2021: Howell’s Year Of Heated Debates

(Photo by Micromedia Publications)

  HOWELL – Throughout the year of 2021, you could say there’s been a rollercoaster of events in Howell Township.

  Many crucial and controversial topics were up for discussion between the Township Council members this year. So, let’s dive into what the governing body was up to in 2021.

  The year started off with the Township Council swearing in its members after the election was held in November 2020.

  Democrat Theresa Berger was sworn in to begin serving her second term as mayor on Howell’s governing body.

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  Alongside Berger, Republican Evelyn O’Donnell was sworn in, serving her second term as a councilwoman and Republican Councilman Thomas Russo served as the new Deputy Mayor during 2021. Democrat John Bonevich and Republican Pamela Richmond also joined the council once again.

  During 2021, the members of the council held countless discussions, getting heated and feuding over topics such as warehouses and development projects, and the never-ending conversation of whether there should be marijuana businesses in the township.

  In July, the council members voted to ban cannabis businesses from the town with the intentions of revisiting the idea to properly zone the township for these businesses. Since the vote, council has held two special meetings to discuss where they should place these businesses, but a final decision has yet to be reached.

Photo courtesy Melanie Decker

  Several development projects have been at the forefront of controversies in the town. One being the Monmouth Commerce Center, a proposed 1.2 million square feet of warehouse space on Randolph Road.

  After the application went as far as denial from a Monmouth County judge, the developer filed another appeal. The proposal is at a standstill.

  Another controversial development was The Fountains Project. The application was discussed at several meetings, with council members and residents fighting for the development to be stopped. The project was ultimately denied, but the developer has retaliated by filing a lawsuit against the township.

  Near the end of this year, Russo suddenly announced he will be resigning from being on the council. He said due to personal matters, he had to depart from the position.

  With the remaining council members disagreeing on who should rightfully fill the empty seat, their vote was inconclusive and it was finally decided that Suzanne Brennan will join the township council.

  Now that we’ve talked about the “eventful” year the council has had, let’s discuss the community events that were able to return in 2021.

  After being forced to close for over 15 months, the Howell Senior Center finally opened their doors to members in May. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the center closed on March 16, 2020.

The Pasznik family of Howell enjoyed fishing at the “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” event, pictured with their catch of the day. (Photo courtesy Howell Township)

  With the center being a second home to many seniors in Howell, its closure caused them to be trapped in their homes with nowhere to go. Some even had no groceries.

  The center celebrated its opening day on May 26, having about 50 members together socializing for the first time in over a year. 

  In June, fishing enthusiasts throughout the Township attended the “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” event, to help spread awareness of drug and alcohol abuse to kids.

  This is the first year Howell Township had taken on the event, and Director of Community Relations Steven Fecher said this was a great introductory event as COVID restrictions were beginning to lift in the state.

  During August, residents helped spread kindness “one rock at a time” with the Alliance’s “Kindness Rocks” project. The project was created by Alliance member Suzanne Brennan who wanted to build awareness of and eliminate substance use/mental health disorder stigmas so people feel supported, understood, and empowered to seek help.

The Old Ardena Schoolhouse, built in 1835 is located at the corner of Old Tavern and Preventorium Roads. (Photo by Alyssa Riccardi)

  The rocks were decorated with positive messages like “Hope,” “Strength,” and “Never Give Up,” and were given out to local businesses so residents could feel free to take a rock when they need to.    

  Over the last quarter of the year, the Howell Heritage and Historical Society gained ownership of the historic Old Ardena Schoolhouse. The year-long process was a successful accomplishment for the Society.

  Once the winter season passes, the Society plans on reopening the school to visitors in the spring of 2022.