Vote To Keep A Working Relationship With Towns
To the Editor:
The relationship between the Borough of Swedesboro and Woolwich Township during the last couple of years has deteriorated to the lowest point during my 14 years as the Mayor of Swedesboro. This is really disheartening and counter-productive for a community that has shared so many successful partnerships for many, many years. I’d like to provide some insight into how this has come about.
Within a month of the Woolwich Township Committee selecting Alan Schwagger to act as Woolwich’s Mayor, Alan Schwagger made a clear and unambiguous statement to a Swedesboro Council member about his intentions. His exact quote that evening was, “When I’m done as Mayor of Woolwich Township, Swedesboro will not even exist”. It is hard to comprehend this level of arrogance toward your neighboring town, and certainly not a good way to start his relationship with Swedesboro. This statement was our first indication that there was not going to be a harmonious relationship with the new leadership in Woolwich.
Frank Rizzi’s first interaction with Swedesboro was to demand that the conditions of the Inter-local agreement between our towns related to the Woolwich Fire Company be completely re-written. Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger based the new proposed conditions in the agreement on bogus data and false information. We understand now that this is typical of how they do business and I won’t bore you with the details of the negotiations. What is important to point out is that as the negotiations progressed Alan Schwagger and Frank Rizzi actually went to the State of NJ and Gloucester County to lay the groundwork for their plan to have the Woolwich Fire Company cease providing fire protection in the Borough of Swedesboro. In an effort to intimidate us, Alan Schwagger informed Councilman Dave Flaherty that we better sign the agreement because if we didn’t “Come January 1st you will have no fire protection in your town”. Think about that – Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger were planning to leave the residents of Swedesboro unprotected in the event of a fire. This to me epitomizes what these two people are about. In the end, the Woolwich Fire Company stood up and said that they would never leave Swedesboro unprotected and they would continue to serve both towns as they have for over 100 years. We terminated the Inter-Local that we had really just set up to simplify how the Fire Company’s bills were paid and we moved on by just paying the fire company directly. Our relationship with the Woolwich Fire Company has never been stronger as a result of what we had to deal with together.
Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger then moved on to the Shared Services agreement for Police Services Early in their tenure they decided to arbitrarily change the rules of an agreement that had run perfectly for over eight years. Our Police Committee was told that no one was permitted to contact the Chief of Police unless they went through the Woolwich Township Clerk and/or Alan Schwagger and that effective immediately the Police Chief would not be attending any meetings with the Borough Council to discuss Police matters, as had been the case for eight years. Both of these items were clearly spelled out in our Agreement. We had to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees to fight for what was our rights in the agreement and we ultimately prevailed, but this was an obscene waste of taxpayer’s money to fight over something that was simply another attempt by Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger to bully Swedesboro – and also, by the way, to have complete control over the police department. This is something that should concern everyone in our community.
The Inter-Local agreement between Swedesboro and Woolwich Township for Police Services expires next year and I can say with a high degree of certainty that it is not even close to guaranteed that the agreement will be renewed with Woolwich Township. Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger have damaged the relationship with our Borough Council that much. This is a real shame, because we love the job that the Woolwich police officers on the street provide for our town. However, if we are going to pay someone $700,000 for a service and we don’t believe that we have honest partners to deal with, we will look at other options. It stinks to think that a partnership that is such a huge accomplishment and has provided great benefits for both towns can be ruined by two guys who just want to fight about everything. The fact that Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger are willing to create a $700,000 hole in the Woolwich Township budget is a sad indictment of their leadership qualities.
Recently, Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger set their crosshairs on the Municipal Alliance Program in our community; a program that has done amazing things for our school kids, senior citizens and the community as a whole under the leadership of Diane Hale. After having no interest in participating (or contributing) in the Municipal Alliance for the last 20 years, Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger decided they were going to take over the majority of the program. Their method of doing this was not to follow the normal process and submit the required paperwork, but rather to actually question the integrity of Diane Hale and her management of the Municipal Alliance funds. Although they were assured by the county and state that the program was run perfectly, they continued their personal attacks and accusations. So, rather than take the simple steps required to become a partner in the program, these two guys felt compelled to disparage Diane Hale, a person who gives more of her time and energy to our community than anyone I know. The level of vile comments that Alan Schwagger and Frank Rizzi have made are absolutely shameful and out of line. I trust no one more than I trust Diane Hale; and the people in charge of the MA program at the county and state level feel the same way.
The last example of many that I could describe has to do with Alan Schwagger and Frank Rizzi’s spiteful attempt to mess up Swedesboro Day last month. It may seem like no big deal to others, but this is the type of thing we now deal with on what seems to be a weekly basis. This event is actually promoted as Swedesboro-Woolwich Day, but Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger effectively killed the “Woolwich” part of the name this year. In past years the only contribution to the day by Woolwich Township was to provide three Public Works employees and a cart to assist with the set-up before, trash collecting during and shut-down at the end of the day. It was a great help and much appreciated by our PW guys and the Woolwich PW guys enjoyed the opportunity as well. This year, literally three days before Swedesboro Day, Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger instructed the Woolwich Clerk to notify us that there would be no Woolwich Public Works employees helping with the big day. They obviously planned this out so that it would have the maximum negative impact on Swedesboro Day just three days away. They also notified us that we were not permitted to use the bleachers that we have used for years in front of the main stage. When asked for the reason why by our employees, the answer was “because they are mad at Swedesboro for not helping them more with their Farm Market…” We overcame this display of pettiness and had a successful day and learned another valuable lesson about Alan Schwagger and Frank Rizzi.
