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Monday, July 15, 2024

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Stone Harbor Council Presents ’22 Priorities

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By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – Borough Council members who chair each of the borough’s six standing committees presented their priorities for 2022 Feb. 1. The suggestion for the committee presentations came from newly elected Council President Reese Moore. 

Administration and Finance 

Administration and Finance chair Charles Krafczek spoke of three priorities for the coming year. His first was to bring the 2022 budget process to a conclusion without a need for a local purpose tax increase. This follows an over 8% increase in 2021. 

Krafczek then turned his attention to inflation, noting that it is becoming more expensive to find labor. Just before the committee presentations, Chief Financial Officer James Craft noted that the borough, in its 2022 budget, was dealing with a 12% increase in salaries. Craft referred to it as “wage inflation,” a phrase that later underscored Krafczek’s comments.  

Because of “things getting more expensive” and looking forward to large, expected expenses related to flood mitigation, Krafczek said a goal of his committee and the council should be the divestiture of property assets owned by the borough. 

The third priority for Administration and Finance will be the development and passage of an ordinance mandating the backfill of bulkheads. The borough has already made attaining an 8-foot height for bulkheads a requirement. 

Public Safety 

Public Safety chair Frank Dallahan delivered his priorities in terms of specific public safety departments rather than as expressions of the committee, as a whole.  

For beach patrol, the focus in 2022 will be on increased training following the death of a lifeguard in Cape May in 2021. The other priority will be the efficient occupancy of the new beach patrol building, which should be completed before the start of the summer season. 

For the fire service, the priorities emanated from manpower concerns. 2022 will see a renewed effort to gain more volunteers for the volunteer company. It will also be a year in which to evaluate the need for part-time firefighters, presumably paid, for the summer season. The borough went to a paid firefighter track in 2021. 

The police department, Dallahan said, will focus on increasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety following an accident in 2021 that killed a borough bicyclist. A separate goal for the police will be the successful reaccreditation of the department. Police will also seek a greater presence at the borough school as a way of presenting police as more than security officers. 

The Office of Emergency Management will focus on training, more effective use of social media, and modernization of its website. 

Recreation and Tourism 

Recreation and Tourism chair Jennifer Gensemer emphasized expanding program offerings and tourism events in 2022. A recent presentation by Police Chief Thomas Schutta asked for the resources to create a fifth patrol unit, in part, because of the expanding need for police presence at the growing numbers of borough events.  

Gensemer wants to make better use of the borough marina at 80th Street as a location for special events. She also cited a need to retain and grow relatively new efforts by the borough, including the car show and the festival of lights. 

Natural Resources 

Robin Casper, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, set the top priority as replenishment of the borough beaches with sand from Hereford Inlet. Later in the same council meeting, the governing body approved the hire of a Mott MacDonald coastal practice leader to aid in matters related to beach replenishment, among others. 

Casper cited two other priorities for 2022 as completion of the new pump station at the Bird Sanctuary and wildlife conservation. Casper has been a leading advocate for the more humane removal of predators at bird nesting areas at Stone Harbor Point. 

Utilities 

Utilities chair Bernadette “Bunny” Parzych brought to the table what may be some of the more costly priorities for 2022. She set a post-season goal of rejuvenation of the 114th Street sewer system lift station, installation of new smart water meters throughout borough homes, and renovation of the 80th Street well and pump station. 

In this discussion, the council heard of a need to transition the method used for chlorinating water in the borough. The issue was presented as a safety concern since the current method of using gas to chlorinate the water presents dangers if there is a malfunction. The desire is to move to chlorine tablets, but the journey from one method to the other was presented as potentially complex and costly. 

Administrator Robert Smith said a proposal from the borough engineer to study the transition of chlorination methodologies would be before council soon.  

Public Works 

Moore is the chair of the Public Works Committee. He set three priorities for the coming year. The first was the hiring of a new Public Works director required by the upcoming retirement of long-serving director Grant Russ in March. 

Moore said a second priority was to be ready to compete successfully for federal infrastructure and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dollars.  

The third goal for the Utilities Committee was bringing the 93rd Street stormwater pump station and drainage project “across the finish line.” Based on the estimated schedule presented by Mott MacDonald’s Thomas Thornton in the same council meeting, the completion of the project would be in 2024, at the earliest. Moore was focused on the actions that must happen this year to keep the project on schedule. 

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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