Vote on beach fees canceled

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Commissioners say shared services will make up revenue

Photo by Christie Rotondo/ John Siciliano congratulates commissioners for canceling beach fee vote. Photo by Christie Rotondo/ John Siciliano congratulates commissioners for canceling beach fee vote. WILDWOOD-City officials have decided to cancel the March 5 referendum for beach fees, and instead are planning to look into island-wide shared services to generate more revenue. 

The unanimous decision came after an hour-long executive session at the commissioner’s meeting Wednesday night.

“I’m unbelievably pumped,” Commissioner Pete Byron said of the decision. He explained that over the past five weeks, organizations and neighboring municipalities had rallied together to find a solution to Wildwood’s budget deficit without having to impose fees on visitors.

The beach fees were the city’s solution to a $1.6 million deficit in its budget. After a 50-year lease of the boardwalk Monster Truck building had to be rescinded, the city looked to beach fees to generate that missing revenue.

Troiano had said in the past that he was reluctant to impose the fees.

“I really was hoping that this would never come up in my time in government," Troiano said at the Jan. 11 meeting. "I was born and raised here and grew up going to the beach. But sitting in this seat here, I have to do what's best for the taxpayers."

Some residents had expressed support for the fees in the past, explaining that they hoped the fees would keep their taxes down, however, business owners were concerned that the fees would negatively affect the island’s tourism.

“Now everyone is at the same table, and on the same wavelength,” Byron said. “This is the right direction.”

Byron said that the island’s municipalities will be creating a shared services committee which will oversee the creation of new shared services. Mayor Ernie Troiano said that the municipalities may look to share lifeguards, beach maintenance, as well police and fire.

John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, Steve Tecco, president of the Wildwoods Hotel Motel Association, and Gary McGhee, executive director of the association, all congratulated the city on the decision.

“Shared services is a win for the entire island,” Siciliano said during public comment. 

Commissioners made clear however, that this doesn’t mean that beach fees will never make its way on the island’s beaches. Troiano said that if beach fees were to become a reality, it would be an island-wide decision to implement them. 

Sandra Dominguez, a Wildwood resident who said she was also a business owner and had been a tourist for 18 years before making the city her home, also congratulated the commissioners on the decision.

“Finally we can find ways to work together and try to find money from other sources,” she said. “So I thank you for this new start.”

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