Manchester’s 2016 Milestones

Manchester Town Hall (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

MANCHESTER – 2016 saw milestones for the Manchester council and school board, as well as news for quality of life issues and development. A recap:

January

Lakehurst Mayor Harry Robbins and Councilmen James Davis and Gary Lowe were sworn in for another term.

The Manchester School District weighed block scheduling.

The Manchester Township Police Department announced that veteran officer Douglas Higgins was recognized with the Corporal distinction.

Council debated whether to occasionally hold their meetings in a location on the western side of town.

The Manchester Board of Education welcomed Donald Webster, Jr., newly elected member Christopher Nolan, and newly appointed Lakehurst representative Dean Hetzel.

Council appointed James Vaccaro as president, Samuel Fusaro as vice president.

The Manchester Hawks’ Hall of Honor, curated by teacher Jill Ocone, added more plaques to its wall, and continues to do so.

Mayor Ken Palmer (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

February

Teachers contract negotiations resumed in Manchester. They had not met since December.

The Shop Manchester tax reward program had 17 businesses on board by February. The program would start up later in the year.

The question of state aid in the Manchester Public schools came up yet again; The mayors of Manchester and Berkeley townships, Kenneth Palmer and Carmen Amato have worked toward getting more state aid for their schools. Manchester Councilman Craig Wallis has asked municipalities across the state to pass resolutions calling for equal school funding.

Lakehurst considered a no-parking ordinance along Fays Lane, which did later pass.

March

Council ponders whether to ban or regulate drones. Drones are actually regulated federally, and the township drops its bid to craft an ordinance regulating them.

The school district introduces active shooting survival training known as ALICE to the schools.

An ordinance was passed that spells out how many children must be supervised by how many adults in public.

Manchester established a “safe exchange zone” at the municipal complex, where those who purchased an item online can meet the buyer or seller.

Lakehurst sought county approval to eliminate a crosswalk on Union Avenue.

Manchester adopted a no-knock registry.

April

The question was asked: Will Pine Lake be swimmable. The verdict: not likely, for years to come.

Police contract negotiations were settled between the township and PBA Local 246. The police went to the state health system and salaries were updated.

The school district called PARCC scores a “baseline” for the district.

Mayor Kenneth Palmer continued his popular “Neighborhood Meetings,” which were featured in The Manchester Times.

  Euthanasia of feral cats was banned in Manchester.

The township established its own “Missing Man Chair” at the municipal complex to honor those soldiers who have never returned home.

Manchester considered joining an energy aggregation program with Stafford Township. However, as the lead entity, Stafford did not allow Manchester to include language in the contract that the township felt would protect its residents. Ultimately, Manchester backed out of the agreement.

May

Lakehurst officer Iain James was promoted to Sergeant after the retirement of Ronald Heinzman.

The township deals with $725K in unfunded state mandates, supporting a bill that require the state to reimburse towns for disabled veteran tax exemptions.

U.S. Army Sgt. Major Harrington Henry made a surprise homecoming to his three children.

Lynk, the Manchester Township Police Department K9, got his body armor.

The average Manchester homeowner saw a $56 increase in their school taxes, $7 in their municipal taxes.

Residents in Oak Knoll complained about problems stemming from the Ocean County Landfill. Mayor Kenneth Palmer invited landfill president Lawrence Hesse to address the concerns.

The teachers of the year were named: essica Parsons of Ridgeway School, Joshua Simpson of Regional Day, Maura Simister of Manchester Township Middle School, Melissa Peck of Manchester Township Elementary School, Jen Shappell of Whiting School and Timothy Hinger of Manchester Township High School.

The educational service professionals were named: Jennifer Eckert of MTHS, Stephanie Boyd of WS, Roni Anderson of MTES, Jennifer Barrett of MTMS, Maureen Romanowski of Regional Day, and Jamie LaBarca of Ridgeway School.

The township was threatened with a lawsuit by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance over its proposed Heritage Minerals plan to bring in 6,543 homes and town center.

