Ocean City Council News in Brief, edition of Dec. 14, 2012

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OCEAN CITY – City Council discussed the following items at its meeting Thursday, Dec. 13 in the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Sandy bond ordinance moves forward

Council introduced a $2.4 million bond ordinance for several repairs to public property damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

While waiting for reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its flood insurance policy, and in order to start paying for repairs, city director of community development Georgia Arnold told City Council at its Dec. 6 capital workshop that the administration would be looking to introduce a bond ordinance at its Dec. 13 meeting.

Frank Donato, city director of finance, explained that the ordinance included all Sandy-related items that are categorized as capital improvements.

“Some of these things were on the radar for the capital plan anyway, but they’re even more so in focus now,” he said.

The bond ordinance, if approved, includes: $190,000 for outfall pipe repairs in conjunction with the existing north end beach replenishment project, $245,000 for reconstruction of bulkheads at Third Street and Glen Cove, $200,000 for boardwalk repairs, $500,000 for public building repairs, $75,000 for improvements to public recreation facilities, $160,000 for repairs to traffic signals, $40,000 for parking meter and lot repairs and replacements, $170,000 for airport repairs, and $840,000 for replacement of building contents.

Donato said the figures in the ordinance bring into focus the scope of the damage to public facilities. He said this ordinance does not include funds for the 29th Street firehouse or City Hall. It also does not include additional funding required for the beach replenishment project.

Donato said that the administration may bring forward another bond ordinance for those items in January.

A second reading and public hearing on this ordinance will be 7 p.m. Dec. 27.

Administrator says ‘limited chance’ for federally funded south end beach fill

City business administrator Mike Dattilo, in updating City Council on the possibility of a south end beach fill, said he believes there is a very limited chance for the US Army Corps of Engineers to extend the north end project into the south end.

He said there is a greater possibility that that the city could partner with other surrounding communities for a project without federal funding.

Council, at its Nov. 29 meeting, approved Resolution 18, supporting a federal beach replenishment project from 36th to 59th streets in Ocean City.

Currently, the city is awaiting a beach replenishment project in the north end up to 12th Street. This area, all the way to 36th Street, is part of a 50-year agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers for beach replenishment. This year, federal and state funding was approved for the project, which is being grouped with a project in Brigantine scheduled to begin at the end of this year. The federal government pays for 75 percent of the project and remainder is split between the state and local governments.

“The beach and dune systems created by these projects served to successfully protect public and private properties from serious damage during the recent storm,” the resolution states.

Residents in Ocean City’s south end have most recently come before council on Nov. 15 begging to be added to the north end project after they saw their dunes washed away during Hurricane Sandy.

The resolution acknowledges that the south end beaches have suffered serious erosion in recent years, and during Sandy, the area suffered serious damage to both public and private properties.

Council approves $3.6M in emergency spending

Council voted to authorize a special emergency appropriation of $3.6 million for extraordinary expenses incurred in connection with Hurricane Sandy. The resolution also authorizes the issuance of emergency notes to finance the appropriation.

According to city director of finance Frank Donato, the $3.6 million is a conservative estimate of the city’s operating costs associated with Sandy.

“Up until the 11th hour I was literally putting all these numbers together,” he told council.

Donato explained that some of the more costly items being funded are remediation of various public facilities and sand harvesting. Donato said all of those contracts, approved by council at its Nov. 29 meeting, total about $450,000.

At this meeting, council also approved $20,000 fire alarm repairs. Emergency debris removal and sand clearing costs are estimated at $1.5 million. Donato said that he is expecting the city to pay $600,000 in tipping fees to the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority for the about 9,000 tons of debris removed from the city. The estimate also include about $200,000 in overtime wages.

Donato said he hopes to have a more complete breakdown of Sandy-associated operating costs in the near future.

“There’s a ton of purchase orders and purchases out there for supplies and equipment, and food for the shelters. It’s such a variety of things, it’s been overwhelming to try and keep track of everything,” Donato said.

He said the money borrowed in the resolution can be paid back over the next five years’ budgets, at the most.

“You can pay it down faster if you want to,” he said.

He said that the $3.6 million could be funded by the city’s $5 million fund balance, but that using money from the fund balance will restrict the amount of fund balance the city could use in the 2013 budget as revenue to offset taxes.

Donato said that as insurance and FEMA funds come into the city, they will offset the debt.

“There’ll be offsetting revenues as we receive these reimbursements,” he said.

He said that 75 percent of the operating expenses may be reimbursed through FEMA.

City to partner with housing authority on Peck’s Beach Village repairs

City Council authorized a shared services agreement with the Ocean City Housing Authority for the repair of the first floor of flood-damaged buildings at Peck’s Beach Village due to Hurricane Sandy.

Residents were vacated from the building Nov. 5, so that the remediation could begin.

The resolution states that COAH funds are available to cover the cost of repairs. City attorney Dottie McCrosson said the intent of the agreement is to expedite the repairs and get residents back into their homes. She said the housing authority does not have the funds to make the repairs at this time.  The city proposed to undertake the repairs using COAH funds and be reimbursed to the extent that FEMA reimburses the housing authority.

Mayor Jay Gillian announced that earlier on Thursday, the Ocean City Housing Authority also approved the agreement.

“We have 100 plus people that are in hotels around Ocean City and we have to get them back there,” Gillian said of the displaced Peck’s Beach Village residents.

