Professional services contract for Life Saving Station approved

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OCEANCITY — City Council approved a $161,000 contract with Watson and Henry Associates in Bridgeton for professional architectural and engineering services related to the rehabilitation of the Fourth Street Life Saving Station at its Dec. 20 meeting.

The contract was put on hold from the Dec. 8 meeting after members of council expressed concerns over the cost of the project. Some members requested to hear from the US Life Saving Station 30 organization, which has been working to raise funds in order to pay the city back for the cost of the acquisition and restoration.

City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said that the group has become a registered non-profit organization. USLSS 30 Board Chairman John Loeper, along with other representatives, came before City Council Tuesday to present the group’s current fundraising plans.

Dattilo prepared a document listing all the expenses incurred by the city to date and the grants the city has received to offset the acquisition of the property and upcoming project.

The purchase price for the property was $887,500, not including soft costs and other related items, he said. The cost of the restoration is estimated at $1.5 million, for a total project cost of about $2.4 million, Dattilo said.

The city has acquired Green Acres funding in the amount of $227,500, a $750,000 rehabilitation grant from the state – a 50-percent matching grant – and $192,000 in a Community Development Block Grant.

The $750,000 grant from the state’s Historic Trust, Dattilo said, is a sign of how the state views the restoration.

“That speaks volumes to what they see is the viability of this project,” he said.

Dattilo said the building will likely be placed on the National Register of Historic Places as well, making it eligible for even more grants.

“The fact that they now have their 501c3 designation, they now have access to funding that we do not as a government agency,” Dattilo said.

Loeper explained to council that there are a combined 110 charter members and volunteers for US Life Saving Station 30. He said the group has been actively looking for ways to raise money. Last year, it participated in the annual Lighthouse Challenge throughout New Jersey and is currently working to allow donations directly through the group’s website,, using PayPal.

“As a board of directors, we meet pretty much monthly or bimonthly to keep this project moving forward,” Loeper said.

Financial representative to the board Mark Reimet handed out a business plan regarding the money raising goals currently in place.

He said the membership drive will be USLSS 30’s primary fundraising focus moving forward.

“It’s been our primary source of funds,” he said

The group also plans to solicit donations through facility tours. Other fundraising plans include a self-guided audio tour, the gift shop and the annual Lighthouse Challenge, which in 2011 brought 450 people to the facility and raised $1,500 in donations.

“Next year we’re going to be much more prepared now that we know the potential,” Reimet said.

Beach reenactments are another opportunity for USLSS 30, Reimett said, as are various events held at the station.

“Could we have weddings there?” he said. “Could it be used for those types of events?”

Reimet said it was definite possibility.

“We know what’s there, we’re tuned into that,” he said.

The group’s lawyer, Jeff Sutherland, explained the importance of USLSS 30’s status as a nonprofit.

“By having the nonprofit … it allows us to apply for certain grants that the city couldn’t apply for; and they work together,” he said.

He said USLSS 30 can apply for historic preservation grants, as well as for specific event.

Before voting on the resolution authorizing the contract, Councilman Tony Wilson pulled the item from the consent agenda for discussion.

Wilson said he did a lot of research on the item and also participated in a tour of the facility with Councilman Keith Hartzell on Tuesday morning. He said it’s important there be oversight by the board and a strong manager on the project. Most importantly, he said, was that there was no expense to the taxpayers.

Councilman Roy Wagner reiterated his support for the project from the Dec. 8 meeting; Hartzell agreed.

“I feel strongly and confident that these gentlemen can pull this off,” Hartzell said.

Councilman Scott Ping said he wanted to see a contract between the city and USLSS 30 with agreed upon goals and a date for repayment.

“We’re just leaving ourselves wide open on this whole thing,” he said, asking that the administration come forward with a contract.

Loeper agreed with the need for a contract, and on Thursday, Dec. 22 stated he would like to see it cover a variety of items including the money, but also issues like maintenance.

“There needs to be some sort of agreement between us and the city about each side’s responsibility; and we’re willing to do that,” he said.

Council voted 5-1 in favor of the contract, with Ping the only opposed. Councilman John Kemenosh was absent due to illness.

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