Ocean View leases interim police building

Ocean View Town Council voted unanimously to move forward into lease negotiations, in an effort to move the Ocean View Police Department out of its roughly 20-by-30 foot present home, and into a more spacious triple-wide trailer near Bear Trap, at the Oct. 4 council meeting.

The trailer was previously used as a construction office, but with build-out at Bear Trap now complete, it was about to be hauled away. However, with construction of the proposed new police station at least a year out and crowding creating safety concerns at the existing facilities, council decided the trailer would make for a good interim solution.

Savannah’s Landing resident Joe Martinez rose in support, calling the current arrangement “very unusual.” He asked anyone who hadn’t ever stopped by the police station to do so, and suggested it was a shame police officers had been forced to work under those conditions as long as they had.

“Shame on you,” he said, addressing council. “Shame all of us, for allowing this to continue.”

For his part, Police Chief Ken McLaughlin said his number one concern was for the safety of his officers and staff. “We have a problem, we’ve had a problem for a while now, he said. “While this is not going to solve the problem, it will be a step up from what we’ve been doing.”

Town Manager Kathy Roth estimated $12,500 in total costs associated with the move — they didn’t plan to convert offices into actual holding cells, but they did plan to nail up some additional interior walls and install “restraining chairs.”

The $12,500 would include moving costs and transfer of security, telephone and security systems. The town will pay $3,000 a month for the use of the trailer.

Later in the meeting, Roth discussed some budget adjustments, including a sharp increase in real estate transfer tax revenues, far exceeding what the town had very conservatively estimated for the year. Originally forecast at $645,000, Roth said they’d received more than $900,000 to date. She recommended increasing the revenue line to $1.45 million.

These unanticipated transfer tax funds would offset several budget adjustments (increased expenditures for payroll, specifically overtime, gas & oil and a recent donation for victims of Hurricane Katrina), and both moving expenses and rent at the police department’s interim housing, Roth noted. Council approved them unanimously.

In closely related business, council unanimously approved a bid package for the new police station, contingent upon a few minor corrections and additions. Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader characterized the project as “perilously close” to going out for bid — he suspected the remaining issues could be cleared up within the next 15 to 30 days.

None too soon for Council Member Norm Amendt — he made the motion to give Schrader, Roth and Council Member Bill Wichmann (lead on this project) the go-ahead for one last double-check, and then move forward to scheduling the mandatory pre-bid meeting.

Council also introduced an ordinance to pursue a financing package to fund the project. Costs are currently estimated at nearly $3 million — council’s ordinance would clear the town to authorize financing of up to $4 million.

Schrader and Roth conferred, and Schrader said since the figure exceeded 0.5 percent of the total assessed value of all the property in town, the residents would have an opportunity to forward the issue to a referendum. In order to do so, petitioners would need to garner signatures from 33 percent of the qualified voters, he said.

In other business, council unanimously approved Schrader to draft a charter amendment which will remove the max cap on total property taxes the town can collect. This doesn’t mean a tax increase — in fact, due to a pending, town-wide property reassessment, the town won’t be able to increase property taxes at all next year (even though, as Roth pointed out, such reassessments were typically revenue-neutral).

However, rising property values were already pushing against the $1 million ceiling established in the charter, Magill noted. Roth said the town would break that ceiling as homes sell at the pending Fairway Village project (166 single family homes and 166 townhouses).

There’d been some discussion regarding what limit to set in place of $1 million at a workshop last month, but on Oct. 4 council reached consensus to simply remove the reference to a max cap.

Council also imposed a six-month moratorium on the construction of new antennas. The issue came up when a resident initiated such a project last month, pouring a foundation slab for what will eventually be a 48-foot tall ham radio tower.

Magill, who lives nearby, said there was little to nothing the town could do to prevent this — the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) frowns upon local regulations which hamper access to the public airwaves, especially for ham radio operators.

However, he said he hoped to establish some safety guidelines, like a requirement for a fence or anti-climb device, and also noted proof of insurance, compliance with setbacks, etc.

According to Schrader, any new ordinances wouldn’t affect the antenna currently under construction.

Elsewhere, six public hearings all culminated in unanimous votes. Council enacted ordinances to (1) rezone various parcels along Route 26 as General Business (GB), as part of continuing efforts to implement the town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, (2) offer holiday pay to part-time employees with 10 or more years’ seniority and (3) require applicants to submit their site plans by the 15th of the month, in the month prior to the one in which the town will schedule their project on the town’s Planning and Zoning agenda.

In first readings, council approved ordinances to (1) waive normal procedures for awarding contracts and procuring materials, less than $22,500 and related to the emergency, during a declared state of emergency, (2) reimburse employees for food expenses incurred while working during a state of emergency and (3) annex Regina O’Rourke’s 1.1-acre parcel.

Council also re-introduced a conditional use request (Planning and Zoning had recommended a revised application), for an upscale wine & spirits shop in Bear Trap and an ordinance to bring residential and GB bulk and height restrictions into concurrence, along the Route 26 corridor (GB would become the rule).

Council members welcomed and formally appointed Roy Thomas to the Long-Range Financial Planning Committee, and reviewed a letter from U.S. Postal Service’s John Gordon. Gordon said a site review committee is considering three locations for an expanded Ocean View-Millville area post office — (1) Central Avenue/Bayard Road, in front of Baltimore Landing, (2) Route 26 in Clarksville, across the road and just east of Hocker’s SuperCenter and (3) northeast corner at Central Avenue and Cedar Drive.

Council liked Gordon’s top pick, but preferred the Central and Cedar location as a second choice, ranking Clarksville third.