MANCHESTER – Like all towns, Manchester has been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in most governmental meetings being held virtually. In 2020, the township also focused on the safety of residents in another way, through launching its Emergency Medical Services Division.
The Township EMS unit began operating in March replacing a service which was suffering from declining membership. Police Chief Lisa Parker appointed the township’s first director of the Division of Emergency Medical Services, Robert Baran.
The township’s Division of EMS falls within the Township’s Department of Public Safety. Parker noted that since his hiring in 2019, Baran was been instrumental in assisting the police department’s staff with preparing the Division for full operation when it started on March 1.
Other issues that the governing body took a close look at was open space, future development and traffic safety of an intersection that has seen accidents for decades.
Of the many events that were postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, one was “Earth Day Birthday” 50th Anniversary Celebration that was to be hosted by the Environmental Commission and would have featured exhibitors, music, a birthday cake cutting and an electric vehicle display. That event was scheduled for April 17 at the Town Hall Complex.
Township Police gave support to an officer who had his own bout with the coronavirus. Sgt. Antonio Ellis spent 102 days fighting for his life having contracted the coronavirus but he received a special escort home by his brothers and sisters in blue as he returned to his Toms River home on June 17 from the Magee Rehabilitation Jefferson Health in Philadelphia.
He was reunited with his wife and children after having tested positive for the virus back in March and spent a month on a ventilator while in a coma. Mayor Ken Palmer, Police Chief Parker and other members of the department joined members of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department plus officers from Toms River and Lakewood holding a banner at the Manchester Town Hall complex. He was also warmly welcomed by neighbors and area residents who greeted him from the street as he was transported home. Several of them wore T-shirts that read “364 Strong” which is his badge number. Ellis returned to duty soon afterward.
It was a tough time for another officer, a member of the police department’s K-9 unit. While Storm showed off his skills during a demonstration held early in the year at a Toms River car dealership where a year-long collection was presented to go towards the purchase of another dog for the unit, later in the year Storm was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo surgery and the removal of one eye. He recovered and returned to duty afterward.
A township teen’s passion to bring equality to the world around her through the inspiration of her older sister led to a Black Lives Matter rally to Pine Lake Park. The event was organized by 14-year-old Mikayla McSulla.
The rally was sparked by the death of George Floyd, 46, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer. “The purpose of this protest was to show that my community is here for my black culture and I wanted to show that we have people here that want to come out and support that,” Mikayla said. The rally drew more than 100 people including school officials and Mayor Palmer. Water was given out by members of the Township Police Department.
Members of the Township’s Environmental Commission have been keeping a sharp eye on development in the township as well as the preparation of a report that the township contracted a private firm to draft concerning the community natural resource inventory. A public hearing on that report was held on December 22.
Republican Council President Sam Fusaro, Councilman James Vaccaro and Councilman Robert Hudak were each voted back into office for another three-year term on council. The three GOP incumbents faced one opponent, independent candidate Joseph T. Hankins.
Hudak heads the Master Plan Review Committee which is working to revise and update various aspects of the township’s master plan. Before that is finalized Hudak said there would be discussion groups that would allow for public input and explore ideas of what types of business that would be beneficial to see in the community.
During November’s general election the township’s school board race saw three seats up for full terms of three years. The race featured four candidates. The winning candidates were Melanie Biscardi, James “Ken” Pate and Laura Wingler. George Cervenak III ran unopposed for a one-year term on the board.