Minutes from the Fairness in Taxes Meeting from June 7, 2019

Attendees: Dave Hayes, Marie Hayes, Dave Breeden, Jim Tweed, Vic Staniec, Don Kerns, Donna Moore

  1. The meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance
  2. Presidents Report: Dave said that we’ve developed a very good working relationship with the government and City Council. They invite the President and Vice President to meetings, they call for input and they even call and tell us when they have made mistakes.
    1. FIT is in the press several times a week. This week, the Sentinel mentioned FIT had spoken to Council about the high cost of entertainment. We were also mentioned in the Sentinel article about former FIT Board Member Suzanne Hornick and her OC Flooding Committee being dropped by the City and the NJ DEP for continuing to attack Councilman Tony Wilson on her OC Flooding Facebook page.
    2. Dave is ready to mail another letter with a membership packet.
    3. Dave sent 5 email blasts this year. These blasts could have been sent to a lot more people, but for the past several years the email addresses have not been updated and now we only have 145 correct email addresses out of 450 active members. This should have been addressed years ago.
    4. The mailing list is also an ongoing problem- we send out 800 mailings and we only have 450 paid members. A woman at the Block Party last month said she hadn’t paid dues in years but still gets mailings from us.
    5. Dave wrote letters mailed in December and January that brought in $9,000. The January mailing brought in many new members from the list of referendum signers.
    6. Marie sent out 145 hand-written Thank-You notes to everyone who contributed to the Legal Defense Fund this year.
    7. Dave answered many emails and phone calls this year from members because of our mailings and email blasts.
    8. We discussed the effectiveness, timeliness, and cost savings of email blasts and web communications over the high cost and ineffectiveness of newsletters. We were spending $4,100 in 4 newsletters a year to bring in only $6,000 in dues and that is unsustainable.
    9. Dave passed out the Web Communications Protocol so that everyone understands what was approved by the Board last August. (Please see Attachment 1) The protocol was developed because the Board did not want anyone to be able to do what ex-Board member Suzanne Hornick does on her OC Flooding Face Book page. When Dave was starting the web site, she told him she couldn’t wait until the FIT website was running because she wanted to use it to criticize City Councilmen and the City government.
    10. Dave encouraged people to send him their articles and he would post them. He is continually putting FIT press coverage online.
    11. Dave said that as of March 1st, there was no longer a Web Communications Committee. This was a Special Committee set up to get requirement inputs for the web page. He met several times with committee members before the web site was launched. There is no longer a need for this committee, as the Board discussed at the March 1, 2019 FIT meeting. At that meeting, committee sheets were passed out with the updated Standing and Special Committees, showing that there was no longer a Web Communication (Please see Attachment 2)
  3. City Committee and Expenditure Report- Dave Breeden
    1. Dave B. attended the last Council Meeting and asked Council if the Housing Authority had received a grant of $4.4 Million as they claimed they had. He asked if they don’t have the grant, will taxpayers be responsible for paying the entire amount, but there was no response. After the meeting, Dave Breeden spoke with Bobby Barr. Mr. Barr claimed the Housing Authority had the grant and that all the paperwork for the grant was at his home. He would get it to Dave, but Dave never received anything .
    2. He subsequently called the state who told him that the Housing Authority did not, in fact, have the $4.4 million grant. The Housing Authority would have to apply for the grant and it would have to go through a comprehensive review and be approved by the State of New Jersey before it was awarded.
    3. There is a question about what Phase I will cost. It went out to bid for 20 units in 2015 and the average price per unit was $275 per unit. It went out to bid again in 2018 and the average cost for 32 units was $215 per unit for total of $6.6 million. They are scheduled to break ground on Speitel Towers in the first quarter of 2020. There is an extensive 30-page checklist for the project.
    4. We do not know that total cost of the 32 units coming in. Dave doubts that the units can be built for $215,000. He will stay on top of this and let the group know if anything else occurs.
    5. The first phase is taking the 20 senior units at Pecks Beach Village and moving them to Speitel Tower. 12 units on the first floor of the existing Tower will move to the new tower. They will then renovate the existing tower for $2.75 million.
    6. Phase 2 will be to build 60 new units at Pecks Beach Village above flood elevation and demolish the existing 60 units. It will be a $30 million project by the time it’s all done.
    7. The City declined the proposal of 2 developers that would have built the housing based on tax credits, costing taxpayers nothing.
    8. We all agreed that we really need a professional construction manager who can focus on this project and make sure it’s completed.
    9. Our position as FIT should be that we know that we have an Affordable Housing obligation and that there is work that needs to be done. However the majority of the burden for building these homes should not fall on the OC taxpayers.
    10. On the Klause property, the mayor has directed the City to get new appraisals, go back to the Klause family, and negotiate another deal. Klause is scheduled to go back before the Planning at an upcoming Planning board meeting. Klause bought the Palermo property for $350,000, so 20 lots at $350,000 should be worth a total of $7 million. This confirms our referendum position that $9 million was too much for this property. We will review the terms of the deal if and when it comes through. The position of FIT should be that we agree with the purchase at a reasonable price and with a plan.
  4. School Board Committee Report- Vic Staniec
    1. The SATs are adding an adversity score to add bonus points to the scores of disadvantaged students. Ocean City Students came up with an average of 1120, with 558 in Math and 550 in Verbal. They were ranked 109 out of 400 schools in New Jersey. Two students received Mid Atlantic awards for Broadcasting News. We discussed the lawsuit involving Dr. Christine Lentz, former Athletic Director. She resigned from the School District to save her pension and was subsequently found not guilty of criminal charges. She is now bringing a Civil Suit against the School District, claiming she was discriminated against for her sexual orientation.
  5. Environmental Committee Report- Donna Moore
    1. Although I first successfully used the OPRA request format for info about Ocean City public lands pesticides applications, I did encounter a subsequent runaround. Dave Breeden and I agreed that that OPRA requests should be made to assure receipt of info. I OPRA requested info about pesticides being applied by two female workers wearing backpack tank sprayers, but did not mention any safety protection; yet about a month afterward, haz-mat suited/ respirator wearing workers were observed making applications on public lands, spraying pesticides from a truck rolling through a neighborhood.
    2. The old railroad bed in the wetlands paralleling our bayside neighborhoods is being studied by ACT Engineers as a living shoreline flooding barrier. The embankment’s existing well-established native wetlands vegetation, including native trees, has for decades, been a bayside protective flooding barrier, with the vegetation’s diverse root masses contributing to flood waters absorption, as well as soils stabilization. Working with what is already established would be a prudent use of taxpayer’s money; while fortifying the embankment where necessary.
    3. A Brigantine living shoreline viewed by Dave and Marie Hayes, myself, and some other attendees has a passive drainage system on the land side of the berm. This passive drainage system apparently at a higher land elevation, was referred to in contrast to the perceived possible need for an active/ pump drainage system for the seemingly lower land elevation of our bayside areas during episodes of flooding, where flood waters could be adversely retained by the fortified railroad embankment.
  6. Old Business-None
  7. New Business- The group unanimously decided that there will be no FIT Board meetings in July or August because FIT Board members will be unavailable. The next FIT Board meeting will be Friday. September 6, 2019 at the Library.

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