Posts Tagged ‘Neptune Township Committee’

Mayor Carol Rizzo assumed the office and took the oath. Photo from 2015. Paul Goldfinger photo. Blogfinger.net   ©


This is written by Charles Krauthammer:*

“Whenever we bestow upon anyone the authority to wield the power of the state over free citizens, we make them swear to protect not the people, not the nation, not the flag, but the Constitution of the United States.   A  piece of paper. Of course, it stands for the pillars of the American experiment itself: the ideas, the structures, the philosophy that define a limited government with enumerated powers, whose mission is to preserve liberty and individual rights.”

*The Point of It All is Krauthammer’s  book published posthumously in 2018. The subtitle is “A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors.”


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The Township Comedy needs to shine some light on the current Resolution so OG citizens can see the gobbledygook.   Paul Goldfinger photo.  OG beach. September, 2018. ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net

When Jack and I  first read the new North End Resolution which was passed on Nov. 26, 2018, we looked at each other and asked, “What is this?”  It wasn’t clear what the main point of the Resolution was.  It included an itemized list of over 30 important elements of the plan, none of which were explained in detail.

It not only wasn’t clear as to what the Resolution was all about or why it was necessary, but it was impossible to figure out if the Resolution was attempting to actually pass the “new” 2018 North End Redevelopment Plan.

Here is the official title of the Resolution #18 -395 as obtained from the Neptune Comedy agenda:

Authorize the execution of a conditional designation and interim cost agreement with OG North End Development (OGNED) including provisions for a deposit of project funds to defray costs incurred by the Township of Neptune in connection with the negotiation of a Redevelopment Agreement, pursuant to the local redevelopment and housing law, N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-1, ET Seq.”

Got it?

We thought the language was gobbledygook, and below is a link to Part I of our discussion of the Resolution.

Gobbledygook Part I regarding the North End resolution 11/26/18

The Township Redevelopment Attorney for the “Proposal” did speak to the  public at the Comedy meeting, and some of his quotes are mentioned  (below)  in a Coaster front-page article dated Nov. 29, 2018

Isn’t it interesting that none of our elected officials tried to explain the Resolution to the public–instead the Neptune Comedy brought their hired gun out of the shadows and asked him to explain the Resolution to the citizens.

Below are some Qoaster quotes from the Township Redevelopment Attorney Joseph Maraziti of Short Hills.   He said:

It’s important for the community to understand the project.”

“…this is not  a redevelopment agreement but part of negotiations towards a redevelopment agreement with Ocean Grove North End Development LLC.”

“There will be many topics at many levels discussed and resolved (in the agreement.) Nothing is even resolved at this time.”

The Coaster reporter said, “Redevelopment of the long-neglected North End of Ocean Grove took a step forward this week when Neptune officials approved an official agreement that is expected to eventually result in a comprehensive redevelopment plan.”

Mayor Nicholas Williams of Neptune Township. What will his legacy be? By Paul Goldfinger ©

And finally, Mayor Nicholas Williams cleared it up by saying, “This is just the first step and that’s where we are tonight.”

So, Mr. Mayor, you say that ” ‘this’ is just the first step,” and now that we all know what the meaning of “this” is,  we can  be reassured that we now understand the Resolution.

Last June we posted this Mayor’s photo with the lead-in:  “Portrait of a leader who represents the electorate or just one of the boys?  What will Nicholas Williams legacy be?”

What do you think?


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Anyone can read the minutes of Township Committee meetings.  You can see them on line at Neptune township web site.  You can also request a CD of any Committee meeting by requesting one at the Clerk’s office. The minutes are  verbatim records of the recorded version.

Blogfinger is looking for items of interest in Ocean Grove:

5/8 /17:

——Mr. Gadaleta handed out a proposed work plan for groundwater management during the sanitary sewer install for Jersey Shore University Medical Center project. He state they were estimating 25 days to finish the project.

(BF: We hope that the Wesley Lake Commission will look at the plan and see if there are projections of how much additional ground water will be going into Wesley Lake from this project.)



