By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – The honeymoon is over. The newly seated members of the Board of Commissioners Thursday, June 1 fielded the first complaint about their brief tenure.
After a resident said they are not living up to their campaign promise to involve the community in their decisions, they passed a resolution revising their departmental oversight and appointed John Scott Abbott to continue as city solicitor for another year.
“I thought when you were running, it would be brought to peoples’ attention about certain items that would be done,” Dennis Gorniowski said, questioning items on the agenda. “You have an item on here appointing a job.”
He asked when the people would get to weigh-in on actions taken by the board. Gorniowski said he wanted to see bills for every payment made on the bill list, including those items purchased at Colmar Home Center, which is owned by Mayor Michael Collins.
Collins abstained from voting on the Colmar bill, which is normally listed separately from the bill list on Margate’s agendas. Former Mayor Michael Becker also abstained from voting on Colmar bills during his 16-year tenure because he is employed there.
Collins said the board intends to create a Citizens Advisory Committee, which will be advertised on the city’s website for residents to apply for a seat on the committee. The commission is currently developing bylaws and coming up with a committee structure to hear from residents, he said.
“They are not public information because they are not complete, so we will be soliciting feedback and applications. There is an open school board position that’s on the website,” he said. “Appointments by law are decisions of the commission. That is what our job is. We ran with transparency and open government and we plan to honor our promises.”
Regarding the solicitor appointment, Horn said, “You have to trust us too, we chose to stay with our city solicitor. You elected us to make some decisions.”
Gorniowski said he plans to apply for a seat on the advisory board.
Collins said he receives feedback from residents on a daily basis, and the new committee has not made any appointments to the Planning Board. Collins’ father Tom Collins is a longtime member of the Planning Board and has served as the Mayor’s Designee.
“We haven’t made any appointments yet. That was done by the previous administration,” he said.
Gorniowski has maintained a regular presence at commission meetings ever since he claimed his home was damaged during a construction project.
The board passed a resolution updating its departmental powers and oversight to prevent a perceived conflict of interest on certain duties. Several oversight duties were eliminated, such as the Department of Health, which is currently organized under county government, and others switched to different departments or had titles updated.
By law, commissioners have full oversight of their various departments, which include Public Safety and Public Affairs (Cathy Horn), Revenue and Finance (Maury Blumberg), and Public Works and Parks and Public Property (Michael Collins).
The resolution adds the Beach Patrol, Police, Fire, Telecommunications, municipal prosecutor and public defender to the duties of the Commissioner of Public Safety and Public Affairs, and eliminates the department of health and Code Enforcement.
“I was being proactive and want to avoid the perception there could be a conflict,” Horn said about her duty revisions.
Horn’s spouse is the owner of an electrical contracting firm called Horn Electric of Ventnor that works throughout the region.
Duties of the Commissioner of Revenue and Finance will now include codification of ordinances, foreclosures, the green team, insurance matters and the Construction Code Official and Zoning Officer. Blumberg will no longer oversee group health insurance and other insurance matters.
As Commissioner of Public Works and Public Property, Collins will be responsible for public relations and special events.
The board also unanimously agreed to award Abbott a one-year non-fair and open professional services contract to continue as the city’s solicitor. Abbott will serve on a retainer of $88,200 payable in monthly installments. For litigation and special legal services, his legal fee will be $165 per hour not to exceed $75,000.
In other business, Administrator Ken Mosca announced the city would conduct its quarterly testing of emergency sirens at noon on Wednesday, June 14. Residents should not be alarmed, but reassured the city’s emergency notification system is working according to specifications. The test will last 15 minutes, Mosca said.
Zoning Officer Roger McLarnon reported that the Planning Board is considering modifications to the city’s developmental ordinance to prevent the loss of commercial property.
“Residential development is driving the bus and displacing commercial property,” he said.
The board will also consider changing front yard setbacks. Current regulations are based on the average setback for homes within 200 feet, but a numeric setback may be warranted, he said.
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