By Neil Schulman
Oceanport — Following news that its health insurance premiums would be increasing more than $100,000, the borough has switched to a new health insurance broker.
At the Jan. 15 Borough Council meeting, Council President Robert Lynch said that the finance committee had selected the broker Conner Strong & Buckelew after receiving five bids from companies.
Lynch said that Oceanport had received a notice on Dec. 30 that its costs would rise by 12.6 percent, or more than $100,000, a figure he called unacceptable.
As a result, officials quickly sent out a request for proposals, eventually getting five bids. Due to the time constraints, Lynch said they could only interview four of the five, and selected Conner Strong & Buckelew.
Employee insurance was renewed on a temporary basis, but Lynch said he hopes to switch to a new, more cost effective policy, by March.
Lynch said that the budget is tight this year.
“We just don’t have the money for another $100,000 in health insurance,” he said.
Plans for new Borough Hall
Councilman Chris Paglia reported that officials have had recent meetings with architects discussing the space needs and possible layouts for a new borough hall.
Last year, the Monmouth Boulevard building was declared unusable. The library was relocated to the Community Center; the police to the Fort Monmouth Firehouse; and borough offices to the Old Wharf House. However, the last one is just a temporary measure.
Paglia said that, because the borough is looking at several locations and isn’t sure whether the library and police department should be part of the building, numerous plans are needed.
If it is only for borough offices, the new building will need to be about 10,000 square feet. For all three uses, it would need to be closer to 22,000 square feet.
Lynch said that they are trying to make a building which can serve the needs of Oceanport for at least 30 years, “but not overbuild today” and burden taxpayers.
One thing they are examining is multi-use space, such as allowing partitions that can turn a meeting room into office space during the daytime if needed.
Mayor Michael Mahon said that it was important for Oceanport to have a library, but the Community Center seems to be working well for it. And while police are happy with their current building, “in a perfect world we want our police at the center of government.”
FEMA, which will be paying for most of the costs because it is replacing a structure damaged by Superstorm Sandy, wants a final site plan soon.
Rescue boat allowed
Council voted to waive a restriction prohibiting overnight parking at the park on Seawanecka Avenue to allow ice boat rescue equipment to be placed there when the river is iced over.
Mayor Michael Mahon reported that, when the river ices over, the Long Branch Ice Boat and Yacht Club has been storing a trailer of rescue equipment at the Green Acres space on the end of that avenue, which has a boat launch ramp. The club uses that for ice boaters who get in trouble, both club and non-club members.
However, a borough ordinance prohibits overnight parking in that area, and Mahon said that a nearby resident had complained about the “aesthetics” of having a trailer there.
But the mayor said that having rescue equipment handy is important.
“Council will be asked to waive the requirement of this ordinance, for this specific purpose,” Mahon said.
The trailer will only be left at the part when the river is frozen, and the ice is deemed solid enough for ice boating.