Millville awards contract for town hall expansion

Millville Town Council members this week discussed bids received for the planned town hall expansion project. Mayor Don Minyon started the discussion on Tuesday, Sept. 14, by thanking all those who participated in the biding process, before announcing that the lowest “responsible” bid received by the town was from Bunting Construction Corporation, at $335,900.

Town Solicitor Seth Thompson noted that the town must make a determination whether or not a bid is complete and whether a bid is responsible, based on the criteria of how “the bidder’s financial, physical, personnel or other resources, including contractors, bidder’s record of performance and integrity goes within and outside the town.”

Botchie confirmed that the submitted bid package from Bunting Construction Corporation was complete.

Councilman Jon Subity said he was for accepting the bid.

“This was one of the more complete packages that we reviewed. It gave us everything we asked for and more,” he noted.

Councilman Richard Thomas said he was pleased that many of the subcontractors for Bunting are local to the area and that he believes it will benefit the local economy. Councilman Gerald “Gerry” Hocker Jr. added that he was pleased with the company’s good reputation.

Councilman Mike Jeffers agreed, saying, “I think they have a solid reputation in the area. While I’ve not worked directly with them, I’ve seen some of their work and am pleased.”

Resident Joan Bennett questioned the council as to how they would be paying for the expansion project and if they had built in any safety net in case construction went over budget.

“Council appropriated $514,000 for this project. We feel, with the amount we’ve appropriated and the amount that Bunting Construction bid, that there’s enough of a cushion there,” said Minyon.

Minyon added that the project would be paid for by the town’s transfer tax revenue.

“We, fortunately, have a large amount of money in our transfer accounts, which can’t be used for the day-to-day running of the town. We don’t have infrastructure. We don’t have debt to pay the interest on. We don’t have a public safety department. So we’re using it to expand the office space – we have two new employees – and also to utilize the upstairs as an emergency center for the Millville fire company and ourselves.”

Council voted 5-0 on Tuesday to accept Bunting Construction Corporation’s bid of $335,900 for the town hall expansion project.

Also on Sept. 14, town code and building administrator Eric Evans presented council with Resolution 11-03, regarding the All Hazard Mitigation Plan, for possible vote and discussion.

The 2010 multi-jurisdictional plan was prepared for Sussex County by an independent agency, including all municipalities within the county. Adopting the plan allows the town to receive federal assistance in the case of an emergency situation, be it weather-related or something else.

“If there was a mass-casualty situation, Sussex County would mobilize for us what we need,” explained Evans. “They would help us contact the Red Cross, set up a command center here, things of that nature.”

“We’re authorizing or appointing Sussex County to take care of the Town of Millville in the event of a disaster situation. What would the town’s responsibility be in a situation like that?” asked Jeffers.

Evans replied that, if it were an event where everyone in the local area is hit, such as a hurricane, the county would “take the lead role.” However, if it were an individual incident that was specific to the town of Millville, the mayor or whoever is in charge at that time would have to call and request assistance.

Evans also made note that the service is free to the town. Council adopted the resolution with a 5-0 vote.

Council members went on to discuss the proposed design standards prepared by Planning and Zoning commissioners with the help of URS Corporation.

“This is going to be a process where we have to look through and maybe make some compromises and changes,” acknowledged Minyon.

Jeffers highlighted some points of discussion he would like council to review at the next council workshop.

“The applicability statement on how large a project needs to be before something goes from its existing classification to being required to conform to the new standards – it’s written at 50 percent. I’m neither for nor against – I just think it would be something to discuss.”

Jeffers added that he believed council would, in general, want to discuss setbacks – in particular, under residential garages, where the location of a garage has a “very specific requirement to be set back 25 feet. It does kind of restrict what may or may not fit on any given lot,” he said.

Agreeing with Jeffers, Hocker added, “Especially if a home exceeds the minimum required setback. I don’t think we need to require a garage to be an additional 5 feet behind that. I find that to be too restrictive.”

Hocker, who manages Hocker’s Supercenter near Millville, voiced his concerns over requiring parking at the rear of businesses, saying, “I’m interested in other comments on that. There’s no business in town that has parking in the rear. It is a good prescription for a failed business, having parking in the rear.”

