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RED BANK: EX-AGENCY MEMBER FIRES BACK

wilson-beebe-072319-500x332-4826385Wilson Beebe at a Redevelopment Agency session in July, 2019. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

 See correction below

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-220x138-7378486With the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency on the chopping block, one of its former members fired a parting shot at elected officials Thursday.

Contrary to claims, the town got its money’s worth, Wilson Beebe wrote in an “open letter to the Red Bank council and residents.” And “the responsibility for the manner in which the Senior Center project was handled rests solely” on the borough council, he said.

Beebe, an Ambassador Drive resident who led the agency’s public facilities subcommittee, addressed the costs and aims of the three-year endeavor.

Excerpts:

• “Most of the work that has been done by the Agency would have been done by the Borough in any event. The oft cited expenditure of $439,000 includes siting and conceptual fit-out assessments for the crumbling DPW facility, for a new borough hall, and for police and municipal court facilities. Additionally, the boro-wide assessments for classifying parcels as being areas either in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation, in accordance with state land use law, is an invaluable tool both for managing any development proposals and as a baseline for the pending revision of the Master Plan. The actual costs associated with the administration of the Agency itself were small.”

• “There is an argument that the proposed work of the Agency could be, and should have been, assumed by the Council. One might be persuaded of this were there evidence of the Council’s ability to get things done.”

• “Last, I have observed during my tenure public behaviors that are fueled by misinformation, deliberate falsehoods, personal animosities and a basic lack of manners and mutual respect. Each of us bears a responsibility to disassociate from this kind of conduct and to call it out and end it at whatever meeting or forum it raises its ugly head. Not one of us has all the answers.”

Councilwoman Jacqueline Sturdivant, elected in November on a platform that included a call to get rid of the agency, moved closer to her goal Wednesday night, when the governing body approved a resolution authorizing the preparation of a dissolution plan. [Correction: Councilwoman Kathy Horgan voted no; the original version of this article incorrectly reported that the vote to approve was unanimous.]

The plan, to be prepared by interim Chief Financial Officer Bob Swisher, is required under state law, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.

Neither Sturdivant nor Councilman Michael Ballard, who opposed the creation of the agency and has been critical of it throughout its existence, responded to a redbankgreen request for comment.

Sturdivant has  previously said the “purpose of the agency and its ability to deliver are questionable,” and has cost taxpayers some $439,000.

The agency was created in February, 2019, to assess the borough government’s facilities and future needs, and to work with any private developers who might propose large-scale projects.

No private projects have come forward, but the agency recommended a $9.3 million upgrade and expansion of the public works yard on Chestnut Street.

The agency has also “identified potential locations” for new borough facilities, executive director Cherron Rountree said in a presentation at the borough library in December.

The agency has met only once since July, and ended 2021 without having set a meeting schedule for 2022.

Beebe was one of two members whose terms expired at the end of 2021, without any action to reappoint or replace them. Chairman David Huber had previously announced his intention to leave the agency at the end of the year.

Here’s the full statement: Wilson Beebe statement 022422

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