BRICK – 2017 began with a major snowstorm, when some nine inches of snow fell in areas of Ocean County during the first week of January.
During the same week, two new Board of Education members – Melita Gagliardi and Daisy Haffner, who ran as the “New Voices for Brick” team – took their oaths of office.
There were no new elected officials on the governing body in 2017, but Art Halloran was named the new council president and Andrea Zapcic was named new council vice president during the 2017 Organizational meeting held on Jan. 10.
The township began to actively address abandoned structures in town when they applied for and received funding of a $300,000 Department of Community Affairs no-interest loan to offset the cost of demolition. At one time there were over 300 properties on the list, but that number has been reduced to about 160 properties for various reasons.
In February 2017, an agreement was reached between the township and the Brick Township Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 230 to allow the officers to switch from a four-day-on, two-day-off schedule to a four-day-on, four-day-off schedule by working longer days.
Mayor John G. Ducey said the new schedule would improve the morale and the quality of life for police officers, while saving a minimum of $318,000 a year.
The mayor also announced that Brick would join Manchester in a program to fight the opioid epidemic by participating in the Heroin Addiction Response Program (HARP). Addicts could go to the police station on Thursdays to say they want help, and no criminal charges would be filed.
The two police departments are partnering with Preferred Behavioral Health in Lakewood and Integrity House in Toms River for the pilot program.
Since the program began, some 107 addicts have come to Brick Police Headquarters, and 100 have been transported to the hospital for treatment, said a police spokesman.
(Other municipalities have since joined in the effort. Addicts could report to Lacey and Ocean Gate Police Departments on Mondays, Stafford Police Department on Tuesdays, and Manchester on Wednesdays.)
In 2017, Brick joined other cities and states and hired the law firm of Motley Rice LLC to file a lawsuit against companies that manufacture opioids, based on their claims to patients and medical providers that OxyContin was not addictive.
Motley Rice LLC would receive no money unless they are successful in their litigation, Ducey said, and the township was asked to put together a damages report – or what the opioid crisis has cost the town in hard numbers – for the lawsuit.
In other school news, Pete Panuska was named as the new Brick Township High School athletic director and the Board of Education approved a 2017-2018 school year budget of $154.4 million, a 1.22 percent increase over the previous budget.
While the school budget increased, the municipal rate decreased by 0.5 cents, with the $100.5 million municipal budget down $4.4 million over the 2016 budget.
In April, the governing body passed a rescue-only pet store ordinance which amended a previous ordinance that would require pet stores to sell rescue animals only, and prohibits so-called puppy mills from existing in Brick.
The popular Brick Farmers’ Market returned for the third year to Windward Beach Park in May and featured more vendors and extended hours. The market opened in May and ran on Saturdays until September 23.
A plan for the former Foodtown site was announced in June when the township reached a settlement with two developers who are dividing the 11-acre parcel for two separate projects.
The two developers would each pay Brick $2.5 million ($5 million total) for the site, which would feature a privately-built and privately-run recreation center in the rear of the property, and retail buildings fronting Route 70. The township purchased the property in 2003 for $6.1 million.
Since then, the principal and interest payments have totaled $9.3 million and $1.6 million in lost tax revenue, Ducey said at the time.
Suspended Brick Schools Superintendent Walter Uszenski was re-indicted in June on charges of theft and deception after the original charges were thrown out by a superior court judge in March.
In July, former Brick High School Principal Dennis Filippone was named as the district’s Acting Superintendent for the 2017-2018 school year. The Board of Education is currently searching for a new permanent superintendent.
Most of the finishing touches to the reconfiguration of Parkway exit 91 were completed by August, which added northbound and southbound entrance and exit ramps in Brick.
At the end of the summer, a ribbon-cutting was held at a new Resource Building at Traders’ Cove Marina and Park, which completed the construction of the marina and park, located at the end of Mantoloking Rd.
The building has showers, laundry facilities and a lounge to be used by transient boaters and was a requirement of a National Boating Infrastructure Grant, which was used to partly fund the $1.39 million building.
Mayor Ducey had plans for Chefs’ International to build a restaurant on the northeast corner of the park, but the plan hit roadblocks when the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had numerous concerns about the proposal. Several million dollars from the state’s Green Acres Program was used for the acquisition and development of the park.
A ribbon cutting was held on Nov. 2 for a new teen center, “Lounge 270,” located at the Civic Plaza on Chambers Bridge Road. Initially the hours would be on Thursdays from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m., but the center would also be open for special events and officials said more hours would be added.
And lastly, Ducey and council members Heather deJong, Paul Mummolo and Marianna C. Pontoriero easily won re-election in November against mayoral hopefuls Republican Ruthanne Scaturro and independent candidates Rob Canfield and Anthony Matthews, and Republican council candidates John Ciocco, Marilyn Lago and Lois Turner.