By JACQUELINE DURETT
SAYREVILLE — The Sayreville Economic & Redevelopment Agency (SERA) meeting on Sept. 22 got off to a rough start, but Councilman/SERA member Steven Grillo says he believes it was a misunderstanding that has since been resolved.
What prompted an argument was an email that Grillo sent Council President Daniel Buchanan that contained the phrase “SERA is generally ineffective.” That email made its way to SERA Chairman Michael D’Addio, who said he was insulted by that sentiment and added that he felt it was untrue.
Grillo said that he sent the email to Buchanan ahead of the town hall he had planned for Sept. 28 and was championing the need for an economic development director position that would liase with SERA. He said he used the phrase in explaining why the position was needed, and understanding the context was key.
“This entity, while it has done wonderful things, including at the National Lead site and the Highview Homes (Morgan’s Bluff), is not an economic development group,” he explained to the board. “It cannot take certain items where they need to be because we don’t have someone on a daily basis doing the work that is required, not only for this group but for other planning groups in the borough.”
However, D’Addio was not satisfied with the explanation and questioned why Grillo felt he was in a position to question SERA’s success as he has not been on the board all that long. Grillo was sworn in to SERA in September of 2015.
SERA members questioned his plans for the Morgan town hall, which led to debates about why the area as a whole and individual businesses are struggling.
D’Addio in particular took issue with Grillo’s recommendation to use the former Club Bene property in Morgan as a wildflower park.
“We’re ineffective because we didn’t plant flowers?” D’Addio asked. “Do you think that’s a function of the redevelopment agency, planting flowers?”
Grillo responded he was trying to address the Morgan residents’ lack of access to parks. He said he felt recreation opportunities were key to improving the area.
Arguing and finger-pointing continued, but culminated with Grillo apologizing to anyone who was offended by his comments. He said his intent was to improve SERA, not tear it down.
“I did not mean to personally offend anyone,” he said. “I respect this body quite a bit. I enjoy these meetings.”
The discussion ended with SERA member and borough Democratic Party Chair Tom Pollando thanking Grillo for the apology, but cautioned him about putting his foot in his mouth. Grillo took exception to that, and Pollando ultimately said he regretted putting Grillo on SERA. Pollando said he apologized to the other members of SERA for bringing him onto the board and then left for a prior commitment.
Grillo explained after the meeting that Pollando had recommended Grillo join SERA prior to Grillo’s election to council. He also said he has no intention of stepping down from SERA and feels that the board members and he have settled the issue.
“I’ve moved on, I’m not offended,” he said, adding that he and the other members of SERA all have the same intent of improving Sayreville. “I think SERA does great work.”