Readers also showed their support for the Runnemede Police Department when three of its own, Sgt. William Sampolski, Ptlm. Robert Alexander, and Ptlm. William Ortiz, were honored at the December 6 Council meeting for outstanding police work in apprehending a human trafficking suspect. This article has over 1,000 Facebook shares.
Councilman Paul Sandrock said at the time: “It’s bad timing that a liquor license is to be approved when the business is under scrutiny.” Councilman Jim D’Angelo expressed concern that a non-renewal would set the town up for potential lawsuits that would cost the town money.
The post also features many officers from the Bellmawr Police Department who were promoted and honored with Proclamations during that meeting.
Sgt. Chris Cummings of the Bellmawr Police Department was awarded a Medal of Valor, along with a Proclamation, in recognition of his heroic actions stemming from an incident that took place at the Tanger Outlets (The Walk) in Atlantic City on September 1.
That day, a suspect shot and killed another person and then proceeded to enter the same store that Sgt. Cummings was in. While in the store, the suspect fired a round into his own torso. Sgt. Cummings was in close proximity to the suspect and physically restrained him.
Sgt. Cummings secured control of the firearm, removed it from the situation, and prevented the suspect from inflicting further harm to himself or others. Atlantic City Police then arrived and took the suspect into custody.
Patrolman Kevin Lokaj of PBA Local 375 presented Sgt. Cummings with the Medal of Valor and Police Chief William Walsh read and presented the Proclamation at last week’s council meeting.
The Medal of Valor is awarded for an outstanding act in the line of duty, at imminent personal hazard of life with full knowledge of the risk involved. The Medal of Valor is a gold bar with a blue plate engraved with “Valor” on the plate and is to be worn over the right breast.
Today, Bellmawr Girl Scout Troops #30215 and #30082 hosted an appreciation luncheon to honor Bellmawr Police, Fire, and EMS for their dedicated service to the community.
Troop leader Debbie Allen said that the business community and the families of the Girl Scouts were “very generous” with their food donations for the luncheon. Because of the amount of donations, the Girl Scouts were able to serve a full lunch that featured a large assortment of entrees and desserts.
The luncheon was held in the Bellmawr Ballroom. Among the offerings were ziti, meatballs, salads, hoagies, wings, stromboli, rice, hot dogs, cookies, brownies, candy bars, tiramisu, and water ice.
The members of the departments took time to meet and talk with all of the Girl Scouts.
Alexis Blackson, 13, has been a Girl Scout for five years says being a part of the luncheon today was “important.” She said: “I want to show my appreciation. They risk their lives for us so we wanted to do something special for them.”
Megan Gordon, 13, has been a Girl Scout for six years said: “I don’t think people today realize how much Police, Fire, and EMS do for us. I took today to appreciate the sacrifice they make for us.”
Pastor Vincent Kovlak of Bellmawr Baptist Church came to the luncheon to offer a prayer of gratitude and safety.
Pastor Kovlak prayed:
Our Heavenly Father, how grateful we are for these civil servants whom you refer to as ministers of God, who daily jeopardize their lives to preserve and protect our lives. We honor them today. We pray that as they keep us safe, so you will keep them safe – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Especially at a time when so many of them are targets of those who have no fear God or the law. May they accept our thanks for the tremendous job that they do for our good. Grace this luncheon with Your presence and bless this food. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
At its June 23, 2016 meeting, Bellmawr Council approved the renewal of all of the Borough’s liquor licenses, including the one for Johnnie’s Liquors.
Last week at the caucus meeting, Council discussed tabling the renewal saying they were frustrated and wanted to show unity. Councilman Paul Sandrock said, “It’s bad timing that a liquor license is to be approved when the business is under scrutiny.”
Bellmawr Officials on Johnnie’s Liquors
On Thursday, Chief William Walsh addressed the public by saying the owners of Johnnie’s Liquors were all charged with narcotics offenses.
Chief Walsh stated: “There has been some uproar in the community about closing the liquor store down. Their license expires at the end of this month. We had turned this investigation over to ABC because this involves a state liquor license. They have not been convicted of a crime yet so we really don’t have any reason to suspend their license. And if we did not renew their license, basically, it’s a suspension.”
He continued by saying: “It has to go to grand jury and trial. Again, if you are arrested for drunk driving, can we take your license away from you that day? No. You have to be convicted to have your license taken away. Same scenario with the liquor store. I talk directly to the ABC and they told me what we have to do and that is what we are doing.”
Additionally, as for the laundromat, Chief Walsh said that the owner had fired the employee that was arrested.
