| Asbury Park Press
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HAZLET – Raising three kids in Hazlet, Morgan Pulcine was a big fan of the summer-long day camp run by the township’s recreation department. At $300 per child for the duration, it was money well spent.
“It was a wonderful program for the families in our town,” she said. “All of my children, especially my older son, made lifelong friends there.”
This past summer, with Hazlet’s recreation director furloughed, the program was outsourced to Camp Coconuts — a private company based in Middletown that runs camps for kids in various Monmouth County towns.
“They were charging a discounted Hazlet rate of $250 per child per week,” Pulcine said. “Hazlet is a middle-class town. You want to charge those prices, you need to be in Holmdel or Colts Neck.”
As a result, Pulcine said turnout among Hazlet kids was low.
“The parents lost out and the children lost out,” she said. “I don’t think it was wise for anyone.”
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Restoring Hazlet’s recreation department and summer camp is a focus for Pulcine as she runs for a spot on the township’s committee in the Nov. 3 election. A Democrat who has lived in town for 22 years, she is trying to unseat Republican Mike Sachs. All five members of the committee are Republicans.
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A lifelong Hazlet resident and a 1977 graduate of Raritan High School, Sachs was first elected to the township’s committee in 1997. He served as mayor in 2000, 2007 and 2015 and deputy mayor in 2004-05 and 2011-12.
“What happened with COVID, all the recreation programs came to a complete halt,” Sachs said. “Can you have recreation programs going on when you are supposed to be social distancing? We laid off — didn’t fire, laid off — the recreation director because there was nothing happening.”
With all the uncertainty heading into the summer and the precautions that would have to be undertaken, Sachs said, it didn’t make sense from safety or cost-effective standpoints to green-light the recreation camp and other rec programs.
“When things pick back up again I would hope the recreation director would come back; that’s my wish,” Sachs said. “Hopefully right after this is over, whenever that is, we’ll return to our recreation program. Everybody is playing this by ear. We’ll have to wait to see what happens.”
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Pulcine’s other top initiatives
Enforcing the speed limit: Pulcine cites Cresci Boulevard as a prime example. Raritan Valley Elementary School is on that road, and “people fly down it like it’s the Parkway,” she said. “It’s dangerous; children are walking. We have to address that.”
She’d like to see speed bumps or an electronic speed-limit sign installed there and elsewhere on similar high-risk roads in town.
Town hall open five days a week: On the township’s website, the hours are listed as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. She’d like to see Friday hours or evening hours added.
“It’s a problem for a lot of people in town who have to stop by to pay a bill or do things,” Pulcine said. “I work five days a week (as a paralegal). Most people work five days a week. I don’t understand why our town hall isn’t open five days a week.”
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Sachs’ top initiatives
Road assessment program: In each of the past two years, Hazlet has had the conditions of its roads assessed.
“We rank them from the worst to good, and we start (repairs) with the worst and work our way down,” Sachs said. “We’ve worked with New Jersey Natural Gas. They’ve paved sections for us. In the long run it saves a lot of money. We’ll continue going that route.”
Renovate the James J. Cullen Center: The decades-old recreation center on Union Avenue needs a facelift. It’s used by a variety of community groups. The plan is to redecorate, upgrade the heating and air conditioning and install a better air filtration system.
“It’s time for an upgrade, to bring it into the technology of today,” Sachs said.
Bringing in new businesses: There is room for growth along the Route 36 and Route 35 corridors.
“The old K-Mart shopping center has been revamped,” Sachs said. “There’s a new Chick-fil-A. We’re starting to pick up a bit there. These new businesses are great because they’re ratables; they help offset taxes.”
Jerry Carino is community columnist for the Asbury Park Press, focusing on the Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.