By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Officials in Sea Bright hope to quell a rumor that the borough intends to outsource its public works operations at the beginning of next year.
Yet members of the borough’s council who approved a shared service agreement with Rumson to perform mechanical repairs for its DPW and police vehicles don’t deny its validity.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, resident Cristine Sinnott confronted the governing body about a confidential email that she received and, she says, has been seen by many others in town saying that Rumson will take over the seaside town’s public works responsibilities on January 1. The source of the email is unclear.
It’s a move that, if it happens, wouldn’t sit well with her. If she’s paying taxes in Sea Bright, she wants to keep the money flowing in Sea Bright, she told the council.
“I have an issue with that,” she said of the possible shared service. “The taxpayers should know.”
But the council says no decisions, or discussions even, have occurred. Rather, the jobbing out of public works operations was proposed to the governing body it isn’t clear from who, although Council President William Keeler believes informal talks may have occurred between the two borough administrators but the proposal hasn’t gone any further, they said.
“There is no decision made. Not a quiet decision, not an under-the-table decision,” Keeler said. “It’s just a proposal, something brought up as a contingency.”
Keeler, visibly chafed by the insinuation that some deal was made behind closed doors, added, “I don’t want the public or public works to be bounced around like a ball here. I have great respect for them.”
James LoBiondo, who is council liaison to public works, said he has talked to public works director Dave Bahrle about the emails floating through town, but said nothing has gone beyond exploration.
“Until I see numbers (on savings), I can’t even discuss,” LoBiondo said he told Bahrle. “What are we talking about until there’s a firm number?”
Those replies still left Sinnott feeling uneasy. She said residents should know about the options being discussed. But Councilwoman Dina Long said if anything solid were to come of the proposal, it would be discussed in a public meeting, and that hasn’t happened.
Keeler said a couple years ago there was a similar idea floated between Monmouth Beach and Sea Bright to share public works services, and “that came to nothing.” It has to be beneficial to both towns in order to work, he said, and in many cases, it doesn’t. That’s why he got upset Tuesday night, he said.
“I’d hate to have employees sitting there hearing about this, because for them this is something major,” Keeler said. “This may come to nothing.”
Sinnott still isn’t comfortable. When she asked councilman Read Murphy if Sea Bright would keep its public works department, he responded, “Yes. For now.”