He also said that rear parking brings up safety and security issues – not only for employee safety in the parking lot but for its potential impact on break-ins at such businesses.

Subity agreed with Hocker, saying, “Although I understand the concept and can appreciate what they’re trying to get at there, I think that also, from a business perspective, it makes your business look empty. Also, from the safety perspective, the rear is less visible and sometimes not as well lit.”

Town Manager Debbie Botchie reminded the council that the town’s new land-use ordinance requires parking in the rear.

“So, before you change anything in the design standards, you would have to revisit that ordinance to amend it if you choose to,” she said.

Bennett spoke to council about her concerns over the proposed design standards.

“I’m sitting here, and I’m quite concerned,” she said. “I have not laid hands or eyes on this document – however, I hear things going on in this document, which is supposed to be about design standards, speaking to hard zoning issues.”

“Comprehensive, yes,” she said of the document. “Perhaps too much. It’s design standards, folks.”

Minyon responded, saying, “Zoning and design standards are kind of together. You have to have them together to work. That’s what we’re going to try to attempt to do. Take the design standards and the zoning, put them together and try to make them work.”

Bennett asked how much the town had paid for the standards to be drafted. Botchie said the figure was $6,000 to $7,000.

She also spoke to sharing Bennett’s concerns.

There are some areas in this document, which I have already noted, that have to do with zoning. The bulk of this document is design standards, but there are some things in here that overlap. I do have to question Kyle {Gulbronson of URS] on that, because they do overlap zoning.”

A brief update was given by Jeffers on the town’s holiday decorations. He said he has been doing research as to what is available to the town and has been in contact with a company that does commercial displays.

“I have recently provided them a little bit of artwork, hoping to have a banner design for us,” he said. “We are trying to be as nondenominational as possible. There’s an opportunity here to get beyond the holiday season, to get things throughout the year,” Jeffers added.

“We’re starting to get down to where we’ll have some things to look at,” he said, “some dollars to talk about. I think we’ll get the most bang for our buck and the least start-up cost if we go with banners, as opposed to a light display.”

The council on Sept. 14 also discussed the town’s audited financial statements for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2009. The town was audited by Jefferson, Urian, Doane & Sterner, P.A., and three staff members from the firm who had handled the audit were present.

Botchie commended her staff, as well as the firm, for their diligent work on the audit.

“Our auditors have worked very well with this staff. I know we all had some pressures during the year. I am very pleased with our auditors, their staff and their firm. They’re very good to work with, and it makes our job easier,” she said.

Minyon asked council members if there were any questions or points they would care to bring up with the auditors about the report.

Councilman Jon Subity asked the auditors to address a note in the manager’s report, saying that there was an indication from the town that there were “mixed messages on how to do accounting.”

“There has really been, in the last five years, a major change in emphasis on these standards,” explained David Doane. “There’s now the expectation that, when we come in to audit an entity, they’re supposed to hand us completed financial statements, with footnotes, and with everything.

“Prior to that,” he said, “in our world, that’s usually handled by the auditor. … Part of this is an education processes. We’re trying to provide more education, in essence, of things that Debbie [Botchie] and Betsy [Christian] – things that they should be handling, of things that we probably didn’t emphasize in a prior audit.”

Thomas asked if the information is “intended solely for the use of the commissioners of Millville – that’s the council of Millville?”

Botchie said the the audit and manager’s report would be available to the public.

Doane added of the comments in the report, “It is standard language provided under auditing standards that we are required to use.”

Council accepted the auditor’s report for the year ending April 20, 2009, with a unanimous vote of 5-0.

In other town news:

• The Sept. 28 town council workshop will include review the shared-policing proposal from the Town of Ocean View. At Hocker’s request, the town will also review the requirements for persons sitting on town committees. “If we are going to look into implementing a lot of these strict rules and regulations, I think it’s critical that we revisit the requirements to be Board of Adjustments and Zoning, with a voting resident of Millville to be on those,” he said.

• At the Sept. 13 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Bob Linett was voted to remain committee chairman.

• The Millville Volunteers will be presented the 2010 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteerism Award on Oct. 28 at Dover Downs Hotel.