Pemboro.com Editorial Blog

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October 29, 2017

Quick Update

  • Burlington County has awarded a $75K parks grant to Pemberton Borough for construction of tennis courts at the old school site.  Of course this will require demolishing the school, and removing the debris first.


October 16, 2017

Quick Update

  • A grant has been procured for the sorely-needed repaving of Early Street.  The bidding process had to be adjusted to stay withing the award amount, and the contract is now out for rebid.  A grant proposal has been submitted for the repaving of Pemberton and Mary Streets.
  • A Small Cities grant has been submitted for repainting and repairing the water tower.
  • The police department is very close to being fully staffed, with the hiring of a final part-time officer in the works.
  • The Borough Council voted unanimously on a bond to fund office software updates.  As mentioned here last year, the software is badly outdated (now 20+ years old!) and apparently has become problematic enough that the council and mayor's resistance to updates abated.
  • The Borough is in the process of replacing, as needed, many of the 175 street signs in town.


August 21, 2017

10 Things I Like About Pemberton Borough (Steve Fenster)

  1. Small town
  2. Residents who care
  3. You can walk to the post office, bank, and a number of businesses
  4. Borough meetings where everyone can speak with few restrictions, and usually get answers
  5. Our own police force
  6. Canoe house & canoe trail
  7. Nature preserve & walking trail
  8. Hanging flower baskets
  9. Historic lamps
  10. (Relatively) low taxes

10 Things I Like About Pemberton Borough (Diane Fanucci)

  1. Being able to walk to the bank, post office, etc.
  2. New park, softball field, etc.
  3. Friendly people for the most part
  4. Republican council and mayor
  5. Nice flower baskets and flags
  6. Low taxes
  7. Paving of streets, etc.
  8. Fall Fest
  9. Close to many places
  10. New police vehicles and firetruck
Quick Update
  • At July's council meeting, there was considerable disagreement on the council regarding a salary ordinance.  Apparently the main item of dispute was an unnecessary extra raise for one position.  None of the proponents indicated why they were in favor of this raise, which seems fiscally irresponsible.  Voting against the ordinance were Haines, Quinlan, and Ward; voting for were Brock, Jerome, and Mosher.  Mayor Griffin "reluctantly" cast the deciding yes vote.  Similarly, a salary resolution passed with the same votes.  This continues a pattern of voting by Mosher and Jerome that we do not feel is in the public's best interest, and now Brock has joined this voting bloc.
  • Burlington County has agreed to pay for the labor to replace the electric wires, poles, etc. along Rt 530 (within the Borough), as necessitated by the widening project.  The Borough will pay for the material.
  • The council authorized a new water agreement with Pemberton Township, which includes a 60% rate hike.  The Borough water company supplies a portion of the Township's water, and there had been no rate change for 20 years.  Due to an agreement oversight, the Borough has lost out on significant revenue for years.
  • The Borough is looking at funding sources for razing the old school on Early Street.


June 21, 2017

Inappropriate Behavior By Council Member


Immediately after the June 19th Pemberton Borough Council meeting was adjourned, Diane Fanucci and I approached the dais to ask a question of one of the council members.  Diane’s question was interrupted by council member Robert Brock, with “You like to make lists, don’t you?”, while staring at her.  She stared right back because she was taken aback.  He followed that with, “Why don’t you make a list of everything you like and bring it to the meeting?”  At first we thought he was joking, but with a stern look and disciplinary tone, he clearly was not.  We were both astonished.  This was in public, with many residents still present, and literally over the head of a seated council member.  He apparently actually expects this list to be produced and presented.  He continued to press his point, making it clear he was admonishing us, then turning his attention to me, he stated “I’m talking to you, Steve”.  We can only assume that he was incensed with something one or both of us stated during the public portion of the meeting.  There’s a perception that there was some intent on his part to intimidate.

Neither of us has ever directed anything at Mr Brock, especially anything negative, and in fact, we both voted for him when he was elected.  His action was inappropriate on a number of levels, starting with interrupting a conversation.  A council member admonishing constituents for anything other than extremely poor behavior is out of line, especially when done in public.  Residents routinely come to council meetings to get things done, air any concerns or grievances, express an opinion, and ask questions.  There’s certainly occasional praise, but typically issues brought up are things that can be improved or should be changed.

