The Red Bank clay courts during Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012, above. Below, a truck stuck under the West Front Street railroad trestle last week. (Photos by Peter Lindner and Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Tennis enthusiasts pelted the Red Bank council over the lack of progress on rebuilding the town’s cherished clay courts Wednesday night.
At its bimonthly meeting – conducted over the loud hum of temporary air conditioners while the borough hall HVAC system gets an upgrade – the governing body also took up issues ranging from the vexing train trestle on West Front Street to beagle rights.
• Half a dozen tennis players challenged the council on what they see as inaction regarding the courts in Marine Park, which were damaged by Hurricane Sandy and have not been usable since.
The players, including longtime courts manager Rich Nicoletti, pressed the council on a proposal calling on the borough to lease the facility to the nonprofit Red Bank Clay Court Tennis Foundation, which hopes to attract funding from the United States Tennis Association.
Borough officials, however, said they could not weigh the proposal or even accept copies of it, in the absence of a formal request that would allow other organizations to also file proposals.
The delays in fixing the courts, meanwhile, came down to priorities, said Administrator Stanley Sickels, who noted that a sanitary sewer pump station and restrooms adjacent to the courts were destroyed by the hurricane and have to be relocated on higher ground, and that damaged wiring to lighting fixtures has to be replaced.
“We’ve been focusing on the infrastructure first,” he said. “There’s a lot more to this park than the tennis courts.”
Meantime, said Mayor Pasquale Menna, “the parks and rec committee has gone though a whole process of determining what has to happen next.”
The players’ frustration remained afterward.
“I understand the infrastructure issue,” said Ira Friedman, of Ambassador Drive, “but it’s been a year and a half, and they’re they’re still thinking about what to do?”
• Menna directed borough Attorney Dan O’Hern to craft an ordinance that would enable the town to fine truck drivers who get their vehicles stuck under the railroad trestle at West Front Street and Hubbards Bridge, despite the presence of warning signs for those approaching from the Middletown end of the bridge.
Menna said police Chief Darren McConnell informed him that “at least five” trucks had hit the bridge in the past two years, causing extensive traffic jams. The drivers are usually cited for careless driving, he said. But that’s not enough.
“You have no idea how many calls I get from people who are stuck in traffic” as a result of the strikes, said Menna, who wants violators of the proposed ordinance to pay up to $1,200 for the town’s costs in diverted police resources and other costs.
O’Hern said he had not yet researched whether the town would have legal standing to impose the fine.
• The council extended, once again, a moratorium on fees that developers must pay when their downtown projects don’t offer enough parking under local ordinance.
Menna said the moratorium, enacted in August, 2010 to spur a moribund downtown, was “good social tax policy” that was successful in bringing in new stores and restaurants and thus driving the downtown vacancy rate down to about five percent, from double digits.
The moratorium is now in effect through the end of the year, by which time the council expects to have heard back from a consultant evaluating what to do with the White Street lot, long eyed by downtown merchants as the perfect place for a parking garage.
• The council authorized sidewalk tables through October for these establishments:
Buona Sera, 50 Maple Avenue
• A gay rights flag will fly outside borough hall for the month of June. The multicolored flag was donated by 077Q1, which member David Pascale said was an informal group of borough residents “who meet particularly to support the LBGT community.”
The flag will be visible from across Monmouth Street at the Count Basie Theatre, where 077Q1 is one of the sponsors of the second Two River Youth Pride, a night of film and partying, on June 10.
• The council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the state Legislature to pass a law requiring that dogs and cats used in scientific research at taxpayer-funded labs be put up for adoption rather than euthanized at the end of research. Minnesota passed such a law last week, becoming the first state in the nation to do so.
Menna said Red Bank was the first municipality in New Jersey to endorse the so-called Beagle Freedom Bill. Here’s the resolution: RB Beagle Reso 14-152