The young son of new fire department Chief TD Doremus makes a beeline for his dad at Tuesday’s swearing-in. Below, Councilman Mike DuPont takes the oath of office, administered by former mayor Ben Nicosia, left, and joined by his mom, one of his children and former mayor Ed McKenna. (Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
“Art and I ran to continue the progress you’re seeing,” Councilman Mike DuPont told a packed council chambers, referring to fellow council member and 2012 running mate Art Murphy, after each was sworn into office.
Mayor Pasquale Menna, too, spoke of continuing to build on what he characterized as improvements in the town’s economic foundation, arts profile, recreation facilities and more.
Mandated by state law, the yearly reorganization of municipal government is an occasion to start terms for newly elected officials, install a new fire chief, and renew or change appointees to a slew of jobs and boards.
The 2013 edition of Red Bank’s reorg saw few changes, as Murphy kicked off his fourth three-year term and was re-elected by his colleagues as council president and DuPont started his third term. As has been the case since 2007, all members of the governing body are Democrats.
An air of constancy was present also in the swearing-in of volunteer fire department officers, as fifth-generation firefighter TD Doremus stepped into the one-year position of chief and two others with deep family roots in the department Tommy Welsh and Joe Lauterwasser were elevated to first and second deputy spots, respectively. That puts Welsh in line to become chief next year, reprising a role he once held in the past.
In his state of the borough message, Menna said 2013 would be a year of continuing recent gains. Downtown commercial vacancies, he said, were down from a recent peak of 16 percent to 5 percent, with a number of new leases expected to come in shortly. Recently completed streetscape improvements along Monmouth Street are expected to invite business development west of Maple Avenue, he said.
Menna lauded the introduction of new parking kiosks to replace meters in part of the downtown, saying they had won acceptance from a majority of users while cutting down on the number of $38 overtime parking violations. He also praised two borough-supported private ventures in valet parking, on Broad Street and Bridge Avenue.
Improvements at Count Basie Fields and an outdoor art show that included locations on the West Side were harbingers of good things to come on the cultural front, Menna said. This year, “we’ll be bring the arts to where the people are,” rather than having them travel to enjoy it, he said, referring specifically to the West Side.
Menna said the town “grew, but we weren’t pushovers” for development, citing the planning board’s rejection of a plan to convert the Welsh Farms store on East Front Street to a 7-Eleven and the council’s lawsuit to stop New Jersey Natural Gas “from vandalizing the streetscape that Red Bank paid millions of dollars for.”
As reported on redbankgreen‘s Facebook page on Saturday, the developer of the 7-Eleven is expected to return to the planning board this month with a proposal that drops the earlier one’s most controversial element — all-night operations.
But a borough request for a court stay that would halt NJNG’s installation of above-ground gas regulators was rejected by a state appeals court, meaning the work can continue during the pendency of the lawsuit, borough Attorney Dan O’Hern said.