Four candidates bid for two seats on Allentown Borough Council

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ALLENTOWN – Four residents are running for two three-year terms on the Allentown Borough Council in the Nov. 5 general election. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Democratic Councilman Rob Schmitt is seeking re-election to a third term.

Thomas Braunworth and Martha Johnson are running for council seats on the Allentown First Committee ticket with Greg Westfall, who is seeking his second four-year term as mayor.

Daniel Payson is running for a council seat on the Allentown Together ticket with Thomas Fritts, who is running for mayor. Fritts is the current council president.

The council terms are for three years.

Braunworth has lived in Allentown for 33 years and has served on the ad hoc sewer committee for three years. He retired this year after working for New Jersey American Water for 28 years. He holds a treatment and distribution license.

Regarding his decision to run for council, he said, “I am seeking the position of councilman to assist with getting the waste water system completed and to develop future plans for proper maintenance of the waste water and water system.”

The candidate’s comments about getting a waste water system completed refer to a project Allentown officials have been working on for several years that is expected to result in the construction of new waste water treatment infrastructure in the borough.

Braunworth said the three most important issues he wants to address as a councilman are the sewer plant, the fiscal management of Allentown’s finances and taxes, and the preservation of open space.

“My expertise in water and waste water management will help the town get the new sewer system up and running. I am retired, honest and trustworthy and will devote time to the town’s needs. I want to provide Allentown with honesty and transparency,” he said.

Johnson said she and her family have lived in Allentown for 48 years.

“I was married to the late Samuel Johnson for 46 years and during that time we raised our three sons in this hometown community. My grandchildren now attend the Newell Elementary School and one graduated from Allentown High School in 2019. I am retired after working for 36 years with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, assisting senior citizens and disabled individuals with benefit programs.

“My passion is to administer programs for the senior citizens of Allentown to enjoy. I would like to add programs that would include weekly gatherings for activities such as bingo, bus trips, entertainment and seminars. I would also like seniors to receive any help they need, from Meals on Wheels to transportation or any other source of aid.

“My decision to run for council was based upon the fact that this community needs more leaders like me who are driven and motivated to give the people a choice and a voice. My goals include but are not limited to the heavy traffic on Church Street, taxes, and the water plant issues, in addition to fighting to preserve our historic and open spaces for our children and families,” Johnson said.

Payson was born and raised in Allentown. He is a current member of the Environmental Commission and a former member of the Allentown-Upper Freehold Municipal Alliance. Professionally, he works in medical device sales. He is a graduate of Allentown High School.

“I moved away from Allentown for a few years due to my job. After I got married and my wife and I had our first child, we moved back to Allentown to put down roots.

“Over this past year, the Allentown Environmental Commission has explored ways to protect Allentown’s fringes from development and studied cost-saving measures including shared services with other municipalities for recycling and trash collection.

“Additionally, by leveraging my sales and marketing background, I plan to help local businesses rent their vacant buildings to continue to make our business district thrive.

“Throughout my professional career, I have become known as the person who gets the job done. My goal is to apply this attribute to Allentown as it pertains to advocating for the completion of the sewer plant project, protecting Allentown’s outskirts from commercial development, or offering viable parking solutions. I will get it done,” Payson said.

“It is my generation that will inherit the responsibility of ensuring Allentown stays a beautiful place to live. I want Allentown to maintain its historic charm while continuing to reduce costs and prepare for the future. These things can only happen if we work together as a community and do what is best for Allentown.

“I am running with Thomas Fritts as I believe he is a true advocate for Allentown. I will continue to build upon Tom’s foundations of transparency and approachability in local government. I love Allentown and want my daughter to have the wonderful experiences I had growing up here. I would be honored to serve on the Borough Council,” Payson said.

Schmitt is a lifelong resident of Allentown. He said that as the long-time liaison to and former chair of the Economic Development Commission, “I have worked hard to foster an environment within the historic village in which businesses can thrive and find a long-term home. At the same time, I have led the big-picture efforts to preserve our identity.

“As the chair of public safety, I support our dedicated police department in their efforts to engender an environment of professional growth, mutual respect and community safety. I worked with the bargaining unit and the borough attorney to settle a new fair and sustainable contract that works for the police department and the taxpayers.

“I will continue to work with Chief Dan Panckeri and our excellent officers on issues that are of importance to our residents: traffic calming, discouraging speeders, enforcing the non-terminating truck ban on borough streets and pedestrian safety,” he said.

Schmitt said he “led the charge to fire our previous unfit sewer plant engineer and to get the borough back on track with the original package plant designed in-house by the borough engineer that we are now going to build. … I am excited to work with our team of professionals and Sewer Committee members to see (the project) through to completion on time and within the proposed budget.

“In 2015, as a freshman councilman, I fought to reject the proposed high-density housing that was scheduled to blight the precious acreage in the heart of town that, now in 2019, with the dedicated work of the council and the Ashby Committee, is to become the Sgt. George Ashby Park.

“I am proud of my previous record on preservation, but now I am engaged in two efforts to protect and preserve the greenbelt that surrounds the borough and is under constant pressure from development and industrial sprawl. I am in the forefront in the fight to prevent the Stein property on the border of the borough behind Probasco Drive from being developed into an industrial wasteland of warehouses and trucking depots.

“I, along with council President Fritts, are reaching out to our neighbors in Robbinsville to work on a plan to preserve the still-green Wittenborn property between the two municipalities,” Schmitt said.