TOMS RIVER – Candidates in the Nov. 7 election all said the town needed more commercial development and less residential development. They also sounded off on the opioid addiction epidemic, recreation, and taxes.
The four ward candidates are up for grabs this year. The township is split up into four wards, and each one has a representative on the Township Council. A questionnaire was prepared, so that each candidate had the same questions. The responses were then edited for narrative flow and to remove direct attacks. Candidates will be presented in alphabetical order.
Incumbent Republican Maria Maruca is being challenged by Democrat Anthony Colucci.
Colucci worked in accounting for Fortune 100 companies for 40 years before retiring. He volunteered for the Toms River Green Team and Friends of Ortley Beach.
“I am currently serving as President of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association (OBVTA) which has given me an up close and personal view of what residents in my Ward expect from their local government officials. Serving in a leadership role has provided me with the tools necessary to affect change to improve the quality of life for our residents,” he said.
Waterfront homeowners are concerned with a lack of public spaces and a “general feeling of indifference on the part of the local government,” he said. They need parks, kayak ramps, and other recreation.
“We should be working to improve our rating level in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System (CRS) to help reduce the flood insurance burden,” he said.
There are some areas of town that would be prime real estate for new commercial areas, he said. He would work to attract midsize businesses to Downtown Toms River, a modernization of business on Fischer Boulevard, and he would like to see a varied business district on Route 35 north.
“This will stimulate local jobs and help take some of the tax burden away from the homeowners,” he said.
Council meetings should be televised on public access channels, he added.
Maruca is the manager of the Motor Vehicle Agency in Toms River, and also helps out at her family’s business Maruca’s Pizza on the Boardwalk in Seaside Heights.
She has been on council since 2004. She has served on the Toms River Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, the American Cancer Society, Ocean of Love, NAMI, the People’s Pantry, and the Ocean County Tourism Advisory Council. She is a member of St. Justin’s the Martyr Church.
“Property taxes are one of the biggest issues,” she said. “The Toms River Council was able to balance our budget this year with a 0% increase in the municipal tax rate. The challenge is keeping Toms River affordable for our residents while still maintaining a high level of services.”
The township is still feeling the effects of Superstorm Sandy, with a loss in ratables, she said. There are also some residents who are not back in their homes.
“Ward 1 was hardest hit on both sides of the bay,” she said. “The town worked on getting emergency federal funds, $35,679,000, from the federal government through the state. These funds were spread out over 4 years to help with budget after the storm.”
Paving and beach replenishment projects need to be completed, she said.
“I would like to see more utilization of the newly created special enforcement task force to address the quality of life issues,” she said.
Other work for the township includes advocating for open space purchases and working with recreation leagues, she said.
Incumbent Republican Kevin Geoghegan is being challenged by Democrat Daniel Rodrick.
Geoghegan is a retired Toms River Police Department sergeant who works on a per diem basis as a MICU Paramedic for Virtua Health. He also serves as an EMS coordinator in Berkeley. He volunteers with the Silverton First Aid Squad and the Silverton Fire Company, having served as chief for two terms. He is a trustee of the Ocean County 200 Club. He joined the council in February of 2016, and ran for election in 2016 to finish up a term.
In his role as a first responder, he said he has seen the impact of overdoses on families and the community in general. Toms River joined a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, which is a step in the right direction.
Another issue is the Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) that has forced Toms River to allow construction in order to meet a certain number of affordable housing units, he said.
“The state maps had numerous errors – for example the state suggested that the cloverleaf turns on Rt. 37, median strip on the Garden State Parkway, golf course in Greenbriar Woodlands and the parking lot at the Ocean County Mall were sites available for affordable units,” he said. “After being allocated the largest number of affordable housing units in the state in rounds 1 and 2 of COAH, the state then proposed in excess of 2,400 units in round 3. Toms River vigorously objected to the excessive numbers but the court mandated Toms River build 1,285 units in round 3 which will end in 2025.
“I would like to explore more shared service agreements with both the Toms River Regional School and the county of Ocean,” he said. This could include large capital purchases or buying additional user licenses of software rather than buying extra software.
Rodrick teaches science for the Middletown Board of Education. His undergraduate degree is in geology and he has a master’s degree in administration.
“Not having experience in public office is one of my greatest strengths,” he said. “Americans are tired of career politicians and their army of cronies that continually feed at the public trough.”
Overdevelopment is one of the biggest problems facing his ward, he said. “There are 1,400 new units of housing under construction in northern Toms River and 2,500 more are in the works. None of it had to be there.
“Thousands of additional multi-family units in northern Toms River will strain township services, devastate our schools, and send property taxes skyrocketing,” he said. “I will call for a moratorium on high-density, multi-family development. I will also rezone the Route 9 corridor to prevent high-density residential development.”
Incentives should be given to businesses so that they come to Toms River instead of residential housing, he said.
