There are four candidates for two seats on Robbinsville Township council.
Vincent Calcagno has served on township council since 2009. Before the township’s switch to a strong mayor and council form of government, Calcagno sat on the township committee from 1994-2004, serving as mayor in 1999 and 2004. He has been a member of many township boards and sub-committees, including the senior advisory committee, open space subcommittee, zoning board, planning board, library committee, recreation committee, and cable TV advisory committee. Calcagno has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Drexel University. He works as a principal data architect at Ericsson.
Michael Cipriano, 43, is a police officer in Cranbury Township. He is a graduate of McCorristin Catholic High School, Camden County Corrections Academy and the Trenton Police Academy. He has attended Mercer County Community College. Cipriano has never held elected office before, but he has coached in the Robbinsville Soccer Association and Robbinsville Little League Softball. He is a supporter of Robbinsville PBA Local 344.
Marcus Hicks, 39, is an attorney and director at New Jersey Department of Corrections. He earned his bachelor’s in government from the College of William and Mary, and his law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law. Hicks has not held elected office, but is a member of the township’s zoning board of adjustment.
Sheree S. McGowan, 55, has served on township council since 2009. A Medicaid specialist by trade, McGowan received her bachelor’s in accounting and finance from Rider University, and her master’s in business administration from Rider University. She is a member of the Anne Klein Forensic Center Board of Trustees, the township economic development advisory committee, the township affordable housing committee and rent leveling board. McGowan is a former chair of the township planning board.
The Robbinsville Advance posed the same four questions to each candidate via email. The questions and the candidates’ response to each are below:
1. Foxmoor Shopping Center has been suffering for years. Now, with the center up for sheriff’s sale, there is opportunity to revive the complex. What is your vision for Foxmoor Shopping Center? What would you do on council to make that a reality?
Vincent Calcagno: As a member of the Foxmoor subcommittee, I want to see a rebirth of a viable and busy shopping center. The council and mayor are in regular discussions with the bank to get the center sold to someone that will invest in the center. The council has designated the center as an area in need of redevelopment to expand the development and renovation options available to the owner including condemnation.
Michael Cipriano: My priority as a councilperson will be to serve as a tireless advocate for Robbinsville. In the case of the Foxmoor Shopping Center, we need a strong council advocate who can ensure that the sheriff’s sale actually occurs, which has not to date. Once the sale is complete, I would like to see a mix of markets that respect the values and interests of this community. A top priority for me will be to work with my fellow council members, the mayor and officials from other effected townships to see this process to completion.
Marcus Hicks: Council should have moved on this issue sooner. Now that Amazon has acquired Whole Foods and given the relationship we have established with the company by hosting a major regional distribution center, I would leverage our existing relationship with Amazon for a Whole Foods 365 to serve as the anchor store for the rest of those businesses. We need a town delegation to meet with NJ DOT to discuss egress and entry to Foxmoor on Route 33.
Sheree S. McGowan: Revitalizing the Foxmoor plaza is a top priority. In 2016, the township council declared it an area in need of redevelopment, providing council with tools to generate activity. We’ve seen a decline in the vacancy rate over the past year through our active marketing efforts. I remain committed to working with NJ DOT to create a direct access point from Route 33, and revisiting signage regulations to give plaza businesses greater visibility.
2. Traffic has become an issue in the township, particularly on Route 33 and Main Street. The township has commissioned a traffic study in order to gain a better understanding of the problem. What would you like to see done to alleviate traffic in town?
Vincent Calcagno: There are two improvements that I would work to implement. First, add a dedicated right-turn lane at Main Street and Rouet 130 (by the Delta Station) to reduce the backup. Second, extend Robbinsville-Edinburg Road to an intersection on Route 130 to allow traffic to bypass Main Street. Also, I will review the traffic study report when completed for other recommendations. Additionally, continue working with mayor and police on speeding issues in Windsor.
Michael Cipriano: With many township accomplishments to speak of over the years, there are many items left on the table that need greater focus and attention. Traffic is a quality of life issue that must be addressed. In the 14 years I’ve lived in this town, I’ve experienced the change just like my fellow neighbors. In short, we’ve talked about the Route 33 Bypass for long enough, and now it’s time for it to be completed.
Marcus Hicks: Traffic is a nuisance as well as a public safety issue. The best option for Main Street is to create a bypass off of Route 33 to Route 130. I understand that this was a proposal 15 years ago but it needs to be revisited with NJ DOT and/or a developer. We also need to look at other areas such as 526 and other areas where traffic safety concerns are prevalent.
Sheree S. McGowan: The comprehensive traffic study commissioned recently was a prudent step. This is the first time the traffic impact of individual developments collectively has been examined and will help with future planning. I support a bypass or parallel road to Main Street to help residents who want to go south on Route 130, as well as widening Main Street at the Route 130 intersection to allow for a better right turn lane.
3. What is the most pressing issue facing Robbinsville Township now? How would you fix it?
Vincent Calcagno: Taxes! The council and mayor have cut or kept flat the municipal portion of the property taxes the past several years by finding ways to provide quality services for less. This has been done and must continue to be done through in-sourcing, out-sourcing, shared services and modernization. Additionally, limiting residential growth through preservation and attracting commercial rateables are critical in the battle to control taxes and keep us in our homes.
Michael Cipriano: One of the most pressing issues I see in the township is the overdevelopment of residential homes. New homes bring new families. While we are a welcoming community, we must also advocate for the needs of our children and schools. Township residents fund more than 90 percent of the school budget through taxes. While our schools do great work, our state needs to provide its fair share. Strong advocacy at the state level, solid district-township partnerships, and thoughtful town planning are strategies to address this issue.
Marcus Hicks: The rising property tax burden. I will scrutinize every town expenditure to ensure that we are judicious with taxpayer money. We need a top-down audit of how our town spends its finances. Any savings should be realized in tax reductions. Responsible economic development starting with Foxmoor, transparency in government, which makes our leaders accountable to us. I’ll spearhead ethics reforms initiatives that will generate real savings in Robbinsville.
Sheree S. McGowan: Ensuring fiscal stability and ensuring that residents can afford to live here remains the most important issue we all face as elected officials. My colleagues and I passed four consecutive flat or reduced budgets while expanding municipal services and recreational activities. Keeping this momentum going requires teamwork, foresight and creativity, and having an experienced team on the township council is the best way to ensure that these outcomes continue.
4. Why are you the best choice for township council?
Vincent Calcagno: As a member of the council for the past eight years, my record shows my ability to work effectively with the mayor, council and residents to serve the community and keep Robbinsville a great place to live and work. If re-elected to another term, I would continue to build on this record of community service and work constructively and proactively on initiatives that are in the best interest of our township.
Michael Cipriano: I believe the following the reasons make me uniquely qualified for a council seat. As a volunteer in township recreational activities, I am present and visible in the community. My visibility gives me an awareness of essential issues that face this town and compel me to participation. As someone who has built a career on protecting and serving others, I don’t know any other way than to get involved, and work to improve the town my family calls home.
Marcus Hicks: As an attorney, I’ve dedicated my life to public service and have worked at the highest levels of government to manage millions of dollars. I’m a problem-solver and will engage our community. My son will attend our public schools, and I’m invested in the long-term viability of our town. Residents can put their trust in me that I will use my position to do what’s best for their families.
Sheree S. McGowan: I’ve shown I can produce results. Tax reductions, expanded services, increased open space and a slow-down in residential development takes hard work, prudent decision-making, and a deep passion for the well-being of our residents. My experience on volunteer committees over the years taught me how government works and how best to influence public policy. I appreciate the support shown over the years, and ask for that same support this November.