SEA BRIGHT: TALKING BULKHEADS, TRASH

A portion of the Shrewsbury River bulkhead in Sea Bright, as seen from Rumson four days before Hurricane Sandy. The house at left collapsed in the storm. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

At a borough council meeting relatively light on agenda business, Sea Bright residents and business owners took the floor Tuesday night to voice concerns on a plethora of issues, including bulkhead adequacy and the large amount of debris still apparent throughout the storm-battered community.

Angelica’s Restaurant owner Ray Lena pressed the council on its plans regarding the bulkheads along the Shrewsbury River, stressing that he believed a reinforced and rebuilt bulkhead could be key in guarding against future flooding.

“The streets are constantly flooded. Every time there’s rain or a high tide, it affects all the businesses and everybody in town,” he said. “To me, it should be priority number one. If you had a blank slate here and I was a developer, even if I was going to build homes on stilts, my first question would be what are we going to do about the bulkheads? We’re at risk, it’s as simple as that.”

Mayor Dina Long said Sea Bright had in fact won a grant from the federal government to raise five publicly owned bulkheads throughout the town. But the bulkhead needed to be continuous alongside the downtown area to be effective, she said.

And getting buy-in on the concept from private property owners may be a problem, according to Councilman Read Murphy.

“The property owners, if they don’t want to do his bulkhead, we can’t force them them do it, and that’s where our big problem is going to be,” he said. “You’ve got a very long strip that’s owned by the Stavola Company – from Beach street up to River Street – that’s going to be [re-bulkheaded] soon. Where we’re going to have problems are the individual houses here and there, because water can go right through if there are no bulkheads there.”

When asked why some property owners wouldn’t be open to bulkheads on their property, Murphy said that “when you’re asking someone to put a four-foot wall behind their house, you know you’re going to have problems.”

Murphy said there were 12 to 15 property owners who would need to adopt the bulkhead. “You guys can help us,” he said, by talking to the owners.

“We want to do this continuously from Osborne Place all the way down to Peninsula Street,” he said. “It’s the only thing that can keep the downtown dry.”

“We met with these property owners, and several of them brought attorneys,” Long said. “We haven’t come back at them yet.”

Several members of the public voiced their displeasure about the amount of garbage still littering the streets, a frustration that Murphy said he shared.

“The town has a long way to go as far as beautification is concerned,” he said. “The garbage in lawns, in front of people’s houses, is intolerable. Soon, we are going to be implementing fines, every day, for the trash.

Long suggested that some sort of warning method be used prior to an official fine to prevent people who haven’t had a chance to return to their homes from receiving these fines and/or a summons. Councilman Marc Leckstein said he agreed with sending property owners a letter prior to any fines, but said that property owners should only be granted a  short time frame to comply with the borough’s requests.

“A warning is appropriate, but it [the debris] ends up hurting the community and businesses after a while, it just doesn’t work,” he said.

Murphy also said that piles of sand would be construed as garbage, and that property owners would be contacted for their permission to allow volunteers to clean such piles.

On a more optimistic note, Long announced that Sea Bright was taking part in the White House’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, designed by President Obama to make policy recommendations on how to prepare for future disasters. Long said she was positive about bringing Sea Bright to the attention of the federal government and the President himself.

“The good news for us is that Sea Bright’s name goes on a document about rebuilding from Sandy that will cross the President’s desk, so my hope is they can’t let us fail.”