Four candidates are up for two seats on the Bordentown Township Committee. The Current sent questionnaires to all candidates.
Incumbent Steve Benowitz, 72, is the current mayor of the township, his third stint. A Democrat, he has served on the township committee since 2013 after serving one term from 1979-81 and has been deputy mayor twice. He has lived in Bordentown since 1969 and is a retired educator. He previously taught at Yardville Youth Reception and Correction Center, was the director of education at Rahway State Prison, and served as director of special needs at the Burlington County Vocational Schools for two decades. Benowitz earned an associate’s degree from Trenton Junior College, a bachelor’s from Rider University, a master’s from Trenton State College and 30 doctoral credits from Rutgers University.
Incumbent Eric Holliday, 49, has lived in Bordentown for 18 years. He has been a Democratic township committeeman since 2015. Holliday retired as a sergeant from the New Jersey Department of Corrections in 2014 after 25 years. He began his tenure at East Jersey State Prison and served at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center. He was also a hostage negotiator and emergency management coordinator in the Special Operations Group and instructor at the Correctional Office Academy. Holliday was a member of the New Jersey Law Enforcement Supervisors Association. He is currently an emergency management specialist with New Jersey Transit. Holliday received management and professional training from the NJDOC and Texas A&M’s Engineering Extension Service in College Station, Texas.
Vanessa Meades, 36, has lived in Bordentown Township for three years. She previously lived in the city for two years. Meades, a Republican who ran for township committee last year, is an enginerring geologist who has worked in the New Jersey Department of Transportation Geotechnical Unit for six years. She is currently the principal engineer in the Bureau of Materials. Meades is also a paramedic at Cooper and Hackensack Meridian Health, and she has been an EMS provider for 18, recently speaking at the National Conference on EMS in Atlantic City. She has a degree in geology from Binghamton University and has done post-graduate studies in environmental science.
Kyle Melander, 27, has lived in Bordentown for three years. This is his first time running for public office. Melander currently works as an aid for an elected official. He is an Allentown High School graduate, and he earned an honors degree in political science with a minor in business administration from Rowan University.
1Road safety has been a major township focus this year—Bordentown received a $2.1 million grant to construct a connector road between Rising Sun Road and Dunns Mill Road, as well as a $12,000 pedestrian safety grant. Why do you think this is important? Are there any other areas or specific streets in the township that you think could benefit from improvement projects?
Benowitz: Road safety is a major priority for our residents due to the major highways that bisect our township. The connector road will ease truck circulation problems and ease the traffic circulation for our residents. The police department is reaching out to our community including presentations to our school children, seniors, and all segments of our population. The Street Smart Program may lead to additional pedestrian crosswalks and installation of signage. This is also an educational program making all persons utilizing our highways to be alert as both pedestrians and motorists. We have met with NJDOT and will meet with them in the near future to enlist their help in making our highways safe. There are many intersections on Routes 130 and 206 that would benefit with our efforts such as Farnsworth Ave and Rt.130; Ward Ave and Rt. 130 and Dunns Mill Road and Rt. 130.
Holliday: The township committee has been working very hard to tackle the ongoing problem with the highways that go through our home town. The hard work of the committee to bring these grants to our community and make our town safer for our residents has been one of our top priorities. This year, dynamic speed signs have been installed on Route 528, and police patrols have been stepped up. We have been working closely with Burlington County Traffic Engineer’s Office and have met with the Department of Transportation to continue our efforts to make our roads in our community safe for our residents. Our efforts also include education of pedestrians to ensure legal and safe crossings of our highways.
Meades: As someone who works in the transportation industry, I believe that pedestrian safety and ensuring the safety of the motoring public are priorities. I think that our police are doing a lot of work towards speed limit enforcement. In speaking to people, I’ve learned that there are several streets that our residents would like more targeted enforcement or safety measures.
Melander: I believe pedestrian safety is paramount in Bordentown due to the volume of residents walking over to Bordentown City for a night out or a local fair. Our town is revered as the “Crossroads of New Jersey,” so protecting our pedestrians is important, which is why I support a modification to Farnsworth Avenue near the municipal building. This improvement project will serve a dual purpose—provide a safer and more efficient turning lane for trucks and make the roads safer for pedestrians traveling to the city. During rush hour, I see trucks on a daily basis hop the curb trying to make that turn. It’s not safe, and it slows down traffic.
2What do you think is the most pressing issue in Bordentown Township, and how do you plan to address it?
Benowitz: The most pressing issue in Bordentown Township is to continue to make it affordable while maintaining the quality of life. The past five years have seen the local municipal taxes remain flat. This should continue in the future. Bordentown Township is financially sound as proven by our AA Bond rating. The reasons for the financial positions are driven by businesses that have chosen to locate here and prudent, financial planning. We are looking forward to having other businesses such as a new Wawa, a CVS, and Team Campus Phase II come to Bordentown Township. The quality of life continues to improve with such additions as the new Public Works Facility, our investment in our infrastructure, more events, the upgrading of our parks and the continuation of the Bikeway Project. In 2019, we are planning expanded recreational facilities for our children, continued park upgrades and pursuit of highway safety.