Mayor Frank Filipek stated: “I wanted the Chief to give the report so that everybody in town knows why we are doing what we are doing. Because it is in Court, like the Chief has said: ‘You’re innocent until proven guilty’ so there is nothing we can do. It is in the hands of the prosecutor and also the ABC.”
“We have to do things the right way and some people may not like it, but we have to do it the right way, not the wrong way. You might have your idea of what you want done. We have to do it the right way and the right way means by law, by statute, by regulations. That’s what we have to do. We know some of you get upset, but it is tough for me to be on the phone listening to people telling me that I don’t care and that I am not out there picketing. In the first place, I can’t be picketing and second, if you want it done the right way, you will let the people that know what they are doing handle it. Let us do our job. We are going to do the right thing.”
“It is left in the hands of the ABC and the prosecutor’s office. Eventually, they are going to plead guilty or go to Court. We can’t be involved. Why aren’t we closing it? That’s what is on the street. That is what’s on Facebook that Mayor and Council are not doing this or that. We are telling you that we are doing everything possible by law.”
Councilman Steven Hagerty commented: “In no way does anyone up here support that. We don’t. There are rumors out there that Mayor and Council support it and they’re not doing anything. None of us are happy with it. It’s an embarrassment to the town – a town that we all work hard for. We want to make sure we get this right. It is a bad thing and we don’t want it in our town. We are going to work closely with the Chief, Prosecutor’s Office, our solicitor, and the ABC to make sure we get it right. Those reports out there on the Facebook pages that everyone is on, we don’t support it, none of us up here do.”
Council Votes on the Renewal of Johnnie’s Liquor Store’s License
When the matter was brought to a vote that would renew the license for Johnnie’s Liquors, Councilman Jim D’Angelo said: “Reluctantly, so moved.”
When it was his turn to vote, D’Angelo said: “So we don’t end up in a lawsuit that costs us thousands of dollars, reluctantly yes.” After D’Angelo made that remark, there was slight applause from the public.
Councilman Steve Sauter said he was voting yes: “For the same reasons as expressed by Mr. D’Angelo.”
Also voting yes were Paul Sandrock, Steve Hagerty, and Ray Bider. Councilman David Spector voted no.
Bellmawr Police Officers Promoted & Honored
Scott Parker – Captain
Michael Draham- Lieutenant
John Marrone- Sergeant
Ronald Miller- Corporal
Arty Tessier- Corporal
Dean Cooney – Patrolman
Andrew Thomas- Class II Special Officer-Graduated from Academy in March 2016.
Chief Walsh said that Andrew was a Class I, was sent to Class II course at the Gloucester County Police Academy and graduated in March.
When the Resolutions authorizing the promotions were brought to a vote by council, all of the Councilmen voted yes, with the exception of David Spector, who abstained from voting on Scott Parker’s appointment as Captain and Mike Draham’s appointment as Lieutenant. At Council’s June 13 special meeting,* Spector also abstained from voting on the Resolution appointing Dean Cooney as Patrolman.
During the public portion of the meeting, Spector was repeatedly asked to explain why he abstained.
Spector was asked: “During your campaign, you told us that you support the police. I am kind of confused as to why you abstained when these guys are out there keeping us safe. They’re the ones trying to keep the drugs out of this town. Why? To me, that’s not support.”
Spector answered: “I appreciate what you’re saying. That’s a great question. I would be happy to talk to you about that. I am not going to comment now.”
Several members of the public said: “We would all like to know” with one member of the public calling out: “As a mother of a police officer that was just promoted today, I would like to know.”
Spector said: “Well, like I said, it is a great question. I am trying to tell you what happened. They do a great job for our town and I don’t have any ill will against any of them. They did a great job the other night at the drug awareness campaign at Johnnie’s and the Laundromat. I thought they handled it very professionally.”
The mother of the police officer said: “Where you pranced around and you acted like you were in support of everything – where my son, the officer, was working there. He was protecting. But you were taking your pictures with everybody there, for what reason? You and everybody holding the sign.”
Spector replied: “I wasn’t taking any pictures. No, we were there to promote an issue that is so prevalent in society.”
Spector was asked again: “You still didn’t answer the question. The question was: why did you abstain? Why did you turn down promotions for our police officers?”
Spector replied: “I didn’t take a stand either way. That’s what abstain means. I didn’t vote no. I didn’t vote yes.”
A member of the public stated: “That’s not showing support.”
Spector said: “I voted yes on some of the other officers.”
Spector was asked: “Why? Were they families that voted for you?”