—– Executive session public excluded:    Potential Litigation – Monmouth County Prosecutor’s investigation on Ocean Grove fire

(BF: It wouldn’t come as a surprise if victims of the Warrington fire were to sue the Township for neglect of that property.  The public should be informed if the Township is being sued for wrongdoing re: that fire)

Jack Braden 94 1⁄2 Heck Avenue commented on Resolution #17-221 and questioned whether the Township received a letter of intent if someone wanted to sue the Town.   No one answered Jack according to the minutes.


——-Mrs. Joan. Venezia   (OGHOA)  questioned how many people were on the Redevelopment Committee and who they were.   Mayor Brantley stated he was on it, Deputy Mayor Williams, Vito Gadaleta, the Engineer, the CFO, the Planner and Bernie Haney.

Ms. Venezia questioned whether the Committee has met or done anything as of yet at the North End.

Mayor Brantley stated they have not done anything as far as the North End but have met a couple of times. He stated they’ve kind of held off until they hired a redevelopment attorney.

Update on North End project. Mr. Anthony  (Township Attorney)  stated that new agreements are complete between the Camp Meeting Association and WAVE. They are meeting to discuss ground rent and transfer fees.

(BF.  Any meetings involving Neptune Township and the North End Redevelopment Plan should be  transparent and made public.      The citizens of OG should be aware of the names on that Redevelopment Committee. )

The meetings between WAVE and the CMA are private and they are not official in terms of the NERP.

PAUL McCARTNEY   with George Harrison’s “All thing Must Pass.”

“All things must pass
All things must pass away.”

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Newly-elected Committeeman Nicholas Williams (L)  poses with re-elected incumbent Committeeman Dr. Michael Brantley. (source: Candidates web site)   Williams lives in Neptune, but he is a member of the Ocean Grove Citizens Patrol, so he knows how to spot trouble. We have high hopes for him.   Perhaps Dr. Brantley will pay more attention to OG issues in 2016.      Internet photo.


In a recent Blogfinger poll, 88% of respondents said that they did not trust the Neptune Township Committee to do what is fair and just for Ocean Grove.  310 respondents voted. 85% said No; 9% said Yes; the rest were unsure.

In January there will be a new Neptune Township Committee. Returning are Dr. Michael Brantley (newly re-elected), Kevin McMillan (incumbent and new Mayor)  and Randy Bishop (incumbent.)   Taking the place of Mary Beth Jahn is Nicholas Williams (newly elected.)  We don’t know yet who will take the place of Eric Houghtaling.

Mary Beth Jahn was not nominated to run again  by the Monmouth County Democrats despite the protests of Randy Bishop. Eric Houghtaling will vacate his seat on January 12, as he will move up to the Assembly in Trenton.

Randy Bishop may soon be vacating his seat voluntarily, but there is no official word about that.

In 2016, the Committee will remain all Democratic. Neptune used to be solidly Republican. Now it is the most Democratic town in Monmouth County.   Some say that party politics are not important in local elections, but don’t believe it. If you look at the Facebook page of Brantley and Williams, after winning, they said, “Democratic residents of Neptune. This was a victory for you.”

Hopefully it will be a victory for all of us.

At Blogfinger our New Year wish is that the newly reshuffled Committee, headed by a new Mayor, will take a fresh look at the way Ocean Grove citizens have been treated with regards to our historic designations, fair and equal zoning applications, out-of-control property taxes, parking standards, and protection against being overrun by condo-building developers.

We have been especially worried about how the North End Redevelopment is being handled.  How about zoning all of OG for single family.  And how about cancelling the redevelopment zone at the North End.

Also, many of us believe that the current application for an RISS exemption in Trenton will jeopardize our town’s future. Why not trash that application to the SIAB and start enforcing the State parking law in the Grove.

We want our Committee to represent us in a fair and transparent manner.   Hopefully that poll, when repeated in 2016, will show a better relationship between the Committee and Ocean Grove.

We also want to remind the Committee that the OGHOA does not represent most Grovers, so the Committee needs to do more outreach in the Grove to judge what our citizens prefer.  Don’t wait for the citizens to come to you.   Let’s reach out of the box.

–Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger



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By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

It’s very interesting to read the minutes of the Neptune Township Committee.  Unfortunately, the minutes are not typed and made available in a timely way.  For example, on April 25, 2015, two days before the next meeting, the latest minutes posted on the Township web site are from March 9, 2015.  You can get your hands on the actual recording of the meeting by going to the Clerk’s Office where, for a nominal charge, they will give you an audio recording on a disc.

Anyone can read the typed minutes by going to Neptunetownship.org.  then click on Agendas and Minutes.  This is an important service.

One part that is always of interest is the Public Comments section at the end where anyone can go to the mic and say what they wish.  They are allowed 5 minutes, and it doesn’t elicit any discussion, but you can find out some interesting information anyhow.

For example, at the March 9 meeting, Ken Buckley of Ocean Grove said a number of things, but these two stood out:

1.  “He also discussed the parking problem in Asbury Park and stated their problems could become our problems. He felt the parking problems in Ocean Grove needed to be looked at and solved.”

2.  “He stated as far as the North End he had an idea to add a street down the middle of the North End and construct single family homes on either side of the street.”

Jack Bredin of Ocean Grove must have raised some eyebrows when he “stated that the Ocean Grove beach is not owned by the Camp Meeting Association. They have riparian rights.”

Jack also asserted that there are problems with the Township’s land use regarding the north end pavilion and #4 Boardwalk.  He said that some of it might be illegal and he asked the Township to get an opinion from the State.  Details of his comment can be found in the minutes.

Since very few OG citizens attend those Committee meetings, the minutes and recordings provide a way to know what transpired. You can also read Blogfinger to see our succinct selections.

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Neptune Logo 2

Editor’s Note:  There are five members of the Neptune Township Committee, and perhaps you would rather be polled on each of them individually,  but this is a poll of the Committee as an entity, much like the polls we often hear about regarding Congress.

It is true that most citizens in the Grove pay little or no attention to the performance of the Committee, but just because Grovers don’t attend meetings  (the citizen attendance overall  is abysmal) doesn’t mean that they don’t have an opinion as to how the Township is being run, especially as it pertains to Ocean Grove, and, after all, the buck stops in that Committee Room at the Mother Ship.

In the one Committee race from last Tuesday, more Grovers voted for Carlson than did for the incumbent  McMillan, although it was close.   It makes us wonder if  Grovers believe that the Township Committee is paying sufficient attention to problems in the Grove.

You also might want to say something in the comments below.

As you all know, our polls are public opinion samplers and not scientific polling.  But I think that our polls can give us a sense of how our neighbors feel about certain issues.

—-Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.


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Mayor Eric Houghtaling with grandson Ryker Butcher, 5 1/2; wife Linda and grandson Cade Butcher, 4. Photo by Mary Walton

Eric Houghtaling celebrates with grandson Ryker Butcher, 5 1/2; wife Linda and grandson Cade Butcher, 4. Photo by Mary Walton

By Mary Walton

You may have run into Eric Houghtaling pumping iron at the Jersey Shore Fitness Center, or atop a ladder in Wegman’s doing something complicated with wires. At Christmas he can be seen mounting an elaborate two-story lighting display on his Gables home. (He is, after all, an electrician.) These are some of Houghtaling’s everyday venues. But for the past two years, since taking the plunge into politics, he has occupied a seat on the Neptune Township Committee. He is a regular at meetings of homeowners in Neptune Township, including in Ocean Grove.

And on New Years Day he was sworn in for a one-year term as mayor, taking the reins from Randy Bishop, his 2010 running mate. In his inaugural speech, Houghtaling pledged to see that the Township continues to help homeowners and businesses recover from Hurricane Sandy damages. Topping his list is getting displaced residents back into their homes. “That saying is true,” he said. “There is no place like home, and we will make that happen.”

Ocean Grove’s Broadway project will be completed, he said, with the addition of new street lighting “desperately needed to replace the hodgepodge of lights currently in use.” And the Township will continue to challenge the owners of derelict properties “who would rather spend their money fighting the condition of their property rather than making the necessary improvements.”

The son of a maintenance man for Freedman’s Bakery, Houghtaling, 58, grew up in the Hamilton Gardens section of Neptune and attended township schools. He is married to the former Linda Deeves, a medical assistant to an Avon physican. They have three grown children and six grandchildren.

