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A Vision with No Public Input? Glimpses of ‘Revitalized’ Cape May5.10.2006

By Jack Fichter

CAPE MAY –  City council has scheduled a special meeting for 2 p.m. May 16 at  when a 3-D animated presentation of conceptual plans for refurbishing the Washington Street Mall will be presented by the city’s contracted engineering firm, Remington, Vernick.
At that same meeting, the firm selected by the city’s Revitalization Committee to produce a vision and study for Cape May that includes the overall look of the city, including a new convention center, streetscapes, and mall refurbishment, will make a presentation to council.
The committee received 11 responses from interested firms and personally interviewed seven applicants.
At council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. May 16, it may award a contract to a firm for the “vision” plan for the city.
A special council meeting was convened May 5 for the purpose of paying nearly $2 million in bills, according, to Mayor Jerome E. Inderwies. Earlier in the week, council cancelled its May 9 meeting.
Councilman William G. Gaffney said it appeared the firm of Rhodeside and Hardwell was the likely choice to be awarded the contract for the “vision” plan for Cape May.
City Manager Luciano V. Corea Jr. said Rhodeside and Hardwell submitted “by far the least expensive per hour.”
The firm is being recommended by the revitalization committee, which has been meeting since last fall.
Deputy Mayor Niels Favre, a member of the revitalization committee, said five of seven firms submitting applications for the city’s “vision” plan had provided CDs, members of council could view in a computer.
“It’s a lot to digest,” remarked Gaffney.
During public comment, Christine Miller, president of the Bank Street Improvement Association, complained none of the seven proposals was available for the public to view. She complained council may award a contract the night of May 16 without a public hearing on the matter.
Miller said she was told by Corea she could not look at the seven proposals.
Corea said the proposals were not available to the public because a firm could unfairly examine the bid of a competing firm.
Inderwies said negotiations dealing with contracts are items for closed sessions.
Miller complained meetings of the revitalization committee were not open to the public. She said the city has a “rubber stamp city council” that would okay the contract for a “vision” plan without public input.
She said when plans for convention hall are presented, it should be done so in open council meetings, not in closed revitalization committee meetings. She said presentations should be scheduled for evening council meeting when the public was more likely to attend rather than afternoon work session meetings.
Miller asked that the “vision” plan for the city be offered as a referendum to voters.
Gaffney suggested a question and answer session for the public at the May 16 meeting on award of the “vision” plan and mall reconstruction.
“It’s not cast in stone and will come before the public,” he said.” It’s not a done deal. I have many questions.”
Gaffney said council could go forward without a public referendum or choose to take that route with either a binding or non-binding referendum.
Contact Fichter at (609) 886-8600 Ext 30 or at: jfichter@cmcherald.com

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