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RED BANK: COUNCIL TO TAKE AIM AT GRAFFITI

Borough attorney Greg Cannon, right, with interim Administrator and police Chief Darren McConnell, will draft proposed new laws to limit graffiti. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

See CLARIFICATION below

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topicRed Bank’s mayor and council are planning measures they hope will counter an increase in graffiti around town.

Here are some highlights from last Thursday’s semimonthly meeting.

• The council discussed possible changes to the borough’s graffiti ordinance to address a recent increase around town.

Interim administrator and police Chief Darren McConnell said the incidence of graffiti has increased, with some public bathrooms “literally covered inside.”

“It appears to be the same person or persons” committing it, he said, adding that catching perpetrators is rare.

Borough Attorney Greg Cannon said his research led him to the anti-graffiti ordinance of Rutherford, in Bergen County, which he called the best he could find. Its definition includes “all writings or other written or pictorial matter which is commonly understood and accepted by a reasonable person as ‘graffiti’ and is not intended to infringe upon any protected artistic expression.”

Red Bank’s current definition does not protect artistic expression, and Cannon suggested “melding” the two into one.

He also suggested adopting Rutherford’s language holding parents and guardians responsible for the costs of removing graffiti committed by their children, and to be involved in community service along with them if a municipal court imposes such a sentence.

The idea of a joint sentence, however, met resistance, and was ultimately rejected by the full council.

“This is a very minor crime that can be cleaned up and reconciled,’ said Councilperson David Cassidy. “I don’t want to start putting families of minors on trial.”

Councilperson Ben Forest also said he was “a little bit concerned about punishing parents.”

• A planned presentation on Marine Park by a representative of the borough’s engineering consultant, CME Associates, didn’t take place. But McConnell reported progress in the borough’s attempt to win approval for a parking lot on the former site of red-clay tennis courts.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had rejected a proposed impervious material for the lot surface, McConnell said. A pervious paving material has now been substituted in the plan, and that has been “preliminarily approved” by the DEP, he said.

[CLARIFICATION: McConnell sent the following to redbankgreen on Tuesday: “In our initial submission to DEP on the CAFRA permit we, meaning the Borough and CME on behalf of the Borough, proposed using a PERVIOUS material that was a gravel pave. My understanding is that it is basically a grid and gravel is added then compacted in some manner so it is not just a simple gravel lot as you would see in a less utilized area or in private driveway. When DEP pushed back on that material we switched to a PERVIOUS or porous pavement. In other words, we intended from the beginning to utilize a pervious material due to the location and runoff issues, we simply had to change the type of pervious material we are using.”]

A 2019 park makeover plan called for relocating the parking to that area, and converting the existing parking lot to green space.

•  As previously reported, Mayor Billy Portman announced that the council will tap Captain Mike Frazee to succeed McConnell as police chief.

McConnell’s retirement date, however, has been pushed back several weeks over unspecified pension issues. His departure was to have been effective July 31. Details of a plan to recruit a new town manager are to be announced August 10, Portman said.

• To no one’s surprise, and without any comment, the council unanimously approved an ordinance restoring municipal elections to November, following a one-time shift to May that was necessitated by state law under the recent change in form of government.

The council’s next semimonthly meeting is scheduled for August 10.

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