As a courtesy to our SHPOA Members, we’re bringing you a summary of each Stone Harbor Work Session and Council Meeting. Intended as summaries, these intentionally don’t have a lot of details and are not a substitute for the official Borough minutes.
Public Safety Committee Report
Fire department – In 2022, there were 495 fire calls (an increase from last year) and 670 EMS calls (down from last year). The proposed personnel handbook updates are adjustments to the work week and overtime, a rule that members can’t take time off during the peak season (this is similar to the police), and a change in the highest-ranking person on the paid crew to clarify the chain of command. Council plans to vote in February on those changes.
Police Report – In 2022, there were 21 motor vehicle stops, 7 moving violations, 1 accident, 3 suspicious vehicles, 1 domestic violence incident, 3 open records requests, and one adult arrest. In personnel, there are two new academy graduates who are now working, 2 recent retirements, and further applications are being accepted.
Beach patrol building construction update – The punch list of remaining tasks is down to 11 and the elevator is installed and working.
Recreation and Tourism Committee Report
Recreation Department Update – The Borough will apply for an NJ Local Recreation Improvement Grant for the 97th Street playground (the grant is for up to $100,000; the total cost is estimated to be $130,000). The Harbor Hop 5K is on April 8th. Competitive bid proposals for 2023 summer camps, etc. through the rec center are due Feb 17th. The Rec Center is scheduling summer programming; the lacrosse camps will be replaced with a summer games clinic for 11- to 13-year-olds which will change games daily.
Tourism Update – The proposed revisions for the special event application are to clarify a nonprofit status requirement, increase the minimum insurance requirement for low-hazard events (there was one low-hazard event last year), and add a signature line. Over 90 vendors applied for 34 spaces at the Farmers’ Market. The committee has discussed moving the market but more research is needed before discussing that option.
Natural Resources Committee Report
Doug Gaffney, coastal consultant – The access path to Stone Harbor point closed multiple times in 2022 due to storm erosion exacerbated by full moon high tides and its condition is deteriorating. Beach fill in the spring will add sediment to the beach system that may help improve the access path via natural sand movement. There may be a need for an emergency request to use stone to build up the base so that vehicles can better access the area.
As noted at prior meetings, Stone Harbor is scheduled for beach fill in Spring 2023. The Army Corps of Engineers determines where to put the fill and the current plan does not include any fill north of 90th Street. Both Council members and residents (during public comment) asked that the Borough lobby the Army Corps to include the beaches along the 80 streets. SHPOA agrees that the beaches north of 90th Street should be included in the program.
The Corps can expand the fill area if it’s within the budget. Their decisions tend to focus on the protection of property and not the amount of “dry beach” for residents’ use. (In the summer, the sand shifts north while in spring, it goes south). The Borough has a preconstruction meeting the week of January 23rd about the beach fill.
Dr. Lenore Tedesco, The Wetlands Institute – At the bird sanctuary, they are clearing nonnative vegetation to maintain the forest and will do so again in the fall. The 2021 treatment of phragmites, an invasive species, at the sanctuary and the freshwater marshes was effective. They also mulched down the dead cane resulting from the treatment and are now thinking through what’s next to get native vegetation to grow. The current idea is to clear two areas of mulched cane in the wettest spots where the mulch isn’t breaking down and phragmites seedlings are unlikely to grow and see if native vegetation returns naturally. That work is already in the budget. Another project is along the holly path related to removing standing dead sassafras trees. The number of dead trees is inexplicably increasing, which is concerting since these are large mature trees that have thrived for decades and, while their removal resolves a safety issue, it creates light gaps in the canopy that may allow invasive or unwanted plants to grow. The Institute engaged an arborist who concluded excess salt water was the culprit. They can test groundwater for salinity in spring and will monitor the situation.
SHNJ Shorebirds Program at The Point – The program has been in place since 2015, educating the public and managing disturbances to nesting shorebirds. Five stewards spent 800 hours on site in 2022 and reported 650 visitors and 700 incidents (including low-flying planes, landed watercraft, people chasing birds, crossing fencing, dogs, etc.). The stewards called law enforcement six times in response to boaters who refused to leave. Shorebirds were present 70% of the time there was an incident. In half of those cases, the birds were visibly disturbed. Walkers/Joggers were the most frequent cause of disturbances, followed by boaters. The lack of vehicle access to the Point at various times in 2022 delayed police response and many of the incidents took place when there couldn’t be a police presence or response. The colony collapsed without any fledglings and there is a need for more visible signs with the rules for shared use of the Point; this is a continual effort since there are always new visitors who don’t know the rules or the value of the Point as a nesting area.
Stone Harbor Museum – hosted 1,500 people in 2022 and will reopen on Memorial Day Weekend.
Public Works Work Rules (Manny Parada) – There are 6 proposed changes to the work rules for the Department of Public Works including scheduling changes and rules for wearing work shirts. The union is currently reviewing the proposed changes.
Also, the department will request a sidebar agreement with the staff labor union to modify the collective bargaining agreement to change how uniforms are provided to employees. The new system would give employees an allowance to purchase uniform pieces from a designated company (to be decided after bids are collected).
Community Rating System (CRS) coordinator Ray Poudrier – Stone Harbor is up for a 5-year review of the CRS program. The Borough will lose points under the system because Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) credits from Superstorm Sandy damage will expire this year. This will lower the Borough’s “class” under the rating system which could lead to insurance premiums increasing 10-15%. The Borough has collected 3 quotes from CRS consultants. This is a priority of the Administration and Finance Committee and they will report on it monthly. Council plans to vote in February to hire one of the consultants.
IBank Application (Marc DeBlasio) – This is related to underground pipe replacements. The projects are divided into drinking water and clean water and the discussion was around how to classify projects to maximize grant money towards the repairs.
Trash Convenience Center – Starting in 2023, there will be at a new location on 81st Street near 3rd Avenue by the entrance to the Public Works facility. It will be open anytime public works is open (so every day); other benefits include eliminating the need for staff or a truck at the prior location (which was heavily used in 2022). In the discussion, Council supported the DPW starting in-house work on the new facility before external contractors start incurring capital expenses.
Parking Meters and Kiosks – DPW is removing meters and numbered parking space signs since the Council plans to approve a contract with ParkMobile to use a zone-based system. The department will sell meter heads and kiosks. Council decided it was best to declutter the sidewalks and approved the removal of the meter/sign bases as well.
Dr. Stewart Farrell, the Borough’s longtime shore consultant, retired on January 1 and was honored by Council.
Public Comment – Numerous residents expressed support for expanding the beach fill program to include the streets in the 80s, for use of the trash convenience center, for Dr. Farrell’s service, and for the work of Council in general.
Ordinances – Council approved ordinances for bonds for beach replenishment and improvements to 122nd Street ($1.9 million total, most of which is beach replenishment) and a second bond for improvements to the water and sewer system ($316,000). The votes on both are set for February.
Resolutions were approved for the shorebird program (correcting an error from the January 3rd meeting), coastal engineering professional services, a contract with Park Mobile LLC to collect parking fees in downtown Stone Harbor, the recreation improvement grant (mentioned above), and a revised developers’ agreement for Villa Maria.
For documents discussed at the meeting, please click: http://stoneharbornj.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/WORK-SESSION-AGENDA-1.17.23-Web.pdf
To view a recording, please click: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weQESjf_rWU