$30 M for Sandy repairs; no eminent domain use

By Neil Schulman
Long Branch — Council has introduced a bond ordinance for $30,400,000 to finance numerous projects to repair damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

The bond ordinance was introduced at the Oct. 14 City Council meeting.
FEMA is expected to reimburse the city for its expenses in these projects, since they were caused by the 2012 natural disaster.

Some of the projects in the bond include
• $250,000 to repair the Lake Takanassee spillway.
• $18 million for major boardwalk repairs, covering everything from rebuilding the bluffs to getting new trash containers.
• $37,000 to demolish the Bay Avenue building formerly used by the Recreation Department, which flooded and became unusable afterward. Officials say they are considering whether to rebuild a new structure there in the future.
• $11.5 million for improvements and repairs to parks around the city, from field repair and turf replacement to new underground electric wiring to boardwalk widening.

Because bonding involves borrowing money, City Director of Finance Ron Mehlhorn said that at first glance it appears the city has a very large debt.

“This increases our debt to $108 million,” he said.
However, half of that is not owed by city taxpayers, but by outside agencies. Often the groups require the city to pay for the initial expenditures and then reimburse Long Branch once work is completed.

For example, FEMA will be paying the $30 million for this bond ordinance when the work has been completed. Another $1.1 million for repairs to Lake Takanassee will be paid by the state’s Green Acres program.

In another case, $1.5 million for work done on downtown Broadway must be paid back by whoever ultimately is chosen as a developer for the region.

Mehlhorn said that while FEMA reliably repays the money for these projects, the manner they repay seems to vary with each town and project. Sometimes it’s in one lump sum, sometimes it’s over time.

Atty: wording deceptive
While an ordinance with wording provided by the state on acquiring land rights for beach replenishment uses the phrase “eminent domain,” City Attorney James Aaron says that all the property owners in question have already agreed to the proposals without the need for the state to seize the land.

Council introduced an ordinance “authorizing the acquisition of certain real properties by negotiation or eminent domain.”

Aaron said that all the properties in question have already, voluntarily, made the authorization, which involves shoreline property easements the state says are necessary for it to legally perform beach replenishment.

The properties in question will be used for replenishment work from Takanassee Lake to Deal, expected to start next year.

However, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection determined there were, in the words of the ordinance, “inadvertent ministerial defects” in the deeds signed, which keep them from properly recording them.

The state attorney general believes about a dozen of the deeds in Long Branch were not witnessed in the proper manner when they were signed, and that these need to be redone.

The wording for the ordinance to fix this issue was provided by the state, Aaron said, which is covering all costs to correct the matter.

“The state will pick up all the costs to deal with property owners and get the property owners to sign amended easements,” he said.

Because all property owners have agreed to this already, and this is essentially to correct a bureaucratic issue, Aaron says there would be no reason to expect property would be seized without owners’ consent.

“It’s ministerial in nature; it’s not going to wind up in an eminent domain proceeding,” he said.
The beach replenishment is another project caused in part by Superstorm Sandy, a measure to protect the coastline from future natural disaster. This will be the first time the northern half of Long Branch has received new sand.

Historian talks about change, both good and bad

By Coleen Burnett
Ocean Township — The Township of Ocean Historical Museum hosted the latest in their Speaker Series on October 10. The event was held at the Board of Education offices at the old Oakhurst School and featured Randall “Randy” Gabrielan, a former executive director of the Monmouth County Historical Commission and the author of some 40 books on New York and New Jersey history.

Randall “Randy” Gabrielan signs books at his talk on local historic homes.

His latest book is entitled “Monmouth County Past and Present,” which traces the evolution of the county from the early days of the 20th century to today. In keeping with a current museum exhibit, “The History of Houses,” Gabrielan talked about several local historic homes, and spoke about the differences between renovation, remodeling, restoration, and preservation.

The Middletown resident is a leading researcher and lecturer on the subject of architecture and old buildings, and he tells the Link his interests in history began when he was very young. “I liked to collect books,” he said.

As he grew older, he collected more and more books, and out of that personal collection he began to write. He started off with articles, then gradually he felt comfortable enough to compose entire books. “I turned those books into a collective tool for works on my own.”

