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: BON JOVI DONATION MISUSED?

murphy-plansRead Murphy in 2011. below, the fire and first aid squads were displaced from their home, which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. (Photo above by Dustin Racioppi. Click to enlarge)

sb fire house 040114The use of a $119,000 donation by pop star Bon Jovi for a new ambulance in Sea Bright has raised questions, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Nearly two years after Hurricane Sandy destroyed one first aid squad ambulance and damaged another, “some in Sea Bright question how Bon Jovi’s generous donation — originally intended to purchase a new ambulance — instead was used to refurbish an old ambulance and buy a SUV that is used almost exclusively by Sea Bright’s part-time emergency management coordinator,” the Press reports.

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SEA BRIGHT: MURPHY QUITS COUNCIL

READ MURPHY 102512Read Murphy with television reporters shortly before Hurricane Sandy hit Sea Bright. He’s expected to be succeeded by John Lamia, below, who outpolled him in last month’s GOP primary. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

john lamia 061814A month after coming in tied for second in the Sea Bright Republican primary, incumbent Councilman Read Murphy has resigned, according to a published report.

After about 25 non-continuous years on the governing body, “stick a fork in me. I am done,” Murphy told redbankgreen Thursday afternoon.

He said friction with the rest of the council over both his “unilateral” approach to serving and his request to be hired as the town’s beach manager had taken the “fun” out of the job.

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SECOND ‘MOUNTAIN’ PILES UP MEMORIES

A passerby eyes debris in the Anchorage Beach parking lot, above, while a mountain of it dominates the former Peninsula House lot, below. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Mount Sandy, meet Mount Refuse.

Though smaller in stature, the mountain of debris occupying in Sea Bright’s old Peninsula House parking lot on Ocean Avenue is just as scene-stealing and ominous as its sand counterpart, located just a stone’s throw away. This ever-growing pile, however, won’t have onlookers climbing it or posing for closeups anytime soon.

The refuse is the accumulated result of curbside trash pickups in this Hurricane Sandy-smashed town, where residents and business owners are early on in a restoration effort.

It stands, however briefly, as a jarring, visceral reminder of the storm’s reach over porches, through doors and windows, and into rooms and closets.

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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 »

CLEMONS RECALLED AS A TRUE ‘BIG MAN’

clarenceClarence Clemons, right, backs up Stormin’ Norman Seldin, behind the piano, at the Lock, Stock and Barrel in Fair Haven sometime in the late ’70s. (Photo courtesy of Norman Seldin; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

He’d already soared into the music industry stratosphere alongside Bruce Springsteen when Clarence Clemons bumped into an old friend, the guy who helped get him his start in the Jersey Shore music scene, and asked if he could sit in, like old times, playing the saxophone.

The late-1970s encounter took place in Sea Bright, where Clemons had a home and was known for towing local kids around with fishing poles for some post-tour R&R.

And earlier this year, to celebrate his 69th birthday, Clemons bought a plane ticket for a longtime friend and former bandmate to fly down to Florida to sing at the party.

Clemons, who passed away Saturday from complications of a stroke, invested as much of himself in his friends and community as he did in his music, friends told redbankgreen in interviews this week, following the Big Man’s death.

Flags will be flown at half-staff throughout New Jersey in Clemons’ honor Thursday. A funeral service was held Tuesday in Palm Beach, Florida.

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SEA BRIGHT MAKING PROGRESS ON EYESORES

31-new-stThis vacant home on New Street is set to be demolished within a month, officials said. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Mayor Maria Fernandes’s revived crusade to clean up or raze dilapidated buildings in Sea Bright is slowly paying dividends, she says.

But there’s still a long way to go, including the drafting of an ordinance that punishes negligent property owners — “slumlords,” she’s called them.

“There’s some more work that needs to be done,” said Fernandes, who resurrected the dilapidated buildings discussion two months ago, after it had been mothballed some years back.

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IT’S MAYOR v. EX-MAYOR OVER ‘MONSTROSITY’

dilapidatedMayor Maria Fernandes wants to see dilapidated buildings, like this one owned by ex-Mayor JoAnn Kalaka-Adams, cleaned up and in better shape in Sea Bright. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes is setting her sights on a number of eyesore properties in town, and plans to go after their “slumlords,” one of them being a former nemesis who’s running for her post later this year.

Fernandes, who recently received an official report highlighting dilapidated buildings in town, is resurrecting withered discussions — and perhaps a political fray — to put an enforcement ordinance in place to get unsightly buildings into shape.

