Bridge Commission Chairman Comegno Sworn To Third Term
Freeholder Donnelly Reaffirms Continuing Partnership For Tax-Saving Initiatives
The ceremonial swearing in of John Comegno to a new three-year term as chairman of the Burlington County Bridge Commission today was marked by Freeholder Joe Donnelly’s commending the Commission for keeping its fiscal house in order and specifically, for holding the line on tolls for more than 12 years.
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At the same time, Donnelly pledged that the Freeholder board would continue to work with the Commission in pursuit of shared services and other tax-saving initiatives to benefit the towns and property taxpayers.
“The fiscal conservative in me can’t help but notice that this Commission has kept its tolls in check, while other authorities have continued to raise tolls,” said Donnelly, noting that tolls on the Commission’s two bridges have remained unchanged since 2000.
“Even during the worst of the recent recession you have balanced your budget, paid off debt, and continued to look for creative ways that we could work together to reduce property taxes and bolster business and job growth,” Donnelly added.
He commended Comegno for his leadership. A Moorestown resident, Comegno has served as Chairman since 2007, and today was sworn to this third term by Judge Joseph Lavery. Comegno also is founder and president of the Comegno Law Group, PC, of Moorestown, and is recognized nationally as a leading School Law practitioner.
Donnelly said that he was “confident that the Freeholder board and Commission will continue to identify taxpayer savings through shared services with towns and schools, and also continue to pursue economic development tools aimed at business development and job growth.
“Together, we developed a shared savings program that made green energy improvements and savings a more user-friendly investment for local entities across the County,” said Donnelly. “The good news: our work in this area is far from over.”
As 2013 gets underway, the County is also moving forward with a “Buy Local” campaign to encourage support of local business by resident consumers, and, in the process, generate more job opportunities, Donnelly noted.
“At the end of the day we are talking about a wide range of initiatives that benefit all County residents and taxpayers.”
Serving since January 2007, Comegno was reappointed by the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders in December to serve a third term. Comegno’s appointment continues through October, 2015.
Since coming on board in 2007, Comegno pledged to work with the Freeholders to make the Bridge Commission a model agency of openness, accountability, and transparency.
His comprehensive reform campaign called “A New Era, A New Span” resulted in the implementation of checks and balances for Commission transactions and contractors’ work, an expanded website that makes more information easily accessible to the public, continuation of open and competitive procurement policies and contract awards. Updated Commission bylaws and policies ensure that the Commission operates in an efficient, transparent, accountable and ethical manner.
A member of the NJ and PA bars and accepted to practice in jurisdictions across the country, Comegno is a cum laude graduate of Gettysburg College, and earned his Juris Doctor degree from the Wake Forest University School of Law. He has extensive experience counseling public and independent schools on wide-ranging School Law issues, representing clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. John is also a nationally recognized lecturer on School Law who regularly presents throughout the United States. During the current school year, John has or will lecture in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Washington State.
In addition to his service to the Burlington County Bridge Commission, Comegno is involved with the performing arts and youth athletics, serves as a board member for several local and national non-profit organizations, and teaches Catechism in his Church.
The Burlington County Bridge Commission manages the Tacony-Palmyra and Burlington-Bristol Bridges, and through its economic development and improvement authority powers, assists Burlington County municipalities in economic development and community revitalization projects and extends pooled financing options to local governments and nonprofits in Burlington County. These initiatives have resulted in a savings of more than $15.9 million dollars and garnered more than $14.8 million dollars in grant monies for municipalities.
Pemberton Township Awarded $400K Grant
Grant-writing services provided to towns at no cost as a shared service of the Burlington County Freeholders and the Burlington County Bridge Commission garnered $400,000 for the Township of Pemberton for needed improvements to make its intersections compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The award will provide funds to install intersection curb cuts throughout the Browns Mills section of Pemberton Township.
Shared Service of County & Bridge Commission Saves Taxpayers Money
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“We are happy we could help these critical projects for the disable become a reality,” said Freeholder Director Joe Donnelly. “I congratulate the township on the award, and commend the Bridge Commission and its professionals for their work in writing and procuring the grant that will save Pemberton Township taxpayers $400,000.”
“This now brings to $14.8 million the total amount of grant dollars that the County, in partnership with the Bridge Commission, has been able to secure for our municipalities since 2006,” Donnelly added. “Equally important, this was accomplished at no cost to the towns.”
Pemberton Township Mayor David Patriarca stated that the Small Cities grant would greatly assist the Township in the redevelopment of the Browns Mills Business District allowing for safer pedestrian circulation and handicap accessibility. “The funding was obtained with the assistance from the grant writing program offered through a shared service of the Freeholders and Bridge Commission and their professionals at CGP&H,” said the Mayor.
Curb cuts are breaks in a curb that allow access to the roadway; they provide an accessible route that people with disabilities can use to safely transition from a roadway to a curbed sidewalk and vice versa. To allow people with disabilities to cross streets safely, the ADA requires that state and local governments provide curb ramps at pedestrian crossings and at public transportation stops where walkways intersect a curb.
The grant Pemberton received is from the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). Funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, the CDBG program provides funds for economic development, housing rehabilitation, community revitalization and public facilities.
