Some highlights from last night’s bimonthly meeting of the Red Bank council:
TEACHERS OF THE YEAR: In addition to primary school teacher Pat Moss, who was spotlighted here yesterday, this year’s honorees were middle school third-grade teacher Stacy Curcio; third-grade teacher Matt Strippoli of the Red Bank Charter School, and social studies teacher (and Red Bank native) Steve Johnson of Red Bank Regional.
AUDIT: Independent auditor Dave Kaplan gave his annual assessment of the borough’s finances and record-keeping, both of which he finds in good shape, though with four “relatively minor” cautions, one of which centers on the timely approval of council minutes. (Until last night, the borough clerk’s office was more than a year behind in getting the minutes of meetings together; now, the most recent minutes approved are from the July 9, 2007 session.)
Kaplan noted also that tax collections last year slipped a tad, to 97.09 percent from 97.99 percent, which he attributed to economic conditions. “People are just a little slower in paying their taxes,” he said.
BOATS AND CARS: There was a discussion of a request regarding parking on Union Street from the Monmouth Boat Club. As is somewhat common at council meetings, the agenda gave no hint of what the boat club had asked for, and nobody on the council bothered to fill the audience in, but it seemed to involve the removal of or deactivation of parking meters.
Mayor Pasquale Menna said he had a fix in mind and was talking to boat club officials. “Just give me two weeks,” he said. “Maybe we can arrive at a solution that is fair without resorting to drastic measures.”
Separately, Councilman John Curley wanted to know why boats belonging to Irwin Marine are allowed to sit in the Marine Park parking lot for days at a time when motorists who use the lot are ticketed for overtime parking. Administrator Stanley Sickels said he was investigating a claim by Chan Irwin of a long-ago easement permitting the storage of boats, but so far, said Sickels, he couldn’t find any evidence of it.
“Well, if there’s no easement, let’s enforce the parking regulations,” said Menna.
HYDRANT FLUSHING: Councilwoman Grace Cangemi asked for better notification of residents when they’re to be affected by mandatory flushing of the hydrant system, which often results in discolored water flowing through home taps for some time afterward. “Certainly given our water rates, I think we need to address it,” she said. “It’s gone beyond being just a nuisance.”
Councilwoman Sharon Lee, liaison to the public works department, said she and department head Gary Watson were talking to the webmaster of the borough site about a system under which residents could sign up for email alerts about such events.
RECYCLING PLASTIC BAGS: A campaign by borough schoolkids to encourage trade-ins of plastic bags for reusable shopping bags kicks off today with a canvassing of Chestnut and Oakland streets by students from the charter school. The kids will be hanging doorknob tags with info about the program, under which RiverCenter is paying for the reusable bags. Trades can be made at Jazz in the Park events at Riverside Gardens Park on Thursday evenings in July.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING DESIGN: An ordinance creating a committee to advise the mayor and council on what borough-sponsored housing should look like was introduced, with a vote scheduled for June 9. The committee will consider design, exterior finishes, parking and traffic flow and recreation space concerns. Cangemi suggested that a member of the borough Environmental Commission be appointed to the body. Here’s the ordinance: Download 2008-11.pdf
AWNINGS: The council granted an easement for use of space above borough sidewalks on Broad and Mechanic streets to the owners of 25 Broad, home of Chelsea Home, where awnings and a fire escape have long been fixtures.
But a request by Buona Sera restaurant to install awnings on the Monmouth Street side of its building ran into some resistance. Resident Carl Colmorgen said the restaurant’s existing awning on Maple Avenue, with two support poles, makes the sidewalk there impassable. Allowing the same on Monmouth, with the crowds for the Count Basie Theatre coming and going, “It’s just not going to work,” he said
Councilman John Curley, who has previously expressed frustration over what he considers excessive accommodations made by the borough to Buona Sera, said he would oppose the measure, which is up for a vote June 9.
PROBIE: The council approved the hiring of Matthew Ehrenreich as a probationary police officer effective June 16. According to Councilman Art Murphy, Ehrenreich paid his own way through the police academy (most candidates are sponsored by particular towns) at a cost of about $30,000, and apparently made the most of it: he’s graduating second in his class, Murphy said.
TAX APPEALS: Some 31 homeowners in the Navesink Pointe development off Prospect Avenue, all using the same attorney, have filed tax appeals. So the borough authorized the hiring of appraiser Peter Sockler to provide his expertise.
The council also approved a tax appeal settlement with the owners of Les Gertrude apartments on Broad Street that will reduce collections by about $1,500 a year for 2007 and 2008, Menna said.
TRAFFIC LIGHT: A traffic signal that’s “been talked about for at least 10 years” may finally be installed at the intersection of Maple Avenue (Route 35) where it meets Water and White streets, says Sickels. The site has seen a lot of accidents, officials say, and is particularly dangerous as northbound motorists, racing to catch the green light at West Front Street, sometimes disregard crossing traffic or pedestrians.
The plan calls for the installation of a “pedestrian pushbutton and areas of presence detection.”
BEST LIQUORS: Leighton Avenue homeowner John Ross was the embodiment of exasperation as he criticized the pace of legal proceedings in the borough’s attempt to revoke the alcohol distribution license of Sunny Sharma’s establishment. At one point, there was a sharp exchange between Ross and borough attorney Tom Hall, who defended the borough’s performance in meeting court filing dates.
MAPLE AVE. LOT: A planned citizen cleanup of a riverfront lot owned by the borough, scheduled for Sunday, appears uncertain while Sickels looks into whether futzing around on the property, which has been used as an illegal dumping ground, might trigger concerns by the state Department of Environmental Protection.