As a courtesy to our SHPOA Members, we’re bringing you a summary of each Stone Harbor Work Session and Council Meeting. Intended as summaries, these intentionally don’t have a lot of details and are not a substitute for the official Borough minutes.
Dredging, Parking, and Bugs
Councilmember Robin Casper announced that New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) awarded Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company the contract for storm risk management to dredge and replenish the beaches of Stone Harbor and Avalon. The work is expected to begin after the new year and to be completed by the 2023 Memorial Day weekend, according to the letter announcing the award. The Borough expects NJDEP to provide additional details and cost estimates early in the new year.
Council members appeared to support a recommendation from Public Works Director Manny Parada to engage Park Mobile, an app-based platform, as the vendor for managing parking fees. He explained that contracting Park Mobile would eliminate the need for replacing failed meters and kiosks in beach and business district lots and streets and reduce operational costs, estimated at $35,000 annually. He also noted that equipment replacement costs would likely add an additional $36,000 by 2025. Parada stated that the new system would utilize credit cards and PayPal as payment methods and also provide a toll-free number for users who do not utilize smartphones. He noted that the Borough would receive about 95 percent of the fees collected with the vendor, credit card company, or PayPal, receiving a small percentage.
Parada informed the Council that New Jersey would adopt a new regulation to combat the spread of lanternflies in 2023. The regulation, which is currently open for public comment, would require the Borough to train employees to detect, remove and dispose of trees infected by the flies. As proposed, the rule would go into effect in May 2023 and sunset in 2025, unless further remediation is necessary. Lanternflies are an invasive insect that infests cash crops, including blueberries and grape vines, as well as tulip, elm, and other trees. The bugs are attracted to the Tree of Heaven, a species also imported to the region, but can destroy any plants and trees that may become covered by the honeydew that they excrete. Lanternflies are easily transported by attaching themselves to vehicles. The insects have spread through the northeastern states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Beachgoers in Monmouth County had complained of the bugs swarming the beach, but they are not harmful to humans. Parada explained that one to two Borough employees would be trained to detect the bugs and follow proper procedures to dispose of infected trees. Responding to questions from Council members, he stated that landscaping companies operating on the island would not be required to train their employees in detection and removal, but he suggested that the Borough could take steps to educate the companies and encourage them to be mindful of the threat to trees, plants, and other vegetation.
Public Comment: Beach Tags and Water fees
SHPOA President Richard Fuchs urged Council to work with Avalon to address the discrepancy in how the towns collect and establish seasonal beach tag fees. A reciprocity agreement between the two towns allows beachgoers to use the island’s beaches after paying the fee to either town. During the 2022 season, Avalon began charging lower fees ($28 preseason; $33 seasonal) than Stone Harbor ($32 preseason; $40 seasonal) and many Stone Harbor beachgoers purchased Avalon’s lower-priced beach tags because of the reciprocity between the two towns. Fuchs explained that Stone Harbor prices its beach tags so that the revenue completely funds beach operations, while Avalon runs its program at a deficit and pays unsupported costs from the general tax revenue. Fuchs calculated that if Avalon properly accounted for operating expenses in its fees, Avalon would have fees 30 to 44 percent higher than Stone Harbor. He emphasized that SHPOA has not taken a position on the cost of beach fees, but urged the Council to seek an equitable agreement with Avalon. [Note: Subscribers to the Cape May County Herald can also read about this at https://www.capemaycountyherald.com/news/government/stone-harbor-property-owners-urge-collaboration-with-avalon-on-beach-tag-pricing/article_c75c2d3a-66ba-11ed-8ee0-e7573d83c5ff.html]
Geoff Woolery expressed concern regarding a proposed ordinance that would lower water and sewer fees for some users even as the Borough faces increasing interest costs to service the $27 million debt associated with water usage. Ordinance 1621 proposes to reduce the base rate of water/sewer fees, and to pro-rate charges among properties so that the fees are based on individual usage. Costs are anticipated to be decreased for smaller users. Woolery spoke in support of increasing fees on larger users, so that charges reflect usage, but he also warned against reducing revenue during a time when interest rates are increasing and state mandates regarding safe drinking water are being implemented. Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance at the December 6 Council meeting. Water and sewer bills are expected to go down for low users while the bills are expected to increase for high users. Woolery stated that he was speaking as a private citizen and not in his role as SHPOA’s Sustainability Committee Chair.
Council unanimously approved:
Resolution No. 186 authorizing the Mayor to sign the annual certification for Public Community Water Systems.
Resolution No. 187 authorizing the transfer of funds among Borough departments.
Resolution No. 188 authorizing the final change order for the Beach Patrol Headquarters Project. The change order added an additional $42,719 cost to the project for a total of $2,884,590.
Resolution No. 189 approving a proposal for additional scope of services related to the Beach Patrol Headquarters – Design and Construction Phase. The cost of these services is $9,750.
To read documents discussed at the meeting, please click this link: http://stoneharbornj.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Agenda-regualr-Meeting-11.14.22-Web.pdf
To view a video of the meeting, please click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8XB1y0YxiU