MANCHESTER – Township officials expressed some frustration prior to the start of their last council meeting regarding reaching the governor’s office. The concerns were based on council candidates getting on the ballot which is normally done through a written petition.
“To be put on the ballot in November for the three council positions that are up, each candidate must obtain 400 petitions from residents. They are to be signed by the residents. However, with the COVID-19 concerns, we are going to request that the petitions be signed electronically,” Mayor Kenneth Palmer said.
Manchester is a non-partisan town and anyone seeking office (Mayor or Council) must collect 400 petitions between mid-June to Aug 31 just to get a position on the November Ballot.
However, if these could be done electronically, Mayor Palmer said that would “eliminate the residents’ concern about coming into contact with someone and our candidates.”
Contacting local lawmakers was one option being discussed as well as contacting the media
Township Attorney Jerry Dasti said he’d be talking with 10th District Sen. James W. Holzapfel and 9th District Sen. Christopher Connors about the issue. It was noted that “a Democratic town like Perth Amboy is in the same boat as us. Maybe it will help out.”
“Normally we gather the petitions by going door to door in our neighborhoods and going to various meetings around town. Due to the pandemic, there are no meetings available and a large number of our residents are rightfully concerned of opening their doors,” said Council President Sam Fusaro, who is up for re-election.
The other two councilmen whose terms are up are Robert Hudak and James Vaccaro.
“Our concern is by following the usual process, no matter how careful we are, we may come into contact with a resident who may have an active COVID-19 infection,” Fusaro said. “We could become carriers of the disease to the residents we reach after the contact. Obviously, we are also concerned for our own families.”
In late April, the governor signed two executive orders that allowed candidates that need petitions for the primary and other individuals gathering petitions for a referendum question on the November ballot, to gather their petitions electronically (Internet).
Since those Executive Orders were signed, township officials have been attempting to reach out to State representatives and members the Governor’s staff to allow electronic petitions for the non-partisan candidates, Fusaro said.
As of June 25 the council had not received any information that their request was being reviewed. “We received information from Sen. Holzapfel’s staff and their liaison to the governor’s office that the Governor was aware of the issue and reviewing the request,” Fusaro said.
“We are extremely hopeful that this happens but we are still waiting. Should our request be granted, our residents could complete the candidate’s petitions in less than a minute on the internet. Since things now seem to be moving, I think it would be appropriate to wait for another week or so, and then we could provide the full details,” he said.
In other business, the governing body voted unanimously to approve an ordinance on second reading accepting a land donation on 82 Lacey Road.
Also approved was an ordinance on second reading adopting amending and supplementing a non-bargaining unit salary ordinance.
“This is the salary range. We have to do this so many years because of inflation,” Fusaro said.
Resident Craig Hubbard asked during the public comment period asked about the public water restrictions, water storage and news on the township’s new water tower.
“What is the timing for this tower?” Hubbard asked.
Mayor Ken Palmer responded saying, there was a delay in February until now was due to “a lot of bureaucratic steps, go out to bid, accept the bid and to make sure everything is within state guidelines. For this tower first you have to lay the lines that the water will run to and from to the tower which is happening in the next month or so.”
Hopefully, it should be up and running by next summer and the township won’t have those water restrictions, he said.
He responded to another inquiry from Hubbard regarding a project involving the electric company and the county that the mayor said had originally expected to be completed by the end of the summer.
“That is not going to happen. I think we are looking now more at the end of the year at this point,” Mayor Palmer added.