Among the many events organizers hope to bring back in 2021: the Red Bank Classic 5k, slated for June 19. A list of event dates is up for approval by the council. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s borough council meets with a busy agenda of financing actions, hirings and more Wednesday.
There’s also something missing, though numerous commenters have demanded it: changes to the meeting protocol covering… public comment.
On the docket:
• A new lease on interim space with Trinity Episcopal Church to serve as an interim Senior Center once the pandemic eases and the borough’s elderly can again safely congregate.
The three-year pact calls for the borough to pay the West Front Street church $2,000 a month. It includes an “escape clause” that lets the borough terminate the lease on 90 days notice. Here’s the lease agreement.
The borough’s Senior Center on Shrewsbury Avenue has been closed for most of the past two years following a leak of the fire suppression system. When and whether it will reopen is uncertain however. The borough Redevelopment Agency is conducting a review of all municipal assets, and may recommend any of several options, including rehabilitation for continued use by seniors; repurposing for other municipal use; or a sale.
In a January 13 letter to senior Dot Davis, who has advocated that the center be repaired and reopened, Mayor Pasquale Menna said that he has “always supported and will continue to support the utilization of the Senior Center,” but noted that “this is a vote that has to be taken by the council.”
Four of the six members of the all-Democratic council support the Redevelopment Agency completing its work before a decision on the center is made.
• Adoption vote on a $3.3 million bond to cover improvements to roads, parks and the public library. 2021-01 PH.PDF
• Adoption vote on a $1.75 million water utility bond, which is repaid by the sale of water, to cover improvements to the water and sewer systems. 2021-02 PH.PDF
• Adoption of an ordinance prohibiting the use of contaminated soil fill. Exemptions include projects requiring “minor filling” of 15 cubic yards or less. 2021-04 PH.PDF
• Introduction of an ordinance prohibiting new plantings of bamboo and other invasive species. Existing plants would be exempted. 2021-06 INTRO.PDF
• Hirings of a part-time construction official, a part-time building subcode official and a part-time plumbing subcode official; a police department full-time records supervisor (a civilian position); and two part-time parking enforcement officers.
• Approval of dates for more than a dozen outdoor festivals and events, including the Red Bank Classic 5k on June 19; the Guinness Oysterfest, September 26; and the Holiday Express concert and town light-up on November 26.
• Afterward, the council plans to go into closed-door executive session to discuss an unspecified contract negotiation with Saxum Real Estate; a contract with the Red Bank Affordable Housing Coalition; and one or more personnel matters.
• Absent from the agenda is a revised public comment protocol. One was to have been introduced at the reorganization meeting January 1, but was pulled for revision, Mayor Pasquale Menna said at the time. It has yet to return to the agenda.
Critics have repeatedly chafed at the policy, which requires commenters to ask all questions, if any, at once, with no assurance that the mayor or anyone else on the dais will immediately respond. That means there’s no chance to ask follow-up questions to clarify issues, West Lake Road resident Angela Mirandi said during the January 13 session.
“It is important for us to have dialogue with you people,” she said.
A year ago, in an effort to blunt the criticism, Menna said would hold monthly open-door sessions in his borough hall office for anyone who wanted to speak to him. But after only one such session, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, prompting officials to close the building to visitors.
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