By JOHN T. WARD
A brush-grinding facility that has irked Fair Haven neighbors for nearly a decade will see a 60-plus percent reduction in activity under a plan officials unveiled Monday night.
But one council member pressed for a permanent solution: moving it out of the residential area.
At issue is an easily-missed lot at the corner of Hendrickson Place and William Street, on the east side of Fair Haven Fields playing fields and courts. For weeks at a time each year, it becomes the center of an effort to reduce hundreds of cubic yards of fallen branches and hedge clippings to mulch.
Though borough officials have touted the operation for years as a model of interlocal cooperation between towns, residents call it a “monstrosity” of noise, dust and dangerous truck traffic.
It requires hundreds of trucks, many of them 18-wheelers, to navigate narrow streets to and from the site, where brush from Rumson and Fair Haven is ground to bits and carted off. [See one large truck maneuvering into place in this redbankgreen video.]
Under an agreement that began in 2012, Rumson dumps its collected brush at the site, saving hundreds of gas-guzzling trips to a facility in Tinton Falls. In return, Rumson maintains Fair Haven’s parks, and provides street-sweeping and other public works services.
But Rumson now accounts for up to three-quarters of the facility’s volume, officials said.
Following a resident survey and six meetings of an ad hoc, volunteer committee, Councilman Chris Rodriguez presented its recommendations Monday, during the council’s semimonthly meeting.
The agreement with Rumson is still in effect, but in the process of being terminated, he said. That will slash the need for truck movements in the neighborhood, as well as the number of days the grinding occurs.
Combined with additional operational changes, site activity will be cut by “65 to 70 percent,” Rodriguez said.
“To the extent that we could get it down to fewer grinds and fewer truckloads, we would minimize a lot of the nuisance,” Rodriguez said. In addition, safety would be improved by scheduling work around times children would most likely be go to and from school, he said.
The committee considered, but rejected, either eliminating brush pickup altogether or closing the facility, Rodriguez said. Creating a new access road to the site through Fair Haven Fields and relocating the operation to the fields’ adjoining Natural Area fronting on Ridge Road also didn’t make the cut.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of inhibitors to a lot of those things,” said Rodriguez. While moving the facility to Ridge Road may be the best solution, “we realize that’s not in the cards for us.”
“We’re not going to close that site anytime soon,” he said.
Councilwoman Laline Neff, though, asked if a feasibility analysis had been prepared to determine the cost of closing the operation.
Rodriguez said it takes about a week to clean up brush from each of the borough’s four zones, and that process would be doubled or tripled if trucks had to haul material to the Monmouth County Reclamation Center.
In addition, outsourcing the grind was considered impractical because the borough would still have to maintain equipment that’s used for plowing and other jobs when not hauling brush.
And even material sent out for grinding needs to be picked up locally, said Administrator Theresa Casagrande.
Neff, though, said continuing the operation at its present location was an environmental issue.
“There’s also the impact to the local community in keeping the brush-grinding facility there,” said Neff. “It’s a burden if you’re living in that community.”
Neff said the committee’s proposals were good, but “long-term, I still think we should be looking for other solutions.
“From my perspective, it is not healthy to have this operation near so many homes,” she said. “I know it’s been there forever, but there are a lot more homes than there were 60 years ago.”
Carolyn Ferguson of Colonial Court said the grind site “is not just a concern for people in that neighborhood.” Walking and biking, she’s encountered 18-wheelers “and felt very unsafe,” she said.
Jen Spitz, whose William Street home backs up against the grind site, also pressed the council to begin looking for a long-term fix, which itself could take years to square away, given that local and then state approvals would be needed if the operation were to be relocated to the Natural Area.
Rodriguez, though, said the committee was not ready to commit to that yet. “It’s my opinion that we should see how the reduction plays out,” he said.