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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Hayes: ‘It Shocks My Conscience’

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By Al Campbell

CREST HAVEN – Cape May County freeholders went on record opposing two pending bills in the Legislature jointly known as “The New Jersey Reproductive Freedom Act.” The unanimous vote against the bills was made at the Nov. 24 meeting, held via the internet. 

Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, at the Nov. 10 caucus, alerted the board to the legislation that she termed, “far-reaching” and “very radical.” 

Hayes believes in a woman’s right to choose, but said, “It shocks my conscience that something like this could come forward.” 

Hayes said the bills (S3030 and A4848) “eliminate the conscience clause, which allows medical professionals to opt-out of performing abortions, and that abortions would be covered by insurance.” 

Freeholder Will Morey asked, “Are there financial impacts to the county, or is this an issue of equity or human fairness issues, protection issues… what drives your thoughts?” 

Hayes responded, “As far as the expense to the county, we have to realize if an act like this goes through, if insurance will pay, we’re all going to pay. This is an issue of moral choice. I’m very upset by it.” 

Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton cited the county’s long-established family planning clinic in the Health Department. 

There, he noted, individuals can secure birth control and information. 

The resolution (789-20) states the board, “finds this bill, as presently written and introduced… to present a radical change in the laws of the state, an infringement upon constitutionally-protected freedoms, an intolerable assault on life and a waste of taxpayer funds.” 

Further, the resolution encompasses all abortions, “including late-term, throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy and up to the moment of birth.” 

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37th) and Linda R. Greenstein (D-14th). In the Assembly, it is co-sponsored by eight female members. Both bills were referred to separate committees in October. 

In other business, the board: 

ReappointedBarry Mastrangelo, of Stone Harbor, as a member of the Library Commission for a term ending Dec. 31, 2025. 

Authorizeda change order for $16,733 to R. Wilkinson & Sons Construction, for added site work removing soil and replacing it with stone at the $2-million Safari Cafe at the zoo. 

Approved the sale of the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce building, at 13 Crest Haven Rd., in Court House, to the non-profit chamber for $1, and allows $200,000 for building renovations. The resolution cited the close working of the county and the chamber “to support our business community and further economic growth and development.” 

Thornton noted the county saw no future use for the structure. The county had some responsibility for past maintenance. The funding will end its commitment. The chamber will provide additional funding and oversee the renovations. There is a reverter clause that the property would return to the county if the chamber decided to move. 

Awardeda not-to-exceed $70,000 contract to T&M Associates, a Philadelphia-based firm, for planning services to develop a comprehensive plan for the county. 

According to Thornton, the plan is required every 10 years. It will include a review of Planning Board programs, land use, open space, farmland, water quality, hazardous mitigation, and transportation. 

It helps the county and towns with their land use plans.  

Awardeda $159,000 contract to Urban Engineers for its services related to the resurfacing of Dias Creek Road (CR 612), in Middle Township. The project will be the second phase of improvements and will include the road from Galloping Way to Route 47. 

Looking Forward 

Through December, freeholder meetings will continue the second and fourth Tuesday via the internet at 3 p.m., for the caucus, and 4:30 p.m., for the regular meeting. Access is from the county website (https://bit.ly/2EIbIgB).  

A question box is available on the meeting site for the public to address the board via keyboard. 

Board reorganizationwill be Jan. 6 at 5 p.m. in County Commissioners’ meeting room, 4 Moore Rd. 

At that time, Freeholders Jeffrey Pierson and Will Morey will take their oaths to rejoin the board. Attendance will be limited to the media and family members. Masks will be required, and social distancing practiced. 

“We’ll be the last freeholders and first county commissioners,” noted Thornton.  

The name change will comply with a statewide law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this year that removed “freeholder” as a title and replaced it with “county commissioner.”  

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