During last Thursday’s monthly Council meeting, Bellmawr Mayor Frank Filipek said that he has been receiving a lot of phone calls about rats in town. “I met with DOT and I met with the contractor and we are trying to see if the State or DOT can come up with some money for baiting because we are triple over our budget already.”
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He explained that sometimes it’s not because of construction and that the exterminators Roanoke are sent out to combat the issue. “We also sent the health department out there to check to see if the neighbors are in violation with their garbage cans. We are working on that,” Mayor Filipek said.
During the public portion, resident Steve Falchetta asked if the rat problem is coming from the construction. “I’ve been here 18 years and I’ve never seen a rat. The last year or so, a couple. My neighbor down the street had four or five drowned in his pool.” This is a concerning number that could easily cause an infestation of the house. This is why professionals like https://www.pestcontrolexperts.com/local/virginia/ are being called out more and more to banish pests from homes.
Mayor Filipek responded: “We think some of it is. But when you disturb the sewer lines, it drives the rats in different places. We’ve been baiting and trying to be on top of it. We’ve been trying to get the sewer lines baited.”
Falchetta also stated that he was also here for the “serious problem” of having four or five abandoned homes on his street. He and the Mayor discussed the $250 fee that the Borough charges for cutting grass on properties that are not maintained.
Falchetta wondered if adding maintenance fees to the abandoned or foreclosed properties will make selling them more difficult because the town is “adding and adding [to the liens] because the property can easily sit for two years.”
He asked about solving the foreclosure problem in town with a committee to help the community. Falchetta said he is willing to help.
Mayor Filipek said that the banks are trying to get their balance and added: “We are trying to keep Bellmawr clean. When we started three years ago, it was over 200 houses vacant. Now we are down to 80 or 90 houses, maybe less.”
Mayor Filipek also spoke about the soon-to-be-built batting cages at the baseball fields on Essex Avenue. He said: “This money is coming from the State of New Jersey for the property that they took from the Little League. This is their reimbursement for what they took and we are getting a batting cage and a parking lot. The $480,000 takes care of the whole bill and it will go out for bid. It is going to be an enclosed batting cage. It is not going to cost the taxpayers one cent.”
A member of the public asked the Mayor if the batting cages will be open to the public or if the cages will only be open to the Little League teams.
Mayor Filipek responded: “It will be open to the public. There will be scheduling. There will be supervision and it will be supervised at all times when somebody is in there. It will be indoors and we don’t want it to be run down. It will be air-conditioned and heated also.”
As for the location, the Mayor said that a new parking lot was put in on the right field line. “There is a spot for parking and for the [batting cages] right next to the Little League.”
Wheelchair Lift at Borough Hall
Councilman Paul Sandrock remarked that the construction of the wheelchair lift at Borough Hall is due to start mid-September. “It has been long awaited and again, we appreciate the diligence from all of Council. Everybody has been trying to do this for years.”
He also stated that this municipality received $106,000 in grant money to see this project through to make the building ADA compliant.
Regarding Municipal Court, Councilman Sandrock said: “There has been progress there. We are still exploring a shared service agreement or a restructuring of combined courts with Runnemede. That is still in the discussion phase. We are just looking at feasibility and if there is any cost and we would incur that cost. This is just a discussion stage at this point.”
Councilman Sandrock spoke about the recent report received from the auditor: “For personnel, our auditor had picked up some needs of addressing and we spoke with our employees who welcomed the ideas and welcomed the opportunity to develop best practice policies. We feel confident that we’ve addressed all of those already that have been pointed out in our audit. We feel confident that we should show great improvement for any type of audit in the future.”
Councilman Ray Bider said: “As Paul [Sandrock] mentioned, [we are] dealing with finance personnel to look at a review of the audit report and some of the corrective action measures that needed to be taken. It was a very positive meeting where a lot of progress was made and we are going to be following up with Bowman [and Company, the auditors] with some recommendations. We will be submitting the corrective action plan to the State within the next day or so and it will be published on our website within a week after that so everybody will have an opportunity to see what took place with the auditor’s report.”
*Editor’s note: SJO has filed OPRA requests for the last five years of auditor’s findings, corrective actions, and for related documents. These documents will be the subject of a future article once all of the documents have been received and reviewed.
Excerpts from Committee Reports:
Councilman David Spector
“We continue to move forward with the town wide cleanup. We are scheduled for Saturday, October 22. We plan to meet at the Rec Center for transportation to the clean-up area from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. From 12:00-1:00 p.m., it will be a lunch that we are going to have. I think the area that we are designating right now is on the Kings Highway section near Alcyon Drive and I think our secondary option is the curve on Creek Road. Those are our two areas of clean-up. I think it’s been a great job by our whole Beautification Committee – Chuck Sauter and Lorraine Adomanis and everyone involved in trying to put this together. I think it is going to be a big success. Volunteers are going to be assigned t-shirts and we are going to have some giveaways and the supplies will be provided that day. We are excited about that and it is going to be a lot of fun.”
