By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
In the wake of the end-of-year snow dump, Red Bank officials have assessed the disaster they call the worst blizzard in a generation and say they are intent on making serious changes to prevent a repeat of the near half-million dollar mayhem it brought.
First up: informing the public.
Second: an overnight on-street parking ban.
It needs to happen, they say.
“We have to ban on-street parking in winter months,” Administrator Stanley Sickels said. “During the winter months it’s absolutely essential to have cars off the street.”
On top of the unusually heavy snowfall, plus a downed pole, stranded vehicles and stuck plows, grueling snow-clearing efforts were exacerbated by the presence of cars parked on the street, Sickels said a no-no by law when streets are snow covered, but 20 years of looking the other way has come back to bite the borough.
That’s going to change, Mayor Pasquale Menna said.
“If something hasn’t been enforced for so long, people think it’s not going to be enforced. We’ve got to re-educate people,” he said.
The way to do so is cooperation, Menna said.
The council is urging residents and business owners to sign up for the borough’s C3 alert system, which sends emails, text messages and phone messages alerting people of emergencies. For those technologically deficient, the borough is expediting a contract to provide a reverse 911 system to dial up every Red Bank phone line warning of emergencies and informing people of local laws.
The borough needs to enforce the laws, however, officials say.
Although there’s an ordinance on the books banning on-street parking during a snowstorm, Menna said it hasn’t been a priority to write up tickets for those who don’t follow the rule for about two decades. Sickels said the borough wants to institute a season-long parking ban, probably from December 1 to April 15. Other towns, including Rumson, already have that rule in place.
Enforcing such a law would help plowing efforts considerably, Sickels said.
“With this amount of snow in this storm, it was absolutely devastating to have all the cars stuck in the snow,” he said of the December 26-27 blizzard.
Stranded and parked cars on the street weren’t the only problem Red Bank faced.
In an overview of the blizzard, Sickels said a number of factors led to long delays in clearing the streets.
For one, it was an abnormal amount of snow that fell more than two feet, Sickels said, and the most in more than 60 years. That translated to more problems, with borough employees and volunteer emergency responders getting stranded. There was a high number of emergency calls as well, Sickels said, including 16 car accidents and 26 calls for service in the first 24 hours.
Plus it was a holiday weekend, with many employees on vacation, “which came back to haunt us,” Sickels said.
“Really it was a perfect storm,” he said. “It couldn’t have come at a worse time.”
It also hurt the borough’s register. Sickels said with overtime, repair work and private contractors, the borough will spend upwards of $470,000. The bulk of that money is going to outside contractors, who rang up a $240,000 bill for its services. Public works and police manpower and overtime cost Red Bank about $54,000, and repairs took up an additional $44,000, Sickels said.
That money, he hopes, will be recouped since the storm was declared a state of emergency.
Another storm, albeit a tame one compared to the last, is forecast to drop another foot Tuesday night. Sickels said the public utilities department is ready for it, and will be out on the roads when the first flakes fall.
If and when the white comes, remember to get your car off the street, if possible.
To sign up for the borough’s alert system, visit the Red Bank website and click on ‘citizen signup’ on the left side of the page.