Gabrielan actually embraces change — up to a point. Sometimes change is good, but it also depends what you replace it with. One of the various examples he cited was the old Metropolitan Hotel in Eatontown, which was located on Broad Street.

“That building was torn down in 60’s and replaced by an office building,” he lamented.
Instead of replacing it with something more architecturally pleasing, it was replaced by what he called a “vanilla” building.

“What is painful is seeing it [an epic building] replaced by poor design — will it be a pride for the community or a detraction?” he asked.

As an amateur historian Gabrielan tries to weigh the “quality, stature and significance of the building along with its sustainability for future use and occupancy.”

“Hotels are often not built to endure, at least not in their original configuration and so typically need a major rehab every 35 years or so,” he told the audience.

“Much of society does not have an appreciation for maintaining and preserving its historic heritage.”
Gabrielan says his latest book reflects the perpetual changes in society, whether for better or worse.
“All places change,” said the author. “I attempted to portray how the county has changed and permit the readers to make their own conclusion.”

Gabrielan can be reached by e-mail via monmouthhistory@comcast.net.

New offices for Oceanport

Oceanport Borough Administrator John Bennett cuts the ribbon to officially declare the Old Wharf House Oceanport’s new temporary Borough Hall, as borough officials, staff and their family members look on. The former building on Monmouth Boulevard is no longer usable due to structural damage.  Mayor Michael Mahon (right) said he asked Bennett to cut this ribbon because he’s been the guiding force behind finding new places for facilities there, moving the library to the Community Center and the police department to the Fort Monmouth Firehouse. “He is the leading force in getting this done, here the firehouse, the library,” Mahon said. “John has had the lead on it.” The mayor added all the borough’s employees have been helpful in making the transitions.

Racetrack announces fomation of sports wagering association

Oceanport — Monmouth Park Racetrack announces the formation of The Independent Sports Wagering Association (TISWA) that it has formed to self-regulate sports betting.

TISWA’s purposes are to promote a safe, secure, and reliable sports wagering environment that protects both the persons placing wagers on sports contests and the public as well as providing mechanisms to safeguard the integrity of the sporting contests and athletic events on which wagers are accepted. To further its purposes TISWA will enact an Ethics Code of Conduct and Rules and Regulations.
Dennis Drazin, advisor to Monmouth Park, added, “TISWA will model itself on other highly successful and effective private self-regulatory organizations that have long existed in the financial sector, real estate industry, and in the medical and legal professions.”
Monmouth Park is geared up to be the first place in the state set to accomodate sports wagering when it becomes legal.

Dr. James Proodian named Health Educator for city

Long Branch — Natural Healthcare Center (NHC) has announced that the company’s founder, Dr. James Proodian DC, has been selected as the Health Educator for the city of Long Branch’s new CityWell program.
CityWell is a free resource for all city of Long Branch employees and their dependents to help them lead healthier lives. It includes diverse tools and programs to meet a wide range of personal health needs.
As Health Educator, Dr. Proodian provides monthly health education seminars on a number of topics, including stress management, nutrition, and fitness. The goal is to educate and motivate Long Branch employees so they make healthier lifestyle choices that lead to tangible improvements that can be measured through BMI (Body Mass Index) and blood testing.
For more than two decades, Dr. Proodian has been providing these health education seminars to local businesses and organizations through his health education company Wellness at Work.
In addition, Natural Healthcare Center is the chosen facility for all municipal employees to receive free health evaluations and consultations to uncover the root causes of any illnesses and provide a plan for preventative care.
Since 2003, Natural Healthcare Center has offered integrated health and wellness services, including chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy, fitness programs, and clinical nutrition. Advocating functional medicine, NHC utilizes science-based methods and natural healing techniques.
“A wellness lifestyle is the only way to truly improve one’s life while decreasing the ever-growing cost of healthcare in the United States,” said Dr. Proodian, who has been studying the effects of chronic disease in America for more than 25 years.
Similar to wellness programs used by businesses and corporations, the CityWell program will recognize and reward its employees for participating in healthier lifestyle activities.
For Dr. Proodian, his work with Long Branch is part of a larger movement to help businesses and organizations not only improve their employees’ health but also lower healthcare costs, including health insurance premiums. Dr. Proodian is committed to helping people take personal responsibility for their health with the goal of tempering the chronic illness epidemic in America.
“No one is more excited than I am that Long Branch has chosen to step up and take the role of helping its employees,” said Dr. Proodian. “I am donating my time because it’s a community, and we are a community center. Let’s make change happen one person at a time.”
More information on Dr. Proodian’s health education programs can be found on his website at NaturalHealthcareCenter.com.