Julia Scotti (Photo courtesy of NBC Entertainment/America’s Got Talent)

June

Manchester re-established its “green team.”

The township planned to purchase a leaf vacuum, which was used this fall in town.

Lakehurst approved its $4.6 million budget, raising taxes $40 a year for the average homeowner.

The planning board approved the Heritage Minerals redevelopment plan.

The township police reported an IRS phone scam targeting seniors and other Shore residents. The fake IRS agent demands money and personal information by threats.

Land was finally cleared for the 82-unit townhome complex, Autumn Ridge, being built by routes 70 and 571.

Lakehurst council president Steven Oglesby called for stricter enforcement on pet waste, especially at Lake Horicon.

Though council approved the plan, Mayor Kenneth Palmer vetoed the Heritage Minerals Redevelopment Plan.

Vandalism complaints continued to pour in over destruction at the Lakehurst Manchester Soccer Fields.

Whiting resident and comedienne Julia Scotti made her debut on America’s Got Talent.

July

Manchester water restrictions continued in the eastern part of town.

Gov. Chris Christie’s school fairness formula would double Manchester’s state aid and ease local tax burdens, while devastating Abbott and other districts.

The police department reminded residents to contact the state if a rattlesnake was seen.

The Lakehurst Revitalization Association announced it was canceling its Farmers & Specialty Market this year.

Harry Wright Lake was closed for much of the summer due to high bacteria contents.

August

Lakehurst entered into an agreement with Aggressive Energy, Brooklyn, N.Y., and will save $14,000 over two years on its electric bill.

Manchester Police responded to a call on Robin Street, where a young committed “suicide by cop.”

A former acting treasurer with Manchester Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 was charged with theft of more than $30,000 from the organization’s general account.

Sixth Avenue Park was slated for upgrades.

The school district upgraded its website, making it updated for smart phone use.

September

The community placed flowers at The Three B’s after a worker was killed in a freak accident when a freight elevator came down on him. Oscar Francisco Carranza-Lopez, 34, was from Lakehurst.

Municipal employees donned orange and collected food for Hunger Action Day on September 8. The food went to local pantries.

Six vie for three open council seats: Incumbents James Vaccaro, Samuel Fusaro and Charles Frattini ran against challengers Felicia Finn, William Foor and Anne Markovski, who were backed by Mayor Kenneth Palmer.

Lakehurst Borough decides to build an impound yard, at the cost of $12,500 in capital improvement funds.

October

The Lakehurst council and board of education hammered out an agreement where the borough would gain six lots along Pine Street, selling three and giving the remaining three for use for borough children.

Board of education incumbents Ken Pate and Jackie Bermudez ran for two seats against newcomer Patrick Barry.

The school district shared mixed PARCC results

The Heritage Minerals tract was in the news a lot in 2016. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

November

Council incumbents kept their seats against mayor-backed challengers. Long-time board of education members Ken Pate lost his reelection bid, with Jackie Bermudez keeping her seat and newcomer Patrick Barry winning the second seat.

Councilman Brendan Weiner called for the township parks to be mapped out.

Auditor Andrew Zabiega warned council to keep an eye on its unfunded pension costs, which could total $54 million.

The Manchester Township high and middle schools were awarded a $10,200 grant from NAVAIR Lakehurst to extend their STEM initiatives.

December

Leisure Knoll was the last holdout, finally opting to have the township collect its recyclables.

A suspicious package was left at Manchester Plaza on December 5, prompting its evacuation and NJ State Police bomb squad being called in. A suitcase was found to be empty and not a threat.

Manchester, as the lead agency, decided to enter into an energy aggregation agreement with Gabel Associates.

The township settled a lawsuit with a reinstated police officer for $190,000. The officer fought his termination in court and was reinstated. He sued for back pay and attorney’s fees. He settled with the township, with the township admitting no liability.

The Manchester Hawks cheerleading squad was named Regional Champions on December 5.