Little Egg Harbor Introduces $22 Million Budget

Mar 28, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson POLITICAL ACTION: Addressing the Little Egg Harbor Township Committee on March 22, Pinelands Regional High School junior Alexandrea Heck hands out a student statement calling for increased gun control measures.

A $22.2 million budget including an increase in taxes was introduced March 22 by the Little Egg Harbor Township Committee. An increase of 1.7 cents to the tax rate means about $35 a year for the owner of an average property assessed at $199,000, said Business Administrator Garrett Loesch.

“This budget culminates many months of work while meeting the many different items asked for, while rebuilding our reserves,” said Loesch.

Deputy Mayor Barbara Jo Crea said she had scrutinized the budget and would like to set up a meeting with Atlantic City Electric executives to go over the street lighting expenses. “Maybe switching to LED lighting could reduce the cost of energy.”

The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 26 at 7 p.m., and Loesch has offered to hold an informal discussion with residents who have questions about the budget on Monday, April 16, at 1 p.m. in the town hall court room.

Four students from Pinelands Regional High School asked to be heard on the subject of gun control. Junior Alexandrea Heck said the students had started a petition to send to U.S. Representative Frank LoBiondo and Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker calling for an increased waiting period and intensive background checks for permits and licenses for all types of guns, and a psychological evaluation to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms.

“The U.S. is plagued with the highest homicide rate in the world, six times higher than Canada and 16 times higher than Germany. The United States has 5 percent of the population of the world but contains 31 percent of mass shooters (according to CNN),” says the petition.

“We hope to implement common-sense gun control on a federal scale to prevent mass killings, accidental gun injury and impulsive injury from both suicide and homicide.”

The petition was created by history club students, all juniors at Pinelands, under the tutelage of their teacher/adviser, Katherine Poerner.

In other business, an ordinance to adopt a trap, neuter and spay policy was allowed to die when Committeewoman Lisa Stevens said the public had brought up many more questions that she would have to look into, before introducing a revised ordinance.

Two ordinances having to do with “Solid Waste and Recycling Collection” will be on the April 12 agenda. The ordinances will determine what businesses and nonprofits will continue to benefit from garbage pickup under an ordinance that calls for only residential pickup. Mayor Ray Gormley’s business has continued to benefit under the ordinance, and Deputy Mayor Crea announced she, too, would recuse herself from discussing or voting on the ordinances because she and her husband have been long-time members of the Italian American Club (her husband is an officer), which also has the benefit of municipal garbage pickup.

The committee also passed a resolution that reduces the municipal open space tax to a tenth of a penny, as was done in 2017. The township keeps the tax on the books so it can benefit from county-led preservation efforts. The town’s open space coffers contain about $2 million, said Loesch.

The committee approved a collective bargaining agreement with the deputy township clerk and registrar that includes a 2 percent raise to the $59,722 salary as deputy clerk and an additional $2,500 a year for the duties as registrar.

Township Engineer Jason Worth said bids will be opened on April 5 for the drainage aspect of the Twin Lakes Boulevard reconstruction. Street-end bulkheads in the older Holly Lake development off Great Bay Boulevard will be completed by Memorial Day, and the revised application for the Iowa Court shoreline restoration has been submitted after comments by ReClam the Bay were included.

“There is another grant out there offered by the Nature Conservancy that we will look at; the maximum amount is $35,000,” said Worth.

Gormley said the additional 750 to 800 feet of shoreline would bring the marsh profile back to the 1977 tide line.

During the public portion of the meeting, Earl Lewis form Mystic Shores senior development said he had asked residents to go on record with their complaints about the internet, phone and television cable service provided by Comcast. Only 17 residents had agreed to complain in written form, but an additional 20 said they were afraid to do so because of supposed repercussions from the company or the township, said Lewis.

“Since I’ve seen Comcast trucks on every street every day, I am deeply saddened that they are fearful of retaliation,” he said.

On behalf of himself and his neighbors, Lewis asked if the township could renegotiate its contract with Comcast to give seniors a discounted rate.

Loesch said the original contract predated his time as CFO, but what he could remember was that there is not a lot of competition for Comcast and not a lot of returns for requests for proposals.

Gormley said it was time to “pull out that agreement” for a second look.

On a different matter, resident Ed Gautier asked the committee why they hadn’t joined many other municipalities in passing a resolution put forward by the Ocean County freeholders forbidding sales of marijuana in the county. Gormley said the committee was still reviewing and considering it.

“Why do we have to wait? Do we lack the intestinal fortitude to say, ‘Not in my town?’” Gautier wanted to know.

A long discussion about dredging the lagoons in Osborn Island and Mystic Island ensued, with various residents asking questions.

The mayor again said the biggest problem is finding a place for the dredge material.

A project off Long Beach Island that used dredge material to add shoreline to Mordecai Island was successful because the material had more sand in it than the mud that would be coming out of the lagoons, said Gormley. Another project to dredge High Bar Harbor lagoons was able to proceed was because there was a place to put the material to de-water.

“They had a CDF (confined dredge facility). If we had a CDF we could move ahead, but we don’t have that,” he said.

— Pat Johnson


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