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RED BANK: WALTON TAKES OVER DPU

terrence-walton-041223-500x399-9433128New public utilities director Terrence Walton addressing the audience at borough hall Wednesday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

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Red Bank’s council appointed a new department head, authorized another season of in-street dining downtown, took action on the long-closed town dump and gave a thumbs-up to a plan for gardens on Broad Street Wednesday night.

Here are some highlights of the busy meeting, which ran for more than three hours:

red-bank-broad-landscaping-072222-1-500x375-6760056Eleven planting beds on Broad Street would get some TLC from a professional gardener under a RiverCenter plan. Below, electrical inspector John Drucker. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

john-drucker-041223-220x165-3180914• Terrence Walton was promoted to director of the public utilities department, from supervisor,  at a starting salary of $115,000.

In brief remarks, Walton told the audience the appointment was “very humbling.”

“I was raised in this town, I have a passion for this town, I’ve been working in public works for 15 years now, and I’m going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for last 15 years, serving the residents of Red Bank,” he said.

Walton replaces Cliff Keen, who was ousted in January after seven years in the post. Since then, the job has been filled on an interim basis by retired DPU head and former police captain Gary Watson Sr.

Before heading back to his home in South Carolina, Watson submitted a department management plan. The report details “the inefficiencies currently found in the department,” said Councilmember Ed Zipprich, many of which “were a result of little or no management and unsuitable employees tasked with leadership duties they were not capable of performing over the past several years.”

Commenting via Zoom, Watson told the council he hopes the report “will be a template for the new director to help get the department back on track.

“If you don’t really read it, it could be, ‘oh my goodness, this is not good.’ That’s not what we’re saying,” Watson continued. “The department is a good department, and they will do well as long as they have strong leadership, and I think Mr. Walton is the right guy for the job.”

The report was was not immediately made available. Interim Administrator Darren McConnell told redbankgreen it may contain personnel information that would have to be redacted.

• The threat of litigation hung in the air as the council adopted a law establishing a cannabis review board.

A still-pending new cannabis zoning law that sets new restrictions for marijuana growing, retailing and other aspects of the industry is slated for review by the planning board Monday night, and is expected to be returned in time for the council’s next session, slated for April 26.

• The council officially authorized a fourth summer of Broadwalk, the car-free dining plaza on upper Broad Street, to run from May 15 through September 30.

Action on fees for restaurant streateries outside the zone is still pending.

• The council appointed a Manasquan firm, VHB, as the Licensed Site Remediation Professional to oversee work at the former Sunset Avenue dump and incinerator site at the western end of West Sunset Avenue.

The borough is under a state mandate to cap the site, which abuts the Swimming River, by May, 2024. Plans for a future park on the 10-acre property have been floated but never adopted.

McConnell said VHB’s work “has nothing to do with any design beyond” capping the site with clean fill.

“We’re obviously very short on time,” he said, “and our other engineering firms are a little bit overwhelmed with work to be able to put the amount effort this needs in the short period of time. This firm is willing and able to do it.”

The work is estimated to cost less than $25,000, he said. The Monmouth Conservation Foundation will help fund the effort, he said.

• Though an underlying agreement with the Red Bank Housing Authority  “is still in the works,” according to Councilmember Michael Ballard, the council initiated a plans for a $350,000 bond and grant for rehabilitation of apartments at the Evergreen Terrace and Montgomery Terrace subsidized housing complexes on the West Side.

Councilmember Michael Ballard said the borough “would have control of ” the funds, but the RBHA would “be able to tap into” the money for fund engineering and needs assessments.

• A plan to subdivide the Senior Center property and secure the undeveloped portion for public use by placing it Recreational and Open Space Inventory is also moving ahead, Ballard said, but was misidentified on the agenda and tabled. That action will occur following completion of the legal subdivision, he said.

• The council introduced a four-way stop at Leighton Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard. Adoption is expected April 26.

• The council also granted temporary easements onto the Red Bank Public Library parking lot to the developer of a 10-unit condominium project at 96-98 West Front Street to allow for the construction of retaining walls.

• Bob Zuckerman, who heads the downtown promotion agency Red Bank RiverCenter, pitched a plan under which 11 new planting beds created as part of the 2022 Broad Street reconstruction project would be enhanced by Danielle Boyle, a professional gardener whose work for years added color to the Grove shopping center in Shrewsbury.

With the “demonstration project,” Zuckerman said, “we would like to start on Broad Street, and if we’re successful, take it to the rest of the downtown.” The chosen beds are outside the Broadwalk zone, except for one in front of the Starbucks shop at the corner of White Street.

RiverCenter would pay for the project and Boyle will be responsible for maintaining the beds, he said.

• The council honored borough John Drucker for his selection as Electrical Inspector of the Year by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs education unit.

A proclamation said Drucker “is known by his peers as a go-to person and is often commended for his attention to detail and
experience.”

Drucker, a borough employee since 2002, is slated to retire June 1.

• The introduction of the 2023 budget, which has not yet been made public, was postponed after extended debate over funding for the volunteer fire department. See separate coverage of that issue here.

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