JACKSON – “Come by and chat with Mayor Michael Reina,” was how it was billed. The periodic “Meet the Mayor” forum was designed to allow for residents to bring their questions and concerns to the township’s top official.
The most recent forum, held on April 29, at the municipal building, featured seven individuals in the audience including one member of the press. The hour-long session featured insights about social media abuse, concerns about needed road repairs, an obstacle concerning a major pending property purchase and venting about politics on the state and national level.
While those in the audience included several long-time residents and a member of the planning board, Reina wanted to see more residents turn out for the forum.
Reina responded to questions about road work along the borderline of Jackson and Monmouth County on Route 537 saying “Ocean County has 33 municipalities not just Jackson. We have a lot of paving going on in Jackson and developers have to do their fair share.”
The mayor also revealed an obstacle in the path of the township’s plan to purchase 34 acres of the historic Rova Farm property.
Summarizing the township’s plan, Reina said that “we want to purchase the property and got an appraisal. It has a historic value more than anything else and is open space. There will be no building on it. While we were in phase one of an environmental study which was to be completed by April 20 with a closing on the property by May 15, a third party came in.”
“We are not letting the property go to a third party,” Reina said. He suggested that if necessary eminent domain could be used to secure the property.
“In 10 years in office I’ve never used the words eminent domain but we aren’t taking away anyone’s property. I won’t stop until it is in the township’s hands,” he said.
In response to whether an old nightclub on the property could be repurposed as a museum, Reina said “there will be no building there. That building has been condemned and is uninhabitable. It has structural issues and will be razed.
“It really was a no-brainer. This property will probably be turned into a park for everyone to enjoy and for people to walk around in nature and canoe in the lake. This will benefit all of Jackson,” Reina said.
The mayor acknowledged that the township would monitor issues of potential trespassing and litter there.
That subject moved the conversation into the direction of overall illegal dumping in wooded areas of Jackson, a problem that Reina said has existed for years and is also a problem beyond Jackson and Ocean County.
“We saw large volumes of people leaving behind a mess. It is a problem not just in Jackson and we would need rules and regulations,” Reina said.
Members of the audience and Reina noted several infamous incidents of debris turning up in areas of the township over the years.
Bismark Road was one location cited where the contents of a home were spilled out around the road. “But those who do this always leave behind something that trips them up. In this case they forgot a luggage tag that they missed,” Reina said.
“We found a sofa in a tree resting on the branches in the middle of Cedar Creek. God only knows what kids had to do to put it up there as a joke. We’ve also found roofing material in the woods. This isn’t a problem limited to Jackson, Barnegat, Brick, Manchester or even Ocean County.”
Reina said that he was excited about the development of the Venture Crossing sports complex that will include a research and development facility that will focus on finding a cure for multiple sclerosis.
“It is something I’ve wanted to see in the township since 2010. Seeing what is coming makes me feel good,” Reina said.
The topic of politics beyond Jackson also surfaced with Reina and members of the audience questioning the logic of many state and federal proposals such as permitting convicted criminals the right to vote.
Also questioned was the idea of issuing undocumented immigrants a driver’s license and criticism toward top law enforcement officials who are calling for local police to not to cooperate with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). ICE’s primary function is to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration.
The mayor voiced his opposition toward the idea of legalizing marijuana for recreational use stating “it is still illegal on the federal level and is a sin tax that would drive up the black market and embolden criminals.”
Reina criticized both Republican and Democrats on the state and national level. “I believe they can all do a better job. If they could work together we as would be in a much better place.”