Mayor shuts down "Call to the Public" at Council Meeting

HIGHLANDS – There’s no doubt about it, the water was gushing t

hrough the bulkhead, there are holes in the bulkhead, and it needs to be addressed, Public Works Director Ron Boyce told the Mayor and Council as last night’s council meeting, referring to the bulkhead atCaptain’s Cove Marina. Councilwoman Linda Mazzola made note in her report that the Snug Harbor area ‘held up well’ during the snowstorm and had minimal flooding compared to the Captain‘s Cove Marina area to Snug Harbor, where she said there was the most flooding. Tricia Rivera, a frequent outspoken resident at council meeting once again asked what is being done to correct the problems at the Marina. “Why isn’t the Marina an emergent issue?” She asked, adding, “something needs to be done.” Former Code Enforcement Officer Jim Smith questioned what action has been taken on soil testing in the wake of the marina’s illegal dumping on borough property of soil containing beryllium, reported as a carcinogen above accepted levels according to the Department of Environmental Protection report of the Marina dredge spoils. Yet the governing body took no action on any those concerns voiced by local residents and their DPW Director, as well as refusing to answer several other questions from several different residents before Mayor Carolyn Broullon abruptly closed down the public portion of the meeting. Captain’s Cove Marina has been an issue before the governing body for many months, with residents complaining about the failing bulkhead, the dredged soils being dumped on municipal property, the report the soils contained a carcinogen and other problems with the marina located between Huddy and Washington avenue, from Cheerful Place to the Shrewsbury River. With comparatively little on the agenda in routine business, it was the public portion that prompted anger from local residents, aimed first to Councilman KL Martin when he steadfastly remained silent, smiling and facing the camera as former Councilwoman Claudette D’Arrigo asked the councilman what he has done to encourage or educate prospective new business in the borough. D’Arrigo, speaking during the public portion, said she was also repeating a question both she and the late Carol Bucco asked at the January meeting. D’Arrigo stated since you didn’t answer me last meeting could you at least answer for Mrs. Bucco? Ms. Bucco died at Riverview Hospital a few hours before the last council meeting, but not before she had contacted D’Arrigo to ask her to ask questions at the meeting for her. The question was for Mayor Broullon concerning the HBP and the fact that since the HBP was sunsetted and its financial ties severed from the town; did the Mayor intend to have the HBP involved in any future. Highlands town or governmental issues in the future? The Mayor skirted the question and did not answer but stated the “HBP is a 501C3 non-profit charitable organization with no ties to the town” and while it is the only one in the borough, any business is invited to join any chamber of business group it wishes. The second question D’Arrigo directed at Councilman Martin concerning his campaign platform. The former councilwoman said she posed this question at the Jan 20 council meeting and acknowledged that Martin could respond at the next meeting. At that time, she said, she understood Martin was new to the governing body and he may not know the answer and she wanted to give him time to research his answer. Her question concerned prospective businesses and their need to know the different zones for construction and businesses, in order to weigh costs, availability, and probability of success in the area. When Martin continued to look forward and refused to respond in any manner and after asking whether she could be heard, and if Martin could answer, his only response was “I’m right here.” Resident Melissa Pedersen also received no response to her questions on whether the confidential assistant approved as a new position in an ordinance passed at the last meeting has been hired. The adopted ordinance gives the mayor sole power to hire and replace the new person in the new position, as well as to set hours and salary within the $10,000 to $60,000 range the ordinance allows. Pedersen asked why the governing body or the business administration would give such power to one person and not retain some control of the hiring process as the elected voices of the public, and whether Martin would continue to ignore “everyone’s questions or just certain people?” After the public portion was shut down, both Martin and several other councilmembers apologized if it appeared they were not responsive to the public but offered no further response and left the questions unanswered. Mayor Broullon did tell Jeffrey King of Eatontown, in response to his questions about permitting medical marijuana to be sold in the borough, that it will come up at the next council meeting on Feb. 17. The mayor explained, in response to his questions, that while it was set to go to the land use board, the borough learned it is inconsistent with the borough Master Plan so it is going back to the governing body and will be taken up Feb. 17. Smith, the former code enforcement officer, also asked, and his question was reiterated by Rivera, whether the borough or the Cove Marina would pay for the 38-page engineer’s report on the illegally dumped dredge soil, to which borough attorney Brian Chabarek responded, “we’re working on it.” To Smith, the borough engineer indicated the soil removal site was not yet tested to ensure the beryllium is absent because of the snow; however it is scheduled for next week. Before abruptly shutting down the public portion and failing to ask if any other residents wished to be heard, Broullon said it is difficult to accomplish everything because she has been accused of lining her own pockets, been accused of being the Mafia of Highlands, although no such allegations were voiced at the meeting. She called on everyone to be neighborly and help each other and work together.

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