COUNCIL BIZ: STILL NO BAG LAW

BurnhamballardCindy Burnham confers with engineer Christine Ballard of T&M Associates about the Maple Street riverfront lot after Monday night’s council meeting.

A scaled-down version of a proposed plastic bag recycling law was tabled, and plans for a community center moved forward at last night’s bimonthly Red Bank Council meeting.

Councilman Mike DuPont proposed tabling his own ordinance on plastic bags, the latest of which would require stores that distribute them to maintain bins into which consumers could return them for recycling. He says he’s dropped his yearlong effort to ban stores from distributing plastic bags.

DuPont asked Mayor Pasquale Menna to send the bill to the council’s education and environmental advisory committees for review — the first, to develop an education program about recycling that could be proposed to the borough schools and Red Bank Regional High, and the other to promote reusable bags instead of disposable ones.

Grace Cangemi, who lost her council re-election bid earlier this month, said the education program is already in place in the schools. She also said that Red Bank RiverCenter officials had noted that not all stores have room for a bin and would like the option to collect the bags in a backroom for recycling.

Councilwoman Sharon Lee said Public Works Director Gary Watson had recently given bins to dry cleaning businesses for the collection of thin-film plastics returned by customers. According to Cangemi, those plastics account for more weight in the recycling stream than disposable bags.

• The community center task force, led by DuPont, recommended that the council choose the Boys & Girls Club of Monmouth County to run a facility in a borough building at the corner of Bridge Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard.

The Community YMCA had also bid to run the center, at an estimated overall cost of $120,000 a year — $88,000 of which would be picked up by the borough. DuPont said. The Boys & Girls Club estimated the cost at $340,000 annually, but is willing to take on the task at no cost to the town, he said.

DuPont said committee members were so incredulous at the offer that they met with the club’s chief professional officer, Robert Taylor, who explained that the Asbury Park-based club has wanted a presence in Red Bank for many years. “He says this is for real,” DuPont said.

Children who use the facility would be asked to pay a yearly fee of $8, he said.

The council will take up the issue next month, Menna said.

• A law to allow more taxicabs in town, and to increase the annual license fee by 33 percent, was introduced without much comment.

The expansion would increase the number of taxi licenses issued by the borough to 55, from the current 45, and boost the annual renewal fee by $50, to $200. If demand for the additional licenses exceeded supply, the medallions will be awarded via lottery, Menna said.

Afterward, Menna said the council periodically increases the number of licenses, and that the move is needed now because “frankly, there’s great demand” for taxi service. He said he’d heard no complaints from taxi owners about the fee increase.

“Everything goes up,” he said.

• David Prown, an advocate for kids, touted the annual Red Kettle Classic basketball tournament, to be held December 5 and 6at the Salvation Army gym on Newman Springs Road starting at 5:30p Friday with a game between the girls of the Red Bank Middle School versus the Charter School. The boys will play at 7:15.

The following day is a round-robin tournament of elementary-school squads from Red Bank, Tinton Falls, Shrewsbury and other nearby towns.

• Prown also cited two bits of information that he said were troubling indicators of how far behind kids from other sending districts borough kids are at Red Bank Regional High.

Though Red Bank accounts for 30 percent of all the students at the school, “zero” were among the 25 RBR students honored recently with ‘Academic Varsity Letters’ for straight-A performances last year, he said. And of the 41 cast roles in the school’s recent production of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ only four went to Red Bank residents.

Overall, he said, “our recognition, achievement and participation levels” in sports, the arts and other endeavors is only about 10 percent. He said he noted the data not to point a finger, but to call attention to deep-seated problems that need attention and could take “generations” to fix.

“The youth community center could also foster that,” said Prown, a member of the community center committee.

• Cindy Burnham, who led an effort to block the possible sale of borough property at the foot of Maple Avenue, thanked the council and other officials for their assistance in having the property included in the state’s Green Acres Recreation and Open Space Inventory, which conserves it from development.

“You can feed the ducks, or touch a jellyfish,” Burnham said, noting that the site is the last remaining one in Red Bank with public access to the river. “You can actually put your feet in in our beautiful Navesink River and feel the sand for which Red Bank was named.”

Burnham, who lives in Fair Haven and owns property in Red Bank, said she’s now working on getting mounds of debris-filled soil removed from the quarter-acre site. She hopes to have it cleared for use as a canoe and kayak launch in time for next spring’s boating season.

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• DuPont announced the details of a holiday decorating contest. Menna will judge homes during the week of December 15 and deliver awards on December 22. First prize is a $100 gift card to each of the SuperFoodtown and Prown’s Home Improvements; second is $75 gift cars, and third is $50 gift cards.

Menna, who is said to have some skill in a kitchen, said he would also make lunch for the winners.

• Ellen Ciok was appointed a deputy court administrator.

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