RED BANK, NJ: At the end of each borough council meeting there is a portion that is opened up for public comments.
It takes hutzpah to stand up in a public forum and make a statement.
By council rule, the person wishing to speak must state their name and address. Comments are limited to a maximum of 5 minutes, questions must be specific and addressed to the mayor. The mayor determines who on the council is most appropriate to respond to the question.
There is no allowance for "back-and-forth" discourse.
To read the Borough’s Protocol and Policy for Public Hearing and Conduct, click HERE.
Red Bank resident and former councilwoman Cindy Burnham questioned why the testing of the lead contaminated and since closed community garden on Marion Street, was canceled.
Burnham said she became, “Aware that USDA (United States Dept. of Agriculture), was going to be testing our community garden for free.” Burnham related that she had communicated her questions to Business Administrator Ziad Shehady.
You definitely want to watch the video of this confrontation and Shehady’s response, by clicking HERE.
To read a previous TAPinto article that includes an environmental report on the community garden, click HERE.
Suzanne Viscomi spoke to the council on a document posted at borough hall that clarified a Settlement Agreement between the borough and CWA Local 1075, which represents a number of borough employees.
Viscomi read from the document stating, “There’s an agreement between the union and management that if anyone records a meeting or conversation, that the union representatives will be notified.”
Viscomi pointedly questioned the council asking, “If any resident has been recorded without their knowledge. I’m asking this question in the spirit of transparency.”
Mayor Pat Mena said to make an OPRA request, with Viscomi responding that “I don’t have too, it’s in my hands!”
To read the document, click HERE.
To view this must-see video of this conflict, click HERE.
Stephen Hecht of Red Bank stated his thoughts about the public comment policy saying, “I’d like to urge the council to re-examine the protocol, which specifies who’s to be addressed, that there is to be no dialogue,” which elicited applause from the audience.
Mayor Menna responded, “I hear you, and I think there should be an opportunity for rebuttal…, and I will lead the charge on that.”
The council meeting opened on a positive note with a presentation to the Middle School girls’ and boys’ soccer team for the boys winning their fourth consecutive league championship and the girls their first.
"What makes us light the way for the school districts in New Jersey is our students. I couldn't be happier and prouder to serve you guys, your families and this great community of Red Bank," said Dr. Jared Rummage, Superintendent of Red Bank's Pre-K, Primary & Middles Schools.
Check out the carousel of pictures of Red Bank's latest champions!
The council passed a Resolution calling for a commission to study the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), that was signed into New Jersey law back in 2002.
The Resolution states that this, “…well-intended law that has spiraled out of control, due to the volume and nature of requests, the cost to taxpayers in responding to the requests, the potential liability in having to pay disproportionate prevailing party attorney’s fees, as well as the liability in determining which documents shall be released, with or without redaction, while attempting to maintain individual privacy.”
The Resolution made the following points:
- 185 OPRA requests were responded to in 2017, 325 OPRA requests in 2018, and 296 OPRA requests as of September 1st
- 100+ hours of municipal staff time have been spent on OPRA requests in 2019, and since 2017, the average number of hours has been 50 to 100
- Certain OPRA requests have required review by the municipal attorney resulting in additional fees incurred by the borough
A copy of the Resolution will be forwarded to state elected officials and government bureaucrats.
To read the Resolution, click HERE.
Other Agenda items that were passed by the council:
A $7,134,000 Bond Ordinance was passed that would combine several ordinances covering bonds issued for water and sewer, general improvement and parking.
Breakdown of Bonds:
- $2,712,000 for General Improvement Bonds
- $3,700,000 Water-Utility Bonds
- $722,000 Parking Utility Bonds
To see the dollar amounts descriptions within the Ordinance, click HERE.
The “pocket” liquor license for Sickles Market was approved to move to their second retail outlet at the newly remodeled Anderson Building, 200 Monmouth Street.
Rejection of all three bids for a new fire suppression system at the Senior Citizen’s Center. The Borough Engineer found that all exceeded the cost estimate. The project will be re-bid in the near future.
To read that Ordinance, click HERE.
To see a video of the meeting, courtesy of Suzanne Viscomi, click HERE.
The next council meeting will take place on Tuesday, November 26th.
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