Ocean View begins budget talk for Woodland, police staff

Date Published: 
Dec. 22, 2017

The Ocean View Town Council is tired of waiting for a response on Woodland Avenue. Having proposed a drainage and paving project that would improve road conditions, the Town has been unable to start digging because some property owners are unwilling to participate.

In order to install a stormwater drainage pipe, the Town needs permission to dig on some private property.

“The Woodland project is not getting done because of a list of people…” said Councilman Frank Twardzik, but the rest of the residents want relief from drainage problems.

Four property owners gave the OK, but Ocean View needs permission from another six, most of whom are outside town limits.

Every day that people don’t respond to phone calls or letters is another day of road trouble.

“The road is deteriorating fast,” said Mayor Walter Curran.

Some property owners are unhappy that they’d lose trees or landscaping to the project, but “It’s a safety issue,” said Charles McMullen, town administrative official.

Additionally, the repair work is just going to get more expensive as the maintenance can gets kicked down the road.

“An easement is not a taking of their property,” McMullen clarified.

The Woodland Avenue Extended drainage project was written into the current fiscal year’s budget, but it has gotten nowhere fast. The council may take the next step of asking their attorney to send letters to each household. Conversation on the subject will continue at a future meeting.

Police request more staff in budget draft

It’s time to begin drafting the 2019-fiscal-year budget, so the town council offered town staff guidance on several issues.

The police department has requested an additional police officer position. Grant money would help pay for the salary, benefits, vehicle and more. The council noted that the cost of a new patrol car is significantly more than the cost of the wear and tear caused by officers sharing a vehicle. Response time can also improve if each officer has an individual car.

The police department has also requested a special administrative assistant position. That person would help with regular office work, in addition to helping develop emergency plans, liaising with other public safety organizations and providing IT support. Curran said the police are inundated with bureaucracy and paperwork, as well as having need of a techie.

Deciding they shouldn’t rely so heavily on transfer taxes for the Town’s operating budget, the council will also consider moving that income to the capital projects fund. They also weighed in on other staff salary adjustments and bonuses.

The public can attend budget workshops and hearings from January to March, which should culminate in budget approval on April 10. The Town’s fiscal year begins on May 1.

Money talk

To simplify budgeting in the future, Ocean View will also follow a process many local towns use: its fee schedule will be changed via resolution, rather than written into the town code.

Currently, every code ordinance requires two readings before it can be enacted. In contrast, a resolution could be enacted immediately.

The council unanimously approved the changes to Town Code Chapter 3.

Property taxes will also be collected slightly differently from usual. Ocean View will no longer use a third-party vendor, which should save the Town $229,000 over the next five years. Instead, Ocean View will use Sussex County’s assessment figures.

“Our employees do the billing, and we collect the money. That’s where the savings come in,” said Finance Director Sandra Peck.

Officially, the council replaced Chapter 5 (Board of Assessments) of the town code with a paragraph stating the Town uses Sussex County assessments.

Property owners should still expect tax bills in the mail around May.

In other Ocean View Town Council news:

• Building a patio? Residents still need to get permits for housing repair and renovations, but under the new fee schedule, the permits will be free for projects valued at less than $5,000. The Town may lose an average of $16,000 in permit fees, plus $5,500 in emergency service fees (which are included in building permits), but council members said they wanted to reduce the pain to homeowners’ wallets.

• Double disappointment hit John West Park’s holiday celebration this month. First, someone vandalized the park’s Christmas tree by physically cutting the strings of holiday lights. That was discovered just before the Dec. 9 Holiday in the Park celebration, which ended up being canceled due to snowy weather.

• Mediacom has sent a letter notifying the Town of monthly rate increases coming for the new year. That includes monthly increases in a number of fees: local broadcast station surcharge ($5.14); regional sports surcharge ($0.41); family TV ($3.54); HD ($1); SD ($2); and non-TiVo DVR service ($4.04). Mediacom customers should have received a letter as well.

• The Town has two new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, or “drones”), which will require a $2,846 insurance coverage, added to the police budget.

The Ocean View Town Council’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m.