Posted on December 14, 2020
The results of a questionnaire sent out to Tuckerton’s three waterfront sections in October showed only one section was marginally in favor of a proposed special assessment on property owners for dredging parts of their lagoons. The east side of South Green Street in Tuckerton Beach had eight more yes votes than no votes to pay $174 per quarter for 10 years. Furthermore, Tuckerton Administrator Jenny Gleghorn said three more yes votes had to be eliminated because the questionnaire letters came back undeliverable. The borough had said that if residents didn’t return a vote it would be counted as an affirmative. Still, there is no overwhelming majority.
At its Nov. 16 meeting, the borough council appointed three members to a special committee to look into the dredging issue: Councilmen Brian Martin and Ron Peterson, along with Councilman/Deputy Mayor Sam Colangelo. During the Dec. 7 council meeting, Kingfisher Road resident Peter Gioiello asked what progress the special committee had made.
Martin said the committee is not at a point to give a decision. Some people say the additional $174 tax per quarter ($696 per year) would put a financial strain on them, he said. “I’m not in this position to force someone out of their homes because it would cause a hardship. We still have options we can explore.”
“It’s hard to make this decision that may cause residents to sell their home and move out, especially when we have other options,” said Peterson. “I know you want us to make it and that’s all well and good.”
“I want to be able to enjoy boating and not to worry about tides,” interrupted Gioiello.
“I know it needs to be done,” Peterson continued. “I moved down (to Tuckerton Beach) in 1993 and when I came here the lagoons needed to be fixed, but even after Sandy, they didn’t get much worse. I play the tides and can get in and out all right. I’d like to make this thing work without hurting people.”
“At some point you have to rip the bandage off,” said Gioiello. “And not to be crass, but this is a great time to sell.”
Colangelo said he had also heard from residents who do not want the special assessment and from townspeople not on the waterfront who don’t want to pay more taxes to boost someone’s property values on the water.
“We’re looking further for more opportunities (grants). We are doing our due diligence. There are no easy answers and when we do decide, it has to be for the right reasons. We’ll decide the best course for us to take for everyone’s overall well-being.”
Colangelo said the bigger problem at the moment is Paradise Cove and the shoaling-in of Thompson’s Creek. These waterfront residents were asked if they were willing to pay an additional $1,179 per quarter. Most said no. “If that continues, it (the two lagoons) will be landlocked and have stagnant water, and what will that do for the town? By parceling it out (separating the dredging into three waterfront areas) they would have had to pay a huge amount and that’s not going to fly. You have to give us some more time.”
Waterfront residents on the west side of South Green Street in Tuckerton Beach overwhelmingly voted no to a $164 additional quarterly tax because once the Army Corps of Engineers dredges Tuckerton Creek, as it is mandated to do, it will also dredge the mouths of those lagoons.
Gleghorn said there are alternatives to a special assessment the borough is looking into, but she is reluctant to announce them until the special committee is further along in the process.
Tuckerton Beach resident Carolyn Keen asked what the figure would be if everyone in the borough paid for the dredging through their taxes. Gleghorn said if the town bonded for the improvements, as it does for other capital projects, it could cost approximately an additional $29 per quarter for everyone.
In other news, the borough is turning over its portion of Center Street to Ocean County to maintain. In a swap arrangement, the borough will take back maintenance of portions of Parker and Carroll streets in Tuckerton Beach. The county was preparing to pave the portion of Center Street that is in Little Egg Harbor but will now also pave the portion in Tuckerton. Survey crews have been on the street for the past few weeks.
John Edmunds of Little Egg Harbor, the leader of a movement stop speeding on the 25-mph stretch of Center Street, thanked the Tuckerton police chief and officers for patrolling and stopping speeding motorists. “It has definitely made a difference,” he said. Now he hopes to reduce truck traffic rumbling down the narrow residential street. That change to the residents quality of life has to wait for the state to approve the county’s request for a weight limit zone.
Martin, liaison to the Pride and Celebration Committee, thanked Chairwoman JoAnne McAndrew, police and volunteers who made the Tuckerton Christmas Walk Sunday night a success. “We had a nice crowd, Michael Corliss sang Christmas carols, Santa arrived by the Tucker’s Train ride. We had 240 children and each received a gift provided by the MAC (Municipal Alliance Committee). We had hot chocolate provided by the Tuckerton Wawa and the evening ended with a fire truck parade. We thank Chief Dale Eggert for that.” Martin said Santa was kept 6 feet from the children but held his arms out and with forced perspective, photos taken with him and children appeared as if he was hugging them.
“It was good to make something for the people of the town,” said Mayor Sue Marshall. “We’ve all felt the pressure of the quarantine. So it was very nice to celebrate. And our new fire truck looked wonderful.”
Marshall also read two resolutions to send to the governor’s office: one urging the district attorney to require stricter punishments for crimes against law officers and first responders and the other to support legislation to tie the Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) to the consumer price index in 2021. “This year the COLA is just 1.3% and seniors are struggling with rising costs because of COVID,” she said. “We feel strongly about both of these issues.”
— Pat Johnson