Continuing its practice of promoting eco-friendly infrastructure and business practices, the town of Hammonton has once again submitted grant applications to fund those efforts.
Councilman Jonathan Oliva—the chairperson of the Quality of Life Committee and the mayoral council appointment to the Hammonton Environmental Commission—said at the July 27 town council meeting that such grant applications are important opportunities for the town.
“You may see a lot of times in my reports, it seems that every month we’re a little grant-happy in Quality of Life, but these are really important initiatives, and there are avenues out there for us to get these important initiatives done without spending taxpayer dollars and by applying for grants. If it means we’re going to put a little bit of additional time, volunteer time and effort of these, just keep track of it. We’re going to continue doing it,” Oliva said.
Oliva was specifically referring to resolutions of support for two different grant programs.
The first resolution was in support of a grant application to Sustainable Jersey, an entity which has awarded grant money to Hammonton in the past, and which has twice certified the town at its “silver” level.
“It’s a grant for about $5,000 to update the ROSI (Recreation and Open Space Inventory) map and report to include all the latest versions of the properties that the town owns, the open space, so we’re applying for a grant for that,” Public Works Manager Robert Vettese said.
The language of the resolution notes that Hammonton needs to “make revisions and updates to its ROSI map in compliance with the State Green Acres Program” and specifically mentions the benefits of Sustainable Jersey, saying that, through it, the town “has successfully achieved reductions to its carbon footprint, as well as energy and economic efficiencies by participation in the program” and “foresees continued benefits from ongoing participation in the Sustainable Jersey program.”
“We understand that not all municipalities at this moment are ready to establish one (a stormwater utility) or ready to uphold one, but we still are encouraging towns to apply, because the money can be used for projects that would entail some sort of stormwater management.”Kaitlin Barakat, Water Quality Coordinator, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters
The second resolution of support was for submission of a grant application to the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
“There’s a stormwater utility feasibility grant that the environmental commission had put forth with assistance from Jonathan (Oliva) and a couple other people. It would apply for a $20,000 grant for us to do a feasibility study,” Vettese said.
According to the resolution, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund has issued a request for proposals for municipalities “in the Delaware River and the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Watersheds to submit proposals to either implement or study the feasibility of fully complying with newly-promulgated New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) regulations regarding stormwater management systems set to take effect in April 2021.
”The resolution further states that the town of Hammonton is “committed to ensuring that its supporting infrastructure, including its network of stormwater management infrastructure, remains in peak condition to ensure efficient and environmentally sound methods of handling precipitation events in the area, and … considers it prudent to investigate the detailed possible impacts of fully implementing the new stormwater regulations promulgated by NJDEP, in order to be fully informed as to the benefits and costs and reasonable impacts on the town and its residents.”
Councilman Steven Furgione, chair of the Water and Sewer Committee, noted his appreciation to town residents regarding the recent deluge of stormwater.
“I just wanted to take a quick second regarding the storm water plan here that we’re proposing to get a grant, just to thank the residents for their continued effort to keep their properties clean. By doing so—I know we’ve had some floods; we’ve had tremendous amounts of rainfall in the last few weeks—but by keeping their property clean, it’s less that we have to worry about in the storm drains. So I just want to thank them for their ongoing effort,” Furgione said.
Kaitlin Barakat, a water quality coordinator with the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, previously appeared before town council on February 24 to introduce herself, noting that she visits different municipalities within the Delaware River Watershed to discuss stormwater pollution and stormwater education. At that time, she presented a request for grant proposals.
“We understand that not all municipalities at this moment are ready to establish one or ready to uphold one, but we still are encouraging towns to apply, because the money can be used for projects that would entail some sort of stormwater management,” Barakat said at that meeting.
Stormwater utility fees are allowed but not required under New Jersey’s Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Act, signed into law on March 18, 2019. According to the language of the act, it authorizes, “the establishment of local stormwater utilities, and to allow those utilities to assess fees that are based on a fair and equitable approximation of the proportionate contribution of stormwater runoff from any real property, in order to finance the improvement of the state’s stormwater infrastructure, better control water pollution and flooding, restore and enhance the quality of the state’s waters, and protect the public health, safety, and welfare and the environment.”
Council was unanimous in their support of these grant applications.
“We thought it was important to add sustainability elements to our master plan, as well as historic preservation, because those are things that we as a town have continued to embody year after year. I think our environmental commission, our green team, has done a really great job bringing some new and innovative things to town. We wanted to build that into the very fabric of the town, and that’s really what the master plan does.”Councilman Jonathan Oliva, Chairperson of the Quality of Life Committee and Member of the Hammonton Environmental Commission
The council also voted to incorporate recently awarded grant money into its budget.
The first was a $20,000 grant from Sustainable Jersey, awarded on May 14. This grant funds two new elements for Hammonton’s master plan: a green building and sustainability element—which addresses environmentally friendly construction practices, incorporating everything from the types of windows and siding used to the direction that new construction is oriented, which would allow for the use of solar energy—and the second involves historic preservation, and how that relates to various historic lands and structures.
Oliva previously spoke to The Gazette about the importance of those elements.
“We thought it was important to add sustainability elements to our master plan, as well as historic preservation, because those are things that we as a town have continued to embody year after year. I think our environmental commission, our green team, has done a really great job bringing some new and innovative things to town. We wanted to build that into the very fabric of the town, and that’s really what the master plan does. It’s a guidance document. It is illustrative but it’s not exhaustive. It’s helping to guide the individuals on how you plan to plan out your town. Knowing that sustainability and historic preservation are very important things to everyone in Hammonton, we thought it was important to weave that into the fabric of our master plan,” Oliva said.
The second grant incorporated into the budget was received from the NJDEP’s Clean Communities program in the amount of $35,041.86. The grant, along with others in the state totaling $19.4 million, was awarded on June 10.
“We are grateful for funding that helps keep New Jersey clean. We are proud to serve as an educational resource for communities, as we drive many of our campaigns to engage the younger generations to help mold positive, long-term behaviors toward discarding litter.”Sandy Huber, Executive Director, New Jersey Clean Communities Council
According to a release, the nonprofit New Jersey Clean Communities Council “oversees the reporting requirements for the program. Disbursements are based on housing units and miles of municipally owned roadways … Activities funded by Clean Communities grants include cleanups of stormwater systems that can disperse trash into streams, rivers and bays; volunteer cleanups of public properties; adoption and enforcement of local anti-littering ordinances; beach cleanups; public information and education programs; and purchases of litter collection equipment such as receptacles, recycling bins, anti-litter signs and graffiti removal supplies.”
In that release, NJDEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe explained the purpose of the grants.
“Clean Communities grants help municipalities and counties with the important task of removing unsightly litter, often from roadways and around stormwater collection systems, to enhance quality of life. Beautifying our communities through these types of cleanups help improve water quality and natural resources while also protecting wildlife and their habitats,” McCabe said.
Sandy Huber, Executive Director of New Jersey Clean Communities Council, said in that release that municipalities and counties are “strongly encouraged to use these grants to pay for volunteer and paid cleanups, badly-needed equipment purchases, enforcement activities and education.”
“We are grateful for funding that helps keep New Jersey clean. We are proud to serve as an educational resource for communities, as we drive many of our campaigns to engage the younger generations to help mold positive, long-term behaviors toward discarding litter,” Huber said.
This story was produced in collaboration with CivicStory and the New Jersey Sustainability Reporting project. It was originally reported by Joseph F. Berenato for The Hammonton Gazette, and may be re-distributed through the Creative Commons License, with attribution.