Good evening friends neighbors and all citizens of Estell Manor.
One of my most important statements to make is simple. Thank you.
Thank you for your trust. Thank you for your friendship over the years. And thank you for your faith in me to lead our fine city.
This city has experienced a most unusual election. In round one back in November there was a tie. 367-367. Half of the voters were for us and 1/2 were against us. With a second race last week on February 7th luckily the second time was the charm. However being looked upon as an underdog, let me borrow a phrase from Jason Kelce of the Super Bowl champions,the Eagles. I will use his phrase but without the R-rated bombs that were fired off like missiles :
" An underdog is a hungry dog ".
Another phrase that I would like to borrow is from Robert Zimmerman from his hit The Times They Are A-changing: The slow one now will later be fast,as the present now will later be past, the order is rapidly fading.And the first one now will later be last for The Times They Are A-Changin.
Indeed they are. This past election for mayor certainly had both phrases from Jason Kelce and Robert Zimmerman ring out very loud and true.
A reflection from election day, February 6th, is that there were more voters who voted last week than back in November. I was not really sure what the turnout would be for last Tuesday and I was realistically thinking probably around 450-500 voters. Instead it turned out the 27 more people voted for mayor this past Tuesday than back in November. In November a total of 734 votes were cast for mayor which was the tide election. This past Tuesday on February 6th a total of 758 votes were cast for mayor. The final count was 391-367.
I would like to discuss the next four years of my goals and vision I see for Estell Manor.
I have already been in touch with the governor's office about our $200,500.00 of PILOT funding. ( payment-in-lieu-of-taxes). I have received positive feedback from an aide to Governor Murphy. That aide and a representative from the D.E.P. will meet with me here in Estell Manor sometime in early March.
I will be reaching out to many key players from Trenton to help us in forming Partnerships and positive dialogue. And we are off to an early good start. On Friday February 9th I was very very surprised from a phone call I received while picking up color charts at the paint store. I was asked "Is this Mayor Joe Venezia," in which I replied, yes, that would be me. The person then said "this is Phil Murphy calling to congratulate you". I thanked the governor and told him how honored I was from his call. Governor Murphy stated and I quote "I was very intrigued seeing a tied race for mayor and how the outcome would be. From the state house we were tracking this race." Governor Murphy also said that if he could help in any way during my term as mayor to please call his office. I told the Governor about P.I.L.O.T.funding issue and Governor Murphy assured me he will personally review all the facts and details to the this issue.
Senator Jeff Van Drew has always been a friend to Estell Manor and I trust our senator will be a vital part of our Partnerships to help our city. I also thank Senator van Drew for his major role in bringing FiOS to Estell Manor and look forward to receive an invitation to testify before the Senate budget committee. We will all work together to get a permanent bill put in place for the P.I.L.O.T funding.
I am also looking into other towns and which they are realizing how Contracting Services is saving them a lot of money. Once we can compare cost and establish that there is a savings we will have to fulfill to the taxpayers what they expect of our leadership. All of us members of city council have a moral obligation to run this city like a business.
From Wall Street to Walmart nearly every business is making cuts and finding ways to operate more efficiently. I ask a simple question, "Why has Estell Manor not been interested?
I am sure there will be lots of obstruction from Council to make this difficult. However please remember the verse I said earlier from Robert Zimmerman .
Next on my agenda is to finish and finalize the landfill closure. I started this initiative back in 2006. During my first term as mayor and part of my second term, our city received somewhere around $400,000 from the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund (HDSRF). The late Senator Jim Whelan was very instrumental in helping me with this and also creating a law that allows closed Municipal landfills to be a permitted use for Solar Development or cell tower farm. Sen Whelan's believe was that this would have the least environmental impact. While I am aware that this could take quite some time to get through the permitting process one interesting thought would be to lease the closed landfill and have a developer take on the responsibility and come to terms on a percentage sharing of the revenue. By doing this it seems there would most be likely no cost to the city and yet reap a percentage of Revenue along with a lease.
I will also stay on top of any grants we will qualify for and be sure to resurface our largest and most in need of Municipal streets.
Also I had a heart-to-heart conversation with our zoning officer to discuss a plan and keeping properties in compliance with our zoning laws.
