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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Cape May Rescinds Convention Hall Bond

 

By Jack Fichter

CAPE MAY — Cape May City Council voted unanimously Monday to rescind a $10.5-million bond ordinance passed in May to finance construction of a new Convention Hall here.
Council introduced a new $10.5 million bond ordinance July 21 which will be subject to a binding voter referendum in the Nov. 4 general election.
Resident Christine Miller, who successfully led a petition drive that produced a voter referendum for a bond for reconstruction of Washington Street Mall, asked Mayor Edward J. Mahaney Jr. why council chose not to allow a voter referendum to be held during a special election in August.
Following a successful petition drive in June against the $10.5-million mall bond, the city would have been required by law to hold a special election between Aug. 11 and Aug. 29.
Mahaney said the city wanted to avoid the $30,000 expense of holding a special election. He said he expected voters would have defeated the bond in an August special election.
“I personally would not have voted for it because I was not in favor of the money being appropriated through an ordinance when the final design and uses, location and total costs of the building had not been ascertained,” said Mahaney.
Public input will be received at upcoming town meetings on a new Convention Hall scheduled for July 29 and Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. at Cape May City Elementary School, he said.
Mahaney said he believed voters would be comfortable with the Convention Hall project by the November general election. He said he believed the design would be finalized but he did not promise construction drawings would be completed.
In conversation with fellow council members, he said they agreed no final design for a new hall had been selected.
“They felt the design needed more work and to be finalized with the approval of the public,” said Mahaney.
Miller said it appeared the city was continuing with a no-bid contract with architects Kimmel Bogrette.
Interim City Manager Bruce MacLeod said Kimmel Bogrette’s present contract was in three segments with the current phase for $100,000 to complete the architectural design. He said the city could terminate the contract after the first phase but that has not been discussed by council.
Miller said the city’s engineering firm Remington and Vernick was also slated to be the engineer and contract manager for the construction a new Convention Hall, something she called a conflict of interest. Remington and Vernick brought Kimmel Bogrette to the project.
Mahaney said the city had an allotment of $75,000 to Kimmel Bogrette of which $72,000 has been spent. As part of a new three-phase contract, $60,000 of work has been performed, he said.
Martin Kimmel will bring to the town meetings a third design for a new hall which has not been viewed by council or the public, said the mayor.
Mahaney said while Kimmel has signed a contract the city has not. He asked if the city should discard Kimmel’s work and tell taxpayers $135,000 of architectural fees “was a mistake, we’re going to start over or do you try to reclaim the project and keep on the timeline?”
Mahaney said the city has not committed to use Remington and Vernick for the Convention Hall project. He said it has always been the intent of council to hire an independent clerk of the works or project manager for the Convention Hall project.
“I want this project to be a unifying force in this city, not a divisive one,” said the mayor.

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