SEA BRIGHT: REBUILDING BONDS UPHELD

sb parking 081916 7By a 2-to-1 margin, Sea Bright voters endorsed the plan to erect two new buildings to house all public operations on the fringes of the municipal beach. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Sea Bright voters gave landslide approval Tuesday to a plan to rebuild every public structure wiped out by Sandy.

In a special election on a trio of bonding actions taken by the borough council in June, voters by a 2-1 margin backed the plan, which would put two sizable new structures with a combined price tag of $12.73 million at the edge of the municipal beach.

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SEA BRIGHT: POST-SANDY REBUILD DEBATED

sb boro hall 082316Crammed in beside desks in a gym repurposed as offices since Hurricane Sandy, dozens of residents attended the meeting. Below, the proposed police, fire and first aid building would include borough offices on the second floor. (Photo by John T. Ward. Rendering by Settembrino Architects. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

BOROUGH of SEA BRIGHT Municipal EMS BuildingWith millions of federal dollars possibly at stake, Sea Bright voters debated Tuesday whether to take on the financial burden of rebuilding all of the town’s public facilities wiped out by Hurricane Sandy.

With a pivotal referendum scheduled for September 27, dozens of residents crowded into a gym that’s been co-opted for borough offices since the 2012 storm, largely in agreement that new facilities are needed, but split on costs.

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SEA BRIGHT: TOWN HALL ON REFERENDUM

sb parking 081916 3BOROUGH of SEA BRIGHT Library + Beach PavilionSea Bright residents are scheduled to gather for a town hall meeting Tuesday night to discuss a referendum on whether to bond for new public facilities to replace those destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012.

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SEA BRIGHT: DONOVAN’S REBUILD BEGINS

donovan's 052616donovan's 071015 3Obliterated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and revived last summer as an open-air bar (seen at right), Sea Bright’s Donovan’s Reef is finally on track to having a permanent home again, NJ.com reports. The oceanfront watering hole is two weeks into a construction project that’s estimated to take about 10 months, the news site reports.

“I’m looking forward to the return of a Donovan’s that, like the rest of the new Seas Bright, is built to last,” Mayor Dina Long told NJ.com. “Donovan’s is an integral piece of the Sea Bright fabric. Without Donovan’s in Sea Bright, it feels like something’s missing.” (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

 

SEA BRIGHT: TAXES, FIREHOUSE PACK COUNCIL

sb council 080514 1Mayor Dina Long, center above, helped move tables to accommodate an overflow crowd Tuesday night. John Lamia, below, was sworn to fill the unexpired term of Read Murphy. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

john lamia 080514A boatload of critical issues came crashing ashore in Sea Bright Tuesday night, as officials and residents wrestled with soaring taxes, where to put a Sandy-wrecked firehouse and more.

Dozens of residents packed a bimonthly borough council with their concerns: a bulkhead ordinance that would require some property owners to raise the level of protection adjoining their homes along the Shrewsbury River; a plan to build a 150-foot tall cell tower just feet from the ocean beach behind borough hall; the timing of repairs to the seawall.

Two matters in particular drew concerted heat: a proposal to rent land for use as a temporary fire station from a former mayor in arrears on taxes, and a 10-percent increase in tax bills, reflecting a whopping 17-percent increase to cover the cost of sending borough kids to Shore Regional High School in West Long Branch.

That one, and other issues, reflected longstanding frustrations.

“Twenty-five years ago, when I first came on the council – it was a subject then,” said Councilman Jack Keeler. “It hasn’t changed.”

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SEA BRIGHT: LIFELONG HOME REBUILT

20140617-181947.jpgDesiree Pierce, who lost her lifelong Sea Bright home to Hurricane Sandy, celebrated the completion of its rebuilding by volunteers Tuesday. Pierce, at center above with son Junior, helped Shareefah Taylor of Americorps, one of the volunteer organizations involved in restoring the New Street house, move a cake to the fridge. (Photo by John T. Ward. )

SEA BRIGHT: VOLUNTEERS START HOME REHABS

sb st bernard 1 032614Americorps volunteers painting the framework of Desiree Pierce’s home Wednesday to encapsulate any lingering mold. Below, Pierce and daughter, Gigi Burke, have been displaced from their home since Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

sb gigi desiree 032614People who’ve never been through something like Hurricane Sandy don’t understand, says Gigi Burke.

“They don’t understand losing everything,” the 23-year-old Sea Bright resident said. “And then, they don’t understand the process and steps it takes to get back into your home.”

In the 500-plus days since Burke, her two siblings and their mother lost use of their New Street home to the surging Shrewsbury River and Atlantic Ocean, she’s heard “the question” from people who’ve temporarily put her up more than once.

“It was basically, ‘when are you leaving?’ but in a nice way,” she said Wednesday, amid of a flurry of rebuilding activity finally getting underway at her home.

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SEA BRIGHT LIGHTS UP NEW WEBSITE

mark pappas 013014Mark Pappas volunteered his company’s resources to build a new website for the borough. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Sea Bright residents and business owners have a new source for information about civic life, and it didn’t cost the town a nickel.

