SEA BRIGHT: PROBE NOW, BUILD LATER

Img_3327The Highlands Bridge and overpass to Sandy Hook as they appeared in mid-February, shortly after the arrival of construction equipment.

By SUE MORGAN

The stroke of a state official’s pen has Sea Bright officials on edge about who or what is behind the imminent reconstruction of the 75-year-old Highlands Bridge.

Allegations of official misconduct leveled earlier this month against a 22-year state Department of Transportation employee in connection with the sale of land near the Route 36 drawbridge prompted Mayor Maria Fernandes to ask Gov. Jon Corzine and Attorney General Anne Milgram for an independent investigation into the pending reconstruction plan earlier this week.

With the request, Fernandes joins Congressman Frank Pallone in demanding a probe, as reported in this week’s Hub.

Even as the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office continues to investigate allegations that the accused official, James J. Duffy, falsified documents authorizing the sale of land on the Highlands side of the span, Fernandes and other Sea Bright officials called for the state to stop the ongoing construction until their concerns are completely addressed.

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PHOENIX RISES (AGAIN) TO THE OCCASION

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By TOM CHESEK

Long before there was a Two River Theater or even anything resembling a nightlife in downtown Red Bank, there was Phoenix Productions, an intrepid little troupe of weekend warriors who sought only to put on a show for their friends and neighbors.

It’s a lovely sentiment, and it’s at least part of the reason why, 20 years on, the nonprofit Phoenix organization is still in the business of “recreating your favorite musicals in extravagant revivals” — a mission made manifest once more this Friday, when the company revisits the Sunday-school rock opera Joseph and the Amazing Techniclor Dreamcoat.

Still, 20 seasons is a long time to be doing it simply for the love and applause — so what’s its secret? What’s Phoenix got that all the other community stage competitors don’t got?

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FERNANDES TEES UP FUNDING FORMULA

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“Regionalization does not work for small communities. Period.”

That’s how an op-ed piece by Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes, writing in today’s Asbury Park Press, begins.

Her target: state-mandated formulas for apportioning costs among towns joined in regional school districts. And the immediate cause of her outrage is the latest calculation from the Shore Regional High School district, which bills Sea Bright $81,000 per high school student, even though the overall average cost of educating a student at the school is just hair over $18,000, she writes.

At 27 students, that’ll cost tiny Sea Bright close to $2.2 million this year.

From the article:

Any level-headed individual would say that is crazy, and everyone in Sea Bright agrees.

Shore Regional is doing nothing wrong. This amount is based on a complicated formula that takes into consideration the number of students in the grammar school, as well as Shore Regional, and the equalized value of the municipality, among other factors. This formula was enacted by the Legislature and was supposed to guarantee every child a “thorough and efficient” education.

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BOOZE BASH NETS 24 IN SEA BRIGHT

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Five adults and 19 juveniles were taken into custody on alcohol charges during a party in a Sea Bright apartment last Friday night, the Asbury Park Press reports.

From the story:

Around 10 p.m. Friday, Patrolman Charles Murphy and Detective John Arias went to an Ocean Avenue apartment because of a reported disturbance there.

When police arrived, they saw young people who appeared to be trying to hide beer cans, said Police Chief William S. Moore.

Police charged Daniel Cleary, 21, of Eatontown and Kevin O’Shaughnessy, 18, of Sea Bright with providing alcohol to persons under the legal age.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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At least one member of the sprawling redbankgreen staff expected more readers to recognize last week’s image, which showed a basic cinderblock shell of a building under construction.

The reason: its location, at the Sea Bright anchorage of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge, behind the Gulf station and Dunkin’ Donuts. Thousands of cars a day must go past it.

Then again, with the river, the ocean and the sign touting the borough as the “home of the Sea Bright Skiff” all visible at that intersection of Rumson Road and Ocean Avenue, it’s easy to overlook, too.

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SEA BRIGHT CONSIDERS MAKEOVER OPTIONS

Img_3566Borough facilities could be in for a wholesale upgrade, with this beachfront parking lot playing a starring role.

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Sea Bright’s public buildings don’t exactly show the tiny seaside borough in the best light.

Scattered along a quarter-mile stretch of Ocean Avenue, they constitute a ragtag bunch, from the cramped, stuccoed Municipal Building — complete with a wheeled trailer that serves as the borough court office — to a beach management and ticket office at the the north end that’s not even worth renovating, officials say.

Millions of dollars need to be spent to upgrade or replace aging infrastructure; that is unanimously accepted by members of the borough council. “We all agree on what we need,” says Susana Markson, the newest council member. The question is how best to do it.

Well, they’re working on an answer, and last week, the governing body unveiled rough, preliminary plans for a new borough hall, police station, skate park, seasonal pool club, public works building and boardwalk, most of it concentrated on a 15-acre parcel that serves as the town’s gateway to the Atlantic Ocean.

A cost estimate, however, is still months away, Mayor Maria Fernandes said earlier this week.

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ANOTHER DONOVAN’S DEAL FALLS APART

Donovans_1007_2Might there be another summer of cocktails on the beach after all?

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

For the second time in six months, the owners of Donovan’s Reef are back to square one in their effort to sell the beachfront bar, redbankgreen has learned.

A proposed $5 million sale to Stone Enterprises of Toms River announced in Octoer is off the table, and the owners are looking for another buyer, says Bob Phillips of Avon, one of three partners in the oceanfront nightclub.

Stone, a condominium builder, backed out of the deal, Phillips said, though he declined to discuss specifics.

“Life goes on,” Phillips said.

Last year, the Borough of Sea Bright considered, and then rejected, the idea of buying the club, located next to its borough hall. Councilman Tom Scriven said last week that the cost of the property was too high to be practical.

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A YEAR LATER, MEMORIES OF A HORROR

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

One year ago today, Jennifer Kalogiannis and her boyfriend, Mark Trezza, were awakened before dawn in her Sea Bright apartment by horrifying screams.

It was bitterly cold that morning, with temperatures in the single digits and a sharp wind driving across the Shrewsbury River. Trezza went out on the balcony and saw next door neighbor Debra Yuhasz on fire, crawling on her hands and knees toward her balcony. The two units shared a common bedroom wall.

While Kalogiannis called 911, Trezza ran for a fire extinguisher, which he used to spray Yuhasz, who had made it out to her balcony.

Yuhasz, 47, lay there until she was rescued by firefighters, but died of her injuries two weeks later at St. Barnabas Medical Center’s burn unit in Livingston.

That terrible night at the Fountains condos was just the beginning for the survivors of that tragedy, “one of the worst fires Sea Bright’s ever had,” according to Sea Bright Police Chief Bill Moore.

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