Chastened last month by elected officials for faulty communication about the state of the borough’s playgrounds, Red Bank’s Parks & Rec Committee assembled last night with an eye toward getting new equipment for two parks and bringing in some fresh blood.
“We’re here because the mayor asked us to put together a meeting,” Parks & Rec Director Bob Evans told the gathering at the outset.
Squeezed in around the table in the department’s trailer office on Chestnut Street were a dozen members and non-members of the advisory group, including the council’s two Republicans, John Curley and Grace Cangemi, and departing Councilman RJ Bifani, who did not seek re-election this year.
The committee, and Evans, came under fire last month amid complaints that it was meeting sporadically because of frequent no-shows among appointees.
Then, on Oct. 22, Councilman Mike DuPont gave Evans a public dressing-down, claiming that the public had not been warned that the Marine Park playground would be shut down as a hazard because of splintering wood and exposed bolts. He complained that Evans had acted too slowly after realizing late last year that the equipment had become a liability issue.
At that same meeting, Mayor Pasquale Menna questioned why Evans and the committee appeared to be endorsing a single vendor’s proposal for replacement equipment, and for not meeting regularly. He directed the committee to hold a meeting within a week.
That meeting was last night’s. And the committee appeared for the most part to be looking forward, not backward.
Tops on the agenda were plans for new playground equipment for Count Basie Fields and Marine Park. Proposals for replacements have been received from three vendors and were forwarded to the borough council last week, along with the committee’s recommendation that the council go with Miracle Recreation, the company that last year supplied new equipment for Eastside Park on Harrison Avenue.
All three vendors are already approved to do business with the borough under state procurement rules, so the council doesn’t need to put the work up for bid, Curley said.
Though the Marine Park play area is shut down, the committee agreed that the Count Basie area, which remains open, is in more urgent need of attention. And with $38,000 in grant money from Monmouth County in hand, the $28,000 cost of that park’s equipment would be fully covered.
“That’s way more than enough to do one of the parks,” Evans said.
At Marine Park, by contrast, a restoration project centering on the Navesink River bulkhead and boardwalk anticipated for early next year would make a reopening of the playground inadvisable because of its proximity to the construction area, borough officials have previously said.
Also discussed last night were the degraded conditions of borough ball fields and the possible use of a rotation system to allow fields to recover from heavy use.
Membership was also on the table. The committee agreed that although the terms of only two appointees expire next month, all members would be formally asked if they wish to remain on the committee. The feedback will be sent to the council.
Bifani questioned the presence of redbankgreen at the meeting, asking Evans who had “invited” us. (Answer: nobody.) He said that attendees of such meetings would be less inclined to speak their minds if they knew that their comments might be published.
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 7p, Nov. 28 at Borough Hall.