For ten minutes Monday night, the Hopewell Township Committee meeting room may have been the safest place in New Jersey.
Nearly three dozen uniformed police and fire personnel turned out to support the promotion of Lt. Louis “Gino” Vastola and the appointment of police chaplain John Kennedy as Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning administered the oath of office.
Vastola has served in the police department since 2002, previously as a sergeant and detective. His wife, Jennifer, pinned his gold shield on his shirt as his children looked on.
Kennedy has been the chaplain for the Township fire and EMS services and will now also serve as the first-ever chaplain for the police department. His mission will be to support and promote officer wellness.
“When we set out to find a chaplain,” Police Chief James Rosso said, “he was the clear choice.”
The Township Committee also heard from treasurer Julie Troutman that Hopewell Township scored at the top of the State-required Best Practices Review, which means it will receive its full State aid payment. The Township scored 33.5 points out of a maximum possible 37 points and well above the minimum required 24 points.
The Township fell short on a couple of the 56 questions on the survey for technical reasons, such as having a policy against nepotism but not a formal ordinance. Troutman said the staff intends to identify other such issues and bring them to the Committee to address in the near future.
The Township Committee also approved a first reading of an ordinance that regulates cannabis retail sites, which will then move to the Planning Board for consideration. The Township Committee will take up final approval of the ordinance at its next meeting.
In other business the Township: :
- Added the first 58 residents to the no-knock registry, established by the ordinance passed by the Township Committee two months ago. Township Committee member David Chait also announced that the window decals for homeowners on the registry are also now available from the Township.
- Joined forces with Pennington and Hopewell Boroughs to increase capacity for e-cycling electronics and shredding events. At the last e-cycle events the truck was filled by 11am, Public Works Director George Snyder said. With a shared services agreement, a second truck can be provided to double capacity at the same time it saves costs.
- Received $265,000 from FEMA to reimburse emergency services and roadwork provided during Hurricane Ida last summer, with another $104,000 due by the end of the year.
- Will begin budget discussions at the end of November, led by Township Committee member Kevin Kuchinski. Rather than try to meet for an hour or so before Township Committee meetings, Kuchinski said the budget discussions will be scheduled as stand-alone meetings.
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