HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Township officials are considering setting aside as much as $855,000 of the township’s annual contracts for veteran-owned businesses.
Introduced earlier this month, a final vote on the proposal to set aside 5 percent of contracts is expected March 3.
A state law that allows towns and counties to pledge a portion of their contracts to businesses either majority-owned by veterans or who pledge to hire veterans for contract work has some opposition, however.
The law is related to older state laws that permit governing bodies to set aside a percentage of contracts for small businesses and woman- or minority-owned firms.
Gov. Chris Christie signed the veterans’ set-aside law in January 2013. A number of local governments since have considered it, but a review of legal advertisement records suggests only the city of Camden, in November, actually enacted a veteran’s set-aside.
Hamilton Township Committeeman Rodney Guishard, a Democrat, based the proposal on one the Atlantic County freeholders tabled last fall. Guishard said he thought setting aside 5 percent of contracts would help veterans transition to civilian life.
Township Administrator Michael Jacobs said 1 percent of the township’s contracts was equal to about $171,000, the set-aside value about $855,000.
Guishard said veterans go from being “a critical and integral part of a team, and then suddenly it may appear that nobody seems to want them.”
Guishard is a former Air Force officer, serving between 1966 and 1970, he said. He was in Vietnam in 1968 as a 1st lieutenant and was discharged a captain. As an engineer, in an era of a more-vibrant economy, he acknowledged he didn’t face the challenges other veterans did.
The set-aside now is “a small help that can be provided by our township residents,” Guishard said.
But some have taken issue with the proposal.
Russell Bongiovanni Sr., chairman of the township’s Veterans Advisory Board, said he opposes the proposal, because it would not benefit just township residents.
“Not one veteran in the Township of Hamilton might benefit from this, because you cannot restrict it,” Bongiovanni said. “If this is going to be done successfully, it cannot be done at less than the county level.”
He also was concerned that the state law does not have enforcement provisions. He said this meant it could be a tool for politicians to express support for veterans without actually providing assistance.
“I think the veterans in the state are being duped again,” he said.
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