Also I would like to address the issue with our zoning board only having two or three meetings a year. I believe that this is very counterproductive and think our planning board needs to be doing more planning or staying on top of our zoning issues.
Another entity I want to form a partnership with is our school and youth and having them involved in community service. A memo will go out in the quarterly and also on our Municipal website and also with the school. I certainly believe that having our youth engaged in community service will help them to achieve, and prepare them for future leadership roles keeping them productive and help them to make smart and wise choices. I believe that their parents will help and encourage them and make them so proud of their positive role model positions in our community.
Next as chairman of the Finance Committee, our bill list should be posted on our website monthly. For those who put in their campaign fliers that I was a liar with some of the exaggerated expenditures I will have posted on our last four years of spending and all future bill lists on our website. This is taxpayer's money and all residents and taxpayers have the right to see how Council spends their money. You the taxpayer have the right to be able to do this from the comfort of your home rather than having to come down to City Hall to file an Opra request.
On Public Safety I will work with the state police to form a neighborhood watch program. With the recent spike that i have heard with theft occurring and with the epidemic of opioid abuse, having a neighborhood watch is warranted. I did this once before back in the year 2000 but it turned into a failure because back then very little activity was happening around here. Truthfully I like that failure because if not much was happening back then with theft and drug use then the better off our city will always be. Unfortunately what has become mainstream on TV regrettably spills out into many communities.
Next on my Public Safety list is that aside from a hurricane or another derechio , a very real Public Safety concern is wildfires. Because we are a very rural community the threat can be very real. In speaking with Jeff Cornew, who is our Emergency Management Director, he has agreed we need to create a public awareness campaign. We will be meeting to discuss our plan and strategy and how to implement. We would like our residents to be prepared, and how to prevent a wildfire from occurring.
Unfortunately in this past election many negative and outrageous lies were said about me on Facebook and campaign Flyers. Let me be very clear I have no interest in closing down Estell Manor Fire Company although that was done 3 years ago when I was not on Council. And our city was involved in a lawsuit in which over $120,000 later, nothing was done that couldn't have been done without spending all that money.
The next matter to clear the air is a member of council promoting more false allegations on Facebook of me closing down the senior social program senior social program. While I make no apologies for having to make a living and work during the day while others are retired and have a lot of free time on their hands, there was never so much as a peep from me that when I became mayor I would stop the senior program. I would really like to see the program grow and also have some volunteers from the community to help it along. I still have a lot of pep in my step and will continue to work. Someday I do hope to be able to try retirement a few more years up the road. The senior social program is something to be enjoyed by our seniors and retirees. It is not a political Gathering to be encouraging dissension amongst our community.
However I believe the most disgusting lie said this past election was that I was banned from attending school board meetings from 1982 to 2009. There is no such documentation that shows this false allegation. In fact when I first got on City Council in 1995 I was asked by the mayor back then and also by the school superintendent to do the commencement speech to the 8th grade graduation class, and was also the school board liaison from 1995 to 2001 and from 2006 to 2013. A total of 15 years. I was helpful and worked with the school to help them reach their goal to have a gymnasium and even voted to give the school a half a million dollars back in the day when we had a big Surplus. I say to that liar prove me wrong or resign from City Council. Sadly when one has no record of accomplishment and only likes to throw mud to cover his inequities on council, then most likely it would be best for our city as a whole for that member of council to resign and let someone else have the opportunity to do a better job. Bringing our fine School, the parents, and the kids into his low class campaign is as low as it gets and certainly our kids and parents deserve much better. My son also graduated from the Estell Manor School in which I was in the school often.
I have laid out a major portion of my agenda tonight and can guarantee it will move forward. I encourage Council to work with me and for the betterment of Estell Manor.
As one member of city council said to me last year, "our job is to not agree with anything you say". Continue with that philosophy and the phrase from Robert Zimmerman will then make you the next casualty on this Council. As the present now will later be past, for The Times They Will be a Changing.
I would love for the city council to be one that offered suggestions to help, for when there may be a time when I don't have it exactly correct. This is productive and what our residents want. Throwing barbs and backhanded insults is counter-productive and something our residents are tired of hearing.
Please keep in mind that as funding and revenue shortfalls have taken place over the years we must reinvent the way of staying solvent. I will give some reminders of past experiences we have occurred starting back in 2004.
