Saying it smells like an amendment to the plan for Fort Monmouth, at least two Eatontown officials voiced their disapproval last week of a lease that will likely lead to a new regional location for Monmouth County's Department of Public Works, in . But according to the county and redevelopers, this change has been well known for years.
The board of the moved last week to approve a one-year lease, with a six-month extension option, for the motor pool property of former Fort Monmouth from the Army, with the intent that it will then lease the property to the county for a new home for its highway division.
The motor pool once serviced all of the Army vehicles at Fort Monmouth. It includes a truck wash and several service bays. Freeholder Lillian Burry told Patch that the plan is to make the site a northeastern satellite location for the county DPW where it can store salt and road materials.
It is located on Nicodemus Avenue in the Eatontown section of Fort Monmouth off of Broad Street/Route 71/County Road 537 in the area of .
This property is located outside those properties defined by , and therefore requires a special short-term lease. After the phase II agreement is approved, FMERA will look to sell the property to the county for a permanent home for its highway division, according to the resolution.
Eatontown Mayor Gerald Taranolo objected to the move, saying it was a change from the which called for the property to be turned into open space and should require an amendment to the plan.
"Why are we being inconsistent?" he said.
Burry disagreed sharply with Tarantolo saying, "That's not what happened at all, Gerry."
Amendments require a 45-day comment period, must be reviewed by all three boroughs, Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls, and require a super majority vote of seven of the nine voting members of the board.
FMERA Executive Director Bruce Steadman said amendments are only required with a change of title such as in the case of
Burry, who is a member of the FMERA board, said that the project was not one that would help the county alone. "This is a regional project that will be to the benefit of the area," she said.
Tarantolo cast the single dissenting vote.
Eatontown Borough Council President Anthony Talerico spoke out against the move during the public comment period.
"I think we need to be careful of slippery slopes," Talerico said. "In substance over form, this is an amendment to the plan. It smells like it. The residents of Eatontown are vulnerable, and they need your protection... This sublease could go on for years and years and years and the town may get used to it. Who knows? They may love it," he said, adding, "This should have gone to the town."
Steadman told Patch following the meeting that the county had put in a notice of interest on the property three to four years ago.
Burry said that she found Tarantolo's comments "disconcerting to say the least" given that he was part of the process to change the plan from open space to the new county use four years ago and that Tarantolo "claimed amnesia" about the changes.
"You know how long it took us to get to this point?" Burry said, adding that it has been four years of work to bring this regional project to fruition.
To allay Tarantolo's concerns, Burry arranged a meeting Tuesday for him and his borough engineer and administrator with the county Director of Public Works John Tobia and County Engineer Joseph Attore to discuss the plan.
Burry said representatives from the borough will also meet with Eatontown's council to explain how the site will be used.
Burry said the site will mainly be used to store salt and road materials and that it will not see heavy traffic. She also said that Eatontown will benefit from the regional location by use of the truck wash (something Eatontown doesn't have), and will be able to forgo it's annual order of salt and can instead use the salt the county purchases, paying for only what Eatontown uses. The freeholder said the borough could also benefit from "some priority consideration" when it comes to snow removal.
During the FMERA board meeting Steadman told Tarantolo that the sub lease to the county is in the early draft phase and that it would be discussed at the next board meeting on Sept. 19.