Strong disagreements on Howard Commons plans

By Coleen Burnett
Eatontown — It was a lively night at the regular meeting of the Eatontown Borough Council on October 8.
The issue of the demolition of Howard Commons once again reared its controversial head. Mayor Gerald Tarantolo again asked the Council to be open to the possibility of the borough bonding the tear-down project and doing it themselves.
The idea is that if the borough does the project, they would be reimbursed for the cost of the demolition by whoever signs on to develop the property. The demolition appears to be the part of the reason at least one deal has fallen through. But it sounded as if the governing body was not happy with the concept.
Once again, Tarantolo stated his case. “I am looking for council giving permission to our engineer to prepare a specification to go out to potential contractors and see essentially what it would cost to demolish the buildings that are now comprised of Howard Commons,” Tarantolo said. “The proposal I put forth was that we would engage in a contract whereby if we bonded for the demolition, the conditions of the sale of the property would assure us that the bonding that we put into place to demolish those buildings would be refunded to the borough as a condition.”
But Councilman Dennis Connelly, a Republican who is running against the Democrat Tarantolo for the mayor’s post in the November election, said he would have none of it.
“There’s not going to be any chance that I’m going to be willing to pay or have our taxpayers pay for any bonding — there’s other methods that we can still do,” Connelly said with a tone of disgust. “I would actually be in favor, if we wanted to spend some money, is maybe having our attorney start looking into some legal recourse that this borough can do for going after FMERA or the government for leaving the buildings in this condition.”
“We already know that FMERA has different estimates of what the cost is, so why do we have to do it ourselves?” he asked.
Tarantolo shot back that looking into legal recourses would just end up costing Eatontown taxpayers more time and more money.
“The option you outlined is not refundable,” Tarantolo said, “The cost of taking the legal route as you just emphasized — certainly that is money coming from the taxpayers that we’re not going to have refunded.”
The council went into executive session at the end of the meeting to further discuss the issue, but ended up taking no action.
* * *

In other news, Borough Administrator George Jackson announced that he had received a letter from the state Motor Vehicle Commission saying that their Eatontown office will undergo major renovations in 2015. It is expected that the contract will be awarded in November of this year and the work itself will begin in January.
Of particular importance to Monmouth County drivers (and their teenagers) is that the pending construction will push the driver’s exam from its usual location on the MVC property and take it out into the surrounding streets of Eatontown — specifically out on Route 36, west to Route 35, north on Wyckoff Road and Route 71, before finishing up back at Motor Vehicle headquarters.
The testing course that is currently on the property will house various pieces of heavy equipment for the duration of the construction.
Jackson said he does not anticipate a huge increase in traffic in the area.
“This will be about 75 vehicles per day; I don’t think it will catch anyone’s attention, particularly on the state and county highways,” he said. “It’s important to note that the ever-popular parallel parking and K-turn maneuvers will still be tested on MVC property, so we won’t have our driver’s license candidates pulling over in our neighborhoods and parallel parking near people’s cars or doing K-turns.”
The office, located at 109 Route 36, is the third busiest in the state.

