By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
LONGPORT – During a public hearing Wednesday, June 3, a resident questioned the Board of Commissioners on revisions to the borough’s salary ordinance, stating the borough needs “more transparency.”
Up for a vote and adoption was Ordinance 2020-04, approving an amendment to the borough’s temporary employee salary ordinance, a routine action taken whenever personnel changes require it. Also on the agenda was introduction of Ordinance 2020-05 to amend the salary ordinance.
Resident Marsha Walsh questioned the commissioners about why the borough was increasing salaries when there is already a salary ordinance in place. She requested a list of all borough employees and their positions to determine “if there is any duplicity.”
“The salary ranges look excessive,” she said.
She also questioned the need to hire a borough administrator and recreation supervisor and said the commission should hold morning, afternoon and evening meetings. She continued that police should patrol the beach on ATVs to enforce social distancing and that an outside company should be hired to sanitize public spaces during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Visitors expect safety,” she said.
Administrator A. Scott Porter said the borough is seeking a seasonal laborer to clean the restrooms and posted the opening on the borough’s website.
Attempts to quell her concerns came up short as commissioners looked to Chief Financial Officer Jenna Kelly for answers. Although Kelly had logged onto the teleconference meeting, she left the meeting early to tend to personal matters involving a family member’s hospitalization, she said.
Ordinance 2020-04, which was approved unanimously, was amended to include increases in the state designated minimum wage amount paid to hourly beach tag inspectors and supervisors, and tennis court attendants. The ordinance also set a salary range of $18-25 per hour for a recreation supervisor, a new position the commissioners approved in January. The actual salaries paid to employees vary within the range due to experience and length of employment with the borough.
The supervisor was hired to oversee recreation programs for children and adults during the summer season, duties that were previously performed by a member of the Longport Beach Patrol who did not return this season.
“It would be more efficient that this be done by a separate individual rather than taking a trained Beach Patrol individual to do this,” Mayor Nicholas Russo said when the issue was discussed on Jan. 15.
According to Kelly, New Jersey passed legislation last year to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and the ordinance revision reflects that change.
According to the NJ Dept. of Labor, minimum wage for seasonal workers was set at $10.30 an hour starting Jan. 1 and will gradually raise to $15 per hour by 2026.
Kelly said the recreation supervisor is overseeing beach badge checkers, tennis court attendants and operations, and would assist the Beach Patrol during lifeguard races and community events, and any other duties that come up, such as coordinating beach weddings and basketball camps.
“A lifeguard used to help out, but she didn’t return this year,” Kelly said in a telephone interview Thursday morning.
The supervisor hired earns $20 per hour, she said.
Kelly said Walsh would be provided with a list of all borough employees and their current salaries, and that the information is readily available to the public.
Commissioner Dan Lawler assured Walsh the changes would not affect her municipal taxes, which have not been raised for several years.
Regarding the borough’s action to hire an administrator, Lawler said because the commission form of government prohibits the three commissioners from discussing issues outside of public meetings, the borough needed to have an administrator to handle day-to-day operations.
“We decided things were not being done efficiently,” Lawler said. “It was the best decision we ever made since we’ve been elected.”
Lawler said A. Scott Porter was brought on following a mold remediation problem that developed in Borough Hall.
“He is already overburdened with work, especially since COVID-19 and the mold issue. He is our central guy,” Lawler said.
Porter is the borough’s former police chief and is familiar with the borough, Lawler said.
The salary range for the municipal administrator, which was approved in 2019, is $40,000-75,000 a year or $20-$50 an hour.
Porter currently earns $45 an hour and works on a part-time basis, Kelly said.
A public hearing and vote on Ordinance 2020-05, which was introduced during the meeting, will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 17.
The ordinance revises the existing salary ordinance to include revised stipend amounts for Emergency Medical Services Duty Crews that assist the Longport Volunteer Fire Department between May 22 and Sept. 6 or on an as-needed basis, such as during the coronavirus pandemic.
Duty crews were established on a trial basis in 2018 to increase emergency medical services in the evening hours when few volunteers are available in the summer season when the population in Longport increases with the influx of seasonal residents and visitors. The duty crews were viewed as a way to improve response times and eliminate the need for mutual aid from surrounding fire departments.
The stipend program followed an independent report from Stockton University on recruiting and retention of firefighters and EMTs. The all-volunteer department, which has been in existence since 1912, has about 35 firefighters on its rolls, but the few active members who respond most frequently are older, according to Fire Chief Levon “Lefty” Clayton. Many members live in other Downbeach communities or the Mainland area.
The ordinance revision limits the salary duty crews can earn in a single year to $17,235. The yearly maximum was negotiated to comply with prevailing wages paid to firefighters in surrounding communities. The previous yearly maximum was $8,000, Kelly said.
“It is still a lot cheaper than having a paid fire department,” Kelly said.
In other business, Russo said the borough would consider resident Ellen Stein’s request to remove the NJ Transit bus stop on her corner, and Delores Wilson’s request for bulkhead signage prohibiting dogs on the beach during the summer.
Russo said the borough would also check with the Public Works Department to determine if there is room at the yard for residents to drop off recycling and trash between weekly collections.
Resident Bob English also asked police to patrol bicycle lanes to ensure joggers and walkers are not going in the wrong direction.
“Our problem is it is difficult to legislate common sense,” Russo said.
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