Washington Twp. Council meeting: Inspections, fireworks, apartments and turtles

Over the past few months, there has been some discussion among Washington Township council members and residents about bringing various inspection service back in-house.

At the April 25 council meeting, a resolution was passed to award a contract to an outside, third party for inspection services.

Before May 2010, council members said, all inspections were done by township employees. In early 2010, Washington Township officials completed building, plumbing, electrical, elevator and fire inspections across the township.

Council then passed a resolution to contract all inspections to a third party to save money for the township.

At last night’s meeting, council passed a resolution allowing building inspections to come back under township auspices, while awarding a contract to one vendor for plumbing, electrical, elevator and fire inspections.

John DiStefano, who was appointed as subcode inspector at the meeting, told the council having building inspections done by the township would yield savings for the township.

“Bringing building inspection back in house, we can make a lot more money,” DiStefano said.

Council vice president Chris Del Borrello asked why all five inspections couldn’t be done by township employees.

“Building is more lucrative to bring back in house,” DiStefano said. “It’s a baby step approach to test the waters.”

Business administrator Bob Smith said the council could revisit bringing in other subcode inspections into township control a few months down the road.

“Taking building in house is a sure thing and we wanted to go with a sure thing,” Smith said.

Resident Luciano Disalvatore told the council his company put in a bid to do the inspection work, but was denied because the company could only provide work for three of the four sub codes.

Disalvatore said in his 13 years of work, had never seen an RFP go out for all four sub codes at once.

Del Borrello asked to have the council reconsider its “yes” vote on the original resolution to award the third-party contract, but the motion did not carry.

“If the gentleman took the time to come out, I would like to change my ‘yes’ vote to a ‘no’ vote,” Del Borrello said.

Later in the meeting, some council members presented reports on township updates.

Councilman Ray MacDowell asked the council if it was still willing to set aside $10,000, as it did in 2011, for a July 4 fireworks display.

In 2011, then-mayor Matt Lyons and the council debated whether the town could afford fireworks, but decided to keep the tradition alive, albeit scaled back.

The council agreed to set aside $10,000 in the budget. Last year’s fireworks, band and ceremony cost the township about $10,500, MacDowell said.

Councilman Giancarlo D’Orazio made a presentation to the council on closing businesses and foreclosed homes. He presented three poster boards of photographs of decline in the township and urged the mayor to trim the budget even further so taxes would no go up at all.

“We can do something about the taxes here or eventually we lose more businesses and more homes,” D’Orazio said.

When given the opportunity during the public comment portion of the meeting, a few residents asked council to explain the proposed apartment/commercial building near the intersection of Hurffville-Crosskeys Road and Fries Mill Road.

Some residents said they heard the building would have a 20-year tax abatement.

The plan was heard on first reading and no decision has been made. Some residents asked council president Daniel Morley how this construction would benefit the township.

He said the site is currently 33 acres of farmland and would bring in some taxes. He also said the building is part of a PILOT program and would not receive tax abatement.

The project, Morley said, would bring in construction jobs and jobs in retail spaces.

But some residents disagreed.

“I’m against it,” said Mike Gilletti. “They’re not going to pick locally from our unions (for construction jobs). We’re not going to make a penny off of that.”

Jack Yerkes also asked for an update on the oil spill.

Mayor Barbara Wallace says she continues to receive daily updates from the NJDEP and NJ Transit.

She said the wildlife group has not found many more dead turtles.

“Just today, they found only one lethargic turtle,” Wallace said.

The next council meeting will be held on May 9 at 7 p.m. in the municipal building.

About Melissa DiPento

If it happens in Cherry Hill, I want to know about it. I'm a South Philly resident/South Jersey suburbanite and will see the story first-hand, even if that means riding my single-speed bike along Route 70. I especially enjoy writing about politics and sustainability.View all posts by Melissa DiPento