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Minutes of Commissioners Meeting   -   May 12, 2010

Note: Complete Meeting Appears on CD #11-10 and 12-10 on File in the Wildwood Crest, NJ Borough Clerk’s Office May 12, 2010
Wildwood Crest, NJ

Prior to the opening of the meeting, Mr. Groon led those present in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

 

The meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Borough of Wildwood Crest, Cape May County , New Jersey , was held in the Municipal Court Room at 9:30 a.m.  On roll call the following answered to their names:

Gould - Cabrera – Groon – Yes

 

Mr. Groon read the following statement:  In compliance with the Open Public Meeting Act, Chapter 231, P.L. 1975, the notice requirements have been satisfied as to the time, place and date of holding said meeting by posting notice on the bulletin board in the Borough Hall and by mailing same to the Gazette-Leader, the Herald and The Press on October 23, 2009.

 

Mr. Groon next announced the one-way in and the one-way out method of ingress and egress in case of emergency.

 

THE CLERK READ THE RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING INTRODUCTION OF THE MUNICIPAL BUDGET AS DULY ADOPTED ON APRIL 14, 2010, AS FOLLOWS:

RESOLUTION NO. 246-10

(Authorizing introduction of 2010 MUNICIPAL BUDGET of the Borough of Wildwood Crest)

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION IN FULL:

RESOLUTION NO. 268-10

(Authorizing that the 2010 Municipal Budget be read by title only and that a public hearing be held on the CY2010 Municipal Budget)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

Prior to public comments, Mr. Groon introduced the Borough’s CFO and Auditor, and indicated that they would be assisting in answering any questions presented.

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the public hearing on the CY 2010 Municipal Budget now be commenced.

Roll Call Vote: Gould – Cabrera – Groon – yes

 

Bruce Hamlin, 117 West Cardinal Road, inquired as to the budget process and whether the public was invited to comment on any portion of the budget leading up to the adoption, and, if so, what can be expected in 2011. Mr. Groon responded that the budget is posted on the Borough’s website. He added that the budget process is a year around process, but commenced in earnest in October and November for the next year. Mr. Hamlin inquired if there is an open forum leading up to the budget process. The Clerk indicated that there were advertisements in all three local publications indicating that public comments were welcome and individual meetings with staff and a Commissioner were invited. He added that copies of the budget have been posted on the bulletin board in Borough Hall and copies of the document have been available in his office since April 14, 2010 for the public to pick up.

 

Alan Seijas, 6810 Seaview Avenue , requested comments regarding newspaper articles that indicated that some increases in the budget were due to $450,000 in health insurance costs and contractual salary increases. He inquired as to how that came to be. Mr. Groon responded that the health insurance costs and pension costs in excess of 4% was $210,000 and that was the amount the State bills Wildwood Crest for employees health insurance and pension costs, outside the CAP. He added that the remainder was general salaries operating expenses. The CFO added that with regard to medical insurance, employees of Wildwood Crest are covered by New Jersey State Health Benefits, which is administered through the New Jersey Division of Pensions. Up to three years ago, New Jersey State Health Benefits would not permit participating governmental agencies to deviate from a plan that they put forward. Employee contributions, or any other differential between the benefit level of various departments was not permitted. Most of the labor contracts in effect in the Borough were negotiated more than three years ago, and, consequently, the benefit levels in the contracts could not permit any employee contributions. Legislation has now changed to permit different levels of benefits for the various bargaining units, and employee contributions can vary from union to union. Therefore, up to this point, the Borough has been “stuck” with labor contracts that indicated that the Borough provides the full cost of medical insurance during the term of the contract. As the contracts are being renewed, the Borough is seeking employee contributions to lower the costs. He added that in 2010, the State Health Benefits premiums rose 18%, which was on the heels of two years of minimal increases. With regard to pensions, the CFO indicated that in the last ten years there has been a transition from the State not permitting municipalities to pay to the State and recognize pension contributions and set it aside in a reserve for when payments were permitted. The state legislators were calling it “taxpayer relief.”  Over the last five years, municipal payments have been phased in at 20% per year, and now the municipalities are required to pay 100% funding for both pension funds.

 

Mr. Seijas inquired as to what the Borough is doing to contain medical costs. The CFO responded that the State has now mandated that all employees not presently under contract must commence paying 1.5% of their annual salary toward health insurance premiums, at a minimum. The Borough has already negotiated a contract with another union in which they are paying significantly more than 1.5% of their annual salary toward their premium. He added that as labor contracts expire, those contributions will be negotiated.

