Lockwood, Sturm face off

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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Incumbent Mayor Dan Lockwood and Township Committee candidate Bill Sturm discussed the budget and other topics during Meet the Candidates Night Oct. 10.

Barbara Cresse, president of the Middle Township Taxpayers Association, moderated that part of the event at the old courthouse in Cape May Court House.

Lockwood is the Republican candidate seeking his second term, and Sturm is a Democrat making another run for the lone Township Committee seat.

This election will determine if the Township Committee has a Republican or Democratic majority next year. In addition to Lockwood, the other Township Committee members are Susan DeLanzo, a Democrat, and Tim Donohue, a Republican who is also Lockwood’s campaign manager.

The General Election is Nov. 6.


Managing the budget

If he’s reelected, Lockwood said, at the very least the line would be held on taxes. He said he believes Sturm would increase taxes.

Sturm did not respond to Lockwood's statement.

Lockwood said it comes down to long-term planning and structural changes.

“In the past the administrations have been very proud of managing the budgets through attrition. It’s created departments that we have skeleton crews in,” he said.

Lockwood pointed to the sewer department, which is expected to be restructured.

“I’m not sure there is a lot more that can be squeezed out [of the budget], short of having cuts in public safety,” Sturm said. “That’s something I’m not willing to do.”

He said he is in favor of reducing costs, which could be done by not replacing employees.

"I want to do more with less," Sturm said.

Sturm said the Wildwood Water Utility, where he has worked for more than 20 years, now has 28 employees as opposed to 40 when he started. He'd like to bring managerial skills culled from there as a township committeeman, he said.

Lockwood operates Professional Exteriors of Cape May Court House.


Empty storefronts

Lockwood said it’s vital that the empty storefronts in Cape May Court House and Rio Grande be filled.

In September, he attended a conference sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers in Atlantic City.

He said on Wednesday that he told the conference attendees that Middle Township is concentrated on the future.

“These people want to know the rules,” Lockwood said of potential business owners and developers, along with the long-term outlook.

Sturm said he wants to help bring in more businesses and jobs to Middle Township.

"Basically I can't change what this national economy is looking like," he said.


Expanding the size of committee

Middle Township Taxpayers Association is looking to get a referendum on the ballot that would ask if voters want a five-member committee. They did not meet the deadline to include a question on this year’s ballot.

Township Committee has three members who serve staggered three-year terms.

Lockwood isn't completely sold on the idea, but he said it “could have a lot merit."

The concept would have to be explored by a group of citizens, as would the kind of government, such as council or a bigger committee, he said.

He said Middle Township has county offices, Cape Regional Medical Center and more.

“So if we can spread all the responsibilities and duties of your elected officials over a few more bodies, I think it has merit,” Lockwood said.

Sturm said he backs the idea of a five-member Township Committee. He'd even “give up” salary to do so, he said.

He said he support the idea in last year's General Election, though he was accused of expanding government.

Both men said the community should be part of investigating the possibility of an expanded committee.

The size of committee is one of the most vital issues in the campaign, Sturm said.


Robert “Okie” Wisting Recreation Complex

Middle Township Committee is working on an agreement with Cape Express Soccer Club to develop athletic fields at the site in Rio Grande.

Sturm said he is against a plan with Cape Express.

He said wants to see the original plans followed, and he said perhaps there could be two soccer fields instead of five.

“I’m not against a public-private partnership with Cape Express in any way shape or form,” Sturm said.

He said more community participation needs to happen in the agreement.

Sturm also said he worries about people walking along Route 47 to get to the recreation site, one of the main roads in Middle Township.

Lockwood said the property in Rio Grande was purchased, then no one paid attention to it.

That came from bad long-term planning, he said.

Lockwood said that Cape Express would maintain the facility and would redo the parking lot and entrance.

A proposed plan includes the organization developing five athletic fields. The township is now in negotiations with Cape Express.

Lockwood said money is left over from the work that had not been finished at the planned recreation complex.

The township bought the Rio Grande site in 2002 for $1.18 million with a grant and loans, according to information from township officials. The remaining money, $229,500, could be used for picnic tables and hiking trails.

Lockwood said the former Fort Apache Campground totals 86 acres and Cape Express would use about 2 ½ acres.

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