Councilman Dan Toth and Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis squared off Tuesday night over a boat ramp that Acropolis' administration earlier this month.
The Glenwood Place boat ramp, a dirt ramp at a street end that leads to the Metedeconk River, has been blocked off with a guard rail. The closing of the ramp led to an outcry in the boating community, with Toth leading the charge.
"The ramp, and therefore public access, was closed unilaterally, without benefit of discussion, public input, or state review, and is a hardship to many Brick Township residents that may not have the luxury or means to be able to enjoy our waters alternatively," said Toth, reading from a statement he had prepared.
Toth called for the ramp to be immediately reopened. Acropolis said that would not happen.
"The administration is not going to open up the boat ramp again," said Acropolis.
Now, a committee of the township council, which has yet to be formed, will look into the matter.
Acropolis has said complaints from neighbors about public urination, littering and noise spurred the administration to close the ramp. Toth, whose family owns property adjacent to the ramp, said the problems are being overstated, and Acropolis should have brought concerns about the ramp to council rather than unilaterally deciding to shut it down.
Opinions from the public were mixed at Tuesday's council meeting.
"I'm glad that it is closed unless major changes are made," said Denis Ambio of Manor Drive. "Last year, two girls actually squatted on the water's edge and went to the bathroom."
Ambio said users of the ramp can be heard early in the morning and late at night using foul language. He also said people have been launching large performance boats that make a lot of noise – especially when boaters have kept their engines running for long periods of time.
"It's the same as someone leaving a Harley Davidson running with open pipes in front of your house," said Ambio. "We still enjoy it, but now the balance has shifted. It's more of a pain than a pleasure right now."
But former Councilwoman Helen Fayad, who owns property near the ramp, said the concerns are overblown.
"The've been clean, neat and have caused me absolutely no problems whatsoever," Fayad said, of boaters. "Glenwood was open and was being used in 1971 when I came down here. I've seen no problem with it."
Fayad suggested putting an ordinance in place that limits the size of a boat that can be launched there.
Jay Santos said his neighbors use the ramp because they can't afford the prices of private marina launches. He spoke about one struggling neighbor who launches his boat at the ramp and fishes to feed his family.
"He freezes the fish to get him through the winter. I'm sure he's not the only one," said Santos.
Acropolis took issue with Santos' statement, however, telling him that the township-owned Traders Cove Marina charges $10 per day to launch and retrieve a boat, and $100 for unlimited launches.
"If you're launching a $12,000 Waverunner, and you can't afford the $10 at a ramp, much less a $150,000 Cigarette boat, come on," he said.
"If anybody can't pay the $100 fee at Traders Cove, I'll pay for the first 10," said Acropolis. "I am willing to take $1,000 of my own money to pay for those first 10 people."
Toth said residents should have free access to the water, and keeping the boat ramp was in line with state Department of Environmental Protection policies that encourage public access to tidal waters.
"This ramp has been used by generations of Brick Township residents," Toth said.
Council President John Ducey said a comittee of the township council, led by Toth, will look into the ramp's closure.