Hopewell Township Committee Meeting of November 18, 2019

Hopewell Township Public Works employees were recognized by the Township Committee for constructing a 2,300 foot safe route to school at the Timberlane Athletic Fields. Pictured left to right: Public Works Director George Snyder, Mayor Kristin McLaughlin, Light Equipment Operator Don O’Hara, Truck Driver Matt Reading, Laborer Kasey self-Gomes, Truck Driver Steve Harbat, Mechanic Mike Elonis, Truck Driver C.J. Snook, Laborer T.J. Burd, General Foreman Dave Guerard, Committeeperson Kevin Kuchinski, Committeeperson/Public Works Liaison Julie Blake.

The Hopewell Township Committee honored members of the Department of Public Works and approved several resolutions at their mid-November meeting.

The Township Committee, along with Public Works Director George Snyder, honored Don O’Hara, Matt Reading, Kasey Self-Gomes, Steve Harbat, Mike Elonis, C.J. Snook, T.J. Burd, and Dave Guerard for their work on the construction of a 2,300-foot walkway by Timberlane Middle School’s athletic fields.

“Your diligence, knowledge, and passion contributed to the success of this project,” said Mayor Kristin McLaughlin. “We are so appreciative of the hard work you’ve put into it. You guys are just the best.”

Committee member Kevin Kuchsinki added, “I think the Public Works team envisioned what was possible and worked through the issues.”

The Committee also passed a resolution to reallocate funds from a book sale by the Historic Preservation Commission to fortify Hart’s Corner Schoolhouse, which stands at the corner of Scotch Road and Rt. 546.  The funds are in excess of $15,000, according to Committee member Julie Blake, liason to the Historic Commission, as previously reported by MercerMe. Additionally, the chair of the Historic Commission, Maximillian Hayden, spoke about the history and context of the schoolhouse.

A resolution to form a study commission for OPRA (a New Jersey statute that allows the public to request public records) is being considered by the Committee however, some residents of the Township in attendance urged the Committee to delay a vote until Deputy Mayor Michael Ruger and Committee member John Hart were present. 

The study commission, according to the resolution, would examine the costs to the Township, —  with 1,414 hours spent year-to-date on responding to OPRA requests, with an average of 1,222 hours spent on average per year since 2017.

Members of the public in attendance also raised suspicion to the number of OPRA requests answered, with the resolution claiming that that the Township “responded to 337 OPRA requests in in 2017, 550 OPRA requests in 2018, and to date has received and responded to 516 OPRA requests as of September 1, 2019.” Municipal clerk Laurie Gompf reassured that the numbers were accurate, with a majority of requests used for construction permits and realtors. Gompf additionally stated that the resolution is supported by the New Jersey League of Municipalities and the Municipal Clerks’ Association of New Jersey.

“What we’re trying to do is trying to balance transparency with the cost element,” Kuchinski said. “I think that’s appropriate and a good practice of democracy.”

The Committee passed the resolution unanimously, with the exception of Ruger and Hart, who were absent.

Members of the public also raised concerns about the current affordable housing plan. However, Township attorney Steven Goodell instructed the Committee, as well as the public, about the Committee’s inability to respond to questions from individuals with whom the Township has pending litigation. Goodell explained that the members of the public bringing forth affordable housing questions were members of the lawsuit and that these questions should be answered in court, not in a Township meeting.

Finally, the Committee mentioned numerous upcoming events in the area. Both the Womanspace Community of Lights and tree lighting ceremony will occur on December 2 at the Municipal Building. Furthermore, construction of the Washington Crossing-Pennington Road bridge is continuing, with an estimated opening on December 6. 

The Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for December 2.

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