LONGPORT – The Board of Commissioners Wednesday, July 21 discussed the possibility of approving a daily beach fee and how to raise the funds for the annual Labor Day fireworks display. It also agreed to review a proposal from neighboring Margate regarding extending its shared municipal court agreement.
According to Mayor Nicholas Russo, the borough’s Volunteer Fire Department has been unsuccessful raising the estimated $11,000 needed for its annual Labor Day fireworks display. In past years, private donors have funded the Longport tradition, “a fitting end to the summer season,” but no donors came forward this year, he said.
Russo said he requested that the Longport Public Library Board consider providing the funds to hold the annual display. He said the library’s Board of Trustees has the ability to fund it in accordance with its mission and agreed to hold a special meeting to discuss the matter.
“We have never used taxpayer funds for the fireworks,” he said.
Steve O’Leary, a longtime member of the Longport Volunteer Fire Department, said the borough uses Schaffer Fireworks of Pennsylvania who obtains all the necessary permits and releases to conduct the display. Cost is about $11,000 for a 22-minute display.
Russo also said numerous visitors who are in town for the weekend have asked if they can purchase day passes to go to the beach. The borough currently sells seasonal beach tags for $30 and weekly tags for $10. The commissioners discussed charging $5 for a day pass.
Having a daily rate would generate revenue to maintain the beaches, Russo said.
It can be done using specially colored tags or wristbands.
“I think it’s a great idea because we have problems with people not having tags,” Commissioner Dan Lawler said.
Solicitor Michael Affanato was tasked with coming up with a proposed ordinance for a future meeting.
In other business, the board will review a proposal received last week from the City of Margate regarding a shared services agreement for the municipal court.
According to Longport Administrator A. Scott Porter, Margate “sharpened their pencils” to provide additional savings to keep Longport in a local shared services agreement that’s been in place for the last two years.
The borough currently pays Margate $10,000 a month, an $80,000 savings over what it cost Longport prior to the interlocal service agreement that was finalized two years ago.
The commissioners have been mulling over a better offer from the Atlantic County Central Municipal Court System, which went into effect on Jan. 3. On May 4, the county dedicated its newly refurbished courtrooms at the Historic Atlantic County Courthouse in downtown Mays Landing.
On June 15, Longport notified Margate may opt to dissolve its agreement to share courts at Margate’s Historic City Hall at 1 S. Washington Ave.
Porter said the borough can join the county system for $42,100 a year, an additional savings to Longport taxpayers of approximately $120,000.
Porter said the new proposal reduced the interlocal services fee by $80,000 a year but the amount is still above what the county has proposed.
“We will still have costs above the $42,000 proposed by the county,” Porter said. “We will have to pay costs associated with hiring a prosecutor and public defender.”
If the borough joins the county system in 2023, certain defendants will be required to travel to Mays Landing to appear before a judge for the most serious cases, such as DWIs or domestic violence cases. However, most traffic summonses and minor offenses will be heard via an online platform.
According to Porter, Margate would like to receive a response by Aug. 15. Atlantic County is requiring the borough to provide notification it intends to join the county system no later than Oct. 1.
The board agreed to further review the proposals.
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