Heroic police officers receive awards at HT Committee meeting

Patrol Officers James Hoffman, Robert Voorhees, and Michael Makwinski.

At its February 7 meeting, The Hopewell Township Committee heard numerous presentations. The Committee watched a presentation of Police Department awards, heard a resolution to recognize Black History Month, listened to a progress report from the Citizens Equity Advisory Committee, and heard COVID-19 updates from the Health Department.

Police Director Robert Karmazin started off the meeting with the presentation of awards.

For their actions during Tropical Storm Ida, Awards of Merit were awarded to Patrol Officers James Hoffman, Robert Voorhees, and Michael Makwinski.

Hoffman assisted the driver of a vehicle stranded in floodwaters in Hopewell Township after Hurricane Ida flooded the state. He directed traffic and waited for rescue personnel. While waiting, Hoffman’s patrol car began floating away into deeper water. He climbed through a window, started swimming, found a tree, and held on until he was rescued by other emergency personnel. Officer Makwinski went to assist Hoffman after he made a distress call, and his vehicle also was swept into the rising waters.  Officer Robert Voorhees assisted both Hoffman and Makwinski, earning the department’s Award of Merit.

For his quick and life-saving work during the recent water rescue at Rosedale Lake in Rosedale Park, Patrol Officer George Peterson was presented with an Award of Merit. William Tunnicliffe, Deputy Fire Chief of Union Fire Company, was recognized with a Civilian Award of Merit for his aid during the water rescue.

Pennington Police Department awarded Sgt. Louis Vastola and Officers Christopher Collins, Steven Ciosek, and Michael Crincoli Awards of Merit for their assistance during a motor vehicle stop, which led to the discovery of a loaded handgun that had been previously used in a crime in another state.

Karmazin also announced the promotion of Detective Mark Panzano to the rank of sergeant. “He’s a great officer and he’s going to be a great leader. I’m incredibly proud of Mark,” said Karmazin.

Sergeant Mark Panzano is sworn in.

The Committee then moved on to a resolution recognizing the month of February as Black History Month in the state of New Jersey.

After reading the resolution, founders of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck, spoke about naming the streets in some of Hopewell’s new developments. Mills and Buck spoke about influential African American figures that are on their lists to name new streets.

Deputy Mayor Michael Ruger then provided the Committee with an introduction to the work the Citizens Equity Advisory Committee has taken on since its founding a year ago.

“It’s a recognition that an action taken at any level of government including by the Township may not have a discriminatory intent, but it could have a discriminatory effect,” said Ruger.

David Berez, Chair of the Citizens Equity Advisory Committee, shared the progress they have made in their first full year. “We do have a budget of $3,000 per year, [but] we have spent zero dollars in 2021. This coming year we do have some initiatives proposed but nothing set yet, and to my knowledge none of them cost any money,” said Berez.

Berez mentioned that, in In October of 2020 the group worked on what equity means to them and discussed the New Jersey Sunshine Law. “Throughout the rest of the 2020, we started reporting on inequities throughout the Township that were both policy procedure and practice,” said Berez.  

Berez said that in 2021, they went through most of the Township’s ordinances to understand how they read, and to see if any equity issues were written into them unintentionally.

Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning then turned the meeting over to Health Officer, Dawn Marling to provide updates on COVID-19. 

Since the arrival of the omicron variant, the Health Department saw a record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases in the Township. “We saw over 300 lab confirmed cases in December, over 500 cases in January, and our community had two additional deaths from COVID-19 last month,” said Marling.

Marling explained that because of the surge in cases, the State instructed local health departments to focus their efforts on children, teenagers, first-responders, healthcare workers, and other vulnerable populations.

“Thankfully, since January, the rate of newly reported cases has dropped off significantly and the statewide rate of transmission has been below one for the past week,” shared Marling.

Marling made sure to note that at home testing is not included in the state’s official data.

“Our region remains at a high COVID transmission status, so we continue to encourage precautions to reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus,” said Marling.

The next meeting of the Hopewell Township Committee is a special budget meeting scheduled for February 15.

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