The Ocean View Town Council kicked off its reorganizational meeting and council workshop last Wednesday, April 21, with a swearing-in ceremony for new Mayor Gordon Wood and new Councilman Perry Mitchell. After a contentious period on the council and a contentious election, both men emphasized a desire for improved comportment during town meetings, from both the council and citizens. If Wednesday’s meeting was any indication, that goal may be achievable for the town.
“That was like falling off a log,” Wood commented at the close of the meeting. “There will be issues we should debate, and will debate vigorously,” he allowed.
After his swearing-in, Wood emphasized citizen participation.
“This election was very, very important to the town,” he said. “It really gave me a chance to learn the view of many, on many issues.”
“Citizens’ privilege will continue,” he promised, referencing the traditional opportunity for citizens to comment at the end of council meetings. “The town council wants to hear your views and will work on ways to make this possible. You will have the opportunity, and we will listen and hear.”
“There is no excuse for a lack of deportment in meetings — not from the council or from citizens,” he warned, however. “We must work together — you and your town council. Expect it to be expected.”
The council spent much of its April 21 workshop making revisions to its rules of operation and committee assignments.
Mitchell called upon the council to “wipe the slate clean” and reorganize all town committees, recommending that sitting Councilmen Bill Wichmann and Roy Thomas, who have battled over a number of funding issues in recent years, both take positions on the town’s Long Range Financial Planning Committee. He recommended himself to take a place on the committee examining the need for a new public works building — an issue over which Wichmann and Thomas have butted heads.
Recommended to sit on a new committee charged to explore possible lease arrangements with various other agencies for use of currently unused space in the town’s public safety building were Wood, Mitchell and Thomas. The committee will investigate possible leasing opportunities aimed at bringing in some revenue with the unused space (at least until it is needed) and will report to the council any findings.
Mitchell also recommended Councilman Richard Nippes to remain the council’s liaison to the town’s historical society as it begins its work as an independent non-profit and tries to organize a town historical museum.
Wichmann was the only one of the council not to vote in favor of the recommended committee assignments. He abstained from the vote.
Council moves meetings to second Tuesday
The council voted unanimously on April 21 to reschedule its regular council meetings from the previous schedule of the first Tuesday of each month to the second Tuesday of each month. That change will, however, not take place until June, as the town already has a public hearing scheduled for the start of its next meeting, on Wednesday, May 7, at 7 p.m.
That hearing will focus on a conditional-use request for a gas station and retail/office complex on Atlantic Avenue near Savannah’s Landing. The proposed project will be up that night for a first reading of the ordinance that would grant the conditional use. A second reading and possible vote by the council on the application is set for the council’s regular June meeting.
Citizens will be able to give input at the May 7 hearing, which may satisfy some of those who came out in support of the project at a recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at which the project was mistakenly listed as open for public input even though the record had been closed in February. The commission at that contentious meeting was unable to garner enough votes to either formally oppose or support the conditional use, returning the issue to the council for the public hearing.
Council members were split on April 21 as to whether or not to continue to hold regularly scheduled council workshops. The previous council had also been split over the pre-scheduled meetings’ usefulness. The council agreed to hold its scheduled May 20 workshop, with another workshop set for two weeks after the June council meeting. Future workshops will be held at the call of the mayor.
The council voted unanimously to adopt the new meeting schedule and on a separate vote to allow the council to establish its own schedule of meetings, as long as they are held at least once a month.
Council members also supported a rule asking to have the council meetings’ agenda available no later than noon on the Friday before a scheduled meeting, with the allowance in place to alter the agenda after that time, if needed.
They also agreed to continue to allow any member of the council to request the drafting of language for a proposed ordinance by the town solicitor, adding a provision to require the council member in question to consult with the town manager before doing so but not requiring them to follow his or her advice on the matter.
P&Z appointment made, another on hold
The town council debated at length possible appointments to the town’s Board of Adjustments and Planning and Zoning Commission on April 21, running into complications in trying to replace Mitchell on P&Z and possibly reappoint P&Z Chairman Dick Logue to another term. They tried to work out a tangle over who has the right to appoint one member of the BoA — the president of the Board or the president of the town council (a previous title for what is now the mayor).
The council decided that they could not work out the language of the issue on their own and instead asked that Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader be consulted on the proper way to make the appointment. The council agreed on Logue’s reappointment as P&Z chairman, and with that reappointment comes also a seat on the Board of Adjustments that is reserved for the Planning chairperson.
That leaves just one spot open on the P&Z. A late recommendation for candidates for that chair derailed expected appointments on April 21, with residents Susan White and Lois Saracini both listed as possible candidates when that appointment is made.
Also on April 21:
• The council voted in favor of providing a grant of $7,516 to the Millville Volunteer Fire Company, the amount of funding left in the town’s grant budget for the fiscal year as the town nears the end of that year. The council also approved the disbursement of $6,575 to the MVFC, specifically for emergency services, as part of its agreement for impact fees to be given to the department for its service. Mayor Gordon Wood abstained from a vote, citing his membership in the MVFC as a social member. All four other council members voted in favor.
• The council received a letter from Jan Miller, daughter of former Ocean View police officer Wallace Melson, for whom the town’s new public safety building is named. She praised the town’s efforts to include her at the time of the building’s dedication and thanked Chief Ken McLaughlin for his efforts to honor her father.
• Finance Director Lee Brubaker reported on the town’s finances as it nears the end of the 2008 fiscal year, noting $46,500 in transfer taxes taken in during March — about $14,000 less than was needed for the town to stay on track with its budget. That leaves the town $136,000 short on transfer taxes for the year, with only the month of April left to account for.
Brubaker estimated a $100,000 shortfall on the transfer taxes for the year, but he noted that the town’s overall revenue is already $50,000 above projected levels for the year. Wood reiterated his continuing concern about the town’s finances and pointed to the need to look at ways to reduce the town’s potential cash deficit or to build a surplus in coming years, which he said believed could be done to the tune of $500,000 to $800,000.