If I was running a campaign against Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger, my theme song would be “Why Do You Have To Be So Mean” (yes, I do have a 14 year old who loves Taylor Swift). When I go down the list of people who Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger have gone out of their way to hurt it’s like the who’s who of great people who have been so dedicated to our community for many years. Many of the most dedicated volunteers in our community have quit as result of them. Think about this – they’ve singled out the baseball organizations and drove most of them to hold their tournaments in other towns because Frank Rizzi is mad at them for some perceived slight against him. They pressured the Woolwich Township Park Director to resign as Park Director even though she had been doing a great job for years. They were so negative and nasty to members of the Parks and Recreation Committee that 4-5 members who had been dedicated volunteers for over 10 years resigned. They forced the owner of Swedes Plaza, Sal Barbagallo, to take the township to court to fight their illegal vacating of Ogden Road that was done to hurt Sal’s business because, as Alan Schwagger stated, “he disrespected me…”. They kicked Woolwich Committee members off of the committee’s they loved being involved with to make sure they knew who was in charge. They recently told a respected farmer in the area that “we need your farm and if you don’t sell it to us we’ll take it”. They were literally the only town in South Jersey to actively and officially fight AGAINST the Fair Funding efforts for our local schools, an effort that ultimately resulted in a significant increase in aid for our schools in spite of them. Alan Schwagger and Frank Rizzi ordered the Woolwich Police to stop providing support for anything related to Kingsway because they hold a grudge against the School District – and our children’s safety is at risk as a result. They have cost Swedesboro tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight off their attacks to attempt to have the fire department stop providing fire protection in Swedesboro; to force them to honor the conditions of the Inter-Local for Police; to protect Swedesboro’s interest in the illegal vacating of Ogden Road and other ridiculous, frivolous legal actions. Alan Schwagger’s response to one of the individuals who was forced to take legal action and tried unsuccessfully to reason with him was “it’s not my money we’ll be spending; it’s your tax dollars and your personal money…” They decided it was appropriate to personally attack the integrity of Diane Hale in an effort to take control of the Municipal Alliance program that has been serving both communities for years with no financial contribution or interest from Woolwich – Swedesboro has been the only one doing the cash match for over a decade.
The interesting thing about all of the fights with Swedesboro is that we have prevailed in each and every case because we were in the right. That doesn’t bring me any satisfaction because of the tremendous waste of taxpayer’s money that had to be expended to fight off the attacks and the amount of negative energy this all caused. I can only imagine what the legal bills are in Woolwich Township since all Frank Rizzi and Alan Schwagger want to do is fight everybody.
I mean really, why DO you need to be so mean? This isn’t how it has to be and is no way to lead a town or deal with your neighbors. We have had a very good relationship with Woolwich for all of the years I’ve served as Mayor. Working with Mayor Joe Chila and Mayor Sam Maccarone we’ve done some amazing things together such as the implementing the first joint EMS agreement with Logan, the police Inter-Local, a Shared Service for the construction officials and the continued shared Parks and Recreation, Environmental Commission, School System and others. The spirit of cooperation ended with Alan Schwagger and Frank Rizzi. In an amazing display of hypocrisy, Alan Schwagger and Frank Rizzi recently sent out campaign literature that falsely claims that they had something to do with any of the Shared Service partnerships with Swedesboro. The truth is that neither of these guys had anything to do with any Shared Services agreements and the sad reality is that they have jeopardized each and every one of them going forward. It always amazes me when politicians have the audacity to claim credit for the accomplishments of others.
We have to be able to do better than this. We have to be better because it makes financial sense to share services. We have to do better because we have a vested interest in each other’s success. Most importantly, we have to do better because we are a community that is intertwined in so many ways and we have been since the 1600’s. We are better when we work together.
I have never been involved in any way with politics in Woolwich Township and I certainly don’t want to be this year. However, given the situation we are in and the continued disintegration of our relationship with the Woolwich Township leadership I am hopeful that the result of the upcoming election results in a new voice and a new attitude in regards to working together as a community. I have had a number of conversations with Gina Santore and Vern Marino and the overwhelming message they have given me is that they will work with others on the Woolwich Committee to make sure that we restore the positive relationship between Swedesboro and Woolwich. I know for a fact that others on the Woolwich Committee who aren’t running this year feel the same way. Gina and Vern have a long track record of positive public service and want to get involved for the sole purpose of improving their community. It’s clear to me that both Gina and Vern are in this for their community rather than their egos.
I am encouraging my friends in Woolwich Township to vote for Gina Santore and Vern Marino so we can get back to working together for all of the residents in the Swedesboro and Woolwich Township community.
To The Editor,
If the adventure of life is to learn, and the beauty of life is to give, our family has learned much over the 30 plus years living in the extended Kingsway Community.
Ten years ago, when we suddenly lost our teenage son, Nathaniel to complications of brain cancer, our communities enveloped us in love and support. The Hochman Family, Mayor Tom Fromm, the Kingsway Marching Band Family, and numerous volunteers organized the first Dragon Run in 2007.
This past September 30th, 2017, a very successful eleventh annual 5K and 1 mile event took place on Swedesboro-Woolwich Day. The giving continues to this day with so many corporate sponsors, volunteers, runners and walkers participating in the event that raises funds for a scholarship to deserving students at Kingsway. Thank you to the Swedesboro-Woolwich Day Committee, for tireless hours spent organizing the fall event. Thank you to the Botto Family for generously providing a delicious lunch for the hungry marching band after the event.
We are humbled to live in this beautiful and giving community.
Craig & Lauren Boerlin and children