We have both attended almost every council meeting for a number of years and always bring things to the attention of the mayor and council, whether good or bad.  Before Mr Brock was elected, his attendance at council meetings was spotty, and he almost never spoke at the meetings he did attend.  We cannot remember any positive items he has brought to meetings, either before or after his election.  We suggest Mr Brock consider submitting his resignation.

Free speech is a fundamental right that Americans have, whether statements are positive or negative, and whether Mr Brock likes it or not.

Construction Update

As with many construction projects, there have been numerous delays with the Rt 530 widening project and the Hanover Street bridge replacement.  Mayor Griffin believes bids for Rt 530 will be out by fall, and the targeted start date for the bridge is now October, but he cautions that any time he provides dates, the county has a delay.  Hanover Street is also targeted for repaving, but it would make sense to postpone that until after the bridge replacement is complete.  There is good news:  the county will install a new water main, hydrants, etc., on West Hampton Street at no cost to the Borough.  The county will also provide labor for related electric work, with the Borough paying for material.

Other Items of Note from the 6/19 Council Meeting
  • The Borough was approved for a state grant to repave Early Street in 2017, and bids should be solicited soon.  Pemberton Street repaving was not approved, so that will be resubmitted for 2018.
  • The condition of the track has deteriorated, with weeds encroaching from the sides and sprouting in the middle.  The mayor indicated that the Borough may be able to add material to the track with some of our remaining parks grant funds.
  • Mayor Griffin has been resistant to putting recycling containers next to a couple of existing garbage cans.  Unfortunately this results in people throwing bottles and cans in the garbage.  His position is that we have a very high rate of recycling and the lowest tax rate in the county, so as we’re #1, no changes are needed.  We disagree.  That’s like saying that as our country is #1 in the world, there’s no need to work on improvements.
 

January 16, 2017

Mayor's Goals for 2017

Mayor Griffin provided his goals for 2017 at the January 3 Pemberton Borough Council Meeting.  See his list here.  Most of the 2016 goals (see the April 7, 2016 entry) were met.  We strongly support this effort and hope for success in meeting all of this year's goals.


August 14, 2016

Improvements in the Borough

At the July 18th Pemberton Borough Council Meeting, the following status was provided on the parks grants (amounts are rounded):

  • 2012 grant ($234K) - Playground, gazebo, track, and ball field (the former 2 are at Mill Creek Park; the latter 2 are at School Park).  $73K has been spent so far.  The track was completed previously, but could still use improvements.  The infield and fence, including a backstop, have been completed for the ball field.  Benches will be coming soon.  Work has recently started on the playground and pavilion.
  • 2014 grant ($65K) - Field house and pedestrian bridge to the island (between the Rancocas dams).  Significant work was done on the field house roof, floor, and bathrooms, plus cleaning and purchasing heating units.
  • 2015 grant ($150K) - Field house, canoe launch.  The Borough is looking into dock replacement.
  • The Borough will apply for a 2017 grant, with a goal of additional funding for the dock and bridge.

Mayor Griffin indicated he would have an update regarding the school demolition at the August meeting.

Verizon will be doing some work on the water tower, some of which the Borough may have needed to perform.

The Borough council approved a contract for the West Hampton Street (Rt 530) sewer project.  Burlington County has advertised (per public notice in the Burlington County Times) for bids on demolition and tree clearing for the Rt 530 widening project.  Unfortunately with these projects, and the bridge replacement planned for next year, we'll be experiencing the closure of Hanover Street, lanes on Rt 530, and lots of traffic.  However, they're all essential.

The Borough's historical room has been undergoing improvements, with the help of volunteers (particularly Karen & Kevin Mulligan).  The room is located in Borough Hall, on the left just inside the main entrance.


June 12, 2016

Quick Update

At the May 16th Pemberton Borough Council Meeting, Mayor Griffin followed up on several of his stated goals:  the playground will be done by summer, Karen and Kevin Mulligan are working on the historical room, and bids should be out for Davis and Early street repaving in June.