 

The Clerk added that the contribution that the Borough has sought from the employees, including all management level and DPW employees, is 5% of the cost of the plan chosen. That is more fair in terms of costs to the borough as well as being more reflective of any cost increases. He added that employees hired on or after January 1, 2010, will be required to pay 10% of the plan cost.

 

Mr. Siejas commented that as a taxpayer he wanted to make sure that the Borough is doing everything possible to control costs and not just accepting them as a matter of fact. It was his understanding that the Borough is making those efforts.

 

Mr. Hamlin indicated that in the past year the assessed value on his home has increased and he had two private assessments done which was somewhat lower than the Borough’s assessment. He commented that Wildwood Crest is well run and that he loves the Borough. He commented on various line items in the budget, and asked if part-time employees could be removed from receiving benefits. Mr. Groon responded that part-time employees do not receive health benefits, and the pension contributions for them are minimal. He added that the Borough is exploring many different options to reduce costs. He indicated that the State must give the municipalities the tools to efficiently operate, which has not been done to date.

 

Mr. Hamlin commented that real estate assessments, in his opinion, were still too high and asked if that would be addressed. Mr. Groon responded that the Borough held off the revaluations until after the height of the real estate boom, and were forced to do so by the County. The Clerk interjected that the Borough’s assessments to true values is at about 100% and that nothing further is being planned in this regard. Mr. Hamlin said he would address his concerns about his individual assessment with the Assessor.

 

Bill Shilacta, 113 East Preston Avenue , stated that he saw “three elephants in the room” with regard to budget appropriations. They were Public Affairs and Safety, Revenue and Finance, and Grants. He asked for an explanation for the significant increases. The CFO inquired if Mr. Shilacta had the actual budget document. The CFO stated that the grants appropriations have no impact on municipal budget because whatever is in the appropriation as a grant is going to have an off-setting revenue. With regard to the other two increases, the Revenue and Finance increase encompasses the health insurance increase, and removing the health insurance increase, the Department of Revenue and Finance actually represents a decrease for the department. Concerning the Public Affairs and Safety, the majority of the increase is attributable to the fact that the operation of the Uniform Construction Code Office has been brought back in-house from the Joint Construction Office of the Wildwoods. The majority of the remainder of the increase in that Department is police salary and wages.

 

Robert Young, 207 East Louisville Avenue , stated that he has been paying Borough taxes since 1950, and for the services received they have always been reasonable. He added that it was his opinion that it is coming to an end for several reasons. The amount to be raised by taxation has increased from $9,216,434 in 2007, to $12,835,680 in 2010, an increase of $3,619,246 or 40%. In the meantime, local miscellaneous revenue has fallen from $4,730,454 in 2007 to $4,464,000 in 2010, a decline of $266,454. At the same time, debt service has risen from $1,785,370 in 2007 to $3,039,964 in 2010, an increase of $1,354,594 or 75%. The total budget has increased by $3,587,694 or 20% since 2007. Mr. Young went on to comment on various capital purchases in the budget. He concluded by stating that the Commissioners have three more budgets to present during the remainder of their term, and it was his hope that they would pay down more debt than is created, keep taxes reasonable and maintain Wildwood Crest as the greatest place to live. In response, Mr. Groon stated that approximately four years ago, the Borough Engineer advised the Commissioners that Seaview Avenue was in need of repair and could no longer be pushed off. He indicated that the entire Seaview Avenue project came in a just under $10 million and was a project the scope of which had never been done in Wildwood Crest and the Commissioners decided to fix it. He explained the decision-making process.

 

Mr. Young inquired about the $2 million expenditure in the capital budget. Mr. Cabrera responded that part of it is the beach re-grading project recently completed. The Clerk interjected that a large portion was also for reconstruction of the tennis and basketball courts at Scoop Taylor Park.

 

Mr. Young inquired as to a land purchase in the budget. Mr. Groon responded that it is to purchase land from the school. The Borough is “recovering” lands from the school in four stages over a four year period.

 

The CFO responded to Mr. Young’s comments regarding declining revenues. He indicated that part of the declining revenues, state aid lost revenues in the amount of $200,000 aside, an item of revenue that has gone down each of the last three years is the “beach operation off-set” funds received from Greater Wildwood Tourism Improvement Development Authority as part of the 1.85% room rent assessment. That number since 2007 has dropped by over $69,000. He stated that in addition to the decrease in various revenue streams, the Borough has experienced a reduction in tax collection rates for each of the last three years. Mr. Young stated that he was trying to point out that the State of New Jersey and the Federal government are in debt and keep accumulating debt, and he did not want to see Wildwood Crest in the same situation. He added that the Borough should be looking for alternative forms of revenue. The CFO agreed, but added that the Borough did not want to increase current fees.

