perry said. “I certainly wasn’t first, but I wasn’t last either.”

Perry also said that he was a strong supporter of the New Jersey State Senate bill making it easier for municipalities to meet affordable housing requirements.   More specifically, the bill allows municipalities to set aside a portion of their affordable housing requirements for first responders, such as police and firefighters. 

“For this bill, I was the only Mayor in the state of New Jersey to support this piece of legislation,” he said. “I hope this piece of legislation moves forward. Who wouldn’t want to have first responders living in the towns they serve.”

In addition, the Mayor commented on the presence of a few young people who were in the audience at the meeting. 

“I’m glad to see that young people are coming out,” Mayor Perry said. “Whether you’re forced to be here (as part of a school assignment) or not, I’m glad that you are here…because you should be taking part in the process.”

Mayor Perry then closed his comments by mentioning that this would be the last town hall meeting before election day on Nov. 5th.

“I encourage everyone to vote on Nov. 5th,” he said. 

Following the Township Committee comments was the meeting’s public hearing portion, during which three residents spoke. 

The first resident to speak was from Leonardo, and he was asking about the township’s plans to install a playground at Leonardo Beach even though the beach has known erosion issues. 

“There’s really no beach left,” he said. “You guys are going to spend $100,000 on a piece of equipment, and it (possibly only) lasts you a year.”

A second resident, Jim Derugeriis, then talked about night-time noise issues from the construction equipment and crew near his home in Harmony Road, where a second ice-skating rink is being built near.  He said that he tried to contact the local building code office, but that he has not heard back from them yet. 

“We can’t even be in the back yard really, because of the constant sound,” he said. 

Lastly, a Port Monmouth resident named Joesph Farney asked about the projected timeline for the completion of the new town hall, to which the Mayor responded that temporary facilities for municipal workers should be up and running soon, that the more visible aspects of the new building construction would be taking place at the start of next year, and that the new town hall should be done by the summer of 2021. 

“As part of the (public-private partnership), (the agreed upon timeline) was 18 to 24 months to complete the (new town hall) building,” the Mayor said.