EGG HARBOR CITY — City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting the release of helium-filled balloons at its meeting March 8.
The ordinance states it is designed to protect the environment, particularly wildlife, and the health, safety and well-being of people and property.
It also says it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to intentionally release, organize the release of or intentionally cause to be released balloons inflated with a gas that is lighter than air within the city limits except for a balloon released by a person on behalf of a governmental agency or pursuant to a governmental contract for scientific or meteorological purpose, hot air balloons that are recovered after launch and balloons released indoors.
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A number of people spoke in support of the ordinance during the public hearing. Among them was Bill Stuempfig, of Tuckahoe in Upper Township, a boat captain and member of the Surfrider Foundation.
“We see too many balloons on our waterways,” he said. “This sends a good message about balloons, that when you buy them just be responsible with them.”
Carol Jones, of Tuckerton, agreed.
“Balloons are litter,” she said. “They travel very far and last a long time. Sea creatures and birds are vulnerable. We share the oceans with them, and they need our protection.”
Lee Campbell, of Galloway Township, volunteers at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
“I have seen balloons in the ocean that came from as far as Ohio and Pennsylvania,” she said. “I have seen firsthand the damage that they can do. It is a terrible way for these creatures to die.”
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Six members of council voted to support the ordinance, with Clifford Mays Jr. and Angelo Lello in opposition. Both expressed concerns about how the ordinance will be enforced. Council President Ed Dennis was not at the meeting.
Nanette LoBiondo Galloway, chairwoman of Sustainable Egg Harbor City, said her group will conduct an educational campaign to inform residents of the new law.
“We’ll start in the schools, educating students about the dangers of releasing helium balloons, and contact local businesses that sell balloons to inform purchasers they should not release balloons into the atmosphere," she said. "We will also contact churches and catering halls informing them that the ordinance prohibits the mass release of balloons at weddings, memorial services and community events, and provide them with alternatives, such as blowing bubbles, planting a tree or distributing small plants that provide nectar for birds and bees.”
Also at the meeting, Councilman Robert Ross said he spoke to business owners about a proposal to allow food trucks to operate near the train station on a limited basis and that those he spoke to were not too thrilled about it.
“We also don’t have the ability to patrol and police the area,” he said.
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A straw vote was taken to determine whether council wanted to develop a plan to allow a truck to operate. The vote was deadlocked at four apiece with council members Donna Heist, Stefania Kuehner, Carol Kienzle and Albert “Pat” Moran in support of moving forward with a plan and Ross, Lello, Mays and Mason Wright in opposition. Mayor Lisa Jiampetti then added that she was also against moving forward with a plan.
The concept may not be totally dead, as it may be discussed again when Dennis and Solicitor Jim Carroll, both of whom were not at the meeting, return.
Council also voted unanimously to appoint Shawn Sullivan as the city’s Municipal Alliance coordinator.