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SEA BRIGHT ISSUES: LIBRARY, REDEVELOPMENT

sb council 011614Engineer Jackie Flor of T&M Associates discusses the impact on a parking lot paving project necessitated by the demolition of the Sea Bright Public Library. The dormant borough school building, below. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

sb school 011614Overlapping concerns about beachfront development, the future of the crumbling former school and the demolition of the public library dominated an issue-heavy meeting of the Sea Bright council Thursday morning.

Mayor Dina Long, who had opposed tearing down the library until a proposed combination library and bathing pavilion could be built, defended Saturday’s hasty demolition, but acknowledged that “perhaps it could have been handled in a different manner.”

“it was certainly no secret that that building was going to be abandoned after the last council meeting,” on December 17, she said at a crowded council workshop session. “But my concern going forward is that members of our own community felt there was a lack of transparency” about the timing of the action, which gave rise to conspiracy theories that are now “driving a wedge between” elected officials and residents, she said.

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SEA BRIGHT: LONG MUM ON CHRISTIE

sb christie long 082813 3Mayor Dina Long with Governor Chris Christie in Sea Bright last August 28. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

In the midst of the Bridgegate scandal surrounding Governor Chris Christie over alleged paybacks to Democratic New Jersey mayors who refused to endorse his re-election last year, inquiring minds want to know:

What about Dina Long?

The mayor of Sea Bright endorsed Christie’s re-election early in the cycle last February, calling him a “hero,” and shocked fellow Democratic officials.

Given that the mayors of Fort Lee, Jersey City and Hoboken now say they were pressed for endorsements by the Republican incumbent, and endured some retaliation for not doing so, some natural questions come to mind:

Who first brought up the idea of Long endorsing Christie? Did she feel there was quid pro quo situation being foisted on her? Does she stand by her endorsement?

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SEA BRIGHT FACES ‘UNBEARABLE’ TAX HIT

By WIL FULTON

Post-Sandy challenges continue to pile up for the ravaged beach community of Sea Bright, this time in the form of a school tax hike via the Shore Regional High School district.

Borough property owners can expect a 13-percent increase, to 54 cents per $100 of assessed value, meaning that the average home, assessed at $344,696, would pay $1,861 for high school alone.

The rate perpetuates the dramatic disparities in the amounts paid by each of the district’s three sending towns. Sea Bright would pay some $90,000 per borough student at the school, whereas Monmouth Beach, Oceanport and West Long Branch would pay just $12,000 to $13,000, said Mayor Dina Long.

As in the past, the figures are the result of a disputed regional school tax formula about which Sea Bright officials and residents have long complained. Moreover, said Long, they reflect pre-Sandy property assessments, and not the post-Sandy reality.

“The regional school tax formula has been a problem before,” Long told redbankgreen. “It was painful before, but now after Sandy, it’s unbearable.”

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SEA BRIGHT: DCA’S NUMBERS COME UP SHORT

A Sea Bright home as seen from the sea wall five days after Hurricane Sandy. Borough officials contend the number of severely damaged homes is being underestimated by a state agency. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Six months after Hurricane Sandy walloped the region, Sea Bright officials find themselves in a disagreement with a state agency over the financial impact of the storm.

The dispute, centered on newly released New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA)’s data on the extent of storm destruction in town, was one of a handful of post-Sandy issues that dominated Tuesday night’s council meeting.

“The DCA released some numbers that gave statistics from Sea Bright,” Mayor Dina Long told the audience, “and they said there were 574 homes with damage. Of those homes, 32 had major damage – damage between $8,000 and $28,000; and 63 homes suffered severe damage – over $28,000 worth of damage.

“Based on where I live, and what it cost to fix even my own house, I really feel like these numbers are not reflecting an on-the-ground truth,” she said.

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SEA BRIGHT: RECOVERY GETS PERSONAL

Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long, seen rallying her constituents in November, admits the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has begun to weigh on her. Social services agencies are beginning to address the emotional and psychological needs of storm victims. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Less than half in jest, Sea Bright’s can-do mayor acknowledged Wednesday night that the emotional and psychological strain of Hurricane Sandy recovery have taken a personal toll.

At a town hall meeting held in part to promote outreach programs to help residents map out their own rebuilding plans, Mayor Dina Long told a packed community center that five months after the storm all but obliterated the borough, the challenge of piecing it all back together sometimes gets to her.

“I have to admit I have a new favorite saying that’s in direct contrast with my old favorite saying, which was, ‘Do,’” Long said. “My new favorite saying goes something like this: ‘I feel like my head is going to explode! Do you guys feel like that?”

Groans of approval from the crowd showed the frustration was mutual.

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SEA BRIGHT: CHRISTIE WINS DEM’S BACKING

Governor Chris Christie poses with Boondocks Fishery owner Kelly Ryan wearing lobster-claw headgear given out at the Red Bank restaurant. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Governor Chris Christie returned to Sea Bright Thursday to pick up an early re-election endorsement from Mayor Dina Long, who crossed party lines and called him a “hero to Sea Bright and all across the Jersey shore.”