Houghtaling graduated from Neptune High without a clear idea of what he wanted to do, but a summer working with his father introduced him to electrical work. It took him four years and repeated applications to gain membership in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 440, a ticket to advanced electrical training and steady employment. Since then he has worked on projects in five states, including bridge maintenance for the state of New Jersey, and calibration, testing and start-up work on nuclear power plants. Since 2011 he has been employed by a contractor for Wegman’s, which has seven New Jersey locations. He enjoys the independence of moving from job to job. “I never really wanted a permanent job with a contractor.”

For 15 years he was a member of the Monmouth/Ocean Central Labor Council, where political issues often surfaced. He was appointed registrar for the local, a post that required him to give monthly motivational speeches, encouraging members to take an interest in politics. As it happened, Houghtaling himself got interested. He knew he’d have to start from scratch, never having been a fixture in Democratic politics nor a regular at committee meetings. “In my whole life here,” he said, “I’ve not been one to complain. That’s why I never got involved in Township meetings.”

To run as a Democrat for a Township Committee seat, he needed the endorsement of a majority of the Neptune party’s district leaders. The candidate they selected would be Bishop’s running mate, so Bishop’s vote was key. As it happened, the pair had met once before, when Houghtaling was president of Little League and a member of the Township’s recreation committee.

 “I was impressed with his earnestness and his dedication,” Bishop told Blogfinger. “I thought to myself, what a great guy.” When the pair met for a beer to discuss Houghtaling’s desire to run, Randy’s impression was ratified all over again. In the two years they have served together, the former mayor said, “He has been not only an incredible colleague but an incredible friend.” They will run for reelection together next November.

One thing Houghtaling is proud of is a plaque recently presented to Jose Cruz, a Township public works employee for 40 years. He ran into Cruz at the gym and was stunned to learn that he had retired with no fanfare, not even a ceremony. Houghtaling, the Township Committee liaison with the Public Works Department, put into place a procedure to recognize not just Cruz but all retiring Township employees with lengthy terms of service.

And today he recognizes the importance of complaints. “If you have a problem, let us know.”

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Olive Houghtaling and her son the mayor. Photo by Mary Walton

Olive Houghtaling and her son the mayor. Photo by Mary Walton

By Mary Walton

One thing a reporter learns when writing a profile of a person is always to talk to the mom.

“So what kind of a kid was Eric?” we asked Olive Houghtaling when we were introduced to her at a gathering of her son’s friends and family at his home. This was just a few hours after his swearing-in as mayor. “Was he obedient?”

“He didn’t listen,” she answered immediately.

We asked her to tell us more.

“We told him not to go to the candy store. He went anyway and he got arrested. I told his father, ‘You go get him, I’m not getting him.’ ”

Standing within earshot, the new mayor flinched at this revelation of his childhood past. “Mom, what are you doing? You’re killing me.”

So this is the story: Houghtaling was 14 and he and his buddies used to hang out in the Jumping Brook Mall, outside a certain luncheonette. “We didn’t like the owner,” Houghtaling said, suddenly red-faced. “He gave us a hard time.”

The owner had his revenge. The police were called. Eric was arrested for loitering. His dad came down and got him out of the pen. After six months his record was expunged.

Seated next to Houghtaling, Neptune’s outgoing mayor, Randy Bishop, couldn’t contain his laughter. “I’m concerned about having such a reprobate as my running mate.”

 “He didn’t do any harm,” said Mrs. Houghtaling. “He just didn’t listen.”

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Site of the North End project, looking north toward Asbury. Photo by Paul Goldfinger

By Charles Layton and Paul Goldfinger

We recently reported that the Camp Meeting Association hopes to conclude a redevelopment agreement with Neptune Township soon and then, in 2013, to break ground on its North End hotel and condominium project. Before that happens, we hope the Township officials and the citizens of Ocean Grove will give this project a sober, fresh look.

The area in question is the vacant space next to the boardwalk between Spray Avenue and Wesley Lake. The plan, as presently conceived, would allow for a five-story hotel with approximately 80 rooms, plus a condominium complex of more than 70 units, plus a few single-family homes.

