By PETE WALTON
Bradley Beach will partner with a private event promoter to sponsor this year’s Bradley Beach Lobster Fest.
The Borough Council voted 4-1 at its meeting this week to enter into a contract with the Passion Group to produce the June 23-25 event.
The move came after it became apparent to the council that the Bradley Beach Chamber of Commerce would be unable to enter into an agreement with the Passion Group as it has done in the past.
Mayor Gary Engelstad said the new arrangement was a “one-time fix” to allow the event to take place rather than cancel it on short notice.
“I do not anticipate the borough being in this position again,” the mayor said.
Engelstad said Councilman Randy Bonnell suggested that the borough get involved after problems with the chamber’s participation were revealed at a June 6 special meeting of the council.
The councilman said he believed that Lobster Fest had “outgrown Bradley Beach.” The promoter has trademarked the Lobster Fest name and could take the event to another location in the future.
Bonnell negotiated a 50-50 split of net revenues after expenses between the borough and the Passion Group. Bonnell sais he expects the borough will receive approximately $20,000 in addition to full reimbursement of expenses
“[The Passion Group] should be allowed to take it to the open market,” Bonnell said.
Council members and other residents previously asked the chamber to schedule the event outside the summer season.
Councilman John Weber cast the lone vote against the new deal. He said he was “elected to serve the interests of the people of Bradley Beach, not the Passion Group.”
Resident Thomas J. Coan sued the council over its earlier approval of the 2018 Lobster Fest on the grounds that Council President Dr. Harold Cotler should have abstained from the vote. Cotler’s wife Beth is the president of the Chamber of Commerce.
The two sides reached a settlement which called for the earlier approval to be rescinded and a new vote taken without the participation of Cotler.
The settlement led to the June 6 special meeting, at which the difficulties with the chamber’s participation were disclosed.
Borough Attorney Michael DuPont said this week that the chamber did not file paperwork with the state which was needed if the group wanted to sponsor the event.
Coan asked DuPont why competitive bidding was not needed for Lobster Fest now that the borough was directly involved.
DuPont said the borough’s new purchasing agent determined that the arrangement was a “concession” and that the town was “licensing” the beachfront to the Passion Group for Lobster Fest.
It’s my legal opinion that it is a concession and is allowable,” DuPont said.
Also at this week’s meeting, Councilman Norman Goldfarb said that a claim of $307,000 has been paid by federal authorities for damage to boardwalk railings during superstorm Sandy. The money will be used to pay off bonds for tthe project when they come due next year.
David McAllister of the popular Buttered Biscuit restaurant asked the council to more clearly mark the 15-minute parking spaces in front of Borough Hall and across the street from the restaurant.
“People aren’t seeing the signs and are getting tickets,” McAllister said. “It leaves a bad taste [about the borough] in their mouths.”
McAllister said people attending events in Riley Park have been ticketed as well.
Engelstad said he would make sure the matter was addressed.