Manchester Patch asked each of the four candidates vying for three Township Council seats this November to complete a questionnaire addressing some of the issues affecting residents. One candidate will be featured each day this week; click here for answers from candidate Sam Fusaro.
The second candidate featured is Pine Lake Park resident William N. Peck, 60, who has lived in the township for 16 years and works as a Naval Air Systems Command weapons system manager.
Peck, who served in the U.S. Navy for 24 years, is the First Vice President of the Manchester Regular Republican Club and a member of the Ocean County Republican Committee. He also is a member and former Vice President of the Pine Lake Park Taxpayer Improvement Association. His slogan is "Your Conservative for a Better Manchester."
Q:What do you see as the biggest issue facing Manchester, and what do you plan to do to address it?
A: The biggest issue facing Manchester is taxes. I would improve the property-assessment process. We’re entering the second decade of the 21st century, but we’re not using modern technology that is available on the web to everyone. We still do property assessments and valuations using outdated and labor-intensive methods that are not timely and rarely reflect the true value of homes in the town. Taxes have steadily increased over the years.
Q: What plans, if any, do you have to reduce spending and stabilize tax rates?
A: The nature of government, even at the local level, is to grow. Left unchecked, the cost of government will increase, and Manchester may end up like San Bernadino, Calif., buried in a mountain of debt and bankrupt. Manchester will have to look for bold new solutions to reduce debt and future liabilities. One way to do that is to control municipal payroll, consolidate services, and combine personnel responsibilities. If I am elected, I will take a critical look at the personnel on the township payroll to determine whether their functions are completely necessary and their salaries justified.
Q: Safety on Route 70 through the township has been a big problem, with serious and sometimes deadly crashes becoming almost the norm. The Township Council has asked for state help with improving safety but hasn't received much response. How would you address the issue?
A: When interfacing with the state, I would not take “no response” for an answer. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so I would relentlessly pursue a response from the state. I would work with county officials to bring pressure to bear on the state agencies to do their jobs and fulfill their responsibilities. There is little else a local official can do, because Route 70 is a state highway, and everything from lane markings and signage to signal timing is controlled by the NJDOT.
Q: Township officials have said that it is difficult to draw new business into Manchester because of various environmental regulations. What ideas do you have that could help grow business in town?
A: Because much of Manchester is in the Pine Barrens, we are saddled with environmental regulations that increase the risk of starting new businesses here. New startups cannot tolerate the long delays and costs associated with the discovery of endangered plants or animals on property being developed or improved, so businesses look elsewhere to set up shop. To offset the greater risk, I would advocate providing tax incentives – such as time-limited tax abatements – to attract businesses to Manchester.
Q: Is there a way to rehabilitate Pine Lake, and if so, could it be done in a way that would not be burdensome to taxpayers?
First, a study would have to be done to determine the condition of the lake and to formulate a remediation plan. Then the results would have to be discussed with the NJDEP, and state grants would have to be pursued to actually implement the remediation. It could be very cost-prohibitive for Manchester to rehabilitate the lake – assuming it needs it – without state assistance.
Q: Though scheduled to be completed soon, construction on Route 530 in Whiting has been ongoing for longer than Ocean County officials anticipated and has become a nuisance to some residents. Going forward, how would you work with county officials to ensure other projects are completed on time and without much impact to residents?
A: It’s important for township officials to be engaged during the planning phases of future projects at the county level (and state, if applicable). It is very hard to effect changes once projects are underway. I would attend freeholder meetings and maintain open communication channels with county officials to ensure we stay informed and, more importantly, that county officials remain informed of Manchester residents’ concerns and issues. Moreover, I would advocate that county construction contracts have incentives for early completion and penalties for completion delays.
Q: Manchester’s police department, along with township officials, worked on a plan to bolster the force without greatly impacting the budget. Do you feel the township's police force is now staffed at an adequate level?
A: By conventional standards, the Manchester police force is undersized, having fewer than two officers per thousand residents. However, Manchester is not conventional, having a large senior population and many gated communities with private security forces. Older populations generally require fewer officers to provide police protection. Moreover, many of the non-traffic-related calls in the township are medical in nature, so the size of the force is probably about right.
Q: Manchester is unique in that the township is home to a sizeable senior population as well as many younger families. How do you plan to address the needs of both of these groups?
A: Addressing the needs of one group does not preclude addressing the needs of another. All groups and individuals deserve fair and equitable treatment and consideration when they air their concerns to government, and that’s what they can expect from me. However, it is worth stating that there is no free lunch, and township resources are limited, so the council will have to manage those resources carefully and set the appropriate priorities.
Q: Please add any additional details you feel voters may need to know about you.
A: Through my years of government service, I have learned to listen, plan, and lead through my actions. As a member of the Manchester Town Council, I will advocate for the township’s residents. I will work to protect their property rights, I will strive to provide the greatest practical access to public information and to let the sun shine on all council business, and above all, I will work to make Manchester Township an even better place to live.