“This shared service provides towns with funds they desperately need and couldn’t otherwise access for themselves,” said Chairman John B. Comegno. “And while the Bridge Commission’s return on investment for this service is 17 to 1, the real winners are the taxpayers, because they get a totally free service that pays dividends.”
The Commission’s economic development initiatives and pooled financing options have saved Burlington County residents more than $15.9 million dollars and garnered $14.8 million dollars in property grant monies for municipalities.
“It all comes down to additional property tax relief — and we’re committed to working with the Freeholders to keep that coming,” Comegno added.
New Shared Service Will Help Towns Understand, Evaluate Aggregate Energy Savings
Commission To Help Freeholders Weigh Potential Energy Savings For Residents and Businesses
Freeholder Director Joe Donnelly called upon the Burlington County Bridge Commission to provide technical assistance to municipalities that are considering community-wide energy aggregate contracts to procure utility bill savings for their residents and businesses.
Commission Chairman John B. Comegno II said the Freeholder Director asked that the Commission evaluate as well the merits for a county-wide or multi-town energy aggregate program, to determine if such an arrangement could generate even greater savings to homeowners. He asked the Commission to approach this as a shared service, and provide the County and towns with an objective evaluation of these programs, at no cost.
“State deregulation has opened the door for aggregate energy contracts, and recent media reports suggest that we are looking at significant savings for every resident and business in the County,” said Donnelly.
The Freeholders have already partnered with the commission on the “Greenbacks to Go Green“ program, a shared services initiative that has assisted some five dozen towns and schools in securing tax-saving energy upgrades to their public facilities, often with state grant dollars.
“We have a good track record of assisting local officials in sifting through the complex regulations and strange acronyms that these programs typically entail,” Donnelly said. “We are well positioned to now assist them in evaluating the enticing benefits of energy aggregation, and any possible pitfalls.
”According to media reports, Plumstead Township in Ocean County is the first and only municipality in New Jersey to engage in an aggregate contract. Estimates are that this will result in annual savings of approximately $165 per customer.
Many companies are soliciting community energy aggregation and have approached several Burlington County towns. “Municipalities are rightfully assessing this cautiously, and we can assist them in their assessment, again at no cost to them,” Donnelly added.
“By the same token, we need to determine if this is a shared service worth considering under a larger, County umbrella, especially if it means a better return on the utility bill for every resident and business in the County.”
Get Out Into the Cold at PCNP
Palmyra Cove Nature Park is the place to be this winter, what with Winter Wonder Family Hikes on the first Saturday of every month and Beginning Birding for Adults held on the third Saturday of each month. These popular programs are run by PCNP Naturalist Kristina Merola.
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Family Hikes run from 9 AM to 11 AM and start from the Environmental Discovery Center. The next hike is scheduled for Saturday, February 2nd. Cost is $5 per person, FREE for members.
The next Beginning Birding program will be held Saturday, February 16th from 9 AM to 12 noon and will concentrate on sparrows, ducks, owls, and other winter residents. Come see PCNP’s winter bird species as they start to migrate into the park from their northern breeding grounds. Cost is $10 per person, FREE for members.
To register for either program, call (856) 829-1900, ext. 267, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moore Brings More to Institute for Earth Observations at PCNP
John Moore, Director for Geoscience STEM Education, has been busy at Palmyra Cove Nature Park, presenting at the American Meteorological Society’s national meeting, teaching teachers for various weather education related programs, publishing articles, and appearing on educational television shows.
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A presenter at the Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Austin, Texas this month, Moore spoke about BLUECUBE as a vehicle for teaching the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum.
BLUECUBE (Build, Launch, Utilize, and Educate using CubeSats) is an authentic science STEM initiative that through the use of CubeSats examines the design and construction of payloads for Geospatial Intelligence gathering and interpretation. BLUECUBE advances precollege STEM education and broadens student participation through hands-on training for students and teachers.
Mr. Moore appeared in a segment on BLUECUBE, taped on site at PCNP, which recently appeared on “Classroom Closeup NJ” on the NJTV Network. He facilitated the multigenerational lessons with middle school students from Moorestown, high school students from Burlington County Institute of Technology, and college students from Drexel who gathered last September to tape the segment called “CubeSat.” CubeSat is a type of miniaturized satellite used to perform space science and exploration. The segment can be viewed at http://www.njea.org/about/classroom-close-up (click on “current show” or Show #8, and advance to the 8-minute mark).
On the faculty of Burlington County Institute of Technology for 28 years, Moore remains a teacher---as the NJ GLOBE Program Partner Director, he now teaches GLOBE certification workshops. In January, he’ll travel to Lourdes Regional School in Edgewood Coal, Pennsylvania to conduct a GLOBE workshop for 22 Lourdes teachers.
He recently held an AMS DataStreme meeting (climate & atmosphere) in PCNP’s classroom for 24 teachers from Moorestown, Burlington, and throughout the region. John is a Local Implementation Team Leader for AMS DataStreme Online graduate precollege teacher courses.
Mr. Moore has also had an article published in The Earth Scientist, the quarterly publication of the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA). The article, Making the Case for GeoSTEM Education, can be accessed online at www.nestanet.org. The Earth Scientist provides exemplary state-of-the-art tested classroom activities and resources focused on K-12 Earth and Space Science educators.