Mayor Overrides Opposition to Negotiate Little Egg Harbor Administrator’s Contract

Nov 25, 2015
Photo by: Pat Johnson A larger than normal crowd attended the pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Little Egg Harbor municipal meeting on Monday afternoon.

The all-Republican Little Egg Harbor Township Committee was not as unified in their decisions Monday as they have been in the past, now that Mayor Art Midgley and Committeeman Ed Nuttall are lame ducks, and Democrats Lisa Stevens and Dave Schlick are due to take their seats on the dais Jan. 1. During the Nov. 23 afternoon municipal meeting, Committeemen Ray Gormley and John Kehm spoke out vehemently against approving a resolution that authorizes the mayor to negotiate and execute Business Administrator Garrett Loesch’s new contract.

When the resolution came up for approval, Gormley asked Township Attorney Robin LaBue if it wouldn’t be considered an unfair practice as far as the union that covers department heads in the township.

“When the (department head) contracts were rescinded … the outcome was to tell the union there would be no negotiating for the balance of the year,” said Gormley.

“I’m not aware of that,” said LaBue.

Kehm was even stronger in his protest: “We’re here to set an example, and if that was stated in the negotiation with the union, then we should halt until next year.

“It starts from the top,” said Kehm, echoing a Stevens and Schlick campaign slogan for the Nov. 3 election.

On Tuesday, LaBue said Loesch is not in a union, and the Little Egg Harbor Employees Association is a small union for the various department heads. Having a mayor negotiate a salary is also not unusual, she said.

For instance, when Gormley was mayor in 2011, he negotiated to pay Loesch a $129,000 starting salary for his combined administrator and chief financial officer duties. At the time, Gormley researched nearby towns of similar size and found the combined salary would be less than paid in Barnegat or Stafford townships.

Nuttall said Loesch has been waiting since 2014 for his contract. “He’s done a very good job for his time here, and we should allow this to be negotiated.” He also said it was best for the continuity of the township.

Both Gormley and Kehm said they wanted to know the particulars of the contract, and they called for the resolution to be held over until the Dec. 10 meeting. They voted no to allow Midgley to negotiate a contract, but Nuttall and Committeeman Gene Kobryn voted yes, and Midgley’s yes vote broke the tie.

In other business, the township committee accepted the retirement of Court Administrator Deborah O’Brien after 37 years and approved an initial payout of $14,588 for her unused sick and vacation time, and the balance of $60,000 to be paid out in monthly installments.

Gormley asked how many more retirees are in the pipeline for the unused benefits payouts, and how much is left in the fund. Loesch said he thought there were one or two yet.

Later, Gormley asked if the attorney could create a resolution that could be approved by title that night that would accept retirements of those employees on the dates they have supplied to the state pension system.

Kobryn also wanted a list of employees who have given the pension system a retirement date.

Loesch said he would have to give the employees a Rice notice to appear at the township meeting if the committee was going to discuss their pensions.

The committee approved the resolution.

A resident of the township thanked the committee for putting the draft municipal agenda on the township’s website but complained that there was not enough information given to the public when votes are taken on the resolutions and ordinances.

For instance, Ordinance 2015-12 introduced that night stated the township would sell a parcel of land that was not needed by the township: a piece of landlocked land that Pirate’s Cove Campground wanted to buy because it is in the middle of their property. LaBue said the land – Block 173, Lot 1.01 on the tax map – was a quarter acre and appraised at $10,000. A second reading and public hearing is set for Dec. 10.

The committee accepted a $845,000 Neighborhood Revitalization Program grant to pay for the streetscape project in the Radio Road-Mathistown Town Center. The money will pay for sidewalks, curbing, streetside trees and benches along a section of those roadways.

A resident later asked if the money was able to be used to lower taxes and Loesch said no, the grant money must be used for what it was intended.

There were two other items of revenue: $3,951 from the Division of Criminal Justice to pay for body armor for the police, and $8,932 from the Ocean County Revenue Sharing Program earmarked for the township public works department.

New Jersey Future local recovery managers David Kutner and Lisa Yasenchak gave a presentation at the beginning of the meeting to show the public the maps of what they can expect in 2050 if sea level continues to rise at the rate determined by scientists at Rutgers Earth Science Program. The depth of the annual nuisance flooding that covers some roads in Mystic Island, Osborn Island and Parkertown during spring or flood tides is determined to increase by 1.48 feet and cover more of the roads east of Route 9. And a storm like Superstorm Sandy would inundate 34 percent of the developed land, or almost all of it east of Route 9.

The nonprofit planning group is suggesting that towns rethink where they want new development to occur within or outside the state’s CAFRA permit zone. Since Sandy, New Jersey Future has worked with both Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton in their revitalization plans and will continue through 2017, now that they have obtained a state Sustainable Coastal Communities grant.

“Disaster recovery typically takes a decade but funding opportunities only last for two or three years,” Kutner remarked.

Their entire report, Community Vulnerability and Risk Assessment, is on the town website, leht.com.

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

 

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