Category Archives: Middletown Planning Board

Open Letter to Township Committee – 13 Oct 2006: Middletown Township Committee Must Address Appearance of Conflict of Interest Issue

While campaigning for Township Committee back in 2006, then Democratic Candidate Patrick Short sent a letter to Mayor Tom Hall and the rest of the Middletown Township Committee expressing his concerns over the inappropriate public contract that was handed to Sodon Electric Inc. and it’s owner Republican candidate for Township Committee Tim Sodon.
In his letter that you can read below, Short pointed out that Sodon had received over $92,000 for services performed from Dec.2005 thru Sept, 2006 while doing electrical work for the Township. A lot of the electrical work at the time that he did was for maintaining Park and Recreation facilities and other Municipal buildings. At the time of this letter, Sodon was also a member of the Recreation Advisory Board and could direct work to his company when needed.

Today Tim Sodon is the electrical contractor in town by resolution and gets all the work. As a sitting member of the Middletown Planning Board, applicants before the Board have his ear and could inappropriately direct electrical work his way, if they thought that it would improve their chances of having a project approved, as one of the commenter to a previous post pointed out.

The bottom line is, if you are an elected or appointed official in any capacity whatsoever, you should not be contracting service and making a living off the people that you are suppose to be representing. It is inappropriate, a clear conflict of interest and unethical.
If Tony Fiore and his ilk wish to force out Library Board President Randall Gabrielan over some book sale than they should also be ready to ask Tim Sodon to step down from the Planning Board due to his public, no-bid contract for electrical services that he currently holds here in Middletown.
Open Letter to Middletown Township Committee

To: Mayor, Middletown Township
From: Patrick Short

13 October 2006

Subject: Middletown Township Committee Must Address Appearance of Conflict of Interest Issue

I was surprised to find and disappointed to learn that the “Good ‘O Boy” and even Pay for Play may still be active and taking place in Middletown. Despite steps taken to remove this type of conduct in Monmouth County and in Middletown, I do not understand why the Township Committee would permit the appearance of this unacceptable practice to take place.

The relationship between the Parks and Recreation Department and Sodon Electric Inc. may be an example of this impropriety. In the past 10 months, the town has paid Sodon Electric Inc. a total of $92,072.26 for services’ performed from December 2005 through September 2006. This has occurred while the principal partner of Sodon Electric Inc., Mr. Timothy Sodon, is the Republican Party Candidate seeking a seat on the Township Committee; the same committee that approves payment to Sodon Electric Inc. as a contractor in our town. Mr. Sodon is also the chairman of the Recreation Advisory Board; a board that influences projects performed for the Parks and Recreation Department. Any electrical maintenance service that is performed, it is done by Sodon Electric Inc. Most troubling is the fact that payment to Sodon Electric Inc for services performed has more than tripled since Mr. Sodon became the Republican Party candidate and a member and chairman of the Recreation Advisory Board.

Mr. Sodon will have to decide whether he wants to remain a contractor who provides a service to the town or whether he wants to be Committee member, if elected, who approves contractors and the work that they perform within the town. Doing both promotes the appearance of a conflict.

However, it is the responsibility of the Township Committee to ensure that conflict of interest or the appearance thereof does not take place. And if it does, action should immediately be taken to remedy the situation. Our town ought to be viewed as a town that treats all contractors/vendors fairly, impartially, and in the best interest of the tax payer. Our town ought not to be viewed as a town that selects a contractor/vendor off a “Good O Boy” list or because it is an insider to the Republican Party.

I would hope that the Township Committee would view this situation from the eyes of the other twenty-seven (27) electric companies in our town that may want to do business in Middletown. These electrical companies must have confidence that they will not be excluded from doing work in Middletown if they do not subscribe to political patronage. Rather, they subscribe to a high ethical standard and provide quality of service at a cost that is in the best interest of the Middletown taxpayer.

To demonstrate that the Township Committee embraces these principles, I recommend the Township Committee remedy this situation by taking the following steps:

  1. Establish a policy to prohibit any elected and/or appointed official from performing contractual work in the township and any contractor/vendor from being an elected and/or appointed official.
  2. Replace Mr. Sodon as a member/chairperson of the Recreation Advisory Board.
  3. Place an immediate “Stop Work” on all work currently being performed by Sodon Electric Inc.
  4. Re-Issue a Request for Proposal Competitive Bid for electrical maintenance services performed in the Township of Middletown.

