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Possible Temporary Location For Sea Bright Firehouse Causes Outrage in Borough

SEA BRIGHT: The possible temporary home of the borough’s fire department is being strongly opposed by the public.

The landowner of the Peninsula and Ocean Avenue lot, where Sea Bright will pay to put its temporary firehouse, owes $40,000 in back taxes to the borough.

The property was chosen as the best public safety option among several choices, Councilman James Lobiondo has said.

However, the property owners, who owe back taxes for the site and for property owned elsewhere in town, include former Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams.

Borough officials looked at several properties, including one of its own next to borough hall, but out of that, the Cove, the Quay and the Peninsula property, the one chosen as best from a public safety point of view was Peninsula, Lobiondo has said.

In March, the Ocean Avenue firehouse was condemned after an inspection determined it was structurally unsound. The building was one of many that took on several feet of water in superstorm Sandy. Now a temporary tent outside the firehouse protects one of the department’s trucks.

Mayor Dina Long said the council has not yet made a final decision on the temporary location for the firehouse.

“The council has been working on previous agreements and negotiations and other alternatives, so no decisions have been finalized with regard to the temporary firehouse,” Long said at the start of the Aug. 5 Sea Bright Council meeting.

Although the firehouse was not an agenda item, contract negotiations concerning the firehouse were discussed during executive session, but no action was taken.

Residents also took full advantage of the public comment periods to voice their dissatisfaction with the proposed temporary location.

“It seems that the property needs significant improvements in the area of about $150,000 to make it suitable to hold the heavy weight of the vehicles,” resident Thomas Scriven said. “The lease payments will be roughly $48,000 a year for two years and if extends past that it will probably be a provision to increase that. So we’re talking about a quarter of a million dollars out of this town’s budget.”

Resident Charles Rooney said the Peninsula Avenue property is only 4 inches higher than the current temporary location for the borough’s fire equipment and also floods during heavy rains.

“We’re about $200,000 into this property in one year and we’ve gained four inches,” Rooney said. “My suggestion is we use our own property across the street from Peninsula Avenue. We don’t pay rent and the electric and plumbing is already there.”

One resident suggested that the borough should enter into a shared services agreement with a nearby town for fire services so a new firehouse would not need to be built.

Council Marc Leckstein asked, and the council agreed, that a resolution be added to the night’s agenda stating that the council was open to the possibility of still looking at other options. The resolution was unanimously passed by the council after it was clarified that it would not have an adverse effect on the contract negotiations for the temporary firehouse scheduled for executive session.

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