HOWELL TOWNSHIP, NJ – Last year, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders was ready to fast track the application for Resource Engineering’s new and huge solid waste transfer facility on Randolph Road. For the Monmouth County GOP, the plant would have been a major political and financial victory against their counterparts in Ocean County who right now how a firm grip on the municipal, county and private construction waste recycling company. The plant, if built will take millions of dollars out of the Ocean County GOP political coffers and put that money into the Monmouth GOP coffers, along with the traffic it brings.
The Randolph Road project will compete directly with the Ocean County Landfill and GOP aligned operator C.J. Hesse. It was pretty much a done deal until an associate of C.J. Hesse tipped off Shore News Network last spring that brought the matter to the public spotlight. Howell Township and the residents of the community were stuck in the middle of a trash war between two trash supergiants. Monmouth County GOP backed Resource Engineering, operated by the husband of former Monmouth County Clerk Claire French and the Ocean County Landfill, operated through the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and C.J. Hesse, a political ally of the Ocean County GOP.
Today, as the plot thickens, Howell Mayor Theresa Berger and Councilman John Bonevich sent a detailed letter to Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal to request an investigation into the handling of an application for a proposed solid waste transfer station (known locally as “the dump”) by the Monmouth County Freeholders. They have asked Grewal to stop any action or approvals by the Freeholders until an investigation can be completed. There is much for the AG to investigate here should they pursue it. In the old days, it was organized crime that controlled the garbage and recycling business.
Today, it’s feuding GOP business factions, which we like to call, “the Dirt Mafia” fighting over control of the shore’s tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in commercial and industrial waste management. When Ocean County GOP leaders found out the Monmouth County GOP Freeholders were pushing this through, with the support of the Howell Township Republican Club, a whistleblower contacted us. After confirming the story and with days left before the Monmouth Freeholders were ready to rubber-stamp the approvals, people showed up at the meeting that was now publicized, but was set to happen in private, away from prying eyes and out of the purview of the public.
The letter from Berger and Bonevich explained the devastating impact a dump could have on Howell residents, including traffic problems that would be caused by the transfer station, the impact of the noise and smog in the largely residential part of town, and the vehicles idling and emitting pollution. The proposed facility on Randolph Road would accept 1500 tons of materials per day. It would also include a 25,000 square foot main building and an 8,000 square foot maintenance garage.
Berger has opposed the dump since she took office in January 2017. Despite her opposition, the County continues to conduct studies and appears to be quietly working on the approvals.
For months, Berger has been requesting the release of public documents related to the waste transfer station, including a traffic study and “in need” study, regarding the need for the facility. To date, the county has refused to release the documents.
Berger said, “The Freeholders are intentionally hiding information about this dump project. I have no choice but to seek the assistance of the Attorney General to compel the release of what should be public information.”
Bonevich added, “They don’t care what the Township wants, they don’t care about the law, they just want to build the dump so Claire French and her family can make a bunch of money.”
A recent lawsuit filed by the developer of the dump, Resource Engineering, blames Berger and her opposition for the stalled project and claims that Republican officials in Howell signed off on the application. The lawsuit seeks to have a court compel the Freeholders’ approval of the dump. The principals of Resource Engineering are family members of the former Republican County Clerk, Claire French, which has led Berger and Bonevich to suggest in their letter that “political influence might be at play.”
Berger is correct in her assumption, politics in play with “the dump”. In one way, it’s probably a good thing Ocean County didn’t want to part with the millions of dollars that come into the Ocean County landfill each year. Had RE been granted that approval thousands of dump trucks and container trucks would be traveling through the township each day from destinations across Ocean County and Monmouth County.
Berger said, “My opposition is not driven by politics but by the best interests of the residents of Howell. I will use every resource at my disposal to ensure that this project is stopped, including our request for assistance from the chief law enforcement officer in the State.”
“We have included herein a detailed recitation of the facts underlying our request. We would prefer not to need your assistance, but given the ongoing concerns of our Township residents, along with the indisputable justifications for denying the application, it appears that political influence might be in play. We therefore believe that we have no choice but to seek the assistance of your office to investigate the manner in which the Freeholders are processing and making decisions in this matter,” Bonevich and Berger wrote in the request.
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