Respectfully,

Patrick Short

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Filed under conflict of interest, Middletown Planning Board, Middletown Township Committee, open letter, Patrick Short, Recreation Advisory Board, Sodon Electric, Tim Sodon, unethical behavior

Middletown Planning Board Member Who Receives Lucrative Contracts From The Township Seems Unethical To Me

When Middletown helps its own, it’s not in reference to helping needy families get through the holidays. It’s in reference to taking care of those most politically connected to the local Republican Party.

Tim Sodon, who was a candidate for Township Committee in 2007 but lost the election to Patrick Short, has for the past few of years been a member of the Middletown Planning Board. Sodon came under heavy fire in 2007 for being a contractor for the Township while also being a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. As a member of the advisory board, among other things, he would recommend what Township Parks needed electrical maintenance or upgrades performed. Tim Sodon is the owner of Sodon Electric Inc., he was the contractor that would get the work and perform the work.
During the campaign Sodon and the Republican Party couldn’t or wouldn’t explain why this wasn’t a conflict of interest and clearly unethical. Sodon never came out and said that if elected he would give up the contracts he had with the Township.
Now fast forward to more recent times, as an appointed member of the planning board, Sodon is a public official and currently has a very lucrative contract with Middletown to provide electrical repairs and maintenance needed throughout the Township’s Municipal buildings and parks that pays him $75K a year according to Township Resolution 12-061.
This to me is clearly a conflict of interest and unethical. He shouldn’t be allowed to do work for the town while he sits on the Planning Board. A contractor for the town should not be in any appointed positions.
Tim Sodon shouldn’t be doing electrical projects for the town, those projects should be bid out and basic electrical maintenance should be done in-house by someone who has a license.
As the Mayor’s Designee to the Planning Board is Tim Sodon making decisions based on the on the merits of the presentations that are brought in front of the Planning Board, or is he making decisions based on what is expected of him by the Mayor or higher ups in the Middletown GOP in order to keep his tax payer funded contracts?
Before looking at the Library Board for inappropriate and unethical behavior of one of its members, I think Tony Fiore and the Township Committee should be looking a little closer to home at one of their own before casting the first stone. Unfortunately though that will never happen, Middletown Republicans by nature are arrogant and never look into the mirror at themselves beforehand. They are only interested in protecting their own.

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Filed under conflict of interest, Middletown GOP, Middletown Planning Board, Parks and Recreation, public contracts, resolution 12-061, Sodon Electric, Tony Fiore, unethical behavior

Secret Public Hearing at the Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) Board meeting of December 7, 2011

by guest blogger Linda Baum

This was the second TOMSA Board meeting I’ve attended, and like last month, I was the only member of the public there.

The meeting started promptly at 7:30 p.m. — I made it there just in time — and the first thing on the agenda was a public hearing on TOMSA’s 2012 budget. Huh?? I knew nothing about it and hadn’t even had a chance to read the words “Public Hearing” on the agenda sheet when Executive Director Pat Parkinson asked if there were public comments. He never announced that it was a public hearing, so I didn’t know. He just awkwardly asked if there were comments. How am I supposed to comment on a budget I haven’t seen at a hearing I didn’t know about? I was caught by surprise and said nothing – a free pass they won’t get next time – and the Board quickly moved to adopt the budget by unanimous vote while I was still scratching my head.

I wondered why nobody told me about the public hearing since I know a few people who regularly check the public notices in the paper. In fact, hat tip to ‘B’ for letting me know about a Dec. 2nd notice in the APP changing the TOMSA Board meeting date from Dec. 8th to Dec. 7th. That notice said nothing about the public hearing. I did an online search for a notice that did, and found none.

Because the public wasn’t notified of the hearing in line with statutory requirements, the budget is subject to legal challenge. I intend to press this issue in order to get another hearing scheduled. I want the opportunity to review the budget (and, oh yeah, obtain it) and to prepare prior to the hearing. You may be wondering why I don’t just use the public comments period at the end of the next Board meeting to discuss the budget. Because hearings are a better forum for obtaining information – different rules apply to them. For one, there’s no time limit, so you will get all of your questions in, while public comments following a meeting may be limited to just a few minutes. Of course, even at hearings there’s no guarantee you’ll get any answers.

If you’re behind on your sewer bills, now’s the time to pay up. There will be an accelerated tax lien sale on December 20th for sewer fees that were due by the end of June 2011. Between 300 and 400 households (or businesses) will be affected.

This is the second year that TOMSA, which operates on a calendar year budget, has done an accelerated tax lien sale. December 2010 was the first one. Prior to that, sales were held each April, including a sale in April 2010. So there were two such sales in 2010, which coincidentally is the first year that TOMSA transferred surplus revenue to the Township – transfers were $365K in 2010 followed by $368K in 2011, per the Township’s 2011 adopted budget. TOMSA’s switch to an accelerated sale schedule in 2010 gave them a one-time boost in extra revenue for that budget year that made up for some of the Authority’s forfeited revenue that year.

