By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
“What’s changed?” Branch Avenue’s Stephen Hecht asked.
In addition to a minor tweak to RiverCenter’s request, Councilman Michael DuPont’s thinking, apparently.
Although the council had initially suggested that RiverCenter make a donation to the borough parking fund in order to obtain a two-week moratorium on meter enforcement, the council settled on a change to scope of the request.
Rather than have the moratorium apply to the entire downtown, RviverCenter Executive Director Nancy Adams asked that only meters in municipal lots be bagged for the holidays, slightly reducing the impact on the town’s coffers.
“Hopefully the borough will generate some of its lost revenue,” Adams said.
The modification was enough to change DuPont’s vote. He was one of three council members who at the last meeting voted against allowing free parking given the borough’s difficulty to generate dollars. Mayor Pasquale Menna broke the tie with his ‘no’ vote the first he’s cast in his tenure as mayor.
This time around, DuPont said he was satisfied that RiverCenter chose to work with the council rather than submit its request, which is tradition, and expect a rubber stamp.
“What upset me the most was the way it was presented to the council. It was presented at the meeting with no discussion,” DuPont said. “RiverCenter does a wonderful job, but in these critical times we need to work together.”
DuPont also cited the planned closing of Ballew Jewelers, one of Red Bank’s longest-lasting merchants, as influential. At a time when downtown businesses are struggling to stay afloat, DuPont said the council and RiverCenter need to do all they can to help. Luring in shoppers with free parking and by extension, erasing the prospect of a $38 ticket is one way to lend a hand, DuPont said.
“We have empty stores in Red Bank. The borough has done everything it can to promote the business district,” he said. “I think we need to stand up and take the message that Red Bank is committed to the district.”
Councilman Ed Zipprich and Councilwoman Juanita Lewis stuck with the ‘no’ votes they cast two weeks ago.
With continued enforcement of on-street parking rules, estimates on revenue loss have been changed a bit. The borough now expects to forgo between $10,000 and $20,000 over the two-week moratorium, down from $26,000 under the earlier proposal, officials said.