Spector replied: “No, no at all.”
Spector was asked: “Why did you abstain from the two? Why won’t you answer the question?”
Spector replied: “It was a great event and I don’t want to knock the good work that has been done by Bobby and Don Riebel that’s been going on since Memorial Day.”
Mayor Filipek Questions Councilman Spector
Mayor Frank Filipek interrupted to state: “I just have one question. You stated in front of these people you were the reason for the rally. Didn’t you just say that? That it was your rally?”
Spector responded: I reached out to Camden County Addictions Task force to put it together.
Mayor Filipek continued: “Did you support and start the rally? I just want to make sure it’s on the record. We are trying to keep everything under control because we don’t want to blow this thing in any way. We were told by lawyers, by ABC that Mayor and Council were told to stay out of it. That we are not supposed to be involved until they are found guilty. But right now, we can’t get involved. Mayor and Council cannot openly come out and say anything. Just like the Chief said, if you get a ticket, you don’t lose your license right there, you go to court.
Spector replied: “Yes, I put that together to help. I was there to support.”
(Editor’s note: The discussion stopped here.)
Councilmen Give Committee Reports
Councilman Paul Sandrock:
“I would like to thank the retired police officers and congratulate the newly promoted officers for the hard work they do. They are a true testament of the great police department that this town has. Lifelong resident proud to say proud of that police department.”
“With regard to the recent developments of the liquor store in town, [it’s] a true testament that there is a lot of diligence and hard work from the Police Department and the Prosecutor’s office in their investigation techniques.”
“Have a safe 4th and don’t forget about our armed forces serving overseas and in this country and that have passed on.”
Councilman David Spector:
“Congrats to all of our officers in town for their promotions. They do a fine job for our community and hats off to Chief Walsh and everyone else for their promotions”
“I would like everyone to participate on Thursday, June 30 at 7:00 p.m. Our beautification committee meeting will be held here at Borough Hall. Hopefully, we will be planning some ideas to make the town more presentable and other initiatives. So here is your chance to get involved. This is something I am working hard on energizing and hopefully, we can get good turnout.”
“Also, we are continuing to increase governmental efficiency in providing some E-Government solutions to make things easier for our residents by requiring the Borough to put all agenda items online 72 hours before every meeting. This is something I worked hard on and I am happy that we are bringing that to the table tonight. Hopefully, to go forward.”
“There is no person walking the face of this earth who demonstrates more courage, dignity, honesty, and integrity on a daily basis than an addict in recovery. That’s why I was so proud to support the protesters and the drug awareness walkers the other night at Johnnie’s Liquors.”
“I witnessed firsthand some of the nastiness and cruel things that people said to some of my friends, Bobby and Donna Riebel. Thank you for your courage, conviction, and effort. What you have done since Memorial Day – taking the time after work shows how much you care about bringing drug awareness to the forefront, not just in Bellmawr, but to let people know where to go if they have a problem.”
Councilman Jim D’Angelo:
“I have always said if you want to sit up here, you should volunteer out there. So you can bring your working knowledge of different places and people and groups here. I looked out today and looking at all the cops, I didn’t have the chance to work with many of them, I retired before they got here. But I was looking at some of the guys that were here. I counted three Bellmawr cops that I coached in baseball. I see one or two other people in this crowd that I coached as well. You remember the kids you coached. You just don’t forget them. Certain kids you just know, when they are 10, 11, or 12, that they are going to be something. You don’t know what it is. A lot of that has to do with the fact that not only do you meet the kids, but you meet the parents. Of the kids that I coached, two of them are sergeants. So it is cool to see these kids when they get older and live in the same town.”
“Being a cop for 32 years, Bellmawr Police are really good at what they do. They are well-trained. I have worked with a lot in my 32 years, and there are very few, if any, that are as good as we are. The highest compliment that I can give is: I feel safe in my town. If there is an emergency, I know that one of the guys will get there.”
Summer Rec Program starts on June 27 and it’s five weeks.
Councilman Steve Sauter:
“I express my gratitude and appreciation for our retired officers for their many years of dedicated services to our residents. To our newly appointed officers, I wish them all the best in their well-deserved promotions.”
“Under department of public works, the residents of Campanell Avenue are extremely happy with the work that was done on their street, as are we. The total of the project materials and the man hours total out at $76,648.48, which is well below the engineer’s estimates for the roadway, which were well over $200,000. So it’s due to the leadership of Joe Ciano, our shared services agreement and all of the talent and guys we have working in our public works department. They do need to be recognized for doing a fantastic job”
“The highway department will be starting the project of creating additional drop off areas at Bellmawr Park School. They are going to be combining the drop off areas of the school and the little league rear parking lot. It will ease the congestion greatly over there.”