The mayor did not have any new information on the Rt 530 work.  However last week, the Burlington County Times had a feature article that indicated the county is still in the process of several complicated property acquisitions, and hopes to have the work out for bid in the fall.  The work was supposed to begin this summer.


April 7, 2016

Mayor's Goals for 2016

Per Pemboro.com request, Mayor Griffin provided his goals for 2016 at the March 21 Pemberton Borough Council Meeting, including several already in progress:

  • Finish the field house (gym) renovation.  The girls and boys rooms have both been refurbished, 2 classrooms cleaned, and 2 heating units purchased (they were due to be installed in late March)
  • Complete the ball field at School Park
  • Prune trees on Elizabeth Street and plant 10 new trees in the borough (in progress)
  • Resurface Early and Davis Streets
  • Finally fix the clocks at the municipal building
  • Improve the historical room at the municipal building and obtain 2 more historic paintings for the main room
  • Move the bus stops to Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts (complete), and provide a bench
  • Purchase a new truck for the maintenance crew
  • Place flower pots along Hanover Street, on the red brick between the curb and sidewalk
  • Obtain playground equipment and a new gazebo for Mill Creek Park

As we stated with the mayor's 2015 goals, accomplishing all of this would spruce up the Borough significantly.  We strongly support this effort and hope for success in meeting all of these goals.

Other Items of Note from the 3/21 Council Meeting

  • There was a rash of burglaries on Jarvis and Budd Streets, involving unlocked vehicles.  The police reminded people to lock their car doors and to call them when you see someone suspicious.
  • A surveillance system is being installed at the municipal building, field house, and public works yard.

2016 Parks Grant

Burlington County has awarded Pemberton Borough $150,000 for replacement of the canoe house launch dock and additional field house improvements.


March 7, 2016

Special Budget Meeting

A special Pemberton Borough Council meeting was held at 5pm today.  Due to the Rt 530 widening project, the Borough lost approximately $1 million in ratables.  With the tax reassessment last year, the impact of this loss is not completely certain, but should be small since overall ratables are $64 million.

As usual, the most contentious issue was salaries of Borough employees.  (Note that this does not include the police, as they have a contract.)  The mayor proposed a 2% increase, which would be across the board.  It had been indicated recently by the Borough solicitor that all employees must get the same raise.  However the legality of a merit-based system will be brought up with him.  One of the arguments for this is to "catch up" the employees from the 10% pay cut made about 6 years ago, which was implemented hand-in-hand with a 10% reduction in hours from 40 to 36.  Council member Quinlan stated "there's no one in this Borough who is overpaid".  Pemboro.com strongly disagrees in one case:  as noted in this Editorial Blog on December 22 2013, we feel the municipal clerk's salary was raised far too much (over 20%).

For the 2% raise in this year's budget, Council members Haines, Stockton, and Ward voted no, while Jerome, Mosher, and Quinlan voted yes; Mayor Griffin cast a tie-breaking yes vote.

Pemboro.com has sympathy for the employees who have endured a significant cut in pay.  We do note, however, that many people lost their jobs (the unemployment rate was 10%), many others had pay cuts (without a reduction in hours) or had their pay frozen (sometimes for years).  Compensating employees is fine to some extent, but if their salaries are restored, the municipal offices need to revert to a 40-hour work week, including restoring Friday hours.  Borough taxpayers should be compensated as well, with staffed offices that are open 5 days a week.  Very few public offices are only open 4 days a week (3 when there's a holiday) like the Borough's offices are.  Friday closures have been a big inconvenience for at least this resident.  When questioned, Council member Mosher indicated that there's only one voice complaining (although there were 2 doing so at the meeting), we have a drop slot for checks, and it's worked okay this way.  We obviously feel differently, and believe he and several other elected officials are not serving the residents of Pemberton Borough adequately in this regard.

To our readers:  have you ever been inconvenienced because the municipal building is closed on Fridays?  Please let us know (email editorial@pemboro.com), or better yet, please consider coming to the Monday March 21 council meeting and voicing your opinion.


February 29, 2016

Numerous Projects in the Works

There is a possibility of obtaining a Small Cities grant to paint the water tower, although not until September.  The focus may be on the upper portion of the tower.