One other observation. Late payers caught unaware by the accelerated sale schedule in 2010 may have found themselves with an unexpected lien on their properties and owing far more than they anticipated.

If you read my post on the November 10th meeting of the TOMSA Board, you may recall that there was a lot of discussion about the excessive fees TOMSA was charging for OPRA requests. Well, there’s news. Since then, TOMSA’s OPRA request form has been revised to list the correct fees per the 2010 amendment to the OPRA law, which lowered fees to just 5 cents for letter-size copies and 7 cents for legal, effective 7/1/10.

I mentioned at the December 7th meeting that TOMSA may owe a refund to people who have submitted OPRA requests since 7/1/10. Executive Director Pat Parkinson quickly replied that there haven’t been any requests. No OPRA requests in a year and a half??? I said that seemed unlikely, and some guy at the table actually had the nerve to mock me as if Parkinson’s word is law and I should believe what I’m told. (It was that Brian Nelson-esque fellow I mentioned in my last post. I’ll have to get his name next time.) Well, I’ve done some checking around, and I now know of at least 2 OPRA requests submitted to TOMSA in that timeframe.

A couple of days after the Board meeting, I submitted my own OPRA request to TOMSA. One of the things I asked for is a list of persons who have submitted an OPRA request since 7/1/10. I figure those folks might like to know they have a holiday bonus coming. Mr. Parkinson handles all OPRA requests personally, so it will be interesting to see what I get.

I’m learning that Parkinson has almost complete control over all public communication outside of regular customer service. I’m not sure, but I don’t think the clerical staff even records when an OPRA request comes in – stuff just gets passed right along to Parkinson. If you call and ask for anything more than the most basic information, you will be referred to Parkinson. Other people either don’t know the answers or appear to be under a gag order. Surely, professionals such as the manager or staff accountant have knowledge enough to respond to many questions, but they won’t, and the clerical staff will tell you as much. “You’ll have to speak to Mr. Parkinson,” they say.

One of the capital projects discussed at the meeting had to do with “digging out” manhole covers that had been buried under dirt, tar, or other material over the years. Some were covered during construction operations, some just by the accumulation of foliage. I asked if TOMSA was going to seek reimbursement from any parties whose work projects caused the manholes to be covered in the first place, like the County, the Township, or private contractors. I was thinking, in part, that there might be insurance liability coverage available. Parkinson replied that the projects were done 15 years ago and that TOMSA has no plans to seek recovery. He said that TOMSA now has its people stationed at work sites to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Fifteen years doesn’t strike me as all that long ago. TOMSA was formed in the 1960s, so they’ve been around long enough to have had procedures in place in the 1990s to ensure that manholes weren’t buried during construction projects and, if they were, to be informed and to remediate in a timely manner.

Because TOMSA won’t be seeking possible recovery from the at-fault parties, rate-payers will bear the cost. Even if this is a relatively small project for which TOMSA has money in its budget, it means there is less money for other projects or less surplus to offer the Township for tax relief.

More on manholes: An interesting revelation was made at the Planning Board meeting just this past Wednesday, December 14th. An engineer was making a presentation about infrastructure in and around the Bamm Hollow site, where 190 homes are to be built. He mentioned that the sewer system currently in place is overloaded to the point where sewerage is leaking out of manholes, and that TOMSA is currently sealing manholes to prevent the leakage.

I have to wonder, now, if some of the manholes to be uncovered as part of TOMSA’s “access recovery” project were sealed by TOMSA itself.

There was an update at the TOMSA Board meeting on the Monmouth County Improvement Authority’s solar project, in which TOMSA, the Township, and the Board of Education are participating. The MCIA received only one bid for 16.9 cents per kilowatt hour and the bid was rejected by the MCIA as too high. No word yet on the next move by the MCIA or any of the participants.

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Filed under Bamm Hollow redevelopment, blog post, budget adoption, Linda Baum, manhole covers, Middletown Planning Board, Middletown Sewerage Authority, OPRA requests, Patrick Parkinson, public hearing, TOMSA

Middletown Planning Board And AVAYA, What’s Going On?

