Plus: school issues drive Haddon Heights elections, and a Collingswood write-in candidate joins BOE incumbents.
By Matt Skoufalos
Haddonfield Mayor Jeffrey Kasko was looking for a mandate from borough residents before pulling the trigger on the $28.5-million sale of the municipal water and sewer system to the privately held New Jersey American Water.
On Tuesday, he got one. Voters in the borough came out in favor of the sale on a more than 60-40 split; in no voting district in the town did the no’s (1,371) outnumber the yes’s (2,493), according to unofficial numbers provided by borough clerk Deanna Bennett.
“I think the people of Haddonfield have decided it’s the right thing to do,” Kasko told NJ Pen; “as our commissioners did, as our committee did.”
The mayor said that an agreement of sale would be signed between the borough and New Jersey American Water in the next month or two. He projected that Haddonfield will still own its water and sewer into the first quarter of 2015 until the details are resolved.
“There’s a couple of loose ends,” Kasko said. “My guess is that the transaction date won’t be until February or March.”
When asked whether the agreement would include more specific terms upon which the sale would be contingent, as critics of the deal had pointed out, Kasko said that he would consider community input, but that he was “not sure exactly what we can and cannot add to the general agreement.
“I want to get as many of those types of assurances as I can,” the mayor said.
Kasko also emphasized his perspective that the added revenue, although only a one-time gain, would give the local government needed flexibility as it plans for other needs, such as the long-term local redevelopment issues spurred on by the sale of the Bancroft campus.
“I just think it gives us more flexibility in the future,” Kasko said; “not only us, but any future board of commissioners, to plan for infrastructure improvements, property tax relief, and whatever’s coming down the pike with challenges with the budget.”
Collingswood school board write-in joins incumbents with strong showing
In August, the Collingswood Board of Education couldn’t field a full slate of candidates for its three available positions.
By Election Day, borough residents were treated to a four-way write-in race for the final slot next to incumbents Madalyn Deets and Fiona Henry.
When the dust settled, here’s how the final returns looked.
- Fiona Henry – 1,938
- Madalyn Deets – 1,932
- Robert Lewandowski – 985
- Morgan Craig – 218
- William Deitz – 163
- Christopher Binder – 0
The figures are unverified and came from poll challengers who reported results from the voting receipts in Collingswood. Unofficial results from the Camden County Board of Elections put the write-in vote total at 1,500, or 39 pages worth of entries, 1,366 of which went to hopefuls Craig, Deitz, and Lewandowski, according to challenger counts.
Lewandowski, who said he’d estimated something like a 10-percent return on the numbers drawn by the incumbent candidates, called his estimated 985-vote write-in total “just insane.
“I just feel grateful that this town would take the time out of their day to write in a 17-letter name, to volunteer their time handing out flyers, or putting up a lawn sign,” he said.
“With this kind of turnout, it shows Collingswood residents are paying attention to education,” Lewandowski said. “If they’re paying attention to it on Election Day, they can pay attention to it every day. I hope to be a part of that team to make that happen.”
Heights Republicans sweep; schools get bond funding
“It was a very strange race,” said Haddon Heights councilman Rick DiRenzo. “I think because the school board was so contentious, with so many candidates, that it brought more people out.”
DiRenzo, who was re-elected Tuesday along with his fellow Republican incumbent and Haddon Heights council president Kathy Lange, said that voters in his community are wearing thin on patience for increasing school costs.
“We’ve got a lot of work in front of us,” DiRenzo said. “We’ve got to keep our belts tightened, move forward, and be very fiscally conservative.”
Even as the district pushed through an $189,265 annual tax increase to pay for an art teacher, some extracurricular clubs, and technology purchases, the approval margin was scant: 53 to 46 percent, or 1,082 votes to 957, according to unofficial numbers.
“What we give the school board for one month is our police budget for one year,” DiRenzo said. “This is the second permanent increase they’ve hit the taxpayers with in the last three years.”
In that contentious school board election to which DiRenzo referred, incumbent Board of Education President Rebecca Kitchmire was re-elected, along with newcomers Richard Quinn and Jamie Alexander.
With 4,158 votes cast—again, all numbers are considered unofficial until certified by the county board of elections—here were the results.
- Rebecca Kitchmire – 1,018
- Richard Quinn – 640
- Jamie Alexander – 576
- David Clapper – 535
- Rita Dame – 497
- Harry McNally, Jr. – 496
- Chris Mrozinski – 375
Finally, on the subject of liquor license talks, perhaps the most interesting business issue in the borough, DiRenzo says not to expect much movement in the near future. Although the councilman said he remains in favor of a non-binding public referendum on the subject, “there’s a lot more research that needs to be done moving forward.
“There’s no way we can ask people to go for something without the information they’re requesting,” DiRenzo said. “I want the people to have a say. It’s their town.
“I think the main thing moving forward for us is to maintain quality services for the people at a conservative price and keep our taxes [low].”
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, there were few surprises in New Jersey’s First Congressional District.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D) defeated Republican Jeff Bell to hold onto his seat, and Donald Norcross (D) held off Republican challenger Garry Cobb to claim the U.S. Representative’s seat vacated by long-serving Rob Andrews.
Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. and his fellow Democratic incumbent, Scot McCray, were re-elected to their seats on the county governing body.
Both questions on the ballot–the bail reform and open space measures–passed on a better than 60-40 split.