“That would create jobs without burdening our infrastructure or increasing taxes,” he said. “Using both zoning and incentives, I would also like to create a commercial buffer between Toms River and the rapid population growth in Lakewood. Incentives could also be used to revitalize both the downtown area and Route 37. Toms River is the county seat, and it should look the part.”
Incumbent Jeffrey Carr declined to seek re-election. His seat is sought by Republican Louis Gallipoli II and Democrat Laurie Huryk.
Gallipoli is the owner of Gallipoli and Gallipoli Wealth Management, and is a certified public accountant. He is currently coaching three youth soccer teams. He has held the following positions in the past: chairman of the Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, president of the Kiwanis Club of Toms River, board member of the American Heart Association, treasurer of the O.C. Foundation for Vo-Tec Education, and Little League coach.
He plans on using his financial background to analyze budgets to reduce costs and increase efficiency, with the goal being “holding the line on property taxes by pursuing a zero tax increase.”
He would like to see more youth programs to keep them from getting involved in drugs, and would like to adapt the town’s master plan to include more open space.
The downtown area has a lot of waterfront property and it could be revitalized to make better use of it, he said.
“If you are looking for an individual with a vested interest in our community, I am the one. My concerns are likely your concerns, holding the line on property taxes, keeping our quality of life, and attacking the opioid epidemic and preserving open space,” he said. “Having never run for political office before, I will bring fresh ideas and your concerns to the council, ensuring our hometown remains the Toms River we all love.”
Huryk is a registered nurse, specializing in informatics, which links medical professionals with those who create medical software. She was a Girl Scout leader for 16 years.
“The number one issue facing us right now is the urbanization of Toms River,” she said. “This has opened the floodgates for unfettered building of thousands of high-density housing units in a concentrated area. Our infrastructure simply cannot handle the subsequent, massive influx of new residents. Our roads will become impassable and the strain on our schools will be unsustainable. With that increased pressure comes increased taxes. I plan to request a moratorium on high-density residential building, and a re-evaluation of the township’s master plan. We should be re-zoning these areas back to rural or commercial to put a stop to the building of more high-density housing along the Route 9 corridor.”
The downtown area, with the waterfront property, is ripe for revitalization, much like what’s been done in Red Bank and Freehold, she said.
“Inviting commercial businesses to Toms River will increase revenue for the town and stabilize taxes for our residents,” she said. “I’d also like to follow the lead of the Brick Council in supporting local businesses and finding new, creative uses for older structures. For example, if a storefront has been empty for a year, the township could waive permit fees. This offers an incentive to entrepreneurs embarking on a new business venture while providing a service to the community in revitalizing abandoned property.”
Incumbent Republican Alfonso Manforti, the Council President, is being challenged by Democrat Terrance Turnbach.
Manforti is a chiropractor who has been on the council for 4 years. He is a current or former member of various groups, including the Toms River Lions Club, Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, West Dover Elementary PTO, St Joseph’s parish, International Association of Counselors and Therapists, Columbia Civic League (Italian American Club), and Ocean County Fitness Advisory Council. He has helped run supply drives for troops and food drives for the Monmouth-Ocean Food Bank
He said his main goals are to attract more commercial ratables to balance the budget. Part of this is “adopting a new master plan which rezones much of the Route 9 corridor to light industrial.”
While there needs to be more commercial and industrial on Route 9, that kind of construction should be stopped in neighborhoods around the hospital, he said. Meanwhile, more recreational areas downtown will make it more attractive to shoppers.
A high point of his council work has been the formation of a quality of life task force “that will continually address locations within the township that have been identified as being habitual places of concern for criminal activity, public safety, municipal code violations and quality of life issues,” he said. Furthering this avenue, the council joined the lawsuit against drug companies to hold them responsible for getting people addicted.
Turnbach is a partner in the law firm of Starkey, Kelly, Kenneally, Cunningham and Turnbach. Prior to this, he was employed as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable James N. Citta, J.S.C., Ocean County Superior Court.
He is the president-elect for the Ocean County Bar Association, an association that works each year to give back to local communities, and an assistant coach with the Toms River Futbol Club, assisting with the girls U-9 Solo team.
The two concerns he hears the most from residents are “property taxes and overdevelopment, with a specific concern on how the overdevelopment will impact our roads and school system.
“Our residents are concerned that Toms River cannot handle such development, and that it will only cause our taxes to continue to rise and our roads and schools to become overcrowded,” he said.
The local government must be run in a smart, cost effective manner, rewarding hard work, not political connections, he said.
“Our downtown area needs revitalization and that starts with cleaning up or shutting down the “heroin hotel” on Water Street, presently operating as the Red Carpet Inn,” he said. “I pledge to clean this hotel up or shut it down under our state statutes that allow townships to address areas of public nuisance.”