On the agenda for tonight’s Middletown Planning Board meeting will be the ongoing discussion, with the possible approval, of the Four Pond redevelopment plan for the Avaya complex. Looking at the agenda, it would seem that the only business to be discussed tonight will be the Four Ponds application, all other planning board business has been pushed back to the new year.
Back in October during his reelection campaign, Tony Fiore was telling every Lincroft area resident which he met, that there was a commercial entity interested in occupying the former Avaya industrial site. He also told them not to worry because the township’s planning board would not approve of the proposed Four Ponds housing redevelopment plan that would be comprised of 342 units with various road and infrastructure upgrades for area. He said that the township favored the commercial alternative for the redevelopment of the site over the housing and that the town would do what it could to ensure that the housing project would not be built.
Now that the election is over and Fiore’s seat on the Township Committee has been secured for another 3 years, it seems that the plan has once again changed.
The commercial entity believed to have been interested in the Avaya site was Commvault, a spin off of Lucent Technologies that specializes in data management and recovery. Their current corporate headquarters is located nearby in Oceanport NJ. Commvault it seems, is no longer interested in moving it’s headquarters to Lincroft and prefers instead to move it’s offices over to the now empty, Fort Monmouth in Eatontown.
Why would they choose Eatontown over Lincroft? More than likely it was some sort of tax abatement issue. I had heard previously, before the name of Commvault was known, that the interested commercial entity was looking for a large multi-million dollar, multi-year property tax break in order to move into Middletown. Supposedly the Township reached out to State Senator Joe Kyrillos for help in securing such a deal with the State, but Kyrillos had reservations and nothing was done. This in turn left the door open for Commvault, who more than likely got the deal they were looking from the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority to moving itself over to the now empty Fort Monmouth.
So where does that leave the Four Ponds development? Rumors are circulating that Four Ponds developers have decided to back out of the housing project altogether and will announce their decision to do so tonight at the Planning Board meeting, leaving no one at present to build the 342 unit housing development, if the Planning Board’s decision was to approve Four Ponds’ application.
Four Pond’s rumored decision to drop its application could put the town in a major bind. The Avaya project is part of the Township’s COAH plan. If Four Ponds or some other builder, doesn’t build some kind of affordable housing there, the town will not be compliant with it’s State COAH plan and will have to find another location to build the affordable units. This would then open the door to builders that could seek “builder remedy” law suits against Middletown that would allow them to build just about anything, anywhere in town.
And for those that say that couldn’t happen because Governor Christie abolished COAH earlier this year, you are wrong. Christie abolished the governing body that presided over COAH not the rulings or decisions that had been already established by it. Middletown is just as bound today to their plans for building affordable housing as they were a year ago, nothing has changed.
Tonight’s meeting should be interesting.
So what’s the next step here? As one person so apply stated “Middletown should keep that COAH attorney on retainer.”

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Filed under Avaya, COAH, Commvault, Fort Monmouth, Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, Four Ponds Housing Development, Gov. Chris Christie, Joe Kyrillos, Middletown Planning Board

Before Moving Forward With Avaya Redevelopment, New Traffic Study Needed

Once again on tonight’s agenda for the Middletown Planning Board is a continuation of the public hearing concerning the controversial Four Ponds (Avaya) Redevelopment plan. Tonight’s meeting will be the 5th such hearing on the redevelopment plan that, if allowed to move forward, will approve the building of 342 high density housing units (270 townhouses and 72 apartments) in Lincroft.

Since the first Planning Board hearing on this issue took place back on May 4th , these meeting have been extremely well attended and have filled the Middletown Court Room (where the meetings are held) with area residents expressing their disapproval of this planned high density, residential redevelopment of the former Avaya industrial site. The main concern of these residents isn’t so much about the number of homes being built as it is about the traffic and safety concerns that need to be properly addressed on the local roads as a result of these homes being built.

The roads over in the Lincroft area are already congested and often impassable during the rush hour or when Brookdale Community College is in session; the intersection that comprises Newman Springs Rd/520, Middletown Lincroft Rd and Swimming River Rd is a nightmare and getting into and out of the shopping centers that surround this intersection is nearly impossible at times. West Front St won’t be easy to navigate around either once residential cars from the redevelopment start to pour out of the back entrance of the site and onto the road.

Safety concerns for area residents are valid especially when you factor in “cut-through” streets like Turnberry, Whispering Pines, Jumping Brook, Hillside; cars looking to avoid the congestion of the main roads will no doubt filter through the side streets looking for short-cuts around the traffic. Pedestrians and other vehicles parked on these residential streets will be placed at a higher risk for harm which does not exist now.

That’s why when at the last Planning Board meeting held on August 3rd, Traffic Engineer John Rea presented to the board the results of a traffic study that was completed during March last year, residents were right to question its’ validity.

According to the Brookdale College 2010 academic calendar spring break was held during this time and campus activities were limited, so a representative study wasn’t possible. Rea went on to state that there was a follow up traffic study completed during the week of May 16th 2011 to show that traffic didn’t change much.

