Council Reorganizes, Mayor Addresses Issues With Vacant Storefronts

Mayor John G. Ducey, right, administering the Oath of Office to new Council President Art Halloran, with wife Marijane Halloran holding the bible. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – Art Halloran was named new council president and Andrea Zapcic was named new council vice president during the 2017 Organizational meeting, held on January 10.

Halloran replaced Paul Mummolo, who served as council president for two years, and Zapcic replaced Marianna Pontoriero, who served one year as vice president.

After Mayor John G. Ducey administered their Oaths of Office, he made his opening remarks.

“We have 2016 officially in the books, and it’s time now to look ahead to 2017,” Ducey began, promising to “continue to make Brick Township a better and better place every single day.”

Some of the administration’s priorities and goals for the new year include “continuing to be fiscally responsible with all of our tax dollars,” he said.

New Council Vice President Andrea Zapcic sworn in by Ducey, alongside her husband William Zapcic, who is a deacon and performed an invocation at the beginning of the meeting. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Taxes And Crime

Ducey said that over the current administration’s last three budget years, the township budget has increased a little over one percent a year, or four percent in total.

“Compare this growth in previous periods: from 2001 until 2004 it grew 15 percent; from 2005 to 2008 it grew 22 percent; and from 2009 until 2013 the budget grew a whopping 33 percent,” he said.

The tax rate has increased 5.4 cents per $100 of assessed value over the past five budgets, or just over 1 cent a year, while in the previous five budgets the tax rate increased 36.32 cents per $100 of assessed value, or some 7 cents per year, the mayor said.

In the new year, the administration would continue to work with Police Chief James Riccio and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office to combat the ongoing heroin epidemic, using a three-pronged approach, Ducey said.

Education, enforcement, and a just-announced rehabilitation component ‑‑ the Heroin Addiction Response Program, or HARP ‑‑ would urge addicts to turn their drugs over to the police, and complete a rehabilitation program.

“It’s for those that want help, and those that need help. No criminal charges would be filed, and a screening is made by our police department. Then, the addict is brought to Preferred Behavioral, who are professionals, and a bed is found for the addict where he or she is hopefully on the road to recovery,” Ducey said.

The pilot program is only available in Brick and Manchester.

Vacant Storefronts

Also, the mayor said his administration is doing everything in their power to fill empty storefronts in town, such as Sports Authority, A&P and Pathmark.

He attributed the empty storefronts to the “changing landscape of retail America,” which has resulted in a number of larger retail stores closing nationwide.

“We have contacted the owners of every strip mall in town to see what assistance the town could give. Many came in here for meetings. Many just spoke to us on the phone, but I thought it was important to make that contact,” Ducey said. “As you can see around town, the smaller ones are filling – we just need to get the bigger ones filled.”

The mayor said he has contacted several national retail stores, such as Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s, Dave & Buster’s, Cabela’s and others, encouraging them to open a store in Brick.

“We will continue to aggressively market Brick Township and market our community,” he said. The goal is to draw national chains as well as entertainment choices.

In other news, the township’s parks improvement plan would continue in 2017 with the renovation of Hank Waltonowski Memorial Park (in Birchwood Park), located in the neighborhood across from the Municipal Complex; and the Bernie Cook Park, located behind the Wawa near Parkway entrance 91.

The township tennis courts – located at the municipal complex and which are the home courts for the Brick High School tennis teams – are in the process of being renovated and would be opening in the spring of 2017, Ducey said.

The mayor said he has recently begun to host “Facebook Live,” a streamed program where people could submit questions which he answers live. He said he would host the meetings twice a month.

“Government works best when the public has a large voice, and I encourage anyone who has Facebook to follow the township’s page and join in the conversation,” Ducey said.

The next council meeting will be on January 24 at 7 p.m.

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Judy moved to Ocean County from New York City in 1988, and began her second career as a feature and news reporter in the mid-1990's. She has worked for Micromedia Publications since 2008, primarily reporting for The Toms River Times and The Brick Times. Judy has also worked for The Leader Review in Point Pleasant Beach, The Brick Communicator and The Asbury Park Press. Reach Judy by e-mail at Judysmestadnunn@gmail.com.