The Hanover Street sewer project should be finishing up this spring with milling and final paving.  West Hampton Street sewer work (south side, between the former motel and Lim Fong's) may begin this summer, and is projected to take about 3 weeks.

The county should also be starting the next phase of the Rt 530 widening and improvement project later this year.  A number of businesses have already been closed, including the Executive Inn, Dazell's Hardware, and Lim Fong's (although the latter is in the process of moving to Elly's shopping center on Hanover Street), and demolition will presumably be starting relatively soon.

The Borough will have some additional maintenance expenses to pay for soon, including roof repair and ice shields for the municipal building, and business software. The current software is at least 19 years old, and support is just about impossible.  It's amazing it still works at all!

An environmental assessment will be made of the old school in order to locate asbestos and collect samples.  Unfortunately, records do not seem to exist as to the location of this hazardous material, and removal is required before the building can be demolished.  As floors have collapsed, and there has been a lot of vandalism, the building is a serious safety hazard.

There is an appreciable level of iron in the Borough's water, above the recommended upper limit.  It is coming from the Budd Avenue well, but per the mayor, is below state limits.  The Borough's Annual Drinking Water Quality Report can be viewed here.  Side affects can include deposits of iron in body organs, water off taste or color,  splotchy yellow stains on laundry, and clogged water systems.

The Hanover Street bridge weight ordinance is awaiting county judge Bookbinder's approval.  Once his approval is obtained, violations will be a ticketable offense payable by mail.

Exterior work on the field house is complete.  More interior work is needed, but enough has been completed to allow a local Boy Scout troop to hold meetings there.  Residents will be allowed to use the facility - inquire at the Borough offices for details.

In February 2015, Mayor Griffin presented his "to do list".  When asked by Pemboro.com at this February's council meeting to rate himself, he stated "It appears I didn't do a good job."  Judge for yourself by viewing the February 14, 2015 blog entry (below) for details.  The mayor did point out that we missed one item, the Hanover Street sewer line project, which was completed.  He'll discuss his 2016 goals at the March 21 council meeting.

A special Borough council meeting was scheduled for March 7 at 5pm to discuss the budget.


November 14, 2015

Quick Update

Pemberton Borough has named a Poet Laureate, Noelle Kocot.  She gave a poetry reading at the September 28 council meeting, and will be holding monthly poetry workshops at the public library in Browns Mills.

A vacant homes ordinance was approved at the October 19 council meeting.  This ordinance, which includes posting no trespassing signs, will hopefully push the owners (banks or otherwise) of vacant homes to better maintain the properties.

Bids for repainting the water tower (exterior only) came in higher than expected.  The borough council approved a higher bond level, and will restart the bidding process.

There has been a little progress with the parks grant, with work starting on the field house (behind the municipal building).  In other recreation and preservation related news, the county is purchasing 11 acres from Creekside Glass.


August 5, 2015

Quick Update

An ordinance to ban trucks over 5 tons (excluding local deliveries) on Elizabeth St. is expected to be passed at the August borough council meeting.  The main concern this will address is tractor trailers, dump trucks, and boat trailers having difficulty turning right on to Hanover St. (heading north).  The county will post a sign on the bypass alerting truck drivers to the limit.

The sewer replacement on W Hampton St. is planned to start on August 17.  The county has not provided a date for work to commence on phase 2 of the Rt 530 construction.

There has been no success in obtaining a grant to paint the water tower.  The tower has 3 coats of paint, and no company will warranty a 4th coat, so it needs to be sandblasted first.  The estimated cost is $275K - $500K.  One saving grace from Superstorm Sandy is that the tower was put on FEMA’s mitigation list, which may qualify the borough for funding.

Resolutions were passed to purchase a police car and playground equipment, both via state contracts.  No word yet on additional progress regarding the parks grants, the first of which was was awarded 3 years ago this month.  The borough has spent only a fraction of the award.


May 15, 2015

Quick Update

In an amazing contrast to over just a couple years ago, the 2015 budget passed unanimously without significant issues.

