By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
After a series of near-misses and a mechanical breakdown that pushed neighbors over the edge of patience, a pond across the street from Rumson Borough Hall will get a dredging that has been planned for four years later this summer, officials said Tuesday.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has guaranteed that Pomphrey’s Pond is a top priority to get permission for the maintenance but not just yet.
To residents’ chagrin, DEP representative Cindy Randazzo said that the pond cannot be dredged before September because the warm weather will have negative effects on the wildlife. A survey taken Monday showed that there are sunfish living in the pond, she said.
“Come September, you’ll be first on the list to be dredged,” Randazzo said. “That’s a promise from me.”
Randazzo made a last-minute trip to Rumson on Tuesday night knowing there’d be perturbed residents who’ve been promised for years that the pond would be dredged. Red tape and unforeseen circumstances have belabored and bedeviled the routine maintenance, however.
Randazzo, who serves as the department’s director of local government assistance, tried to quell the concerns of the two dozen who turned out, but it took nearly an hour of hashing out, and a dash of truckling, from Randazzo, to accomplish that.
Locals came into borough hall fired up over the issue. They said the dredging delay, for which planning started in 2006, has turned the pond into an eyesore, an olfactory offender and even a cause of reduced property values. The regulars at the pond ducks, snapping turtles and a variety of fish have left the area as a result of sediment and muck building up over the years, they said.
Joyce Repoli, whose mother lives next to the pond, said she saw an unsettling scene last week when a raccoon emerged from the pond.
“You can’t even see the wildlife in there. It’s muck,” she said. “It’s garbage. It’s horrible.”
On the southern end of the pond lives Frank Mayo, who says the conditions have reduced the value of his home, not to mention the quality of life.
“For years we’ve had to live with it. I can’t entertain. I can’t go out on a rowboat with my daughter,” he said. “I’m losing time with my family. This is my backyard.”
Mayo later got into a heated discourse with Councilman Shaun Broderick over the matter, with Broderick apologizing for saying, “Why don’t you sit down and help out?”
Broderick’s outburst seemed to be the flash point after the council played defense against a crowd that pointed fingers for not getting the pond dredged sooner.
Council members explained that a new permitting process by the DEP had made it more difficult to get the work done than in the past. It has also made it more costly, as municipalities are now required to pay for trucking and disposal of the water body’s spoils. After the borough gained its approval, in 2007, it had to come up with the money to do the work. Then it had to find a place to dispose of the spoils.
Mayor John Ekdahl said there was one point when a taker was lined up, but the deal fell through. Then, just this past May, a county-owned excavator was damaged three days before the dredging was to begin. Exacerbating the situation was the fact that even if the excavator could quickly be fixed, the DEP wouldn’t grant a permit extension because of the warm weather.
“The equipment malfunctioned, and if it didn’t, everyone would be happy and we wouldn’t be here today,” Randazzo said.
Instead, Pomphrey’s Pond is high priority for end of summer, and by the end of the night there was a sense of understanding between government and officials.
“Let’s work on the premise that it’s going to happen on or about September 15th, and if not, we’ll get a letter to you,” Ekdahl told Randazzo.