Ocean View considers ordinances, budget

On a relatively light evening for the Ocean View Town Council, council members held a first reading of an ordinance change, introduced another and formally introduced the proposed budget documents for their coming fiscal year.

The ordinance amends existing code regarding the town’s relatively new real estate rental tax, ensuring, according to Administrative Official Charles McMullen, that everyone who is collecting rent on property inside town limits is paying the town a percentage of their gross receipts on that rent. The taxes are due twice a year, for each of two six-month spans.

No public comment was received during the public hearing on the ordinance, which could be adopted at its second reading in April.

Introduction of a second ordinance dealing with permitted uses on commercial-zoned property in the town was also held Tuesday evening.

The ordinance, suggested by McMullen as a way to preserve commercial uses when the value of property for residential use continues to be comparatively high, would require commercial use on a portion of a property where residential use was planned, eliminating the possibility of residential-only development in the town’s small commercial district on and around Route 26.

The ordinance will go to a public hearing and first reading at the April town council meeting.

Council members on Tuesday also received the recommended proposed budget for the 2009 fiscal year from the Long Range Financial Planning Committee, which had voted 6-2 to recommend it earlier Tuesday evening.

Likewise, the council introduced a five-year capital plan from the committee, which had received a 7-0 recommendation with one abstention.

Both documents are set for a public hearing and consideration at a special council meeting set for Tuesday, March 11, at 7 p.m. at the town hall. A vote on possible adoption of the budget and capital plan is planned for the April council meeting.

The budget is set to be adopted by line item, which would avoid needing the council to formally vote to amend the adopted budge when minor changes are made during the course of the fiscal year.

Council members also voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the creation of a deferred compensation (457B) plan for town employees, which Town Manager Conway Gregory described as another option for retirement savings beyond the state’s municipal employees plan. The plan comes at no cost to the town and is voluntary for employees.

Acting Police Chief Heath Hall, who is leading the police department while Chief Ken McLaughlin trains with the FBI, reported Tuesday that the search for a police officer to fill a vacant position had been narrowed to a single applicant, who is currently undergoing a battery of tests to qualify for the job. Hall reported an active month for the Citizen’s Auxiliary Patrol, which he said had been “helping out a great deal.”

Councilman Norman Amendt on Tuesday protested the sending out of a survey regarding the police vehicle take-home policy the council agreed to continue at their last meeting, saying he had believed the issue had been resolved by the council and that the town manager should not have continued to pursue a study of the subject.

Gregory said he had sent out the survey as part of the process of continuing the study of the issue council members had previously requested but which had been lacking concrete numbers. He noted that Hall had reviewed the survey before it was sent out.

“A lot of us assumed when we voted to continue the take-home policy that that was it,” Mayor Gary Meredith said, chalking up the issue as a miscommunication.

Meredith scheduled an executive session for the end of the council’s Tuesday meeting while revising the agenda at its start.

The move garnered objections from Amendt, who said he had not been notified of the plans for an executive session nor been provided with any information about its topic. Meredith assured Amendt and citizens in attendance that no vote was to be taken by the council that night as a result of their closed-door discussions of council matters.

Resident Susan White, who is a candidate for Amendt’s District 3 seat in the April 12 elections, raised a number of issues on Tuesday with a recent salary study that was accepted by the council in January.

The study included suggestions of bonuses for town employees, which White said is not permitted with taxpayer funds, and a reduced participation in seatbelt and DUI checkpoints by police. But council members clarified that while accepting the study they had not agreed to all of its recommendations and had, in fact, only agreed to adopt the salary adjustment recommendations therein.

The council will next meet on March 11, at 7 p.m., to formally consider and take public input on the proposed budget and capital plan.