The Borough's engineer reported on a number of issues (also quite a contrast from the previous engineer), including repaving Antis and Budd streets (in June), Hanover Street sewer replacement (in May), striping and signage for the new traffic ordinance, painting the water tower (looking into a grant, as it would cost $200K without stripping due to lead paint, and there would be no warranty), and the recreation fields.

The Borough is investigating a possible sharing arrangement for sewage and garbage with Wrightstown.

The county will hold a public hearing on the Hanover Street bridge (over the Rancocas) replacement within a few months.


March 13, 2015

Rescheduled Borough Council Meeting, 2/23

The salary ordinance passed by a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Griffin breaking the tie (Mosher, Jerome, and Quinlan voted yes).  The mayor's explanation was that there were no raises for 3 years, so this makes up for it.  State law requires some positions require raises to be an equivalent percentage.  Council President Mosher stated that most companies give raises every year.  [Apparently he is not aware that during the recession, not only did many people lose their jobs, but salaries were often frozen or hours cut.]  Council member Haines was not opposed to the increase, but does not feel that council members (excepting the mayor) put in enough time to merit a salary.  The police have a separate 5-year contract, which passed 6-0.


February 17, 2015

Borough Council Meeting Canceled

This evening's Pemberton Borough Council meeting was canceled.  We only knew of this because of a chance encounter with Public Works employee Steve Phillips, who was plowing.  Pemboro.com has learned that the decision was made at 6am today to close the Borough offices for the day and cancel the meeting.  A number of other municipalities in the area had delayed openings, and the roads were fine as of late morning, so this seems to have been quite premature.  It's troubling that the Borough's website was not updated to indicate the cancellation, and perhaps save some people the nuisance of going to a deserted municipal building on a wintry evening.  The meeting had not been rescheduled as of this time (5:30pm).

Update, February 18, 2015:  The Borough website was updated to display the meeting cancellation sometime Tuesday (2/17) after 5:30pm.  However, the rescheduled meeting time has still not been posted.

Update, February 22, 2015:  Pemboro.com learned several days ago that the council meeting has been rescheduled for Monday, 2/23.  As of this writing, there is no indication of this on the Borough's website.  This posting should be a top priority.


February 14, 2015

Mayor's To-do List

At the January 20th Pemberton Borough Council meeting, Mayor Griffin provided his to-do list for the year, which includes:

  • Repair park benches and blocks
  • Paint all hydrants red
  • Paint curbs, where needed
  • Repair clock (at the municipal building)
  • Install a light on the flag (at the municipal building)
  • Repair the canoe house dock
  • Repair the field house
  • Complete the ball field construction
  • Replace street signs, as needed
  • Refill cracks at Hearthstone

Accomplishing all of this would spruce up the Borough significantly.  We strongly support this effort and hope for success in meeting all of these goals.


Other Business

  • The new salary ordinance appears contentious, and only moved forward from the first reading by a 4-3 vote, via a mayoral tiebreaker.  Council members Haines, Stockton, and Ward all voted no.  Note that this vote did not pass the ordinance.  A public portion will be held at the next Council meeting on Tuesday February 17, when the actual vote on the ordinance will take place.  The ordinance provides an across-the-board 2% increase.  At least some of the resistance is apparently because Borough Clerk Donna Mull received a large (about 20%) and controversial increase just over a year ago (see Pemboro.com coverage of this in the 12/22/2013 editorial).  Pemboro.com concurs with the dissenting votes.
  • The Borough's new police car arrived the day of the meeting.  This will aid the police, as at least one of their aging vehicles seemed to be out of service much of the time.
  • The Hanover Street sewer re-alignment project has been awarded to the lowest bidder.  Our new engineer feels that even though their bid was significantly lower than the others, the company is reliable.

January 19, 2015

New Borough Council Members

At the January 5th Pemberton Borough Council reorganization meeting, new members Tim Quinlan and Terry Jerome (replacing long-time council members Bill Emmons and Bill Wilson) were sworn in to the Borough Council.  Robin Mosher was unanimously voted in as council president.  With these changes, only 2 council members, Stacy Stockton (barely) and Mosher, have been serving more than 6 years.  It is anticipated that there will be more cooperation and collaboration among council members than in the past.  We'll be here watching and reporting on developments.


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