Unlike usual meetings, the Hopewell Borough Council meeting on June 6 was packed with men, women, and children dressed in bright orange. The color is representative of National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 7, in which supporters are encouraged to wear orange to honor victims and survivors of gun violence.
An official proclamation supporting National Gun Violence Awareness Day was made by the Council, in which Mayor Paul Anzano reminded all in attendance to wear orange the following day.
Mayor Anzano also spoke on the issue of gun violence prevention, which he has publicly supported for many years.
“I appreciate the constant reminder and consistency from these organizations,” said Anzano. “I feel very sad that the federal government has not heard us enough to do something, because people are losing their lives, but we are happy to join this.”
Councilman Ryan Kennedy and Councilwoman Samara McAuliffe also expressed their support for the issue, both sharing their gratitude not only as Council members but also as parents.
For more information on gun violence prevention events taking place in your area, go to wearorange.org.
Following the proclamation, the Council then heard Jon McConaughy, owner of Brick Farm Market, express his concerns about the bridge construction on Route 518.
McConaughy discussed financial effects the construction is having on local businesses, and criticized the County for not considering other options for construction. Specifically, he believes the Accelerated Bridge Construction technique should have been implemented in Hopewell. The construction on the Route 518 bridge is estimated to take around 150 days, but according to McConaughy, the ABC technique could take as little as five.
“If you want to look at a real-life case study, look at Hackettstown,” said McConaughy. “Six months before the bridge was going to be constructed, they looked at the impact it would have on businesses and residents. They built the bridge in nine-and-a-half days using ABC.”
He then posed the question of why this did not happen in Hopewell Borough, why unlike Hackettstown they the County did not look at the impact construction would have before it was started. Now, he says, several local businesses are struggling to survive due to lack of commuter traffic.
“Just under 10,000 commuters go up and down Route 518 when the bridge isn’t under construction,” said McConaughy. “What was 10,000 commuters has now turned into zero, and it’s having a huge impact.”
McConaughy discusses several businesses whose profits have halved due to this lack of traffic, and how many of them are struggling to afford their rent and other expenses. But, despite this clear crisis happening in the local community, he says Hopewell Borough has not offered their support.
“It would be nice to have support from the Borough, but there hasn’t been,” said McConaughy. “They haven’t reached out, they haven’t talked to business owners, they haven’t embraced the fact that this is a crisis. The Borough has been very silent on this whole thing.”
Mayor Anzano pushed back on his claim, saying that he has reached out and been in support of several local businesses affected by the construction. He also claimed he has been in contact with the business community regarding hosting special events, but none have reached out to him.
“I have spoken to vendors,” said Anzano. “I have spoken to everyone that I believe is open to a discussion about how we can get through this.”
While Mayor Anzano and McConaughy recognized their “legitimate disagreement” on the involvement of the Borough in this crisis, Anzano assured him that he is and will continue doing all he can for the businesses so terribly affected by the construction.
“We’re trying to help people,” said Anzano. “We can disagree on this, and I will continue to do everything possible.”
If you have any issues or concerns with the bridge construction, please refer to the list of contacts on Hopewell Borough’s website.