Belmar councilman says he brings new ideas
By ERIK LARSEN
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU
The only Republican ever elected to serve on the Borough Council will seek a second three-year term, he announced Tuesday.
Since 2006, Councilman William Merkler, 40, of Second Avenue has been the lone voice of official opposition to Democratic Mayor Kenneth E. Pringle’s administration, which controls the other four seats on the council. The party has not selected a candidate to run against the incumbent this November.
“I admit that being the lone Republican on the council is at times frustrating, both from my ability to get many of my supporters’ issues addressed and also from a personal standpoint,” Merkler said. “In such a small town, there is no reason to have the partisan bickering that I have experienced.”
While relationships between Merkler and his colleagues have been relatively cordial in public, some debates — mainly over quality-of-life and budget issues — have been testy at times, which has led to frustration on both sides.
Last week, Merkler did not march with the mayor and council in the annual Belmar/Lake Como St. Patrick’s Day Parade, opting instead to view the iconic event with his family from the sidelines as one of 100,000 other spectators.
“I think our residents want both parties to work together to make Belmar a better place to live,” said Councilman Matthew J. Doherty, who won a seat on Pringle’s ticket a year after Merkler’s election. “I believe they deserve better than partisan rhetoric and accusations from their elected officials. . . . I hope Councilman Merkler will join with the rest of the council in working together for the people of Belmar and put aside partisan differences.”
Merkler said he feels his presence has served the public interest well and he wants to continue to be a part of the council for another three years.
“Primarily, I have led the effort to build support for the town skateboard park and developed the private financial backing for that facility,” Merkler said.
Indeed, Merkler has made the refurbishment of the decade-old skate park on 16th Avenue the centerpiece of his first term.
“As a result of those efforts, we will be awarding a contract for the first phase of ramps and construction to allow for a Memorial Day opening,” he said. “Although others in town have talked about building recreational facilities for our children, this is the first facility to be built in many a year, with no burden to the taxpayers of Belmar.”
With Corzine’s proposed budget for fiscal 2009 expected to slash $168 million in property tax relief aid for municipalities, Merkler said more innovative ideas will be needed on the council to figure a way to generate new revenue for Belmar while holding the line on spending.
“With the downtown redevelopment (project) in disarray and the governor’s proposal to cut aid to small towns like Belmar putting pressure on our budget, as many different ideas as possible will need to be considered,” Merkler said. “I feel that my supporters and I will have input on these issues, which will be of help to Belmar.”