Board of Ed candidate forum October 30

Long Branch — It’s election time for the Long Branch Board of Education. The three incumbents whose terms are up are seeking reelection: James Parnell, Allan Menkin and Armand R. Zambrano Jr.
They are being challenged this year by two people, Rose Marie Widdis, who was a board member for many years under the previous administration, and David Allan Brown.
A forum for candidates to express their positions and platforms for the citizens of Long Branch moderated by the Red Bank Area League of Women Voters will be held on October 30 (Thursday) at 7 p.m. in the Long Branch Middle School, 350 Indiana Avenue.
The forum is being held in the George Beaver Auditorium and is sponsored by the Long Branch School Employees Association. Following the event a coffee and dessert reception will be held.
While it is sponsoring the event, the LBSEA has said in a statement they are remaining non-partisan, and not endorsing any candidate this election. Instead, they are holding the forum to let the public make an choice on an important issue.
LBSEA President Paul Eschelbach states, “Education is one of the most important aspects of our society. Local citizens need to hear the issues from the candidates, and see the candidates in person, especially in a year like this one where several candidates are running for a limited number of seats.”
Board of Education elections are held on Election Day, November 4.

Fourth Annual Long Branch Chef Challenge Spotlights Local Culinary, Design Expertise

The Fourth Annual Long Branch Chef Challenge, an event that features tastings of signature dishes prepared by noted area chefs, will be held November 3 at the Ocean Place Resort & Spa.
Presented by The Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce, the 2014 Chef Challenge will spotlight culinary experts from local restaurants including Carpaccio, Ocean Place Resort & Spa, Avenue, Sirena Ristorante, Tuzzio’s Italian Cuisine, Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant, Mar Belo, Tre Amici Modern Italian Restaurant, DIVE, Copper Canyon and Branches Catering. Guests will be able to sample each of the chef’s entries and participate in a “people’s choice” contest.

During the competition, other restaurants and food purveyors — including MIX Lounge and 2nd Flr Restaurant and the Windmill — will be demonstrating and offering samples. Additionally, R & R Marketing, Court Liquors and Shore Point Distributors who will be providing wine and various libations samplings to go along with the food.

Judging will be done by a four-member panel of industry specialists and awards will be presented that evening in both professional and people’s choice categories. Additionally, the Chamber will showcase local interior designers, decorators and florists who will be creating the table designs.  Beth Insabella Walsh of INSABELLADESIGN, an award-winning interior design firm based in Little Silver, will judge the entries and, as with the Chef Challenge, there will also be a people’s choice award.

The Kay Guadagno Memorial Fund at Monmouth Medical Center is the major beneficiary of the Chef Challenge, which in addition to the Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce is sponsored by Monmouth Medical Center, Investors Bank, the City of Long Branch Office of Economic Development,  Long Branch Urban Enterprise Zone and the law firm Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith and Davis. In her more than 35-year tenure with Monmouth, Kay clearly was a guiding force in strengthening the medical center’s ties within the immediate and surrounding community. Her ties to the Greater Long Branch Chamber were especially tight, and the Chef’s Challenge was a much-loved event for her.

Tickets are $75 and seating is limited to the first 300 available by calling the Chamber at 732-222-0400 or emailing info@longbranchchamber.org.   Cash, checks and credit cards (Visa, Mastercard and American Express) are accepted.

Sea Bright Council Briefs Borough looks at bike plan; cell tower bid comes in

By Neil Schulman
Sea Bright — The borough will begin working on a bike plan, a way to make it easier for cyclists to travel through town, and to help secure some grants.
At the Oct. 7 Borough Council meeting, Steve Nelson, a planner with New Jersey Future, suggested that an ad hoc committee be formed to examine what a bike plan for Sea Bright could entail.
He said that the plan could be created within four months.
In addition to the obvious health benefits of increasing the amount of bicycling people do, a good bike plan also increases recreation opportunities, and allows better connections in a community, Nelson said.

Sea Bright should work on a borough-wide plan, he said. There are many possible options, from creating dedicated bike paths to putting up signs that say “share the road.”

Bike racks could be installed in the downtown area, making it easier for shoppers.
Nelson said having formal policies on biking “makes it much easier to go for grants.”
The borough is currently applying for three grants to help study the situation.

Sea Bright is in good shape to come up with a plan, he said. The Department of Transportation is due to release a report on bike paths along Highway 36, and the Two River Council of Mayors has been working on a region-wide bike plan.

Nelson said that Sea Bright created a bike plan in 2002, and some of the engineering work from that study is still usable.

