Wildwood commissioners rescind beach utility

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Watchdog group petition questions necessity of employees

WILDWOOD — City Commission unanimously decided to rescind an ordinance creating a beach utility and two jobs associated with it, after it was met with petitions from a group of concerned residents Feb. 27. 

The ordinance creating the utility, a separate fund in the budget related only to beach activities, was passed Jan. 23. After that, a group called the Wildwood Watchdogs began a petition against the ordinance, claiming that the new jobs were unnecessary and costly to the city.

“The strong support for nullifying the beach utility ordinance was a direct result of the taxpayers’ understanding that this move was nothing more than putting our tax money in the pockets of our elected officials’ family and friends,” a release from the group stated.

Despite the ordinance being rescinded, Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. indicated that the city would be looking for other ways to manage activities and concessions on the beach.
“We’re going to do what we can to raise revenue and keep taxes in check,” Troiano said.

The group was opposed to the ordinance, which created a beach utility manager and director, because Ryan Troiano, the mayor’s son, and Chris Fox, mayor of West Wildwood, who had worked on Troiano’s campaign, had been tapped to fill the positions.

“Wildwood currently faces millions of dollars in budget shortfalls,” a release from the group stated. “And now, before voters have had their say, it is being decided to once again spend our hard-earned money on the salary, medical benefits and pension of another high-priced friend of our elected officials.”
The group was able to collect 140 signatures to block the ordinance. Only 117 were necessary, the group said.
The employees would have overseen and coordinated activities on Wildwood’s beaches. According to Commissioner Pete Byron, who was to oversee the new positions, both Ryan Troiano and Fox had been acting as beach utility manager and director for the past year without any compensation from the city.

According to the 2013 salary ordinance adopted Feb. 13, Troiano could have made between $10,000 and $40,000 for his role as manager, and Fox would have seen $15,000 to $45,000 as director.
Byron had called the utility a “self-liquidating account” because money to support the utility would have been raised from activities on the beach – such as beach box and cabana rentals, beach bars, camps and concerts.
The mayor has challenged the watchdogs, and said their efforts were a politically motivated “witch hunt” against him and the current administration. He has pointed to the involvement of former Mayor Gary DeMarzo with the group, who lost his seat to the Troiano in 2011.

“They are not a watchdog group,” Troiano told the Leader previously. “I haven’t seen any of those people doing anything, but throwing muck.”

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