TOMS RIVER – The restoration of a water tower doesn’t usually generate so much interest.
“I’ve been in this industry 27 years, and I’ve never had the opportunity to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a tank being completed. It is a first for me, and a first for many, but this is a special event. It’s special because it symbolizes the partnership that we have with the community,” Jim Mastrokalos, director of operations at Suez, said. “Not only does it represent very good asset management and our commitment to the community to be good stewards of the water utility and provide safe water, but it also represents a partnership with the [Community Arts Project], something that means a lot to the community about the redevelopment and the education of not only our kids, but also the community and the downtown area.”
Suez representatives joined with Toms River government officials and community members to officially commemorate the restoration of its water tower in the township. U.S. Tank Painting Inc. completed the $1.5 million project, which included paint removal, surface preparation and repainting the tower.
Mastrokalos said Suez approached the township about including artwork on the recently completed restoration of its elevated water tower that rises above the tree line at Indian Hill Road.
They settled on the logo of the Toms River Community Arts Project, which is a township-wide cultural and arts initiative. As part of the township’s master plan, including plans for the downtown, adopted in 2017, the mayor and council included an element for arts and culture.
“The logo on the tank has actually got the children of the school who have visibility, talking about their water, and what their water means to them,” Mastrokalos said. The tank sits across the street from Hooper Avenue Elementary School, where the ribbon cutting took place June 21.
The logo is the brainchild of Marshall Kern, who Mayor Thomas Kelaher referred to as the “cultural guru” for Toms River. Kern is the chair for the Community Arts Project. Its mission is to “facilitate and provide leadership and guidance, advocacy and support for the arts and cultural development of Toms River Township.”
“‘Art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to education, inspire and motivate,’” Kern said, quoting American actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein. “Just as [Mastrokalos] mentioned, even the kids are attracted to the art. It gets them to think about different things, even the water system here in Toms River.”
The inclusion of a separate culture and arts element in the township’s master plan is a first in its 250-year history, Kern said. The adopted resolution Feb. 27, 2018 “[spelled] out that the town wants to elevate the arts for the benefit of all our community members. We’re really thrilled with that.”
The logo features a treble cleft, artist’s palette, prima ballerina, and the comedy and tragedy masks.
“You quite literally have raised awareness of the community art project here. And we’ve had a great start and we hope to build on it with the Suez support,” Kern said. Other supports include the local chamber of commerce, Grunin Foundation, Toms River Art Community, Ocean County College, and others.
Kelaher praised Suez for being a “good corporate citizen. …As far as a corporate relationship, we couldn’t have a better relationship than we have with Suez.”