 

George Latella, 301 East Lotus Road, commented that he read in the newspaper that “why did the Borough of Wildwood Crest not get approval from the state before putting up the dunes, and then pay $350,000 to take them down.” Additionally, he noticed the stage being constructed at the Fern Road Park , in addition to the stage area at Rambler Road . He inquired if the new stage at Fern Road was necessary. Mr. Cabrera responded that with regard to the dunes, Wildwood Crest cannot do anything on the beach without approval from the Department of Environmental Protection. He added that the project was to remove the berm in front of the beach so that the water can flow out. With regard to the entertainment pavilion at Fern Road , he indicated that it was always a part of the original plan for the project, and Fern Road will be the venue for all future entertainment. He added that the Borough has applied to the UEZ for funding to build the pavilion. Mrs. Gould added that during the height of the real estate boom, the county realized massive amounts of revenues and at that time they decided to give back some of the revenues to the municipalities, with a stipulation that it had to be used for parks or recreation.

 

Mr. Latella asked about the roof of the entertainment pavilion, asking if it will be sturdy enough in a northeaster storm. The Engineer responded that it will be fabric and will withstand a storm but, after the season or in extreme weather conditions, it can be taken down.

 

Jim Johnstone, 300 East Miami Avenue , stated that he realized the Borough was facing a declining revenue base, and stated that there must be other ways for the Borough to raise revenues. He mentioned beach fees, as well as more parking meters on the west side of Atlantic Avenue . He added that cutting employee overtime as well as full-time employees being replaced by part-time employees could be considered. He also suggested furloughs. He went on to state that the school budget was voted down, and most people in the community would like to see a “tightening of the belt.” Mr. Groon stated that the Commissioners are determined to review every department, but the Borough has been hampered by various state and civil service rules. He added that the Borough does not want to rush in and make decisions without doing it correctly. The Clerk stated that steps have been taken to utilize more part-time employees over the last couple of years. The Clerk added that at the direction of the governing body, the Borough is down to 87 full-time employees and, that fact notwithstanding, he has fully developed a borough-wide layoff plan that can be implemented if necessary in future years. As to alternate revenue sources, the governing body has again brought up the possibility of vending on the beach, and rental of storage boxes on the beach. Mr. Johnstone stated that his pension has been frozen by the State of New Jersey , with COLAs being frozen as well.

 

An unidentified member of the audience stated that there are many vacant properties in Wildwood Crest, and asked how much tax revenue it will generate when they are occupied. The CFO responded that although they are not occupied, if they have been deemed “substantially completed” by the Assessor, they are on the tax rolls already.

 

Alan Seijas inquired as to the grant revenues for Small Cities as being zero for 2009 and $500,000 for 2010. The CFO responded that it is funding for Lake Road between Cresse and Morning Glory. Mr. Groon added that the total project is approximately $650,000 and the Borough was required to match $150,000. The purpose of the project is to alleviate severe flooding problems in the area.

 

An unidentified member of the audience stated that he had attended a meeting with Mrs. Gould and the CFO regarding the budget, at which it was indicated that the Borough is not only facing the current tax increase, but in 2011 it was anticipated that another 2.5 cent would be faced.  He stated that on top of the pending increase, any increase in 2011 would be “totally unacceptable.” Mr. Groon stated his agreement, pledged to hold the line but added that so many of the problems the Borough deals with come from State mandates, rules, or regulations.

 

Louise Johnstone, 300 East Miami Avenue , inquired as to why it is necessary to purchase the lands from the school. Mr. Groon responded that the school had indicated that they were going to perhaps sell the properties, and it was the belief of the governing body at that time that the land should be retained by the Borough at a time when land values are down.  He added that potential regionalization of the county school system could remove the vacant parcels from local ownership.

 

Mrs. Johnstone, with regard to the defeated school budget, asked if the Commissioners could give any indication as to how they would be addressing the school budget. Mrs. Gould responded that the Borough’s committee had already held one meeting with the school representatives, and a meeting of the minds would be reached. Mrs. Gould also stated that the defeated budget was an increase of only a little over one cent.

 

Robert Young asked if any of the current or future capital budget would be utilized for the fishing pier. Mr. Groon responded that it would not.