McCrosson said that the city does not know how much in reimbursement the housing authority will receive and that there is a chance that the COAH fund will not be replenished.

“It’s the administration’s position that this is a worthy use of COAH funds,” she said.

McCrosson said that the housing authority needs US Department of Housing and Urban Development approval and that the city needs Council on Affordable Housing approval to make the shared services agreement valid. McCrosson said she has been consulting with the city’s COAH consultant, and while not 100 percent sure COAH will say yes, has not heard any negative feedback on the agreement to date.

“This whole arrangement with the housing authority, we’ve been working on for some time now,” she said.

The city will oversee the repairs to Peck’s Beach Village, city administrator Mike Dattilo said. He said the agreement is identical to the one approved earlier this year for repairs to the roof at Peck’s Beach Village.

In addition, council approved a resolution amending the city’s COAH development fee spending plan, as well as a resolution canceling a $2.1 million COAH appropriation previously authorized by council for affordable senior housing.

The city’s spending plan authorized by council in May was not approved by COAH. The new spending plan reallocates $720,000 for rehabilitation and $1.5 million for reconstruction of the Peck’s Beach Village units damaged during Sandy, and reallocates $540,120 for administration and $1,281,979 for affordability assistance. This plan will be forwarded to COAH for approval.

In its consent agenda, council also approved three change orders to the Peck’s Beach Village roof replacement contract, raising the cost of the contract by $15,436 to $756,102. D. A. Nolt, Inc. of Berlin was awarded the $674,627 contract for the project in late August. On Nov. 15, three change orders were approved by council increasing the contract to $740,666.

Sea Isle mayor speaks out against anti-beach tag legislation

City Council lent its support to the opposition of Senate bill S-2368, bi-partisan anti-beach tag legislation introduced to the state legislature Dec. 3.

After holding a press conference on Monday with other local mayors, including Mayor Jay Gillian of Ocean City, speaking out against the proposed law, Len Desiderio, mayor of Sea Isle City, came before this council to voice his concerns.

The legislation proposed by Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Hunterdon/Somerset/Warren) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland) would prohibit any municipality that accepts state and federal aid to replenish its beaches from charging a fee to access those beaches.

“It makes no sense to us down here in South Jersey,” Desiderio said. “Especially after what we have gone through with Hurricane Sandy, we are fighting and working hard to rebuild our communities.”

Desiderio said the beaches are the lifeline of the shore town’s economic engine. Beach fees, he said, help to pay for keeping the beaches safe and clean.

“This is bad legislation. It’s bad to do this at this time when people are hurting,” he said.

“If this bill passes, how are we going to come in under the 2 percent cap?”

Desiderio said that the mayors of the shore communities are asking for Gov. Chris Christie to look into “this very silly foolish legislation.”

“We are communities that give far more to Trenton than we receive back from Trenton,” Desiderio said.

Council agrees to waive fees for Sandy repairs

Council approved an ordinance, 12-18, which will waive fees for zoning and construction permits, and the inspection fees associated with work to repair or restore property damaged by Hurricane Sandy through May 24.

The ordinance also waives application fees for planning and zoning applications necessitated by non-conforming uses created when homeowners raise their homes as a result of storm damage.

City attorney Dottie McCrosson said the city cannot waive escrow fees because engineers and lawyers have to review the applications. 

Bellevue lien tabled

At the request of the administration, council tabled a resolution authorizing a $328,496 municipal lien on the former Hotel Bellevue at 701-703 Eighth Street for expenses incurred during demolition.

Contract specifications approved, contracts awarded

Council authorized specifications for several city contracts including HVAC improvements to City Hall and the Sixth Street firehouse, phase 2 of the fall road program, lease of the Ninth Street parking lot restaurant and supply of boardwalk railings.

Roads included in phase 2 of the road program are Seventh Street from West Avenue to Boardwalk, Eighth Street from West Avenue to Atlantic Avenue with partial reimbursement from New Jersey American Water, 11th Street from Central Avenue to Boardwalk with partial reimbursement from South Jersey Gas, all of Pennlyn Place with partial reimbursement from New Jersey American Water, and West Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets. Sidewalk, curb and drainage will also be replaced in an effort to increase the drainage capacity to the 10-year storm. Landscaping improvements to the west side of the 1800 block of Haven Avenue are also included.

Leon Costello of Ford Scott Associates in Ocean City was awarded a 1-year contract as city auditor for 2013 at an annual fee of $30,000. The contract also includes several hourly fees for budgetary assistance, special presentations, document review and other staff members. Kenneth Moore of Swartz and Co., LLC of Mays Landing was the only person to submit a proposal at an annual fee of $35,000.

Council authorized the purchase of two Ford police vehicles at $48,740.

Jersey Cape Diagnostic, Training and Opportunity Center in Cape May Court House will supply the city’s beach tags for 2013. The $47,661 contract is for up to 420,000 beach tags.

Mayor makes board appointments

The mayor’s appointment of Frederick Marcell as a member of the Ocean City Library Board of Trustees for a 5-year term, appointment of Dennis Swan as a member of the Ocean City Lifeguard Pension Commission for a 4-year term, reappointment of John D. Dower as a member of the local assistance board for a 4-year term, and reappointment of Peter Probasco and Richard Mendham as members of the shade tree committee for 4-year terms.

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