COUNCIL BIZ: OLD SOD AND FIRE HEROES

NewturfRed Bank is seeking county and state grants with an eye toward replacing — maybe — the football field at Count Basie Park, seen here after a scrimmage last week between freshmen from RBC and Manasquan High.

Hey, if Monmouth County can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on poured-concrete skateparks and call them “open spaces,” why not a synthetic athletic field?

That’s the approach Red Bank officials are taking as they turn their attention to winning state and county grant money for a new artificial turf gridiron at Count Basie Park.

The field was one of several matters addressed at last night’s bimonthly borough council session, a nearly-three-hour affair otherwise dominated by discussion of a proposed ban on plastic bags.

Here are some highlights from the meeting.

• The council honored three police officers and a firefighter for their roles in rescuing a woman from burning house on West Street earlier this year.

Singled out for special recognition was Sgt. Richard Mangold, who was off duty and on his way home when he smelled smoke and discovered a house on fire. He managed to awaken a sleeping resident and, with the assistance of Sgt. Joseph Milko, Ptl. Patrick Kennedy and former Fire Chief Bobby Holiday, helped the shaken woman down from the roof of a porch, according to an account given my Mayor Pasquale Menna.

Councilman Art Murphy, liaison to the police department, praised the police and volunteer firefighters. “It’s 24-7 for these people,” he said. “They’re constantly putting their lives in harm’s way.”

• Over concerns raised by Councilman Mike DuPont about a lack of information, the council authorized the filing of grant applications to the state Green Acres program and the Monmouth County Open Space program for funding for a new synthetic field at the football stadium. According to Christine Ballard, an engineer at T&M Associates, the field would cost in the area of $1.15 million. If authorized, the state and county grants would pay $250,000 and $280,000 respectively, toward that cost. Menna said the balance would have to come from a renegotiated agreement with Red Bank Catholic High School, which leases the field for its home games.

Menna said the action “merely authorizes the applications” for the grants, and added that it doesn’t commit the borough to installing such a field. In fact, he aid, “I really want to stress that even with grant funding, I would not be in favor of going forward unless we reached a new use agreement” with RBC to cover the balance of the costs.

A number of people, including council members Murphy and Grace Cangemi, stressed that a year-round, multi-sport field would be a cost-effective alternative to periodic resodding and would reduce wear and tear on other grass fields at the park. They also noted that Red Bank lacks the kind of open space that such funds are usually directed to conserving. “It’s a really different, unusual approach to Green Acres, and I hope the county sees it that way,” Cangemi said.

But DuPont, chairman of the council’s finance committee, said he’d heard nothing about the plan before it landed on the council agenda late Monday and hadn’t seen any detailed financial data. “I don’t disagree that the fields need to be improved,” he said. “I just don’t want to head down a path where it might end up costing us money.”

He added that the finance committee “deserved a better heads-up and better information channels,” which he said had been “disappointing.”

• The council approved the appointment of three new alternates to the zoning board: Rosemary Minear, Simone El Barary and Manny Carabel.

It also approved the appointment of Linda Clark and Peter Noble to the Community Center Task Force to replace members who had resigned.

• After an executive session behind closed doors to discuss the matter, the council returned to approve the selection of John Gurzo as interim director of Senior Services.

Gurzo succeeds Alfreda Terry, who retired recently, and will complete her appointment for the year.

Menna tells redbankgreen that whereas Terry was earning $58,000 a year plus about $20,000 in benefits, Gurzo — who’s already on the borough payroll as director of neighborhood preservation and COAH coordinator, at a salary of about $48,000 — will take on the added duties for $3,000 for the rest of the year. He’s also agreed, should his appointment be renewed next year, to do so for just $10,000 more than his present salary, Menna says.

The net result, says Menna, is a saving of about $68,000.

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