Story and photo by Joseph Sapia
HOLMDEL – In what came as a surprise to some Tuesday night, the governing body unanimously elected a new leader from among its committee members at its annual reorganization meeting.
Committeeman Greg Buontempo will succeed Eric Hinds, who has been a high-profile presence as the township observes redevelopment of the 472-acre Bell Works site, holds a public vote on turf fields for Cross Farm Park, and fights JCPL’s proposed power line project along the railroad right-of-way.
This is Buontempo’s final year of his second three-year term. “Thank you all for your confidence in me to lead Holmdel Township for the next year,” Buontempo said.
Perhaps things did not go as smoothly as they could have for the all-Republican Township Committee. A few residents addressed the committee, speaking in praise of outgoing Mayor Eric Hinds, who is beginning his third three-year term on the committee.
Hinds had acknowledged he would have liked to have been selected mayor again for the third straight year.
“It’s never easy (relinquishing the mayor’s seat),” Hinds said. “It’s the way the system works. I can be disappointed, but I understand it.
“Of course, I want to be mayor,” Hinds said. “(But) I support Greg and move forward.”
Hinds said some did not understand that although Hinds held the mayor’s seat when he was running in last year’s election, he was not running for mayor, but for a committee seat.
“I voted for him (Hinds) to be mayor,” resident Paul Andersen told the committee. “I feel my vote was not utilized in the way it was cast.”
Buontempo agreed some did not understand the township committee form of government, which also is in place in neighboring Hazlet, Middletown and Colts Neck.
Under the township committee form of New Jersey municipal government, voters in Holmdel elect five members at large for staggered, three year terms, which begin the first week in January. At the annual reorganization meeting, the five committee members select who among them will be mayor and deputy mayor for the coming year. While the mayoral title carries a leadership role and prestige, along with some powers, the committee essentially is a roundtable with all members having equal power under the law.
Buontempo said the township committee form of government “was a learning experience” when he first encountered it.
Committeeman Patrick Impreveduto, a former mayor, was elected deputy mayor by his four colleagues with Impreveduto abstaining.
In his mayoral remarks, Buontempo talked about progress being made in town at the Bell Works site, formerly Bell Labs until about 10 years ago, on Crawfords Corner Road. Companies moving to the multi-use commercial site include JCP&L and software maker iCIMS. One million square feet of commercial space will be active at Bell Works in the next two or three years, Buontempo said.
Also, the Holmdel branch of the Monmouth County Library is to relocate from the basement of Town Hall to Bell Works in late 2017 or early 2018. At Bell Works, the branch’s size will be 17,000 square feet, a jump from its current 2,500.
“It’s going to be part library, part learning center, part historical museum,” Buontempo said.
The museum will trace Bell Labs’ work in the township in a display “threaded through the library,” said Buontempo, explaining the committee came up with the idea. He said the museum is envisioned as both placards of information and physical objects on display.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Buontempo said. Somerset Development, the owner-developer of Bell Works, will provide $1 million toward the estimated $1.5 million to $1.6 million renovation of the library on the second floor of the six-story, 2-million-square-foot former Bell Labs building. The township will be responsible for the rest of the money.
Also, Somerset Development is giving the township a free perpetual lease for the library.
On Thursday, Jan. 12, an informational session will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Bell Works on the library project, Bountempo said.
Buontempo was sworn in as mayor by Freeholder Serena DiMaso, a Holmdel resident and former mayor.
Impreveduto could not fully raise his right hand when he was sworn in as deputy mayor because his arm was in a sling from recent shoulder surgery. He injured the shoulder months ago in a fall.
When state Senator Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr. swore in Impreveduto, the senator joked about him having his “right fingers raised,” rather than his right arm and hand.
The committee honored Hinds with his service as mayor with a proclamation, which prompted a standing ovation.
Hinds looked back at being mayor in 2016. He said accomplishments included an online township newsletter, a town-wide cleanup and a career night for students.
“I tried to attend a ton of events and bring the community together,” Hinds said. But he will not rest now that he does not have the mayor’s position. “It’s not my nature to sit back,” Hinds said.
Joe Crowley, a resident, told the committee, “I would like to thank Eric for all his passion to the community.”
Hinds and Committeeman Michael Nikolis, both winners in November, were sworn into their new terms by Kyrillos and DiMaso, respectively. Also in attendance at the organization was state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.
Township attorney: Michael L. Collins of the Archer and Greiner firm
Planner: Jennifer Beahm
Engineer: Edward G. Broberg of T&M Associates
Auditor: Robert Allison
Judge: Mary Casey
Prosecutor: The Citta, Holzapfel and Zabarsky firm
Public defender: Raymond Raya
Code enforcement officer: Loni Lucina
Zoning Officer and Fire inspector: David Olsen
Purchasing agent: Barbara Kovelesky
Historian: Rhonda Beck-Edwards
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