JACKSON – Members of the governing body reflected on the loss of life, the spirit of unity and the courage of first responders as they recalled the horror of the events of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on America 17 years ago.
Their reflections were heard during their most recent council meeting held on Sept. 11.
Council President Kenneth Bressi noted that Mayor Michael Reina had lost his brother, Joseph, to the attacks experienced that fateful day.
“It hit home for many of us. Enrollment in the armed service rose during that period. They answered the call along with many first responders,” Bressi said.
“It is a day we will never forget. It was like another generation’s Pearl Harbor,” Bressi said.
“Seventeen years ago we witnessed an attack on our own soil. We saw citizens stand tall. We saw people come together to help each other. Unfortunately, some people now have shown disrespect toward our flag and our nation. We must never forget what happened,” Councilman Barry Calogero said.
Councilman Scott Martin recalled a family incident where his cousin was in one of the day’s target areas. “I tried desperately to reach her. We will always remember them (the victims) and the first responders we lost. They came out to rescue people and faced the fumes. They were there to help.”
“When something like this happens we shed labels. We forget about whether we are Republicans or Democrats or our differences. We are Americans. We have more to unite us than to divide us. We shouldn’t need a ceremony to remind us of that,” Martin added.
Council Vice President Rob Nixon added that “we need to make sure we are a community that builds up and doesn’t tear down. I’m not speaking in a generic sense. God bless everyone who served our country that day and those we lost.”
“We need to honor the victims of that day and the bravery of the police, firefighters and first responders. I was at PBA event that day and I watched as the police immediately jumped into action to see what they could do. We do remember that feeling and how unified we became but in the last decade I’ve watched how people attack each other such as our police and teachers,” Nixon added.
“The attacks happened when people went to work. It was an attack on civilians who went to work and were going about their day. As Councilman Martin said, they attacked our freedom. We have hundreds of thousands of people who still defend our country. First responders finally got the credit for what they do during that time. We are still a great country today and we are standing together, “Bressi said.
Councilwoman Ann M. Uppdegrave described the event saying “it was such a senseless horrific attack. It was a terrorist attack within the borders of our own country.”
Nixon presented a proclamation to resident Maureen Olsen concerning Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Olsen lost her son to cancer.
Olsen advocated for support of cancer research efforts and shared the pain that she experienced in losing a child.
Martin said that childhood cancer are “two words you never want to hear” adding that he knew firsthand what it was like to experience such pain.
In other business, the council unanimously approved on second reading a bond ordinance for various capital improvements and the acquisition of various capital equipment appropriating $507,960 and authorizing the issuance of $483,771 bonds and notes to finance a portion of those costs.
The council also unanimously approved a $1,625,000 bond ordinance for road/drainage and sidewalk improvements in the township.
Resident and council candidate Denise Garner asked about the ordinance recommending that a pothole within Evergreen Court be attended to.
Township Administrator Helene Schlegel said she was unaware of whether that area of the township was part of the current road improvement program plan addressing problem areas of the township. “I don’t know if Evergreen Court is on the list but I will let you know and we will see what can be done about that,” Schlegel said.
Garner also asked about an ordinance which authorized the sale of township property as part of a non-conforming site. Township Attorney Jean Cipriani answered that a homeowner who had work done that extended onto the township property, purchased the land and covered all legal fees.
Cipriani said that other landowners within the contiguous property were contacted but were not interested in purchasing the land. “The buyer was offered fair market value. If you have two or more interested buyers you have to do it by a sealed bid or an auction.”
Resident Joseph Sullivan commended the governing body for opposing cuts in school district funding to Ocean County school districts which will hurt Jackson’s district. The cuts were initiated by Senate President Steve Sweeney and signed by Governor Phil Murphy. Districts with declining enrollment saw a decline in state aid.
The issue of school funding reductions nearly shutdown the state government in July when state budget talks were stalled. The outcome had 205 school districts receiving less money than what was originally promised.
Councilman Martin said that what Murphy did “was awful. He did it after school budgets were passed and the districts were left in a scramble. We can guess why he is targeting Ocean County. It was purely for political reasons.”
Bressi said that Mayor Reina met with Jackson School District Superintendent Stephen Genco about the issue.
“There is not much we can do but the mayor felt very strongly about this. We are trying to get the money back to our school district,” Bressi said.
The school board met during an emergency meeting this summer to compensate for the aid slash that the governor made. The school district has 8,200 students to provide for.
The board applied funds from its surplus account which means that such funds would no longer be available to offset the tax rate for the year 2019-2020.
Resident Roger Derickson noted that it will be a challenge for the school district to cope with the cuts. “I know local towns were also hit. It is the responsibility of those we elect to spend wisely.”
“These cuts will be detrimental, ” Calogero said.