We lost an annual source of Revenue when Governor McGreevey came in and that loss was an annual of $120,000 that we previously received for 7 consecutive years from the hard work of Senator Bill Gormley. That was called Pinelands Aid which was one of the contributing factors why our surplus grew so large.
Also the interest that we were making from our landfill account and other Investments reached the high of $118,000 a year when interests rates were around 5% or more a year. Now that same investment and with interest rates only paying .25% we are now only making around $1,800 annually. Then Governor Christie cuts our school aid which is the big lion's share of our property taxes. Christie also cut hour P.I.L.O.T. Funding by 1/3 resulting in an annual loss of around $65,000 a year. And then the State D.E.P acquires the largest land transaction in State history. Being the Lenape farms track, also known as the Atlantic County game reserve, which is over 5100 acres of prime real estate. And with that acquisition there lies the fact that now the state owns more than 60% of the land mass, which should be changing the funding formula from $7.50 an acre to $15.00 per acre.
We all have a vested interest in saving tax money, and we all have a challenge to move forward to become more fiscally responsible and work together. I ask council please do not do this for me because I am the mayor. Do it because this is what all the taxpayers want, expect, and demand from us. Because of the economy, we have no choice.
Lastly, I would like to thank my son Joseph for making me a very proud father of him. My son is in the Air National Guard in Security Forces. He is also a fireman in Mays Landing and has his certifications for firefighter 1 and is currently working to get his firefighter 2. He is a graduate of the Estell Manor school and waiting for the next State Trooper class to apply for.
Thank you once again, may God bless us all to stay safe, healthy, and productive.
Let's keep Estell Manor the Best Rural Community in Atlantic County
Need Help Paying Your Utility Bill? Atlantic City Electric Reminds Customers Assistance is Available
Atlantic City Electric customers have numerous options in which to apply for energy assistance. Atlantic City Electric wants its customers to know there is help available now if they are having difficulty paying their energy bills, and also offers energy conservation tips.
Energy assistance is still available in southern New Jersey to help Atlantic City Electric customers pay for winter energy bills. Through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Atlantic City Electric customers can receive up to $1,000 in grant support toward their energy bill that they do not have to pay back. Customers must apply during LIHEAP’s open period to ensure they can secure their grant while money is still available.
“We understand that our customers may face financial challenges in meeting their energy needs, so we help them secure the essential energy assistance they need to help pay their utility bills,” said Vince Maione, Atlantic City Electric region president. “It is essential that our customers submit their application now, before this important money runs out.”
Last week, Atlantic City Electric employees traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in LIHEAP Action Day hosted by the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition. The employees advocated for policies that protect funding for the LIHEAP program by sharing stories with elected officials and policymakers that demonstrate the program’s value to vulnerable households in southern New Jersey.
To be eligible for a grant, a customer’s annual household income cannot exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. Each state has determined eligibility guidelines based on household size and income. Homeowners, renters, roomers and subsidized housing tenants may be eligible. Customers do not have to be behind on their bills to receive a grant.
New Jersey’s eligibility requirements are as follows:
$24,120 - One-person household
$32,484 - Two-person household
$40,848 - Three-person household
$49,200 - Four-person household
In addition to LIHEAP, there are many other programs and tips available to help Atlantic City Electric customers save money and manage their energy costs. Customers can also Get more detailed information about your energy usage so you can make more informed choices about how you use energysign up for My Account, which contains tools and detailed energy usage information. By tracking their energy use, comparing usage trends, and discovering the results of energy-saving practices, customers can manage their energy more efficiently. Customers can visit atlanticcityelectric.comto learn more about My Account, available energy assistance programs, and other ways to save money and energy
Customers also can receive financial assistance through Helping Hands, a program, funded by Atlantic City Electric, providing $3 million to help struggling customers meet their energy needs during the next three years. These funds are annually dispersed to low-income residents through the Affordable Housing Alliance, New Jersey SHARES, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Camden and the People for People Foundation.
Atlantic City Electric will work with customers who may have difficulty paying their energy bill. The company offers payment options, like budget billing, which averages payments over a 12-month period to help customers manage their monthly electricity costs, or flexible payment arrangements that offer individually tailored payment installment plans. Customers who may be struggling to make a payment should contact Atlantic City Electric as soon as possible at 800-642-3780.