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Q&A With Eatontown Council Hopefuls

Four candidates running for two spots on Eatontown Council answer questions about town

 

There are four candidates running for two seats on the Eatontown Council this year, and the voters will have to decide who will be sitting on the dais when voting commences on Nov. 6.

 Incumbents Athony Talerico (D) and Kevin Gonzalez (R) are being challenged by newcomers Edmund Fitterer, Jr. (R) and Janice Kroposky (D).

We asked the four candidates the same three questions and their answers were e-mailed to us and are printed verbatim below. No word or space limit was mandated by Patch.

Kevin Gonzalez:

1) What is the most difficult issue the borough is facing with the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth?

There are actually 2 main issues facing Eatontown with regards to the Redevelopment of Fort Monmouth that are intertwined in many respects. The redevelopment of Fort Monmouth and Property Taxes. I want to make sure that Fort Monmouth is developed in a way that brings wanted ratables to town to lower property taxes, but at the same time, does not impact the quality of life for our residents and their families. The issue of FMERA blind-siding Eatontown with changes in the Master Plan cannot happen again. To stop this from happening in the future, Eatontown has to re-establish a pro-active and productive relationship with FMERA. I will work to make that happen. Eatontown has always had a “small town feel” and I will continue to work tirelessly to make sure it stays that way.

2) What can be done to revitalize the downtown area of Eatontown?

The best way to revitalize the downtown area is to attract more businesses who want to invest in Eatontown’s future. The Farmers Market (Sundays from 10 to 3), brings more and more “foot traffic” to the downtown area. This increases Eatontown’s presence in the region as a business friendly town. Working closely with Eatontown’s Downtown Business Association and The Economic Development Committee, we can build upon the success of the Farmers Market and continue to revitalize the Downtown Area. It will take time and there are no quick fixes, but it WILL happen. I opened my business in Eatontown over 6 years ago because of the promise that Eatontown provides to a growing business. It was the best business decision I ever made.

3) Do you feel there is a space issue at Eatontown Borough Hall? If so, what can be done to change the situation?

Quite frankly, I don’t believe there is a “space issue” at Borough Hall. If there are departments that require more space, the proper way to proceed is to go through your “higher ups” within your chain of command. With the one exception of the Building Department, this has not happened. The “space issue” was never an issue until Mallette Hall became available. The study that was performed to gauge the Borough’s space needs was too subjective and objectively flawed. It asked the Department Heads if they wanted more space. Now, if you ask my wife or I if we want a bigger kitchen, or a bigger garage, what do you think we would say? The fact remains that we would love to have a 5,000 square foot house, but can only afford a 2,000 square foot house. We, the taxpayers, currently own a 26,000 square foot Borough Hall. We can’t afford a 57,000 square foot Mallette Hall. It would cost a minimum of $15 million to retrofit Mallette Hall for the Borough’s needs. In these tough economic times, we can’t afford it.  We are not “busting at the seams” as the proponents of the Mallette Hall acquisition would have us believe. Our staff (FTE’s) has not increased in the Borough over the past several years. If there are storage issues for the Borough (IE:  file cabinets in the Council room, etc), I’m sure we can find a solution which would cost a miniscule fraction of what it would cost to acquire and retrofit Mallette Hall.

Edmund Fitterer, Jr.:

1) What is the most difficult issue the borough is facing with the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth?

I am certain we can all agree that the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth is most certainly the biggest issue that Eatontown will face. 

Why?... Because the decisions being made concerning the future of Fort Monmouth will have a substantial and direct impact on all that we call Eatontown. I pledge to stabilize property taxes and protect our quiet neighborhoods, small businesses and commercial corridors. Any redevelopment must be accomplished with Eatontown’s interests at heart. As a Councilman, I will make it a priority to re-establish a respectful and professional relationship with FMERA.  Instead of making accusations and throwing blame across the isle, I will work with the federal, state, county and local governing bodies to make certain that they do not loose sight of the impact the redevelopment will have on its neighbors. I believe that, while difficult, this approach to working with FMERA will reinvigorate the downtown area, attract new business and protect our neighborhoods from encroaching development.

2) What can be done to revitalize the downtown area of Eatontown?

Instead of stating what can be done, let me first direct your attention to what wasn’t done. Not that long ago, the Mayor and Democrat lead Council thought it would be wise to abandon our downtown and its small business owners in exchange for the money pit known as Mallette Hall. Had the Mayor’s bid to acquire Mallette Hall been successful; locally owned convenience stores, pizzerias and sandwich shops would have been dealt yet another blow to their respective establishments. If we are to be successful revitalizing our downtown, moving the Municipal Building onto Fort Monmouth must be put on the chopping block once and for all.

3) Do you feel there is a space issue at Eatontown Borough Hall? If so, what can be done to change the situation?

I do not believe our Borough Hall lacks sufficient space to operate properly. I am certain that we can find a more efficient and cost-effective manner in which to meet the needs (and not the wants) of our municipal departments and quell any previously voiced concerns of overcrowding and a lack of storage.

Anthony Talerico:

1) What is the most difficult issue the borough is facing with the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth?

Though the three municipalities – Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls – stand at the center of the Fort’s redevelopment, we unfortunately have the smallest voice and least power in the process. This is perhaps the most difficult issue because the plan that has been developed and made public can so quickly change and adversely affect our town. That is exactly why Eatontown needs strong elected officials who are not afraid to voice opposition when ideas surface that could potentially damage the quality of life of our residents.