If this is built, it will be the most massive construction project in Ocean Grove’s modern history. Its impact on all of us will be substantial, and that impact will begin at the opening gun, with the start of construction.

Try to visualize this. Ocean Grovers are already experiencing two much more modest construction projects — the replacement of the burned-out homes and hotel on Surf and Atlantic Avenues, and the drainage work on Broadway. Both those projects have brought us inconvenience, but they are trifling compared to what the North End will bring.

The North End project will likely disrupt just about all of Ocean Grove. It will mar our landscape with piles of construction materials, heavy equipment, mounds of excavated dirt, trash, traffic congestion and noise – everything that a construction site of that magnitude implies. These disturbances could persist for a very long time. And after all that grief, what will we have to show? Scores of new condominiums which Ocean Grove doesn’t need and which most Ocean Grovers almost certainly won’t like. And that’s before we even consider the impact on parking.

When this plan was hatched about five years ago, the land in question was zoned for single-family homes. The Neptune Township Master Plan explicitly prohibited condos there. The landowner – the Camp Meeting Association — got around that by having the area declared “in need of redevelopment,” a legal designation typically used to rescue blighted areas, slum properties and the like.

Although that designation solved the Camp Meeting’s zoning problem, the trade-off was that it gave the Neptune Township Committee the authority to guide the project, deciding such matters as its size, density, number of housing units, number of hotel rooms, amount of required off-street parking and so forth.

The Township Committee was originally friendly toward most everything the developers wanted to do. When Randy Bishop first became mayor in 2008, he succeeded in reducing the size of what had been proposed. However, Bishop was in a relatively weak position at that time, because some on the Township Committee seemed inclined to allow a truly massive development. On the night the Committee finally approved Bishop’s compromise plan, Bishop said he personally didn’t much like it but that he had been forced “to look for the middle ground.” In other words, it was the best deal he thought he could get.

That was then. Now, the Township Committee’s composition has changed. So, perhaps, has the mood of this community. (At a Home Owners meeting in June, Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn got a rise from the audience when she spoke of a radical scaling back, including the total elimination of all the proposed condos.) It appears to us that three of the five current Committee members should be willing now to further reduce the size of this project. Those three would be Bishop, Jahn and Eric Houghtaling. As a majority, they have the power.

Leaders of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association also appear to be of a mind to fight for a better deal. Last year the Home Owners’ standing committee on the North End made a set of very thoughtful suggestions, which the organization’s membership voted to approve.

One suggestion was that the Township should require that the hotel be built first, then the single-family homes, and then, if condos are to be built, they should come last. One fear is that the developer might build the condos first and then decide that, after all, the hotel isn’t feasible. Another fear is that if a large hotel is built, and if it then begins to lose money, the Camp Meeting might be impelled to convert it into yet more condos.

Another proposal by the Home Owners is that the condos should be built in blocks, and that each block of condos should be 75 percent sold before the next block could be started. This, it is argued, would help insure that we don’t end up with empty, partially-built structures, as has happened in Asbury Park.

The Home Owners’ position paper contains quite a few such ideas, intended to reduce adverse impacts on the town and avoid a potentially disastrous outcome. We suggest that everyone read this document.

Before the North End project can proceed, the developers and the Township Committee must negotiate a contract spelling out the details in considerable specificity. During these negotiations, everything is subject to reconsideration. Although the negotiations themselves will be conducted behind closed doors, their product will have to be made public and enacted into law before work can begin. So, eventually, there must be public input. The Home Owners position paper also suggests ways to make things more transparent on an on-going basis, such as having the Township publish on its website regular updates including the text of all reports on environmental impact, traffic impact, water table tests and the like.

We urge the people of Ocean Grove who care about preserving the charm, character and livability of this community to start paying attention to this process now. Attend the monthly Home Owners meetings and ask questions. Keep in touch with your Township Committee members. Be curious.

As Grovers come to understand the implications of this project, we hope they will push with all their might for a better – which is to say, much less massive – redevelopment plan.

NOTE: For an outline of basic facts about the North End plan, go here.  And also here.   To read the Home Owners’ position paper on the North End, go here.

The entire North End Redevelopment Plan is available on the Township’s website, but it is quite hard to find. Go here, then scroll way, way down and click on “Redevelopment Plan-OG North End.”

