The Senior Center occupies a stand-alone building on Shrewsbury Avenue. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


hot topic red bank njThe Red Bank council moved to jumpstart repairs to water-damaged Senior Center Wednesday night, one day after a recommendation by the Redevelopment Agency that it do so.

But even enroute to a unanimous vote, the measure churned up bitterness among the all-Democratic governing body.

Anger and attempts at reconciliation marked the council session, conducted remotely. (Zoom screengrab. Click to enlarge)

The council voted 6-0 to authorize preparatory design and financing of the work, which is to include restoration of the center to its state prior to a January, 2019 leak of the fire suppression system, as well as modest upgrades.

Here’s the resolution.

A member of Redevelopment Agency reported Tuesday night that the work was expected to cost about $1.6 million. An architect hired by the agency had previously estimated the work would take about five months.

But getting to the point where a contractor is signed could take up much of the rest of 2021, departing Business Administrator Ziad Shehady told the council.

“If you award [a contract] let’s say around November, count five months from award, is likely when  you could be seeing a ribbon-cutting,” he said.

In the meantime, pandemic restrictions have kept seniors from gathering for the past 13 months. When the prohibition is lifted, Senior Center operations are expected to resume in temporary facilities at Trinity Church on West Front Street, where the borough has leased space.

For two council members who led a “fix it now” campaign, the additional wait was proof that the other four council members had pursued a misguided and wasteful track in leaving the matter in the hands of the Redevelopment Agency.

“While I’m thrilled that we have finally after two years gotten to a point where we can agree to fix the senior center where it is, I have to say that I’m disappointed with the circuitous route that we took to get there,” said Councilman Michael Ballard.

He said “massive amounts of money” had been spent exploring alternatives, including one he said was unworkable: creating a combined recreation center and senior facility at Count Basie Fields, “which the borough doesn’t even own.” The property belongs to the local school district.

For the four who resisted the “fix it now” push, the “due diligence” had served its purpose.

“I’m so happy we went through a proper process,” said Triggiano, who serves on the agency, and who initiated the speedy resolution. The review led “not only to fixes, but to necessary modifications, which we would not have had awareness of, the possibility of, it we had not gone through this process,” she said.

Mixed into the discussion were barbed words.

Ballard referred to his adversaries on the issue as people “all the council people who didn’t give a crap what I was saying for the last six months.”

Triggiano called Zipprich “a toxic individual” for, in her view, his mischaracterization of her stance on the issue over the past year.

At another point, Ballard said Shehady had called him a liar during discussion of an unrelated issue.

“Well, you are,” said Councilman Erik Yngstrom.

Yngstrom later apologized for the remark, and Councilman Hazim Yassin, noting his role as council president, called for improved decorum.

“I’ll cop to it myself,” he said of the conduct. “Councilman Hazim Yassin has made inappropriate comments, and I’d like to see all of us move forward and work together.”

Triggiano and Yassin are up for re-election, seeking second three-year terms. But they face the first contested council primary race in recent memory on June 8, when they’re up against political newcomers Bruce Maida and Jacqueline Sturdivant.

The local Democratic organization, led by Zipprich, is backing Maida and Sturdivant.

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