Long  – a Democrat who once volunteered worked as a paid campaign staffer for governors Jim Florio and Jim McGreevey, presidential candidate Bill Bradley and then-Senator Jon Corzine – said her backing of the Republican incumbent had “nothing to do with” the qualifications, or gender, of presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Senator Barbara Buono.

“It’s about humanity,” she said.

Christie eagerly accepted the endorsement, calling it, “a powerful symbol of people crossing party lines and working together to get things fixed.”

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AMID WRECKAGE, SEA BRIGHT STARTS ANEW

Mayor Dina Long at the annual reorganization of borough government Saturday. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Though it was an eventful, tumultuous year in this small beachside community, Sea Bright’s 2013 mayor-and-council reorganization meeting brought no major shakeups Saturday.

“We thought it was important at this time to keep things consistent,” Mayor Dina Long told redbankgreen shortly after she began her second year at the helm of local government.

“We definitely didn’t want to create new obstacles at this time,” she said. “We just wanted to help everyone and everything return to normal, or the ‘new normal’ as it should be called, because things will never be quite the same after Sandy.”

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SEA BRIGHT TO STAY SHUT FOR UP TO 10 DAYS

“Sea Bright is not gone. Sea Bright is you,” Mayor Dina Long, above, tells a packed grandstand at R-FH, below.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

No one will be permitted into Sea Bright until all natural gas leaks are stopped and buildings inspected for safety, a process that’s expected to take seven to 10 days, Mayor Dina Long told a packed and anxious grandstand of residents at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High Thursday afternoon.

Briefly choking with emotion, Long held a piece of a sign reading “DO” from Donovan’s Reef over her head and proclaimed, “We will get through this. We will ‘do.'”

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SEA BRIGHT MAYOR DIVES INTO WORK

Mayor Dina Long up to her ankles after a rainstorm flooded the street outside her home earlier this month. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Right off the bat, the above photo hints at what new Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long is up against.

Long is far from the first of the town’s top elected officials to confront flooding issues. Pinched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Shrewsbury River, the three-mile-long spit of sand can always count on seeing water slosh onto residential streets abutting the downtown business district during storms.

But a fix is finally in the works, says Long, who hopes to check off flood control, beachfront redevelopment, cellular service quality and one or two other longstanding projects from her to-do list in her term.

“I refuse to see things as problems,” Long told redbankgreen in a recent interview over coffee at Steve’s Breakfast & Lunch on Ocean Avenue. “Otherwise, you’re just stuck all the time.”

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MAYORAL SHOUTDOWN IN SEA BRIGHT?

hot-topic rightWhat happened on election night last week at Sea Bright’s Mad Hatter restaurant, when a former mayor met the incoming one?

According to Mayor-elect Dina Long, sparks flew after it was clear that she’d beaten former Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams for the borough’s top elected position.

Long, a Democrat, says Kalaka Adams loudly berated her when Long approached to offer a post-election olive branch, prompting an incident in which at least two people had to be restrained.

According to Kalaka Adams, a Republican, nothing of the sort happened.

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SEA BRIGHT: LONG WINS MAYORALTY

sea-bright-votes-110811Voting took place in the town’s community center. (Photo by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD election_2011_plain

Three-term Democratic councilwoman Dina Long won the race to succeed Maria Fernandes as Sea Bright’s mayor Tuesday, walloping former Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams.

Incumbent Republican councilmen James LoBiondo and Read Murphy kept their seats on the governing body, easily outpolling Democratic challengers Marc Leckstein and Desiree Pierce. Read More »

MAYORAL CANDIDATE OWES BACK TAXES

jo-ann-kalaka-adams

File photo of former mayor and current mayoral candidate Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams. Below, a notice of tax sale in Tuesday’s Asbury Park Press. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

sb-tax-sale-notice-10-25-11Sea Bright mayoral candidate Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams owns or co-owns properties that are in arrears on borough taxes and scheduled for auction less than two weeks after next month’s election, according to a public notice published Tuesday.

Also on the list: a sitting council member, William Keeler, who’s not up for re-election next month.

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THE WEEK IN REARVIEW

mittA catcher’s mitt at Rumson Little League’s opening day. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Break-ins were the breaking news that dominated locally last week, topped by word of an arrest of an suspect in a string of high-end residential burglaries that included pop star Bon Jovi among the victims.

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IT’S LONG v. KALAKA-ADAMS IN SEA BRIGHT

jo-ann-kalaka-adamsFormer Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams, seen here in 2007, will face councilwoman Dina Long, below, in this year’s mayoral election. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

dina-long-2011Seeing an opportunity to keep progress moving, Councilwoman Dina Long is seeking Sea Bright’s top elected spot.

Long, who teaches English composition at Brookdale Community College, has filed to run for mayor, filling the Democratic party’s ticket following current mayor Maria Fernandes’s announcement last week that she will not seek re-election.

The three-term councilwoman will go up against a former mayor in November, Republican Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams, who’s making a return to politics after a narrow loss that was contested and drawn out for months in court.

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