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By Charles Layton

Could the Broadway drainage project turn out a failure?

That’s what worried large numbers of Ocean Grovers at Monday night’s Township Committee meeting.

Although this $1 million construction project has plowed up large portions of Broadway, closed the street to traffic for much of the summer and brought noise, trash, dirt and anxiety to residents, many said that, after all that hassle, they doubted the project would fix their perennial flooding problem.

As one resident after another paraded to the microphone to question and complain, it became clear that a major factual disagreement existed between the Township officials and some of those residents.

Township officials contend that the main cause of the August 15 flash flood and a lesser but still significant flash flood on Monday was a partial blockage at Broadway and Central — a blockage that, once corrected, will no longer impede storm water flowing toward outlets at Fletcher Lake.

Some residents weren’t buying that story. They said the problem isn’t a temporary, rectifiable choke point at the Central Avenue intersection; rather, it’s that the entire recently-installed system of underground drainage pipes is too small to handle runoff from a normal summer rain.

Francis Paladino, who lives at 69½ Broadway and is chairman of the OG Sewerage Authority and a former president of the OG Home Owners Association, said that on Monday the water was 18 inches deep along his curb. He said from his own observation of the two recent floods he had concluded that the drainpipes newly installed along the length of Broadway were simply too small, and that this was why the street continued to flood.

“We’d better take a look and go back to the drawing board,” he told the Committee.

Allan Ellgren, who lives at 55 Broadway, told the Committee that he felt “the project is not going to work.” In fact, he said, since the Township began installing the new system, the flooding problem has grown worse.

“I wanted to sell my house. I took it off the market,” he said. “I can’t sell my house without telling the prospective buyer that there’s a flooding problem.”

Eric Tellefsen, owner of The Sea Spray, a B&B at Beach Avenue and Broadway, said “there’s probably five times the volume of water coming down Beach than has ever been seen before.” He said his and his wife’s downstairs living quarters had been flooded repeatedly this year and “we can no longer live there.”

Marilyn Laverty, who has resided on Broadway for nine years, said the recent flooding was “directly related to this project… We’ve had rains as heavy in the past, with less flooding.”

Leanne Hoffmann, Neptune’s director of engineering and planning, said the work at Beach Avenue “isn’t complete yet.” The solution to Tellefsen’s problem, she said, will be the addition of two more grates on Beach, which should be installed by the end of September.

Hoffmann and Township engineer Peter Avakian both said another major remaining task is to replace the old box culvert underneath Broadway at Central. This culvert unexpectedly collapsed on Tuesday of last week, and it was this, Avakian said, that had caused water to back up all down the street. It will take approximately two weeks before the contractor can begin replacing that compromised culvert, Hoffmann said.

Paladino maintained that these fixes won’t solve the problem. Although broken, the old box culvert was carrying all the water that flowed into it on Monday, he said, and in fact it was only “running about half full” because that was all the water the upstream pipes could deliver to it. He said he had personally witnessed this.

Even though Township officials predicted that things would soon be better, they did appear to be scaling back expectations of how well the new system will perform. Whereas Paladino, who has followed the project since its inception, maintained that its original goal “was to eliminate the flooding on Broadway,” Avakian said the system “won’t take all the water” that flows down Broadway. The project will only be able to handle “a two-, five-, ten-, up to a 25-year storm,” he said. Officials said both this week’s and last week’s rains qualified as 25-year storms.

(It is, in fact, possible to have two 25-year rainstorms in the space of a few days; technically, this term means that every year there is a 1-in-25 chance of one of those storms occurring. However, Paladino and Ellgren contended that the two recent cloudbursts were normal summer rains.)

One of the reasons more runoff seems to be pouring down to Broadway these days is that a previous outlet, which took water from Main Avenue beneath the boardwalk and into the ocean, has been eliminated. The water that used to take that route to the ocean now flows south from Main toward Broadway.

Several residents wondered whether the Township intended, once the project is completed, to restore Broadway from its current trashed-up condition to its former beauty as one of Ocean Grove’s showplace boulevards. Mayor Randy Bishop promised that this would be done.

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