With plans to demolish the old municipal incinerator stalled by concerns over soil contamination, Red Bank officials last night diverted $117,000 in Monmouth County grant money from the project to the reconstruction of tiny Bassett Place.

According to Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels, the redeployment of Community Development Block Grant funding was suggested by county planning board officials when it became clear that an extensive environmental review and possible cleanup of the incinerator site would be necessary.

“Unfortunately, due to many environmental conditions that were detected, there were concerns from the county that they could not go ahead” with funding of the demolition, Sickels told the council.

But “they did say that the would reserve the money for another project that we might have,” he said.

That project turns out to be a “full depth” replacement of the water main and street surface at Bassett Place, a 310-foot-long enclave off Prospect Avenue.

Sickels said Bassett project, which was slated to be done this year under a two-year road project, was chosen purely because the estimated $125,000 cost of redoing that street closely matched the county funding. No political considerations entered into the decision, Sickels told redbankgreen.

Meantime, Sickels said, he met last week with state Department of Environmental Protection officials about the possibility of getting hold of federal funding to cover the incinerator site project.

“We believe we’ve identified a separate source of funding for remediation of the soil as well as for removal of the stack,” Sickels said.

While part of the adjoining landfill was converted to a recycling center, and much of the former ash dump property has been reclaimed by trees and grasses, the old smokestack and building at its base have been earmarked for demolition for more than 25 years, said Sickels.

The brick tower is currently being used to hold road salt, according to Councilwoman Sharon Lee, who was recently assigned to serve as liaison to the public works department.

Councilman Mike DuPont urged that, in the face of further delays, the borough “step up and take the stack down” itself.

“I know this is a site that needs to be cleaned up, but how long must we wait?” he asked. “How long must the neighbors wait?” The cost of doing so, he said, “is a repeated reason for doing nothing.”

Councilman Art Murphy, though, said it’s not as easy as just pulling the stack down and carting it off. He said that because of contamination in the stack itself, the flue must be sealed off while workers clean the interior, and then bag and tag all the waste for hazardous waste disposal.

“The state gives us the guidelines,” he said.

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