BRICK – The year 2018 started not with a bang, but with a bomb, or to be more precise, a “Bomb Cyclone,” that dumped some 18 inches of snow in the township due to a large-scale and rapidly-decreasing low pressure system.
Governor-Elect Phil Murphy made a stop in Brick to administer the oath of office to Mayor John G. Ducey, while Councilwoman Heather DeJong was named as the new president of the governing body.
The township council adopted a $100,978,885 budget that was slightly up less than one-half a percent from the previous year’s spending plan.
There were two new faces on the Board of Education last year as Jessica Clayton and Maria Foster were sworn in, and Stephanie Wohlrab was named new Board president.
After going through 10 superintendents in 10 years, the Board hired Gerard Dalton, who signed a four-year contract with the district. Dalton most recently served as the vice superintendent of pupil services at the highly-rated West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District.
It was a challenging year for the school district. The state announced that a number of districts that were considered to be under-taxed would be losing so-called “adjustment aid.” In Brick, some $25 million would be phased out over a seven-year period.
Also, a $12.5 school safety referendum question was narrowly defeated during the midterm November election. If the funding had passed, all schools would have had safe entrances constructed, increased security camera systems, lock-down capability, and many other safety features.
School officials have said they do not have a “Plan B.”
In April, Ducey announced the specifics for the development of the long-vacant, township-owned, 11-acre former Foodtown site on Route 70.
The governing body voted to allow a recreation center as an approved use for the site, clearing the path for the construction of a sports dome and retail complex there.
As the commercial market has changed over the past 10 years with more people shopping online, there has been a shift of the types of stores that are opening, not only in Brick but nationwide. New businesses such as restaurants, hair and nail salons, medical care and fitness have opened where larger anchor stores have gone out of business.
An exception is At Home, a big box retail store that opened at the former KMart location on Route 88.
Plans for several new Wawa convenience store and gas stations were approved in 2018; one was approved for the site of the Laurelton Mobile Home Park on Route 88; another will be built at the intersection of Route 70 and Duquesne Blvd.; and a Wawa on Lanes Mill Road near Parkway interchange 91 will be expanded and enlarged and would have gas pumps since they purchased the adjacent former Rice King Restaurant.
Another convenience store/gas station was approved for the site of the former Jersey Paddler at the intersection of Routes 70 and 88, where the first Ocean County location for a Royal Farms was approved.
A new law was passed to address the large number of vacant homes in town by putting the burden on banks to ensure that the homes do not become a blight or affect surrounding property values.
Banks must register the property with the township and designate a property manager to inspect, maintain and secure the property every 30 days.
As the township continues to recover from Superstorm Sandy, the Army Corps of Engineers completed the long-awaited beach replenishment project that stretches from the Manasquan Inlet to Island Beach State Park.
The 14-mile long, $128 million project included dredging an estimated 1.6 million cubic yards of sand to Brick beaches, creating 200-foot-wide beaches and 22-foot-tall dunes.
Sandy was not the only weather event to cause flooding in the township. An Aug. 13 storm dumped over eight inches of rain in two and a half hours, resulting in the flooding of homes in the northern section of the township, including 114 in the adult community of Greenbriar 1.
Governor Murphy declared a state of emergency in Ocean and Monmouth counties, and urged residents and businesses to carefully document all property damages caused by the floodwaters.
Some residents blamed the reconstruction of the Parkway interchange 91, which had been completed in May 2017.
In late August, Councilman Jim Fozman announced that he was breaking ties with the all-Democrat governing body as he endorsed Republican candidate Bob Hugin for Senate. He has since been challenging the mayor and his fellow council members on a variety of issues.
In a prepared statement, Fozman said the governing body had been distancing him because he was frequently at odds with “their lack of transparency.” He said that he has always been fiscally and socially conservative and more in line with the Republican party, which Ducey called “a complete joke.”
Ducey said his administration does not lack transparency, and said that other mayors have called him “crazy” for appearing on his twice-monthly Facebook Live appearances when he answers questions in real-time.
The mayor also said that his administration’s record of spending over his five years as mayor has the lowest increases in the history of the township.
And finally, the fate of a proposed marijuana dispensary at the site of the former OceanFirst Bank on Adamston Road is still unknown since a second Board of Adjustment meeting scheduled for December was postponed since the crowd was too big for the meeting room.
The meeting would be rescheduled for a larger venue at a later date.
The state is allowing six treatment centers to be opened in New Jersey: two in the north, two in central Jersey and two in the south.
It is unknown if the Department of Health would allow Jersey Shore Therapeutic Health Care to open the dispensary in Brick, but if they do, they must also get approval from the municipality