Oceanport – It appears that a few members of the Port-Au-Peck Volunteer Fire Company are a little upset with the mayor and council. A sign out in front of the Myrtle Avenue firehouse had a message that according to borough officials was inappropriate.
Two weeks ago The Link News broke a story that the governing bodies of Oceanport and West Long Branch were exploring the possibility of creating a unified joint police department. The Link News publisheda photo of a digitally altered police car that had the name “WestPort” Police on the side. According to sources the name West Port was never considered. A name that was being discussed for the new law enforcement body was the “Shore Regional Unified Police Authority” and a digital reproduction of that vehicle appeared on the paper‘s Facebook page.
On Thursday morning, the sign in front of the Port-Au-Peck Fire House read, “Welcome to WestPort the town of many secrets.” “Our company president Stewart Briskey was upset with the way our governing body is handling this matter and a few others,” said John Carroll, company Vice President. “Not everyone in the fire company agrees with him (Briskey) but the message was not offensive.”
Carroll stated that he was not informed about the message being placed on the sign. “Our policy is that all fire department matters come first. Then if someone in the community or an organization would like a message posted we try to accommodate them,” said Carroll. He added that as far as he knows there is not a police or rule in place on what can be posted on the sign.
Michael Mahon, Mayor of Oceanport, was informed about the message posted on Thursday; he directed the public works department to remove the letters on the sign and place a lock on the sign‘s doors preventing anyone without permission or the key to post messages.
When asked for a comment on the matter the mayor had Councilman Joe Irace respond to media inquiries. “We feel that it was an inappropriate message. Nothing is being done in secrecy,” Irace said . “We have discussed the matter at council meetings. It’s sad that a few disgruntled volunteer firefighters have a personal agenda and would use that sign to promote it.”
The building and property that the Port-Au-Peck Fire House sits on is owned by the Borough of Oceanport. A few people that The Link News spoke with were unsure who actually owns the sign. “I personally like Mike Mahon, but I don’t like his politics,” said Carroll. “What’s next after he eliminates the police force? Does he throw away public works, the first aid squad and fire departments? Will Oceanport even exist?”
Police officers in both towns said that they were surprised to read about the proposal that would end their respective department and create a new police force. Several officers that we spoke with said that neither governing body had told them about the plan prior to the published story in The Link News. Since then, the West Long Branch PBA attended a West Long Branch council meeting seeking answers to questions they had.
“Were not happy with the mayor,” said Carroll. The Port-Au-Peck Fire Company has had disagreements with the governing body on the alert system that was used to notify volunteers of emergencies and a few other matters. “The mayor wants everyone under his thumb. We are just afraid that these secret negotiations he is having will not be in the best interest of Oceanport residents.”
Oceanport PBA has not yet (as of press time) met with the mayor and council to talk about their future. Irace added that no decision is going to be made without discussion of all parties involved. “Right now it‘s a concept that‘s being investigated on how we can save the taxpayers of Oceanport money. It is our duty as elected officials to explore as many avenues as possible,” said Irace. “In regard to the sign, the building, land and sign are all owned and paid for by the taxpayers of the Borough of Oceanport. So anything inappropriate is the direct responsibility of the company president. The buck stops with him.”
It should also be noted that on Thursday night police officers took an incident report that someone had cut the lock off the sign that public works had installed early in the day