Brigantine Beach

City Council's April 19 meeting included the final hearing and adoption of three ordinances that would repurpose funds from city projects that came in under budget, the approval of a $5 million bond ordinance for various capital improvements, and the introduction of an ordinance that would authorize $1.3 million for three new stormwater pumping stations.

The latter ordinance is funding that will cover expenses until the city receives total recompensation through state and federal grants for pending construction of pumping stations at Hackney Place, Jenkins Parkway and 34th Street. It is not new debt, explained city manager Ed Stinson, but rather money that will be reimbursed for projects whose completion could extend into next year.

Prior to formal business, Fire Chief Tige Platt and firefighter and EMT Jack Murray presented plaques to seven Brigantine Elementary School students in kindergarten through fifth grade for their submissions in a fire-prevention poster contest. Winners in two divisions — kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth grade — received new bicycles donated by All About Bikes N Wheels owner John Johnson, of Brigantine.

Kira Aguouras won a bike for the k-2 division, and Shayaan Choudhry and Colton O'Neill tied for grades three to five, with each winning a bike. The other four children received $25 gift certificates to the Smile Factory arcade. They were Anastasia Ross Terrigino, Addison Johnson, Jalen Green and Kelly Kachnic.

Mayor Phil Guenther announced that he and Deputy Mayor Andy Simpson attended an April 14 meeting of the Atlantic County Mayors Association that called for all state and county officials to meet April 28 in Brigantine to discuss options for repealing or revising the controversial payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, bill.

Originally Gov. Chris Christie ordered Atlantic City's struggling casinos to make fixed PILOT payments totaling $120 million per year over 10 years, with Atlantic County to receive 13.5 percent of those payments. State officials later reduced the county share to 10.4 percent, which means roughly $4 million less to the county and, in Brigantine's case, a potential 5 cent tax increase, or $500 added to their tax obligation per $100,000 of assessed real property.

“It is a major concern, but there's no easy answer,” the mayor said.

“If things stay the way they are, some people don't think they'll be able to stay in their homes, and that shouldn't happen,” said Councilman Vince Sera.

The three ordinances that will repurpose funds for capital improvements total $575,848.

“When we have a project that was authorized and we come in less than what it was funded for, we can combine several small balances from various bond ordinances into a single fund for capital improvements,” said Stinson. “That's what we're doing here.”

The $5 million bond ordinance will go toward upgrades to roadways, stormwater and sewage drainage systems, bulkheads, municipal buildings and grounds, and purchase of vehicles for the police, beach patrol and public works departments.

Anne Phillips of the Brigantine Taxpayers Association asked if records are kept on the mileage and condition of the vehicles being replaced, and if so, whether she could inspect those records. The answer was yes to both questions.

Council unanimously passed an ordinance that will increase the registration and inspection fees for rental properties from $100 to $150. The $50 increase will be applied toward promoting tourism and economic development on the island, and will supplement grant funding the city has applied for through the state Division of Travel and Tourism.

“Tourism and bringing new businesses to the island go hand in hand,” said the mayor, “and that investment in the community makes everyone's property value increase.”

A final ordinance that was introduced April 5 and passed unanimously April 19 will make it illegal for any business or individual to intentionally release lighter-than-air balloons into the environment. The ordinance imposes a fine of up to $500 for violation. On a related note, it was mentioned that an ordinance should be looked into prohibiting companies from tossing phone directories or other publications in plastic bags onto private driveways. When these are dropped at unoccupied vacation homes, the bags or content can end up blowing around, creating litter and leading to environmental issues.

Public works superintendent John Doring was congratulated for his work in the city achieving the highest status possible through the Atlantic County Joint Insurance Fund Safety Incentive Program.

“It's really recognition for the whole city,” said Doring. “The plaque will be placed in the City Hall lobby. (The program) started in 2007 and we progressed from bronze to gold status, and now the city was recognized for safety excellence in 2016.”

Platt clarified a misconception some residents had regarding advertised applications for potential employment in the Brigantine Fire Department.

“We're currently at full staff — no new firefighters are being hired,” he said. “We are simply updating a list to work off in case an injury or illness takes someone out of the workforce, or if someone retires. There are currently two people in the department who are in a position to retire, but right now there are no openings.”

One of the items on council's consent agenda was a request for permission to hold a bubble soccer match June 24 on the 25th Street beach. When proof of insurance and other issues were deemed in place, it was approved.

“What's bubble soccer?” Simpson asked.

“You're inside a bubble, your feet are out, and you play soccer while bouncing off each other,” answered Stinson.

“I definitely recommend council get involved with that,” said Simpson.

Council's next meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 3.