BARNEGAT – At its most recent meeting, the Township Committee received a new member, filling the spot left vacant after former Committeewoman Susan McCabe’s resignation.
Joseph Lopes was sworn in as the newest committeeman by Mayor Frank Caputo.
The committee unanimously passed a resolution appointing Lopes before he was sworn in. Lopes took his seat on the stand and thanked everyone for the opportunity to serve the residents of Barnegat and for the vote of confidence.
“I want Barnegat to be the best place in the world,” said Lopes, noting that this was a special moment for him.
During the committee reports, each of the members took a moment to congratulate Lopes on his new position.
“I think he is going to have his heart in the right place,” said Committeeman Albert Bille. Mayor Caputo also wished him the best of success.
The position on the committee opened up following McCabe’s resignation in Jan. 1 of the New Year. McCabe resigned as committeewoman to take over a new position with the township, Labor Attorney/Human Resources Director.
Following her resignation, Township Clerk Michele Rivers previously noted that it could take up to 45 days to fill her vacancy.
Mayor Caputo explained at the meeting that the process for filling the open seat on the committee began by advertising the position before a Republican board. Three names were brought to the Ocean County Chairman, where the candidates were then interviewed by the board, he said. From there, the chosen candidate was identified to the township committee and then voted on during the meeting.
Many residents wished Lopes success as he takes on this new role with the township. However, those same residents also expressed disappointment with McCabe’s new position. Numerous residents came forward during public session to note that McCabe’s notable increase in pay was disconcerting to many, and that they didn’t believe her new position would be saving the township money.
According to a township press release, it stated that the township spent $250,000 plus an additional $43,000 on legal expenses last year when the decision was made to bundle all legal positions together into one. Now, the township has decided to split legal responsibilities into three positions, including McCabe’s, costing the town an approximate total of $240,000.
Township Administrator Martin Lisella, himself a former committeeman, noted that for McCabe’s potion, she will not be paid salary, but rather will be paid on a case by case basis in the amount not to exceed $90,000 for the year. Conflict Attorney Sean Kean will be compensated in the same manner, not to exceed $100,000.
Officials made efforts during the meeting to clarify these concerns of the residents relevant to McCabe’s new position.
During committee reports, Committeeman John Novak noted that the township is ready for the next potential snow event.
Novak said that the township has 500 tons of salt and 9 salt trucks ready. He noted it costs approximately $8,998 for salting for just one snow event.
He also said that the township has 30 snow plows ready. “It takes about 11 hours to plow all of our streets for a 2-3” snow event,” he explained, stating it takes even longer for a larger snow event.
Meeting Time Changes
Mayor Caputo reiterated during the meeting that March will begin the new committee meeting times for the New Year. The meeting on March 6 will take place at 10 a.m. as opposed to the regular 6:30 p.m. meeting time.
The meetings will alternate between morning and evening times every month. The committee now only holds one meeting per month.
Residents who spoke at the meeting expressed concern about the meeting changes and were generally not in favor of the idea.
Resident Marianne Clemente noted that she thought the meeting changes would, “cut down on the input of the working people,” of Barnegat. Others agreed that 10 a.m. meetings would be difficult for them to attend due to work schedules.
Mayor Caputo and Deputy Mayor Al Cirulli noted that the committee plans to revisit the idea of changing the meeting times back in the event that the new times do not work best for both the committee and residents.