 

Mr. Hamlin asked where he could find the budget document on the Borough’s website. He was advised by the Clerk that it is on the Home Page and had been uploaded three weeks ago.

 

Mr. Johnstone inquired if there was a detailed breakdown of the “other expenses” listed in the budget document. The CFO responded that the detailed budget is approximately 160 pages long but that he would be happy to make Mr. Johnstone a copy.

 

There being no further public comments on the budget, Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the public hearing on the 2010 Municipal Budget be closed.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

The Clerk announced that the 2010 Municipal Budget, although submitted to the Division of Local Government Services almost one month ago, would not be adopted as the DLGS had not reviewed the budget document due to “an excessive workload.” He added that it was intended that the budget would be adopted at the next regularly scheduled Commission meeting, without further public hearing, unless the budget is amended.

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 269-10

(Authorizing re-appointment of Doreen Y. Corino as Solicitor for the Borough for a term of one year)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 270-10

(Authorizing refund in the amount of $156.65 to Beneficial Bank for a tax overpayment for property situated at Block/Lot 27-28-C0002)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 271-10

(Authorizing appointment of Brian James Stuart as Alternate Member No. 2 of the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a term commencing immediately and terminating December 31, 2010)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 272-10

(Authorizing approval of Change Order No. 2 Street & Utility Reconstruction of Seaview Avenue, Phase 3, and various storm sewers)

 

Mr. Cabrera motioned, seconded by Mrs. Gould, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 273-10

(Authorizing approval of estimate certificate No. 4-Final, emergency beach repairs/grading)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 274-10

(Authorizing issuance of seven ice cream peddlers’ licenses for 2010)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 275-10

(Authorizing issuance of a Special Events Permit to Emmie Holmes and Michael Heaney for a wedding on May 22, 2010 on the beach at Columbine Road )

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 276-10

(Authorizing issuance of a Special Events Permit to Tara Brophy for a wedding on June 12, 2010 at Sunset Lake Gazebo)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 277-10

(Authorizing issuance of a Special Events Permit to John C. Kuhn and Susan M. Gross for a wedding on June 26, 2010 at Sunset Lake Gazebo)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 278-10

(Authorizing appointment of James Mulholland as an “at-will” Class II Police Officer effective immediately)

 

Mr. Groon motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 279-10

(Authorizing support for Coastal Broadcasting’s grant application to improve emergency news coverage during extreme storm events, disasters, etc.)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that all bills properly authorized and  submitted, and which appear in full hereinbelow, be paid.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

The first matter for discussion was the Ranalli project on Bayview Drive . Mr. Groon stated that there are infrastructure issues in that area, which will be addressed in conjunction with the Washington Avenue project. The Clerk inquired if the Engineer had any updates with regard to FEMA funding for the Washington Avenue project. The Engineer responded that he had not heard anything.

 

With regard to the Beach Maintenance matter, the Clerk reported that the beach grading is complete. He indicated that because the berm has been removed, ponding in the southerly end of the beach has been alleviated as well as in the northern end where the man-made center dune lines were graded westerly.

 

Concerning the defeated school budget, the Clerk indicated that contrary to what was reported in the local newspapers, he and the CFO would not be making any determinations/final decisions in that regard. Any such actions would be at the sole discretion of the governing body and ultimately the County Superintendent of Schools. He added that the governing body would be convening a special meeting on May 18, 2010 to finally determine the amount to be raised by taxation for school purposes.

 

Mrs. Gould stated that, with the exception of two or three people, there is never any public representation at the Commission meetings. It was her opinion that “it is sad for us” because the governing body is doing what they were elected to do, which is the best thing for the community. The Borough provides a calendar to the public containing all of the meeting dates. She stated that it is really important to come to Commission meetings to pose questions, offer suggestions or make a phone call if it is not possible to be present for the meetings. She thanked those present for their participation.

 

Beatrice Korzeniowski, 116 East Preston Road , stated that she was attending as a customer of Elena’s Beauty Salon. She stated that it was her understanding that the rental contract with the Borough will expire in April 2011. She inquired if there was any chance the Borough would consider renewing her contract. The Clerk responded that the decision rests totally with the governing body. Mr. Groon stated that the matter would be addressed, although that is the only business in the building. He added that the Borough has placed the rental spaces out for rent in the past with no results. He reiterated that the governing body will consider the situation.

 

There being no further public comments, and no further matters for discussion, Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the meeting be adjourned.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

Dated:        May 26, 2010

Kevin M. Yecco, Borough Clerk

MINUTES OF MEETINGS INDEX