By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s Redevelopment Agency needs to do more to educate the public about its work, its new executive director told members Tuesday evening.
At the same time, the agency will be looking for guidance from the borough council on what that work should be, Chairman David Huber said.
At its first meeting since July, held via Zoom, the agency heard from Cherron Rountree, who succeeded Ziad Shehady as executive director.
Rountree read from a memo she prepared offering three “broad” recommendations to the agency. They included boosting the agency’s visibility by creating a website and social media presence apart from the borough government’s in order to boost the public understanding of the agency’s work.
“We do have a small budget,” said Rountree, whose main job is as township administrator in Holmdel. “We can use some of those funds to help achieve some of these things.”
She also suggested “reaching out to the borough council to see what next steps they’d like us to do.”
Those could include “helping to facilitate some of the municipal facilities projects, developing design standards, commissioning a built-out analysis, looking at potential affordable housing opportunities, and then conducting any studies for areas in need of rehab or rehabilitation,” she said.
“But I don’t think as an agency we can move forward unless we have feedback from the town council,” Rountree said.
Two council members who serve as agency liaisons, Kate Triggiano and Kathy Horgan, both said they would like to discuss the question with their colleagues on the governing body.
Regarding the suggested website, “I think it is important to educate the public, because they don’t have a lot of information, and there is a lot of misinformation floating around,” said Horgan.
Triggiano said agency education and outreach has been “sorely lacking.”
Huber, who plans to leave the agency when his term ends in December, said he’d like to get some input from the mayor and council on “where do we go from here.”
The agency was formed in 2019 to assess the borough government’s present facilities and future needs, and to work with any private developers who might propose large-scale projects. But none have yet come forward.
In May, the agency endorsed a proposal that the town overhaul and expand its “substandard” public works yard on Chestnut Street, a project a subcommittee estimated would cost $9.3 million. The idea has gone almost without mention by the council since then.
“Certainly we’ll tackle projects as they come up,” Huber said, “but for now we don’t have any active projects that we’re really working on, besides the municipal facilities.”
Whether and when Rountree’s memo itself might be available to the public became a matter of some debate after Irving Place resident Dan Riordan asked for it.
Agency attorney Ron Gordon dubbed the memo a “deliberative” document that would exempt it from public release under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act.
But member Wilson Beebe pushed back, calling it a “perfectly anodyne document” that should be releasable.
“I think if we’re embarked on a good-faith effort in transparency, we ought to be, you know, transparent,” he said.
Agency consultant Ken DeRoberts was absent from the meeting.
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