Mayor Dina Long said that many people working on environmental issues in the borough have expressed interest in a bike plan, which “would be part of making Sea Bright a more sustainable community.”

One possible option already has drawn concern — a bike path being constructed on the side of the road, by the splash pad in the North Beach part of the borough. Borough resident Mary Ann Chevalier said that might mean taking land from residents.

She said she was worried about losing more property, and noted that North Beach is one of the more bike friendly parts of town.

“I would like to have some kind of assurance the bike path that exists now would be used,” she said.
Nelson said that was a legitimate concern, but nothing has been decided.

“The plan is not done yet. It really isn’t even started,” he said.

One bidder for cell tower
The borough has received one bid for building a cell tower, from Verizon, reported Councilman Brian Kelly.
Kelly said they had been hoping to receive more bidders, but it is possible other cell phone providers will sign up later.

The next phase in the process is for the borough to either award the bid to Verizon, or discuss any concerns they have with the company. After Verizon is given the go-ahead from Sea Bright, it must deal with CAFRA, the state agency in charge of building structures close to the coast.

The cell tower is currently scheduled to be built next to Borough Hall, and the structure will look more like a flagpole (with no flag) than a traditional cell tower.

For years, the controversial plan called for building a tower in the middle of the municipal lot, but that drew too many protests. Earlier this year, borough officials said they’d prefer to move it near borough hall, keeping it on municipal property and preventing companies from buying land in a residential neighborhood and building a huge tower near homes.

Kelly said the tower could be constructed by spring.

Anchorage Apt. demolition
Mayor Long reported that Sea Bright is waiting on the demolition of Anchorage Apartments before it takes any more steps to acquire the property under the Blue Acres program.

The apartment complex was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and owners do not wish to rebuild. Blue Acres would allow the borough to turn the area into some sort of open space.
Long said that there are details that still need to be worked out.
Councilman Marc Leckstein said that while the plan has been discussed for a while, delays at the state level have kept any demolition or other work from taking place.
He said the owners couldn’t proceed until they received approval from that state. State approval required a special meeting of a joint Assembly and Senate committee, and the legislature doesn’t meet over the summer.
“Nothing could happen until the joint committee met, and they only just met,” Leckstein said.

Howard Commons will look better; plans to buy the rest of the land

By Coleen Burnett
At the latest Fort Monmouth Economic Redevelopment Authority meeting on October 15, the group addressed at least some of the questions Eatontown residents have concerning the blighted area of Howard Commons.
It is expected that another RFOTP (Request For Offers To Purchase) will be issued on the property within the next few months. Until that happens, the FMERA board has allocated $50,000 to improve the area and make it less of an eyesore.

Executive Director Bruce Steadman announced that they had contacted Jersey Central Power and Light to remove old lights and replace them with updated fixtures, put in security cameras, cut down the weeds that are at the base of the fencing, and install a screening fabric around the fence to discourage people from looking directly at the property.

In fact, by the time you read this, the screening should already be in place.

“I appreciate your cooperation with Howard Commons,” Mayor Gerald Tarantolo told the board.
But then the Mayor asked another question. Tarantolo has requested that the Monmouth County Board of Health come in and inspect the property to make sure the area is not a health hazard. The inspection was scheduled for October 21.
“In the event we find something, is FMERA prepared to take action?” he asked.
Steadman said that the group would work with the mayor to find solutions to any problems.
“We will find a way to put a plan together,” he assured Tarantolo.
In other news, FMERA announced that they are looking into using county funds to help buy the remainder of land on Fort Monmouth that they do not already control. Their goal is to buy the balance of properties by March of next year.
The property in question is approximately 563 acres, known as the Phase 2 area. FMERA must acquire the land before it can advertise its sale. The area includes the Main Post in Eatontown and Oceanport.
“To get from here to there, there are still are a number of issues and questions including financing that need to be resolved,” Steadman said. “As has been discussed, the county’s improvement authority is one avenue in order to accomplish that.” he said.
“The county would be helping to provide some notes or bonds, the interest for which FMERA would pay like a loan… nothing’s for free. The county would just be the conduit in that scenario but there are other {ideas} that are still being evaluated.”