The Millville Town Council’s monthly workshop was held Tuesday, Feb. 23, after the council canceled its monthly council and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings due to this month’s blizzards.
Mayor Don Minyon started the meeting by thanking councilman Richard Thomas for taking the initiative to contact someone who helped town hall with snow removal. Minyon said that, in such an exceptional situation, they did an “outstanding job.” The council will be drafting a memorandum of understanding that, in case of future snowfall, the same person will automatically clear the town hall parking lot.
Minyon noted on Feb. 23 that a planned expansion of the town hall is on track. Minyon presented the council with a draft of the plan, and Greg Hastings will give a PowerPoint presentation to council at their March workshop meeting.
Part of the design includes the handicapped ramp running straight into the parking lot and porches on each floor, to be used as exits. The town is also looking into using geothermal heating, which would have a 10-year recovery rate. Solar panels had been considered previously, but council members were concerned about roof damage, due to the area’s susceptibility to hurricanes and nor’easters.
The kitchen on the second floor would be expanded, to include an island and a larger stove. Minyon said he believes it would be a good use of space for cooking, especially for residents who experience loss of power during storms.
Councilman Jon Subity asked where the mayor’s office would be after the expansion. Minyon responded by saying he does not want to be behind walls. The town hopes to maintain the charm of old town and would like it to be “a social event when you come into town hall,” he said.
Minyon was adamant that the town will not have an automated phone system, declaring that they are too impersonal and “that’s not us.”
Council voted 4-1 in favor of accepting Communications & Wiring Company’s proposal for town hall’s new sound/audio system for the council chambers. The system’s cost will be funded by transfer tax, at $8,451, with additional labor costs of no more than $2,500. It will include a ceiling-mounted projection unit, a remote-operated wall screen, seven microphones for council members and four wireless microphones, as well as all wiring, which will be set up so that it can be carried over into the town hall addition.
Subity was the only opposing vote, stating that he appreciated the intent but disagreed to the extent of the system.
“We’re buying a Cadillac when we need a bike,” Subity said.
The rest of the council agreed it was more than what is currently needed but said they believed it would pay for itself in the long run. They said they hope it will encourage groups to use town hall more frequently.
“I would love to see it lit up seven nights a week,” said Minyon. “It’s [the town’s] building.”
The council also discussed requiring both a background check and a drug test for all new employees and council members. Town Administrator Debbie Botchie said she would speak with Town Solicitor Seth Thompson to get his suggestions as to the best way to draft such requirements.
Council members agreed it would be in the town’s best interest to require such testing and would be a good precaution in protecting the town – especially since employees may drive the town vehicle.
The council on Tuesday also discussed drafting a new fee schedule, which would allow the town to change its fines and fees for violations of town ordinances. As it currently stands, in order to change a fee, the town must draft a whole new ordinance. The council is looking into setting a fee schedule by resolution, which can be reviewed periodically. Council members said they believed it would save the town time and money to change the schedule. Botchie said she would speak with Thompson to discuss the changeover process.
On the subject of fees, the council also discussed its recently adopted ordinance on accessory structures, which requires a business to obtain a permit from the town. The temporary structures, such as tents, may only be erected for 10 days, and a maximum of five times a year.
Council considered requiring a fee per permit acquired but council members said they thought it would be best to encourage business owners to follow the existing procedure. A permit form will be drafted, requiring business owners to give a site plan for the temporary structure, as well as the dates when it will be erected.
Also on Feb. 23, the council drafted an ordinance that would grant business owners one warning without fine per year if they are found in violation of the accessory structure ordinance. If they are in violation again within that year, the town will reserve the right to deny other accessory structure permits and/or require a URS inspection of future accessory structures, for which the business owner would have to pay.
All council members were insistent that a heavy fine be assessed if a business is in violation. They agreed that the fine should be $500, if not more, to deter violations. Councilman Mike Jeffers said he did not want to discourage business within town by charging a permit fee but believed that businesses would find “venom in the fine” if they were found in violation.
In other news from the Feb. 23 council workshop:
• Councilmen Jon Subity and Gerald “Gerry” Hocker Jr. were up for re-election this year but ran unopposed. The incumbents will be sworn in again next month.
• On Thursday, Feb. 25, Minyon and Botchie were to hold a meet-and-greet with Miller and Smith, the new developers of Millville by the Sea.
• Operation manuals for town volunteers are being drafted. Among the requirements are background checks and a commitment to at least 60 hours of service per year.
• The town will be holding an appreciation dinner for their volunteers on Sunday, Feb. 28, from 5 to 9 p.m. at town hall.
• The council has been invited by Ocean View Councilman Richard Nippes to attend Ocean View’s Homecoming on May 15, in John West Park. Minyon asked council members to attend.
For more information on future council agendas, visit www.millvillede.us or call (302) 539-0449.