Council thanks outgoing members, prepares for 2013

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Council

It was the last full meeting of the current Brigantine City Council as the island approaches the year’s end. Councilmen Sam Storino, Bob Solari and Steve Bonanni were all in attendance as the end of their tenure with council approached. Even though there is one more meeting scheduled on Dec. 27, Deputy Mayor Storino will not be in attendance, making this his last meeting.

The new members, Democrats Lisa McClay, Joe Picardi and Republican Andy Simpson, will be sworn in at a reorganization meeting scheduled for Jan. 2.

It promises to be a steep learning curve for the newcomers as they address the current challenges facing the city. It will also be a challenge for Mayor Philip Guenther as the power on council moves to the Democrats, who will have dominance for the first time with a 5-2 majority.

The mayor wished the departing council members well.

“No one will miss them more than I will,” he said, prompting many in the audience to chuckle.

The meeting started with a review of the municipal budget for 2013 by City Auditor Leon Costello, who reported the city appears to be on the same financial track as previewed in July. Financial challenges are looming, but the city is in better shape than many local municipalities.

The recent approval of a bond ordinance to offset a loss of tax ratables due to property tax appeals was deemed necessary by Costello. But he noted that a further loss of ratables – a possibility due to Superstorm Sandy, future tax appeals and the property revaluation postponement – could have a serious impact on 2013-14 budgets.

While the state has only approved a one-time bond against the loss of ratables, the recent damages could result in another opportunity to bond – “a second bite of the apple,” said Costello, though he acknowledged this is speculative.

Even with the bond, the city faces a shortage of $372,000 in revenue at present. City Manager Jennifer Blumenthal is negotiating contracts with many of the city’s unions, including the police department. The fire department’s contract will not come up till the following year.

The Rev. John Scotland from the Presbyterian Community Church, a member of the True Spirit Coalition, gave a presentation regarding the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) Long Term Recovery Guide. Scotland, who has been actively involved in charity organizations, said he had been advised that Brigantine should get involved with VOAD in order to take advantage of the many resources the coalition offers.

The presentation was warmly received by council, and Blumenthal indicated that she was forming a committee to participate. More information on this organization and the city committee will follow.

Council approved the formation of two other committees at this time. The new Building and Code Committee for 2013 consists of Mayor Guenther, Councilmen Tony Pullella and Rick DeLucry, Blumenthal, City Engineer Ed Stinson, City Solicitor Tim Maguire, Director of Public Works Ernie Purdy, City Construction Official Richard Stevens, Municipal Planner Lance Landgraf, Land Use (Planning) Board Attorney Hance Jacquett and Land Use (Planning) Board Chairman Mark Coyne.

The new Storm Mitigation Committee consists of Guenther, Pullella, DeLucry, Blumenthal, Stinson, Purdy, Stevens and Jim Rutala – a consultant with the city.

Blumenthal discussed the ongoing issues with flood mitigation and FEMA. There are programs to assist the city with bulkheads, roadway improvements, generators, floodgates and land acquisition. She also discussed the FEMA STEP program, but noted that its effectiveness may have passed.

A question was raised regarding the planned beach replenishment for the north end. Purdy and Stinson confirmed that the project was to start shortly and that mobilization was imminent.

Purdy indicated that the project should be completed at the end of March.

Councilmen DeLucry, Pullella and Frank Kern took a moment to thank the departing Storino, Solari and Bonanni, with Pullella noting that he and Storino had butted heads from time to time. Storino was gracious in his response, commenting that he and Pullella had generated “the best ratings” for the televised meetings.

Mayor Guenther congratulated the three for their service, calling them “role models as councilmen.”

The next council meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27 in council chambers at City Hall. The meeting is a financial meeting which will address a transfer of appropriations and other financial housekeeping. At the following council meeting, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, the new council members will be sworn into office.

All meeting agendas and the supporting documents are available prior to the meetings at www.brigantinebeachnj.com.

The Beachcomber News, as Brigantine’s official newspaper of record, publishes all city legal notices.


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