“Thank you to all of our Borough employees. It’s been a hot summer. Everything that they’ve done with the Rec Department and Police, Fire and EMS. Everyone has done a fantastic job and I give you a lot of credit because you make the town go forward. The end of the summer is looming and I wish you the best with your family.”
Councilman Jim D’Angelo
“The Rec Department, there are no major projects going on now. It’s just kind of the daily routine of what the Rec Department usually does. The fences at the Rec were in poor condition. They have been replaced with the new black fencing. The fences that were in decent shape have been painted and that project continues, thanks to Mike Williams. He’s continuing to paint the fences. We continue to cut the grass and trees and bushes with all of the abandoned buildings in town. We are up to about 50, which is almost what it was last month. Steve [Sauter] can talk about this, but they are expanding the walking track at Sauter Park.”
“To PBA Local 375: I would like to congratulate them for their Water Ice and Magic Show pop up at the Sauter Park. That is what we have to do. That is the key to police work now. They have to get to the kids. They have to show the kids that police are there for them, not against them. That was a key start. That was a terrific way to start and I anticipate many great things from Councilman Hagerty’s department. It was just a super thing and all the cops were there and I thought it was great.”
Councilman Steve Sauter
“A couple of projects going around in town. The newly created drop off point at Bellmawr Park School has been completed. The Highway Department has completed the extension and repaving of the walking track around the Sauter Park and they did a fantastic job. As that project moves long, it’s going to include decorative lighting, some streetscape and landscape in the fall.”
“Our curb painting and line striping has resumed and is concentrated around the schools for all of the obvious reasons. We will continue with our road projects as soon as Governor Christie and the NJ-DOT start funding start again. The street that we did have planned, Salem Avenue, is going to get pushed back.”
“We have a report regarding a compliance evaluation and inspection and it was so noted that everything was in great working order and thanks going out to our Superintendent, George Reynolds, and his staff for an excellent job. In the email to me, they really appreciated working with these guys. Other towns are on top of it as well, but record keeping seems to be lacking and our guys are right on top of it and I thank you for that.”
“Our Borough employees, we keep thanking them, but they know their jobs. They’re well-educated on how to get the job accomplished and save the tax payers money. We have a lot of shared services going on. These guys not only do their jobs but every activity we have in town, you look around and you see these guys and ladies.”
“The other night at Sauter Park, I would like to thank Chief Walsh and his men along with his office staff, Frannie (Wright) and Jamie (Giambanis). The kids had a great time.”
Councilman Steve Hagerty
“Fire and EMS are working very hard. We picked up a shared service agreement for our ambulance and we will be taking care of Brooklawn. It’s not a very high volume and won’t put too much stress on our men and women with the EMS. Fire Department is gearing up for their big convention.”
“Great job by the police on Wednesday night with the Chief and the Department with the magic show and the free water ice. The Chief will be conducting some meetings with [school superintendent] Annette [Castiglione] to help smooth over the parking at all three schools, gearing up making sure everyone is safe getting in and out for the first couple of weeks so everybody understands the criteria.”
Councilman Ray Bider
“The schools: September 6 is the opening half day. They’ve had several meetings. They will have three new entrances and it took a lot of compromise and a lot of negotiations. In the end, the initial idea of a drop off zone worked and there will be three different areas for Pre-K, Kindergarten, and some of the older children. All of the schools will have the police active with parking because problems exist all over, with the most serious at Bellmawr Park.”
Councilman Paul Sandrock
“I would like to acknowledge the Borough employees. We all know that we have been through a grueling summer with a lot of heat waves and these individuals go out day in and day out and do a fantastic job. We have to commend them for their hard work.”
“The last thing, I would like to wish all of the residents in the municipality a happy and safe Labor Day. Please remember about our children going back to school so that when you are driving around the roadways, these kids sometimes are sometimes focused on other things, not watching out for cars.”
Council Approves Agenda Items:
Council voted to approve all Resolutions on its August 25 meeting agenda.
Among the approvals were:
Placing maintenance liens on properties.
Awarding a contract to South Jersey Technology Partnership (SJTP) for the reconstruction of the main entrance lobby at Borough Hall to include a wheelchair lift in the amount of $109,131.
Authorizing the payment of the bills for August, 2016. When this matter was brought to a vote, Councilmen Paul Sandrock and Steve Sauter abstained.
Authorizing the settlement of a lawsuit brought against the Borough by William Brody. (Editor’s note: The amount and details of the settlement have been requested. This information will be provided once it has been received.)
Authorizing the Borough Clerk to advertise for a public auction to be held on October 22 and conducted by Lee Fox, auctioneer.
There was also a first reading and Introduction Bond for Ordinance #08:18:16 to provide for the construction and installation of baseball batting cages at the Essex Avenue appropriating the sum of $480,000 and authorizing the issuance of $466,000 for the financing of said appropriation.
Under communications, Borough Clerk Chuck Sauter read a letter of appreciation for the Summer Rec Program from resident, Bill Evans.
In other matters, SJO was provided with a list of the Borough’s new hires for the period of June-July, 2016.
Council will meet next for its Caucus meeting on September 15 at 5:00 p.m. in the conference room at Borough Hall. The next Regular meeting will be held on September 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the Courtroom of Borough Hall.