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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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ANYBODY MISSING A VOLKSWAGEN?

sb-potholesPotholes in Sea Bright’s municipal lot — some “that could swallow a couple Volkswagens,” in the words of Councilman Read Murphy — will finally get properly patched, borough officials said. Administrator Maryann Smeltzer said the work, including restriping of the lot, will be done “well before Memorial Day.” (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

SEA BRIGHT: X MARKS THE WRONG SPOT

murphy-plansCouncilman Read Murphy goes over revised beachfront development plans, assuring residents that the library is not going to be razed. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Sea Bright borough council, in a rush job to dot its i’s and cross its t’s on a major beachfront development plan, apparently forgot to look out for the x’s.

It was an “oversight,” an “honest mistake,” council members said, as they took a minor scolding from residents who thought the borough library was going to get bulldozed.

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FERNANDES: ONE AND DONE AS MAYOR

m-fernandesMaria Fernandes says she won’t seek another term as mayor. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Backing off an assertion at the beginning of the year that she’ll be back for a mayoral race, Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes said Wednesday she will not seek a second term.

“I served the council and the town very well,” Fernandes, 58, said. “I put in a number of years in this town and my accomplishments were good. It’s time for me to go.”

Fernandes, a Democrat who’s recovering from a partial leg amputation, did not give any specific reason for her decision, other than wanting to focus more on her personal life.

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SEA BRIGHT ENDS AFFORDABLE HOUSING SUIT

gaitersThe council reached a settlement with the owner of Gaiter’s to rezone the property for affordable housing. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A year of negotiations between local officials and a restaurant and marina owner, who hit the borough with a lawsuit for not meeting its affordable housing requirements, has resulted in the creation of a new affordable housing zone in Sea Bright, clearing the way for an anticipated plan for condos at the north end of town.

The settlement, memorialized by an ordinance creating a new housing district near the foot of the new Route 36 bridge, sent neighbors of the property into an offensive against the council, accusing the governing body of poor planning and buckling under the pressure of the suit.

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SEA BRIGHT SPENDING DOWN, TAXES UP

read-murphyCouncilman Read Murphy reads an overview of Sea Bright’s budget Tuesday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A drop in revenues and increases in costs will drive taxes up in Sea Bright this year, despite the borough’s slash in spending, officials announced on Tuesday.

The council introduced its $5.19 million spending plan for 2011 Tuesday night, a $152,600, or 3 percent, decrease from last year’s budget.

But that won’t translate to a decrease in the tax rate.

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IN RECOVERY, MAYOR ISSUES CRITICISM

keelerMayor Maria Fernandes, below, issued criticism to Council President William Keeler, right, and suggested holding off reappointing borough Attorney Joe Oxley, left. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

maria-fernandes-2007Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes may have lost a limb, but she hasn’t lost any of her bite.

Fernandes, who’s been recovering from a mild stroke suffered in October, recently had her left leg amputated just below the knee. She’s laid up at Monmouth Medical Center, which prevented her from attending Saturday’s annual borough government  reorganization meeting.

But that didn’t stop her from making herself heard. And Fernandes blasted her elected counterparts via letter.

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2011 PLEDGE: BEACHFRONT DEVELOPMENT

b-kellyBrian Kelly was sworn in for another three-year term to the Sea Bright council Saturday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

When Brian Kelly was running for re-election to the Sea Bright council last year, his major aim was to make progress on big plans to develop Sea Bright’s beachfront.

After Kelly was sworn in to his seat on the council Saturday, he said the council is going to make good on that promise in 2011.

“The biggest thing this year will be our vow to complete the phase one priority, which is a beachfront facility,” the Republican said.

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POLES DOWN, WOMAN INJURED

downed-poleHigh winds knocked down six utility poles on New Street in Sea Bright, forcing the closure of Ocean Avenue. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

just_in1By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A young woman suffered minor injuries in Sea Bright today as high winds knocked down six utility poles on New Street.

The unidentified child suffered an electrical shock inside a residence, said Read Murphy, a councilman and volunteer responder.

A reverse 911 alert also reported that a large amount of fuel oil is running into the borough’s sewer system and the adjacent Shrewsbury River. A Monmouth County hazmat team has been called to the scene. redbankgreen could not immediately confirm that information.

“We’ve got a total mess down here,” said Murphy, whose son, Chad, is the fire chief.

