New policies, including any stance on carry-out plastic bags, will wait until the new year in Barnegat Light, when the composition of borough council will be different. Retiring Councilman George Warr said goodbye on Dec. 13 after 27 years, and election winner Mary Ellen Foley will be taking his place.
Foley has said she will chair the water and sewer department, while Council President Michael Spark will assume the chairmanship of the Revenue and Finance Committee.
Mayor Kirk Larson read a proclamation at the Dec. 13 borough council meeting thanking Warr for his “commitment to serve the community” as a councilman, businessman, friend and leader. Barnegat Light Taxpayers Association President John Tennyson also thanked Warr for his “dedicated service.”
In his nine terms, Warr attended more than 500 meetings, and as finance chairman he was instrumental in preparing each annual budget, Larson pointed out. He also oversaw the electrical and mechanical work at no fee when the new borough hall was converted from former Coast Guard housing.
“It’s been a pleasure,” said Warr.
“I’ve got some health issues; it’s time for me to go,” he said, later joking that someone once noted that “council members, like babies’ diapers, should be changed, and for the same reason.”
He said he is pleased the current council has been able to accomplish its work through compromise during any disagreements, in contrast to what he remembered as “a battlefield” prior to his period on council.
Progress has jumped on the pavilion under construction on Bayview Avenue land that the borough purchased through the one-penny open space tax levy. In December the 96-by-28-foot structure’s framing had been erected, and on Monday, Dec. 18, the roof trusses were swung into place by crane.
“Once the trusses go up, they’ll be sheathing the roof, and start trimming it out,” said Councilman Ed Wellington, who is heading up the project.
The pavilion will be ready for the start of next summer season, he said.
Dredging of the Barnegat Light Stake Channel was finished on Dec. 12, Wellington reported. “They’re starting to pack up and go over to the High Bar channel, and those spoils will also be going to the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park,” he said of the state project to dredge four shoaled channels.
No Action Taken On Plastic Bag Debate
Of all the other matters in and around the town, the topic of whether to ban carry-out plastic bags earned the most discussion during the public portion of the meeting. Long Beach Township recently voted to ban single-use carry-out plastic bags. Ship Bottom Borough Council, at the behest of a group of residents, said it would re-visit the issue in the new year, but took no action on a ban.
“We haven’t decided what we’re going to do with the plastic bags,” Larson told the full audience at the meeting.
The current consensus is to wait and see how the ban works in other shore towns that try it.
The mayor said he and Councilwoman Dottie Reynolds, chair of the beaches and parks committee, discussed the topic over the phone. They were of the opinion that “let’s see how Long Beach Township works, how Ship Bottom does it.”
The mayor said practical questions are unanswered, and summer population reaction is yet to be determined.
“What are you going to do when you go into either a Wawa or CVS?” he said of customers in such stores that do a heavy volume of business. On the other side of the coin, from a possible business owner standpoint, he added, “People sometimes are not very nice, and when you tell somebody you don’t have a bag, I’m kind of wondering what kind of reactions … they’re tourists, they’re here for a week, (they may think) ‘get out of my way.’
“Let’s see how the code official handles the job down there, and get a handle on this.”
Councilman Scott Sharpless commented that there are items such as fresh seafood from a market that are questionable for paper bag containment.
“If somebody hands me a bag of scallops in a paper bag, I’m going to question that,” Sharpless said. “So why can’t we divide it into food stores and businesses can use the plastic, and the rest can use paper.”
Reynolds and Wellington said it would be helpful if shoppers brought their own canvas bags. Reynolds hopes that initiative would be successful because “I do want to have less plastic bags.”
“I’ve tried to do some independent research,” Wellington said, “and I’d like to encourage anybody who’s interested to Google ‘plastic bags vs. paper bags’ and see what’s really there. The interesting thing is, the only right way is to use canvas bags, because paper bags use four times the energy to make than plastic bags do. So there is a price to pay for paper as well.”
For yet another twist, resident Barry Mescolotto brought in research deflating the canvas bag as the perfect answer.
“There is no way of recycling them, and it takes more energy to create cotton than it does to create any of the other things,” he said.
Larson suggested that in many cases, customers could decline the plastic bag at convenience stores.
“If we’re going to be good stewards of the earth, why not when you go to buy something, say, ‘You know what? I really don’t need a bag to carry this out.’ As opposed to ‘no, no,’ and more regulations.”
In an end note, Reynolds urged people to turn down plastic straws. “Plastic straws are found in great abundance and are eaten by marine mammals.”
Other Business In Running the Town
The police committee report centered on contract negotiations with Long Beach Township, which provides police services.
“We’re in negotiations with the chief and the mayor of Long Beach Township redoing our police contract, which looks pretty good; we’re looking at somewhere around 2, 2¼,” said Councilman Frank Mikuletzky regarding percentage increases.
A resolution was approved contracting with Stafford Township for water meter installation at 77 commercial properties. The new “smart” meters, when installed, will be read electronically.
That raised questions from a borough couple who have contacted the borough requesting to “opt out” of the smart meter installation at their residential property. Kimberly Patterson has opposed the installation based on safety concerns about electromagnetic frequency emission.
John Patterson, of 605 Broadway, asked, “Where do we stand on the opt-out provision on the smart meters that we’re looking at installing? I was wondering, was that something we needed a vote on, or like other boroughs throughout the nation, they do have that provision for citizens who don’t want the radioactive meter in their front yard.”
Council members said they haven’t worked out the details of opting out. The mayor indicated last month that the choice would be available. However, he said the opt-out customer would have a charge for a serviceman coming out, which is not needed with the smart meters.
“As of right now, we still haven’t determined,” Spark said of the charge for a “special trip.” He said, “We’re not finished yet with what an equitable situation would be.”
As for two zoning-related ordinances passed, there was no opposition in public hearings for one that raised fees for certain permits, or for another that requires a permit for impervious ground coverage such as pavers.
Last, but not least in the eyes of those protecting endangered species, an annual summary is in on piping plover nesting results statewide, which was read by Reynolds. Numbers are down.
“There were 105 pairs of piping plovers nesting in New Jersey this past year, which was a 9 percent decrease from 2016,” she read. “They don’t know why.”
She continued, “They nested at 20 sites statewide; we had them in Barnegat Light as you know. We had five pairs and had hatchlings with all pairs, so we had eight chicks that fledged.”
Nesting results at other coastal sites included: Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Holgate, 22 pairs; Sandy Hook, 40 pairs; Sea Bright, 10 pairs; North Brigantine, 41 pairs.
“So, we didn’t have a lot, but we did have success, and thank you to everybody who did avoid the nesting areas and kept the dogs away,” Reynolds said. “Each year they do it seems a little poorer, so we need to keep working on this.”
– Reposted from The Sandpaper