Holliday: I believe one of the most important issues for Bordentown residents is taxes. As a current member of the committee, I want to continue to keep our municipal purpose tax flat, as we have done the past five years. I want to expand the marketing of our township aimed at attracting additional businesses to the area. Bordentown Township is one of the most desirable locations to grow a business and we should say so! We have a dynamic population, great resources and we are close to major highways. We need to make sure we do everything to lower the dependence on residential input into taxes and shift more of that input onto commercial entities in an equitable and business-friendly way.
Meades: I believe that ensuring safe drinking water should be our top priority. I’ve spoken to our current mayor in the past about this and been unhappy with the response. As someone who works in infrastructure, I believe that there is more that can be done and would like to have a bigger voice in the discussion.
Melander: The most pressing issue in Bordentown is the lack of government oversight. There have been numerous times where our town made headlines for all the wrong reasons, but the situation that sticks out the most is water contamination. For nearly two years, I have been hearing from residents their stories of contaminated drinking water and their efforts to bring it to the attention of the township committee. Some individuals’ words fell on deaf ears, and some received passive answers. Water is the most basic necessity of life, which is why I believe this has to be an issue that has to be addressed.
3The township has made strides as far as improving race relations after last year’s FBI investigation. Is there anything else you think can be done to make sure all feel welcome in the township?
Benowitz: We encourage and support diversity in our town. We will not tolerate discrimination, racism, sexist language and/or such actions. The township clerk has been immediately put on administrative leave affording due process as we investigate this matter. We continue to review our policies and procedures. Our administrator has an open door policy for all employees. Our police department continues to reach out to the community through events designed to build bridges and trust within the community. We have and will continue to reach out to the community groups to elicit their input and include them in our outreach programs. I have and will continue to meet with HOAs, civic groups and residents. My goal is to have everyone in the town feel safe and comfortable and to enjoy a good quality of life as they feel a part of the Bordentown Township community.
Holliday: Let me be very clear, the committee will not tolerate dissemination, hate speech, harassment, and all racist, ethnic, homophobic and sexist language and actions. These things do not represent who we are as a township and will not be tolerated in any way by any representative of the township. We have taken many steps to try to heal the wounds that have been caused by this case. Our police department had has undergone sensitivity and conflict resolution training, and all of our department heads have undertaken leadership training through our Joint Insurance Fund. We have held many community events, including several police oriented events, in multiple locations throughout the township, in order to build the bridges back between law enforcement and the public. We have met separately with community groups and asked to be a part of their movements and included them in our outreach programs. The township committee members and professional staff have met individually with home owners associations, civic groups, and residents and have been responsive to any and all issues that have risen. We remain committed to full transparency and accountability for all our operations and services provided to our residents, businesses and visitors.
Meades: I am raising a young Hispanic son in this community. I have been both outraged and embarrassed by what occurred under that leadership. I believe that the police officers working now are doing a difficult job while rebuilding ties in our community, and I support them. I also feel that moving forward will require losing ties to the “good old boys club” and opening the doors for new leadership within city hall and on our township committee.
Melander: I believe the committee took baby steps in improving race relations since last year’s embarrassing FBI investigation. Last month, the FBI investigation named an individual by name who was partaking in the racist and bigoted behavior with our former police chief. The committee was quick to condemn the behavior but declined to terminate the employee. I would also like to note how the Mayor Benowitz pled ignorance once the news broke. The committee has shown they are the ones who are harboring the racist behavior and protecting their own. I do believe the current police chief has done astoundingly in the recovery of our town image. Going forward, I would advocate for more government transparency so we as a committee are more connected to the rest of the Bordentown public servants.
4Why do you feel you are the right person to serve on the committee?
Benowitz: The accomplishments that have occurred during my time on the township committee attest to the efforts of the township committee and myself. I continually give my efforts and energy to make Bordentown Township a better place for all of us. Some of the accomplishments include the following: municipal taxes have been flat for the past five years; increase in commercial/business endeavors on our tax rolls; prudent commercial financial planning with an AA bond rating; a road program that includes repair of 37 roads by the end of 2018. upgrades to our parks; a new Public Works facility with a recycling center that accepts almost everything; federal grants including a $2.1 million connector road grant; enhanced transparency and communication with residents; a new township website and a plan for increased recreational facilities for our youth in 2019.
Holliday: Many positive things are happening in our community and I want that to continue. Our services, such as our leaf and brush collection have grown, our new recycling center for residents has opened, and all of our parks have seen upgrades. In addition to supporting new business opportunities, I am committed to making long term investments in our infrastructure—especially our road program and continuing to preserve our precious environmental resources for generations to come. I want to keep our local government accessible and transparent to our residents. I want to continue providing Bordentown residents with a great sense of community. I want to continue to be visibly active in the community; this is the type of representation you deserve. By voting for me, you will continue to make Bordentown a great place to live and work. Let’s continue the momentum toward unprecedented progress in our town.
Meades: I am a millennial, a homeowner, a scientist, a female, a mother,and someone who is very invested in the future of our community. I have a lot to offer to my neighbors and fellow resident as their advocate. This is my second time running for this position, and I am committed to serving Bordentown. I’ve not let a loss diminish my commitment to working toward change.
Melander: I believe I am the right person to serve on the Bordentown Township Committee because I have worked for public officials on the state and federal side for my entire career. I have an understanding that our duty as public servants is to protect and serve. On a more personal note, this is my home. I moved here after college, started a family and am currently planning for our future here in Bordentown. I believe there has been many times our committee could have done more for the residents of Bordentown, and I would be humbled to have your support. This is why I am running in November.