By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
City Council suspended voting on the 2022 city budget Thursday night as negotiations continue on a garbage collection contract that could impact the proposed $88.8 million spending plan.
The decision to postpone the vote on the budget to the May 26 meeting came after the Board met in executive session for an hour and 20 minutes to discuss the waste contract and possible litigation against its transport company. waste, Gold Medal Environmental.
Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato told the Council that the city continues to negotiate with the gold medal, but at this stage it is unclear what impact a renegotiated trash contract could have on the budget. He asks Council to table the budget in the meantime.
Although negotiations are continuing, Donato noted that it’s possible the trash can contract could end in litigation between the city and the gold medalist.
For now, Gold Medal has agreed to “fully honor” its waste and recycling contract while negotiations continue to resolve a financial dispute, city spokesman Doug Bergen said in an email. last week.
Gold Medal has been contracted to provide waste and recycling pickups for Ocean City for the past four years at approximately $1.5 million per year. With less than a year remaining on a five-year contract, Gold Medal demanded that Ocean City pay an additional $1.4 million for the remainder of 2022, the city said in a statement.
The controversy began when Gold Medal issued a press release on April 29 saying it would stop recycling pickup trucks in Ocean City starting May 2 because it had been unable to reach an agreement with the city. .
The company said in the statement that “the extreme inflationary urgency and labor shortages caused by the pandemic have made it virtually impossible to provide labor and fuel-intensive services at the levels of existing contract”.
However, the company resumed recycling pickups last week while the two sides continue negotiations, Bergen said in the email.
Currently, the city’s proposed budget does not include an increase in local taxes. The average owner of a home valued at around $650,000 would pay $3,068 a year in local taxes, Donato said. This figure does not include school or departmental taxes.
Shaking off the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s finances are benefiting from the booming Jersey Shore real estate market as well as higher revenue from tried and tested money sources such as label tag sales. beach and parking fees.
Donato said during the unveiling of the proposed budget in March that the robust real estate market is fueling the growth of Ocean City’s tax base. This year, the city recorded $174.5 million in new rates and now has a total tax base of nearly $12.3 billion, according to budget figures.
Reflecting Ocean City’s strong finances this year, the budget surplus reached a record $10.4 million. Of this amount, the city proposes to use $5.4 million to help fund the budget, while the remaining $5 million would remain in reserve in case it is needed in the future.
In other business Thursday, Council awarded a $60,680 contract for a new jitney service this summer that will offer two routes serving the boardwalk and downtown shopping district of Asbury Avenue.
Dan Kelchner, director of community services for the city, said the Boardwalk route is scheduled to begin May 27 and end September 5. The downtown route will operate from June 14 to August 25. The jitney fare will be $2.
Kelchner pointed out that the jitney service is a pilot program that will give the city the flexibility to make adjustments based on ridership, service levels, special events in town and even weather conditions.
“We look forward to presenting something that will absolutely be a benefit to the community throughout the summer and into the future,” he said in an interview after the Council meeting.
The route serving the boardwalk will begin at 55th Street and West Avenue. It will run along West Avenue to 14th Street, change to 14th and Ocean Avenue, then Ninth Street and Ocean, then Ninth and Atlantic Avenue, then end at Sixth Street and Atlantic. The jitneys will turn around on the Sixth Street block and reverse the route to 55th Street.
The Boardwalk course will operate seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
For downtown service, jitneys will run along Asbury Avenue between 55th Street and Battersea Road. The opening days will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Benefits for jitney passengers include convenient and inexpensive transportation that will relieve them of the hassle of trying to find public parking during the busy summer tourist season.
Ocean City’s contractor will be the Atlantic City Jitney Association, which has provided jitney service in Atlantic City for over 100 years. The ACJA also provides jitney service under contract with Avalon and Stone Harbor.
“I’m confident they have the level of expertise and experience necessary to meet the needs of our community,” Kelchner said of ACJA in a note attached to the board’s agenda.
Another aspect that sets the ACJA apart from other jitney operators is a proprietary mobile app that will allow passengers to view real-time jitney locations along the parkway and downtown routes, Kelchner said.