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Covering Hamilton and Robbinsville townships in-depth for The Trentonian. I can be reached at (609) 989-7800 ext. 207 or (609) 468-6962. Email me at or follow me @awisefool.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hamilton council names Ileana Schirmer to vacancy

Hamilton town council has filled the vacancy left by Mayor Kelly Yaede. Tuesday night they voted in their newest colleague, local businesswoman Ileana Schirmer.

Schirmer, who ran a local private preschool for more than seven years and had experience in the pharmaceutical industry, said she was honored by the council’s unanimous vote and would work on behalf of the citizens of the township.

“I have some very big shoes to fill,“ she said, referring to Yaede, the former vice president of the council. “My first thing is to learn.”

Yaede replaced Council President Kevin Meara as mayor after a contentious council meeting two weeks ago. Meara stepped in as mayor from his position as council president following former Mayor John Bencivengo’s resignation last month. Yaede serves as mayor until a special election next fall, which will decide who will hold the office until 2015.

The council voted between Michael Dill, a former assistant business administrator and CFO, Schirmer, , and David Walsh, an employee of Campbell Supply Company, who were selected by the municipal GOP committee.

Schirmer pointed to her experience in the pharmaceutical industry and running a private preschool as qualifying her for the post.

“You are the person making the decisions; the tough decisions, the easy decisions, everything,” she said. “I see this position as an opportunity to help the residents, to do something good for the township that has been so good to me and my family.”

A jury convicted Bencivengo of taking $12,400 in bribes from the government’s cooperating witness, Marliese Ljuba, in exchange for his influence with the Hamilton Board of Education, so that she could keep her lucrative health insurance brokerage for her employer, Allen Associates.
The council passed a $17,700 contract with the Arcadis engineering firm after rejecting an $8,900 bid from the controversial engineering firm Birdsall Services Group at the last meeting. Arcadis originally bid about $18,000 for the work, to inspect damage at the township’s RBC building.

Councilman Dennis Pone, who voted for the Birdsall contract, said he would vote for the more expensive contract but he wasn’t happy about it.

“I call this buckling under the pressure of perception to the detriment of taxpayers,” he said. “I know the work has to get done, but in ‘Realsville’ I’m disappointed we have to spend $9,500 more than we need to.”

The Attorney General brought charges against two executives at the firm: Phil Angarone Jr., 40, of Hamilton, who plead guilty and Thomas Rospos, 60, of Belmar, who has been indicted in the scheme.
The company would pay employees for their political donations — all less than the $300 which requires disclosure to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission — to various politicians on both sides of the aisle where the firm had contracts, according to press releases from the Attorney General’s office.
Rospos was accused of making more than $100,000 in donations, and Angarone will forfeit more than $29,000 in contributions he was reimbursed for as part of his plea agreement.
Councilman Ed Gore, who voted against the contract at the last meeting, said the township should not award contracts to Birdsall Services Group.

“I certainly feel a lot more comfortable voting on this one than the one,” Gore said, referring to the Arcadis contract. “I could not in good conscience reward that company [Birdsall] with one penny of township money.”

Hamilton Township police also have a new tool in dealing with underage drinking. The council passed an ordinance that allows police to choose between a traditional criminal charge and a municipal violation, which carries a scaling fine, loss of driving privileges and mandatory substance abuse education.

“We don’t have to take every young person into the criminal system,” Councilman Dave Kenny said. “This type of early intervention can be helpful.”

A few residents, including Maria Picardi-Kenyon, said they did not think the town should “let everyone off” in situations involving underage drinking.

“Unless I’m completely misunderstanding…If they are not 21 they are not supposed to drink,” she said.


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