Coincidentally however, the Brookdale Community College spring semester ended the week before and Christian Bother’s Academy had a shortened academic week and held graduation during this time period. So again, the validity of this follow up traffic study was in question.

Based on this information, I would think that another, more representative study should be completed by a third party before further discussions on the redevelopment of the Avaya site proceeds.

A new study needs to be completed that includes the areas from the intersections of 520/Half Mile Rd, 520/Middletown Lincroft Rd and future developments west of Garden State Parkway. Surrounding areas and planned developments (Bamm Hollow) need to be included and thought out to show the real impact on the community. The study should be done at the peak of traffic season, possible during the 2nd week of October, when the fall session is in full swing at Brookdale for example, to ensure that a true representative sample of traffic conditions are taken. In addition another study should be done during a weekend when residents are home and out shopping to show what the difference in traffic conditions would be. These studies should be done to provide data for a worse-case scenario and provide plans to mitigate traffic increases during peak times.

Before moving forward with this redevelopment of the Avaya site, the Planning Board needs to make sure that a true, accurate and representative traffic study is performed that will take into consideration the concerns of Lincroft and other area residents. This new study should be done by a firm mutually agreed to by Four Ponds Developers, Middletown and the residents that are fighting the planned redevelopment of Avaya, with the costs of the new traffic study being split between the three.

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Filed under Avaya, Bamm Hollow Country Club, Four Ponds Housing Development, Lincroft, Middletown Planning Board, Redevelopment, traffic study

Subject of Latest Robo-Call From Concerned Citizens Deals With AVAYA and COAH

Earlier today I received yet another robo-call from the group calling themselves Concerned Citizens of Middletown.

The content of this robo- call that was left on my answering machine ~1:30 pm, seems to be geared towards what is going on in Lincroft concerning the redevelopment of the AVAYA sight that will consist of 342 units of high density housing if built.

The timing of this latest robo-call seems to have been planned to correspond with the next Middletown Planning Board meeting scheduled for tomorrow night, where according to the agenda for the meeting, approval of the project may be finalized.

I’m sure that this call (the 5th) will be just as controversial as the others that have gone out in the past by the group Concerned Citizens of Middletown.
Tony Fiore and others associated with the Middletown GOP swear that Concerned Citizens of Middletown is nothing more than the a front name used by the Middletown Democrats to stir up trouble and controversy, which as far as I know, is not the case.
I am sure that one day soon the mystery of who is behind the group will be answered, but until then I’m going to sit back and enjoy the speculation. It’s fun to see Fiore and the others squirm a bit and point fingers while trying to explain that the messages being left on answering machines all around town have no merit and shouldn’t be paid attention to.

Below is the message that I recorded again off of my answering machine followed by a transcript of the call:

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

Have you heard? Because The Middletown Township Committee failed to fulfill it’s COAH obligations, the Township had to solicit bids to develop housing projects throughout Middletown?

As a result the AVAYA site in Lincroft will become a multi-family housing project that will impact the residents of Lincroft and the Township.

The influx of new residents will have an adverse affect; roads will need to be widened, sewer and water lines will need to be installed and over crowding of local schools will take place, all at a cost to our quality of life.

Paid for by
Concerned Citizens of Middletown.

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Filed under Avaya, COAH, Concerned Citizens of Middletown, Four Ponds Housing Development, Lincroft NJ, Middletown GOP, Middletown Planning Board, Middletown Township Committee, Robo-calls, Tony Fiore

>It’s Your Town – Newsletter Volume 3, Issue 9- 5/2/11

>The latest edition of It’s Your Town Newsletter is available for reading.

This latest editions of the newsletter covers the May 2, 2011 Middletown Township Committee Workshop meeting. It was at this meeting that the 2011 Township budget was scheduled for public hearing. Unfortunately the meeting was once again sparsely attended and only 1 resident came forward to question it.
In my opinion, this hearing should have been moved to the regular monthly meeting scheduled for the May 16th so that it would have been subjected to a larger audience.
During public comments a few residents questioned the planned redevelopment of the AVAYA industrial site in Lincroft that is currently being heard by the Township’s Planning Board. You can read what our elected officials had to say about it.

There were also many items on the agenda up for discussion, but not many were openly discussed.

Stay on top of what is going on during these Township meetings by reading the newsletter. It is the next best thing to being there yourself since the Township still refuses to video them for presentation over it’s cable access channels (which by the way was a point of discussion during the meeting).
Click >>> Here >>> to download a copy of the latest newsletter .

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Filed under Avaya, Its Your Town, Middletown Planning Board, Middletown Township Committee, Newsletter, workshop meeting