By Thomas A. Arnone
Monmouth County is still the place you want to be in spite of a bizarre incident that took place at the Monmouth County Courthouse recently resulting in the courthouse shutting down.
Approximately 80 persons sought medical treatment for unexplained symptoms and illnesses while inside the facility. Many county and state employees worked vigilantly around the clock for several days running a gamut of tests in an effort to determine what exactly was the culprit in this strange phenomenon. After a thorough investigation was conducted, it was determined the building was safe to reopen.
I want to commend all county employees for their diligence in handling this matter and for maintaining extreme mindfulness for the safety of all those entering the courthouse. Congratulations on a job well done. This was a superb team effort and yet another example of Monmouth County at its best.
More recently, county officials, including myself, arrived on the scene of a few Allentown residents’ properties in response to some recent concerns regarding completion of a project at Peter Sensi Park. The park was closed in February 2010 to facilitate the installation of a temporary bypass road in order to maintain vehicular and pedestrian traffic to the downtown and schools. The construction of this temporary bypass alleviated the need for an almost 9-mile detour for the duration of the project.
Freeholder Director John Curly and I walked the properties and discussed the concerns with the Allentown residents before heading over to the Allentown Council Meeting. County Public Works and Engineering Director John Tobia and County Engineer Joseph Ettore were also on hand to assist with answering questions from the residents. At the end of the council meeting, both borough and county officials walked away pleased with expectations for a positive end result.
Park plans include resurfacing the parking area, improving an ADA accessible route to the fishing pier, and installing landscaping, decorative railing on the fishing pier, brick pavers, new park benches, picnic tables and trash receptacles. Sufficient work should be completed to open the park within three to four weeks. However, some items such as the landscaping will be postponed until early fall when the weather will be more favorable for planting. We are confident that once the work to enhance Peter Sensi Park is complete borough residents will be happy with the results. It will be terrific to once again use this beautiful park and have access to the Mill Pond.
Other happenings in Monmouth County are the economic impact of the Shark River in Neptune Township. The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders asked the state Department of Economic Development to provide a report on the economic impact of the Shark River. The Department used 2011 sales data from recreational, retail and restaurant establishments located in a 5-mile radius of the river. The study revealed these businesses generated nearly $59 million in sales that can be directly attributed to the river and its recreational activities.
Additionally, it was reported there are approximately 4,400 properties within a quarter-mile radius of the river’s edge which generated approximately $28.2 million in property taxes for the year 2008. Also, there were 161 commercial properties that accounted for $2 million in tax revenue during that same year.
Moreover, the Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management has advised that dredging of the river will lead to less flooding of these properties potentially resulting in an increase in value, and therefore, additional tax revenue.
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders is recognizing June 30 through July 6th as Monmouth County Beach Safety Week. In doing so, at the June 28th meeting of the freeholders and on behalf of the board, I had the pleasure of presenting a proclamation to a seasoned representative from the United States Lifesaving Association. The USLA is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving beach safety in America. The Monmouth County USLA is an affiliate chapter of USLA and one of the top performing groups in the country.
Although our waters serve visitors and residents alike as a great recreational resource, there still remains a potential for danger. Every measure is taken to reduce if not eliminate the amount of accidents at our beaches through the staffing of qualified lifeguards. Yet, this is not a job easily handled alone. It is imperative that everyone be informed in order to maintain acceptable levels of beach and water safety. Citizens need to understand there is a significant need for safe practices while in and near the water – exactly the primary objective of Monmouth County Beach Safety Week.
Keeping that in mind, I strongly encourage all to adhere to the following USLA Guidelines for safe beach practices: Swim near a lifeguard, leash your board, learn to swim, don’t float where you can’t swim, never swim alone, life jackets equal boating safety, don’t fight the current, don’t dive headfirst, protect your neck, swin sober and at home, you’re the lifeguard.
Thomas A. Arnone is deputy director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.