By Liz Sheehan |
SEA BRIGHT – Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Borough Council in the Nov. 7 election, where decisions are made that affect residential property tax bills.
Incumbents Republican John Lamia Jr. and Democrat Charles Rooney III are seeking to return to the council. Also running are Republican Pamela Ross and Independent Jon Schwartz.
Mayor Dina Long, who ran for a second term unopposed in 2015 as an Independent, said Monday she is endorsing Rooney and Schwartz in the election.
Council President Jack Keeler, a Republican, has endorsed candidates Pamela Ross and John Lamia.
One of the candidates found himself entering the race in a slightly unusual way. Lamia said he had decided not to seek another term on the council and was vacationing at Mohonk Mountain when he received a call from the county Board of Elections telling him he had won the primary with a write-in vote.
He decided to run again, he said, because he wants to be of assistance to Sea Bright residents. “I am a caregiver,” he said. Lamia is a program manager with special experience in construction and utilities for Unify Inc., which oversees telecommunications operations for New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and Mount Sinai Hospital.
Keeping the budget in check is a priority for Lamia. He and fellow Republican Councilman Jack Keeler were against bond issues for the replacement of the firehouse, police headquarters and the library which were damaged by Super Storm Sandy, citing concerns about the costs and a desire for a second opinion on those expenditures. The bond issues were later approved by public referendum.
Lamia said he voted in favor of retaining an attorney to fight the high tuition paid to Shore Regional school district. “I agree we need to try something different, but we should regroup more frequently with updates,” he said.
Rooney, who owns borough-based Rooney Produce Company and is the son of the former mayor, said he is running again to finish the work he started.
“I find it an honor to represent the people of Sea Bright,” he said.
He campaigned for the bond issue to help pay for the two new buildings that would house the library, police headquarters, fire house and borough offices. It’s one of the chief reasons he got on the council, he said.
Rooney said it was a good decision to hire a lawyer to fight the town’s costs of around $107,000 for each student at Shore Regional High School. The town has “good ideas of how to get out” of the situation, he said, but cannot reveal them before legal action is taken.
The next project the borough should address is placing bulkheads in the downtown area and north and south sections, Rooney said. Funds should be set aside each year in the budget for the project because of the frequent flooding of the Shrewsbury River. There are some bulkheads on the riverfront, funded by grants prior to Super Storm Sandy, but there are gaps in between them that allow flood water to come around the sides of the bulkheads and enter the streets.
Independent candidate Jon Schwartz, president of Schwartz Mazda in Shrewsbury, said he believes he can save the town money. He said he had already shaved $10,000 a year off the borough’s electrical and phone bill by advising the town to change vendors.
Schwartz said the town has a very able administrator, but it was only a part-time position and as a council member he could use his business background to find more savings.
He said he believes residents who live on a street near the river should share in the costs for the installation of bulkheads. The same cost-sharing should apply for placing valves on storm drains so that during high tides the river water will not flow out of the sewers and into the streets, a problem in parts of the borough. In his neighborhood, he said, residents joined together and paid to install the valves.
Schwartz said he backed the decision to hire an attorney to fight the high taxes paid to Shore Regional.
He praised Mayor Dina Long and said she “had done a wonderful job” for the town in the recovery from Sandy. Long said she was an Independent and was supporting independent candidates to get more political diversity on the council. She said Schwartz, as a member of the town’s Unified Planning Board, had spent time getting familiar with the needs of the town.
Pamela Ross believes there is a lack of communication between the town and its residents. She said people are only allowed three minutes to ask council members questions at a meeting and often do not have enough information about what is being discussed. Council members should explain things “more fully before taking a vote,” she said. A section of the borough’s web site should be designated for residents to pose questions to town officials, she suggested.
“As a business owner I listen to my customers. We need to listen to taxpayers more,” said Ross, a wholesale distributor of leather and vinyl.
Unlike the others, Ross said she does not support the decision to hire an attorney to attempt to lower the costs associated with sending students to Shore Regional because the town has no guarantee of successful results. The attorney had said he could not reveal his planned legal strategy in the matter.
“Why not share it?” she said. “It shouldn’t be top secret.”
She said she believes residents should raise funds to pay tuition to private schools for the town’s high school students, which would be less expensive than paying the extra taxes required to pay Shore Regional $107,000 per student.
Ross also said the town should have an emergency line that would give road conditions so when flooding occurs residents can call and find out if roads are passable.
In a printed statement about her candidacy Ross said she believed the two issues at the top of her list if she were elected were “addressing the financial state and future affordability” of living in the borough, including taxes, and the “necessary infrastructure/storm mitigation issues facing Sea Bright.”
In regard to flooding on the river side of the town, she said Friday that, if elected, “I would have to consult the Corps of Engineers to see what the options are.”
This article was first published in the Oct. 19-26, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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