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DESPITE CHATTER, BILLS STILL ON THE TICKET

bill-signRumor in Sea Bright says Peggy Bills is not running for re-election this year, but the council denies that. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sea Bright’s rumor mill seems to be in full churn right before elections.

Addressing gossip that is “greatly exaggerated,” Councilman Read Murphy said Councilwoman Peggy Bills is, in fact, still running for re-election this year.

Bills, who was not at Tuesday night’s council meeting because of a family emergency and has not been able to be reached by redbankgreen, told Murphy word has gotten around town that she dropped out of the race.

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COMING SOON: SEA BRIGHT POOL CLUB PLANS

p-house1Plans are moving forward to develop the site that once was the Peninsula House. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

There’s a reason Read Murphy went from former councilman back to councilman in 2008: pool club. Now, with a year left on his term, the Republican is putting his personal guarantee on a campaign promise that, until this point, has been little more than talk.

For nearly a decade, local government has struggled to find ways to generate revenue along the beachfront — ideas that included buying Donovan’s Reef to developing a beach club and building a boardwalk. But always on the table for discussion, and often, for planning, was developing a public pool and building a cell phone tower. Now Murphy is making a bold claim for Sea Bright’s future.

The cell tower, public pool and, possibly, a restaurant, “will be operating in 2012,” he said.

“This is going,” Murphy said.

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SEA BRIGHT MAYOR LASHES OUT AT COUNCIL

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes has had it with the borough council, and she’s not mincing words about it. seabright1b1

The mayor, a Democrat, frustrated by years of what she says is council wheel-spinning, intransigence and, in some cases, conflicts of interest, is calling out her counterparts on the council. All but one of them.

“The chickens are coming home to roost,” Fernandes told redbankgreen. “I am fed up with this council. This council is the worst council I’ve ever been on.”

But one of her targets, Councilman Read Murphy, a Republican who routinely spars with Fernandes at council meetings, dismisses her lashing out as politicking.

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POSSIBLE ARSON SEEN IN SEA BRIGHT FIRE

hot-topic rightA beach club cabana fire resulted in a brief closure of Route 36 in Sea Bright Wednesday night, according to a report by the political blog MoreMonmouthMusings.

The blaze, at the Driftwood Cabana Club, was being investigated as a possible arson, Councilman Read Murphy says in a video interview shot by blogger Art Gallagher.

Called in as a possible beach bonfire at 10:07p, the fire was “spinning out over the top of the buildings” when borough police arrived, Murphy says. “It turned out it was a cabana, fully involved.”

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OCEANPORT LEADERS: WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

oport-boro-hallOceanport officials defend their town’s handling of Sea Bright’s caseload. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The court service agreement between Oceanport and Sea Bright is working just fine, say Oceanport officials, who took issue with negative comments made last week by Sea Bright Councilman Read Murphy.

Murphy said the pact, under which Oceanport handles Sea Bright’s municipal court cases, hasn’t worked out financially, and in terms of logistics is a nightmare.

But Oceanport councilmen Joe Irace and William Johnson say they hadn’t heard any feedback like that in Oceanport — and still haven’t. They read  about it on redbankgreen, and say they were “dumbfounded” by Murphy’s characterization.

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COURT SHARING SPARKS DEBATE

sb-oport-sign1Sea Bright officials dispute how well a new shared service with Oceanport is working out. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

There are  two ways Sea Bright officials describe one of its latest shared services agreements with a nearby town: just fine and a nightmare.

Nearly six months into an agreement to have Oceanport provide municipal court services for the borough, there’s a divide on the council whether it’s really working. Councilman Read Murphy says no. Mayor Maria Fernandes says yes.

“Nobody’s happy over there,” Murphy said.”People think it’s a joke.”

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BUDGET ITEMS STRAINING SEA BRIGHT

sb-dpw-truckOfficials have imposed austerity measures on road repairs and other public works projects. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Not long after adopting the town’s annual spending plan, Sea Bright officials are moving their fingers toward the panic button on a couple line items that are already nearing their established limits.

At the forefront of the strain are legal fees, which have run much higher than expected, and appear to be increasing partisan tensions at the borough council. Adding to the fiscal pressure is public works’ road maintenance budget, which was pounded as hard as the shoreline town was with heavy snow and a series of northeasters.

Now, the council is halting all non-essential expenditures and is looking at reducing the hours of some part-time employees to compensate. Beyond that, the council must draw up a plan to bring spending for those two items down, a task that already has divided the governing body.

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