Since my election, and more recently with the statutory creation of FMERA, I have maintained a strong working relationship with elected officials in the neighboring municipalities as well as the key players at the County and State levels. This is imperative because we must work together if anything positive is to come to Eatontown. I attend nearly every FMERA meeting as well as the Restoration Advisory Board environmental meetings. Recently, as the housing component is coming under more scrutiny, I have met with representatives at the State level to discuss how to ensure that Eatontown is treated equitably.

There are many components of the plan: commercial, housing, recreation, infrastructure, environmental, etc. They are interrelated and we must keep our eyes on all of them. Through them all, we must find an economically favorable mix between commercial and residential development.  It is important to attract quality commercial ratables. This will not only drive up real estate values but it will keep the strain on the school system low. At the same time, we must ensure all development will be beneficial to the long term tax stability of our town and not just settle for a quick fix.

2) What can be done to revitalize the downtown area of Eatontown?

Our commercial corridors must be seen as business friendly. This is crucial because a healthy and vibrant local economy directly benefits the residential property owners and their property taxes. While we have revamped our commercial zoning recently, more can be done to specifically address our downtown. For example, we can attempt to encourage uniformity in new construction and renovation to facades.  We must also drive business to the area. I introduced the Think Local First Campaign in Eatontown so as to encourage our residents to shop in town. This program was successful in other parts of the state and it can be here as well. As this program rolls out, we will hopefully see an increase in foot traffic to our downtown and all of our local businesses.

As Council Liaison to the Green Team, I advocated for and embraced the Downtown Farmers Market, a wonderful idea of our Downtown Business Association. This has generated foot traffic to our Downtown, not just during the market hours, but other times as well. Currently, the Pride in Eatontown Committee is working on a grant proposal for our downtown area. When Mayor Tarantolo presented this idea to Council, it was unanimously embraced as we all recognized the need to revitalize the area. Among other things, the grant seeks to make the area more pedestrian friendly, spruce up the signage and store fronts and relocate the bus stop so as to not hinder traffic flow as it currently does. Also, I am working with three business owners on several other grants through Main Street New Jersey that seek to create visually appealing buildings, better parking and fill vacancies. We must seek buy-in from local businesses for these ideas to be successful and Council must work together with the business owners themselves.

3) Do you feel there is a space issue at Eatontown Borough Hall? If so, what can be done to change the situation?

Several outside studies in the past have shown that, indeed, we do have a space issue at Borough Hall. We also have a security issue with regard to some of our departments. I understand that suggesting we have a space problem leads to fears that the Council will spend millions on a new building. Rest assured this cannot happen because – quite simply – we cannot afford it.

One of the areas in most need is the Construction department. At a time when we should ensure our town is business friendly, both to eliminate our current vacancies and to attract potential Fort Monmouth developers, we must provide additional space for this department in order for it to operate effectively. Yes, the number of full time employees has decreased, saving dollars on payroll and benefits, but an increased number of part time staff  and State-mandated document retention requirements has led to times when there simply is no room to function. One simple solution is to expand the Construction Office by knocking through the wall and moving several feet into the Council room. The Council room is rarely full so taking several feet across the back of the room will not pose a problem with regard to public meetings and yet provide much needed square footage for the Construction Department to function. It can be accomplished at a relatively low cost. The Borough has recently begun various online initiatives with regard to the Zoning and Construction Departments, making process flows more efficient and involving less paper. As technology becomes available, this too will help relieve the space issue as well.

Janice Kroposky:

1) What is the most difficult issue the borough is facing with the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth?

We did not ask for or want the Fort to close. Now our elected officials are faced with the task of redevelopment. It is imperative our elected officials are well educated on the Redevelopment process and how it can potentially impact residential neighborhoods and the overall quality of life for our residents.  FMERA, the state implementation agency, must closely be monitored in order to guarantee OUR town benefits from the process. It is imperative to maintain a professional and good working relationship between the two governing bodies. I have researched the redevelopment plan in great detail. I am aware that changes to the plan can be proposed quickly. If the proposed changes will negatively impact the quality of life for residents, I am prepared to fight against them. On the land slated to Eatontown, it would be highly beneficial to attract ratables that will create jobs and stimulate the local economy.


2) What can be done to revitalize the downtown area of Eatontown?

Eatontown has a strong history of small business ownership. The downtown area must be business friendly in order to attract new opportunities. I am worried about empty store fronts and understand that if businesses are not brought into town, the lost revenue will have to come from taxpayer’s pockets.  We are all concerned about tax stability. The creation of a Small Business Advocate, at NO expense to the taxpayers would be one way to encourage the establishment of new businesses in the downtown area. The Business Advocate would serve in the capacity to help new future ratables navigate through the establishment process.

3) Do you feel there is a space issue at Eatontown Borough Hall? If so, what can be done to change the situation?

Independent studies have been done to research whether or not a space issue exists at Borough Hall. The studies have concluded, in fact, there are space and securities issues that need to be addressed. In order to change the situation and make productive use of the current facility, research on how to electronically store files might be an option. Spending millions on a new Borough Hall is NOT an option for any taxpayer in town. I understand that preserving taxes is a state of mind, that no dollar amount is too small for adequate consideration. This is an issue that must be addressed in the future BUT I believe that a municipal budget should be run like a family budget. If you can’t afford it, don’t spend it.

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