Spotswood Council candidates discuss issues during forum

Residents listen to Councilman Ted Ricci during the Spotswood Senior Center's Borough Council candidate forum on Oct. 11 at the center.

SPOTSWOOD–Six candidates are running for three four-year terms on the Spotswood Borough Council.

Incumbents Ted Ricci and Curt Stollen will face newcomers Dawn Crandall, Marylin Israel, Larry Kraemer and Charlie Spicuzzo for the available seats, each having a four-year term.

They participated in a forum at the Spotswood Office on Aging and Senior Center on Oct. 11.

Dawn Crandall, 51, is a lifelong resident. She is the coordinator of the borough’s Municipal Drug and Alcohol Alliance; has been the head crossing guard for 12 of the 19 years she has served; has worked for the borough’s Emergency Medical Services for 18 years; and has been involved with the Neighborhood Watch Program since its inception.

“Not one person can change a town; it takes a party [and] it takes everybody to do it. I just want to get my hands in and I want to roll up my sleeves and I want to get involved. I am not going to be the one to sit back and give it to somebody else,” Crandall said. “I’ll look into, I’ll read books I have been reading stuff now on how to do grants … and how to spend the money. … I not perfect and nobody is perfect, but we can work together and if you work together you make a better town.”

Marylin Israel, 57, is a six-year resident. She is a retired senior paralegal for a law firm. She is a member of the Friends of the Spotswood Library, the secretary of the Immaculate Conception Columbiettes, and a member of the Liturgy Committee at Immaculate Conception Church.

“My background is criminal justice, so I graduated from Ashworth University and I have an associate’s degree in criminal justice and forensic science, that is my passion. … I am running for office because I like to help people and I am passionate about the issues because I have good intentions for the best interest of Spotswood,” she said.

Larry Kraemer, 61, has been a resident for 21 years. He is the deputy coordinator for the borough’s Office of Emergency Management. He is on the board of directors for the New Jersey Run for the Fallen and is the borough’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) coordinator.

“I wanted to get involved because I have been on the planning and zoning boards for 10 years. I learned a little bit about what you do and don’t do and how you do it. … Then I just decided that I would like to get more involved, learn more about the town, try to help the town and try to do things … to try to make the masses, the general population, as happy as you can be,” Kraemer said.

Ted Ricci, 59, has been a resident for 31 years. He has been a Borough Council member since 2014, served on the Zoning Board from 1996 to 2008, and was the vice chairperson on the Planning board for three years. He was a volunteer firefighter in Woodbridge, is a retired police officer, and is currently a funeral director and owner of Spotswood Funeral Home.

“I have lived in this town for 31 years, this is now my hometown … I have no intention of going any place. I love living here. I feel that I want to give back to the community, I have done so in the past and I feel that I have a lot more that I can offer back in and hopefully I get reelected for four more years. I will be there to listen and to do the best that I can,” Ricci said.

Charlie Spicuzzo, 42, is a lifelong resident, who served on the council from 2008-12 and is currently an electrician.

“My door is always open, my phone number is available to anybody. … When I served on the council before, if anybody had a complaint or a suggestion, I would call back, I’d be at their home [and] I would help them out as much as I could,” Spicuzzo said. “That is my passion, to help everybody the best I can. I would love to say ‘yes’ to anything you ask for, [but] that’s not realistic but I am going to try my hardest to satisfy everybody in the best way I can.”

Curt Stollen, 66, has been a resident for 36 years and a member of the council since 1998, serving nine of those years as council president. He is a graduate of Seton Hall University, currently manages commercial real estate holding companies and has served on the Planning Board since 1996.

“As a council person, the hardest thing is to say ‘no.’ It’s very easy to sit on the dais and say ‘yes’ to everything, but that discipline that I have, you have to weigh wants from needs, it’s one of the most difficult things to do but it is one of the most important things to do,” Stollen said. “I care very much about the viability of this town going forward … so it’s very important to do the right thing, to do it not just for today but to make sure that things are better for tomorrow so Spotswood remains a viable and healthy community. I always say it’s not how many years you serve, but are you still making a difference and I feel that I make a difference at every meeting and that is why I still want to do it.”

During the forum, candidates got the opportunity to answer questions that were previously submitted by residents.

In response to traffic concerns, candidates were asked what they think about lowering the speed limit on Main Street and/or Summerhill Road to make it less attractive to drive through the borough?

Kraemer said because Summerhill Road is a county road, drivers will use the road as a cut through no matter what. He said currently the speed limit is 35 mph and if the speed limit is reduced it could worsen the traffic by making it slower and harder to get through.

Stollen said the Borough Council and mayor have applied for a grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) to fund improvements to help reduce the traffic at the Main Street, Devoe Street, Vilet Street and Manalapan Road intersection, which is currently pending

Crandall said, “I work on that corner at the end of Devoe Street and all I can tell you is whether you slow the speed limit down or not, it’s not going to matter. Ninety percent of the tickets that we issue as a crossing guard … they are [to] out of [towners]. … We have three tickets pending right now, out of towners … so lowering the speed limit is just going to give us more traffic that I am already dealing with now on that corner. I think we need to fix the lighting systems on how the lights are set timing wise.”

Israel said in the morning during school hours there should be a traffic light with an arrow to allow drivers to turn to get off of Manalapan Road.

Candidates were then asked their views on the services the borough provides for its seniors.

With seniors and the old generation making up a large percentage of the borough, Spicuzzo said it is important to do a lot for them and that the Spotswood Office on Aging and Senior Center does a great job in helping the borough’s seniors. He said that if he is elected to the council he will listen regarding any suggestions they have to further improve resources for seniors.

Stollen said what concerns him a lot is the way the borough’s tax situation and taxes keep going up. He said that because of the constant increase in taxes, seniors eventually move out, so he is all for doing all he can to help keep seniors in the borough.

For the seniors who can’t drive or who don’t have a ride, Israel said the borough should start a transportation service that would drive seniors to church and Crystal Springs Family Waterpark to swim.

Ricci said he does not like the fact that seniors pay the same taxes other residents pay, and he encourages seniors to talk with him so the council can learn about their needs.

Addressing the possibility that Gov. Phil Murphy will legalize recreational marijuana use, candidates were asked if they favor or disapprove of the borough’s participation in the sale, delivery and consumption space of recreational marijuana within the borough.

“To me, personally, I would not allow that because we have kids [and] this is a family town,” Israel said.

Ricci said the borough has already adopted a resolution stating the council and mayor are not in favor of legalizing marijuana in the state and that the council does not want recreational marijuana stores to be built in the borough.

“I did some research and what I found is that it’s a very bad thing for our youth. If you legalize something, as alcohol is legal … once you legalize it gives it a status of being OK and it is not OK for young people,” Stollen said. “If we do anything that makes it easier for them to buy something like this it’s very bad. Ever since we did this resolution, I keep on hearing more and more evidence of studies saying how bad [cannabis] is and how it affects the brains of youth and they never recover. So we are very much against that.”

Having run the borough’s Municipal Drug and Alcohol Alliance, Crandall said, “I am so against it I have attended many classes and programs that showed the bad effects that it has, whether it on our young or whether it’s on adults. Driving in this town, I would not want to even think of somebody being under the influence of [marijuana]. It is not the thing that we want in this town.”

Being an emergency medical responder, Kraemer said he keeps a kit that can reverse opioid overdoses with him at all times and has had to use it on young people. He said he would never support recreational marijuana being sold in stores to residents in the borough.

Election Day is on Nov. 6.

Contact Vashti Harris at [email protected].