“We also took delivery of our new 29-yard trash truck on Wednesday. This will allow our department to efficiently and safely collect all of our trash and recycling. It will be lettered and should serve our residents for many years to come.”
“Under the water department, with regard to the Warren Avenue water tank, control permits were submitted May 20. A representative from Remington and Vernick, George Hann, met with our water department to go over all of the items that we need to make this whole project full and complete to shore up our infrastructure in the water department for many years to come. We have to replace the tank. We want to replace everything and do it all at once. There was a meeting held on June 23 with the same principals to discuss relocating some different things on Warren Avenue with the sewer department for easier access. They are waiting for final approval from the DPA. Any future updates will be posted on Bellmawr.com. We will try to keep the residents informed as we progress.”
Councilman Steve Hagerty:
“Fire hall needs volunteers desperately. It’s a great place to learn and get involved in the town. They are extremely busy and a great group of people that run that. Chief Jim Burleigh would like to remind everyone with the summer months, with the fire pits and the grills, practice safety.”
“We hired six part-time EMTs, which will help in the rotation to build the pool bigger. For the police, congratulations for all of the promotions and retirements.”
Councilman Ray Bider:
“I would like to echo what has been said about Johnny’s Liquors. Secondly, the police, like Jim [D’Angelo] said, I coached at least ten of them, even retirees. I am proud to know them and to have them in town and for the job that Bill [Walsh] does with his men.”
“On Memorial Day, VFW Council participated with the laying of the wreaths in the cemeteries and cooking at the VFW for the veterans and their families and first responders. Many people made that work.”
“As far as schools, Triton and Bell Oaks graduated. To echo what was said at graduation, the valedictorians and award winners from Triton also were attendees here in Bellmawr and we are proud that they carried over.”
“Finally, for finance, there will be a meeting Monday, June 27 will be an exit conference with the auditors and as more information arrives, it will be provided.”
Mayor Frank Filipek:
“The police do a great job and we are happy we can make the promotions. The guys work hard.”
“Starting Monday, you will see our young men and women ‘paint the town.’ This year, our young people will work and will paint every fence in town that is owned by the Borough. Some will be working with some 100 kids [at the Summer Rec Program] for five weeks. [This is] something that works perfect and the kids are happy. They don’t pay a cent to come to the Rec and we pay our 14’s and 15’s $8.59 an hour to work with the kids. The businesses in Bellmawr are so good to us and donate their money and time to help us. We just got a donation for paint so we can paint all of the fences.”
“Someone sent a letter about putting park benches back at the Borough Hall. We are going to look into and see if we can or not. If we can, we will. Financially, sometimes, you can’t do it.”
Council Approves Agenda Items
On the business side, all items on Council’s agenda were approved.
All of the remaining liquor licenses for the period of July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017 were unanimously approved. (See agenda for those licenses approved).
Regarding Resolution 06:136:16 authorizing that Resolutions and Ordinances be placed on the Borough website 72 hours prior to the monthly scheduled regular council meeting for the general public, all councilmen voted yes with the exception of Councilman D’Angelo, who abstained.
Following the meeting, Councilman D’Angelo was asked why he abstained from this vote and he responded: “Unfortunately, I was not present at our last caucus meeting as I was out of town. I was unable to ascertain the particulars of this one resolution prior to our council meeting. Therefore, I had no other choice but to abstain.”
Resolution 06:139-16 authorized Bellmawr Highway Department to perform asphalt rehabilitation to the Bellmawr Baseball parking lot and Bellmawr Park School rear parking lot for the purpose of safe parking and drop off for the students at Bellmawr Park School.
Council approved Resolutions 05:11-16 and 05:12-16 (see below for details)
Mayor Filipek commented: “One of our fire trucks was hit on the Pike and it was totaled. Insurance covered almost nothing. We are trying to work out something with the State because of the work that we do on the State highways. We were given the value of the firetruck.”
Robert Mortka clarified that the firetruck was a 29-year old piece apparatus.
Council will meet next on Thursday, July 21 at 5:00 p.m. for its caucus meeting in the conference room at Borough Hall. The regular meeting will be held on Thursday, July 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the courtroom at Borough Hall.
*Article updated on June 27 to correct that Councilman Spector abstained from the Resolution appointing Dean Cooney as Patrolman at council’s special meeting on June 13, not at the caucus meeting on June 15.