STREAK ENDS WITH A SMILE IN SEA BRIGHT

m-smeltzerMaryann Smeltzer ended 30 years of attending municipal meetings Tuesday night, sitting in on her last Sea Bright council session — a brief, 30-minute one — before she retires next week. Council members gave her a farewell bouquet and showered her with praise. “It’s been quite a journey,” Smeltzer, 60, said. “One I’ll never forget.” (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

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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SEA BRIGHT NAMES NEW ADMINISTRATOR

sea-bright-boro-hallStepping into borough hall as Sea Bright’s new administrator is Plumsted’s former top official. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Just a couple weeks before Maryann Smeltzer says sayonara to Sea Bright, the borough council has hired a replacement for the retiring administrator.

Next in line for the top administrative slot — and clerk duties, too — is Richard Kachmar, a 59-year-old Howell resident who last served as Plumsted’s administrator for 13 years before the budget ax loomed.

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LICENSE MOVE RILES BEACH CLUB NEIGHBORS

james-paul-lobiondoJames and Paul LoBiondo, owners of Surfrider Beach Club, flank attorney Thomas Hirsch Tuesday night as the council deliberates approving a liquor license transfer to the club. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A liquor license transfer from a defunct restaurant to a Sea Bright councilman’s family business reignited a long-simmering feud Tuesday night as the two sides exchanged barbs about greed and hatemongering.

In the end, Surfrider Beach Club, owned by Councilman James LoBiondo’s family, walked away with approval by the council — minus his own vote — to transfer the liquor license from Gaiters restaurant to the beach club. But the move raised fears among neighbors that it will cause an increase in traffic and, as one business owner and nearby resident said, “opens some very nasty doors.”

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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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SEWER BREAK TO COST SEA BRIGHT, RUMSON

sinkholeA sewer main break in Monmouth Beach is going to cost Sea Bright and Rumson. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Last month, a sinkhole was discovered on Seaview Avenue in Monmouth Beach.

The Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority, after weeks of investigating and minor fixes, couldn’t quite tell what the impact would be.

But after some minor interim repairs this week, “the real solution has come to light,” Executive Director Michael Gianforte said.

And the real solution is going to cost Sea Bright and Rumson.

“It’s a critical construction project,” Gianforte said.

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SEA BRIGHT BONDS TO FIX A CRACK GONE BAD

sb-council-chambersSea Bright’s council chambers is cordoned off with plastic as it’s being used as a temporary storage area for the eastern wing of borough hall.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sea Bright Borough Hall. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving — and makes you keep paying for it.

It’s that pesky wall with the crack in it that’s revealing itself to be an even bigger headache than anticipated, with every look-see uncovering a new problem.

“It’s just been one thing after another,” said borough Engineer Jackie Flor.

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SEA BRIGHT MAYOR ROLLS BACK INTO ACTION

m-fernandesMaria Fernandes returned to Sea Bright Borough Hall Tuesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s been a hellish five months for Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes.

She underwent foot surgery at the beginning of September. A week later, she suffered a mild stroke, sidelining her from her official duties. Then, in her recovery, an infection forced her to have her left leg amputated just below the knee.

“It wouldn’t let go,” Fernandes said of the infection. “I suffered like a dog.”

But she says she’s back now, and ready to get to work — not that she was ever that far from it.

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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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SEA BRIGHT TO GET POLE-BY-POLE REPORT

t-poleA Verizon employee inspects a utility pole on Ocean Avenue Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sea Bright officials have requested that Verizon and JCP&L inspect all utility poles in town and provide a report on their condition, a move spurred by a chain-reaction of pole collapses during last week’s rainstorm.

Heavy winds knocked down poles on New Street, leading to a power outage and evacuation of all residents of the street.

In addition to heading off a potential problems in the future, the council wants to know if the failures might have been avoided.

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SEA BRIGHT CAT LAW NEARLY READY, AGAIN

sb-cat-500x375Sea Bright is expected to formally adopt its trap-neuter-release ordinance in two weeks. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sea Bright’s cat control ordinance is quickly approaching its ninth life.

But before it gets thrown in the bureaucratic litter box, local officials say they have ironed out every last kink possible in a proposed ordinance that would implement a partnership program to trap, fix and release the borough’s feral cats. Really.

“We’re done,” Councilwoman Dina Long said. “We’re finally done.”

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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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CAT ORDINANCE BEGINS THIRD LIFE

sb-cat1A trap-spay/neuter-release program could finally get underway in Sea Bright by the end of the year. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s been introduced, amended, scrapped, reintroduced, amended and scrapped again. By Councilwoman Dina Long’s calculation, it’s the most revised ordinance she’s seen in her seven years sitting on the borough council.

Could it be that Tuesday night saw the last reintroduction to Sea Bright’s controversial cat ordinance?

“We hope so,” said Long, who has labored for months to get one passed. “We’ll see.”

Long said she has more confidence than ever that the third time’s the charm for this one, because it was co-written by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which was the source of the delays all along.

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SEA BRIGHT MAYOR SUFFERS MILD STROKE

keelerCouncil President William Keeler is filling the role of mayor while Maria Fernandes recovers from a mild stroke. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes is in a rehabilitation center after suffering a mild stroke about two weeks ago, officials said Tuesday.

Council President William Keeler is filling in for Fernandes, as he has the last three council meetings, until she’s well enough to return to the dais.

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SEA BRIGHT TWEAKS CAT HERDING LAW

sb-catA cat hanging out in Sea Bright. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sea Bright is moving forward on its cat control ordinance, despite warnings from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that the borough could face heavy fines for implementing a trap-and-release program.

Borough officials hope to have a program in place before the start of breeding season, which typically begins around February and can last for ten months.

“There are a lot of kittens roaming around right now,” Councilwoman Dina Long said. “Now we have to catch them.”

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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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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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SEA BRIGHT TO DPW: YOU’RE SAFE, FOR NOW

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

hot-topic right

Officials in Sea Bright hope to quell a rumor that the borough intends to outsource its public works operations at the beginning of next year.

Yet members of the borough’s council — who approved a shared service agreement with Rumson to perform mechanical repairs for its DPW and police vehicles — don’t deny its validity.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, resident Cristine Sinnott confronted the governing body about a confidential email that she received — and, she says, has been seen by many others in town — saying that Rumson will take over the seaside town’s public works responsibilities on January 1. The source of the email is unclear.

It’s a move that, if it happens,  wouldn’t sit well with her. If she’s paying taxes in Sea Bright, she wants to keep the money flowing in Sea Bright, she told the council.

“I have an issue with that,” she said of the possible shared service. “The taxpayers should know.”

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