Middletown Officials Travel To Meet Residents On Their Own Turf

first_imgStory and photos by Joseph SapiaMIDDLETOWN – Jay Ahl, 57, of Leonardo thinks the township needs a streetlight near his house, to make it safer for pedestrians because of fast-moving traffic heading down Highland Avenue.On Thursday, Feb. 25 he got to present his idea directly to a township deputy police chief, at the first Neighborhood “Spotlight on Leonardo” session, held at the Middletown Senior Center.He was one of 25 residents of Leonardo who came to talk about local concerns with township government representatives, for a two-hour session.“We have so many different sections, we were trying to shed light on neighborhoods,” said Township Committeewoman Stephanie Murray. “We’re really one big Middletown. It’s always been a challenge.”Neighborhood Spotlight is part of the township’s Community Identity Campaign, a series of events to solidify the 42-square-mile township and its 67,000 people, as well as celebrate its diversity. “People don’t always realize they live in Middletown,” she said.Last year, Neighborhood Spotlights were held in North Middletown, Belford, Navesink, New Monmouth and Middletown village sections. Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger described attendance as having been “hit and miss.” In Leonardo, citizens turned out to the center at Croydon Hall to chat with representatives in Administration, Public Works, Planning, Animal Control, Health, Recreation and Code Enforcement departments.“This is a success,” said the mayor, who acknowledged not everyone can get to a township meeting, or feels comfortable speaking in that public setting. The casual setting of a Neighborhood Spotlight is conducive to good conversation. “A lot of times, you hear about an issue for the first time,” Scharfenberger said.Various Middletown Township officials attended the Neighborhood Spotlight in Leonardo.Cynthia Bianchi, secretary of the Leonardo Citizens Committee, came to the event. She said she had nothing specific to discuss. Rather, she said, she was there more to listen.“We come to everything,” said Bianchi, who is 70 years old. “That’s why we are the Leonardo Citizens Committee. We let the people of Leonardo know what’s going on. And we let the township know what our concerns are.”Bianchi questioned the time of the session, 4 to 6 p.m.“It’s a funny hour,” said Bianchi, with many people working at that time. “Four o’clock makes it difficult for most people.”The township has juggled the times between late afternoon and night for the Neighborhood Spotlights, which began last year. Scharfenberger figured 4 p.m. would be good for seniors.Also, Scharfenberger said he has office hours from 10 a.m. to noon at Town Hall on the first and third Saturdays of the month to meet with residents.One woman talked to Deputy Police Chief Robert W. Stefanski about suspected drug activity at a residence. The police officer advised her to call police the next time she saw something suspicious. “That’s how we get a lot of things started – a citizen tip,” Stefanski said.Another resident had a question about electricity service. That would be a utility – not a township issue – said Cindy Herrschaft, township public information officer. Part of the Neighborhood Spotlight effort is connecting people “to the right services or programs, whether it be our own departments or an outside agency,” she said.As for the resident who suggested a streetlight to make it safer for drivers, Deputy Police Chief Stephen F. Dollinger said he would follow up on the matter with the police Traffic Bureau to see if a streetlight should be recommended to the utility company.Ahl said he was grateful to speak about his concerns. “I don’t think Leonardo gets a lot of attention,” he said.last_img

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