WILDWOOD — A group of petitioners wants voters to decide if the city needs a beach utility and two employees to run it.
City Clerk/Administrator Chris Wood said Wednesday that he received a petition asking that ordinance 947-12 either be rescinded or put before voters. The ordinance creates the utility, which would organize and oversee the beach and events held on it, and authorizes the two positions for those who would operate it.
Dara Baltuskonis, one of the five petition committee members, said she opposes the beach utility because she believes it was premature to form one before city voters decide whether they want to start charging beach fees.
In addition, she said the group opposes the possible hiring of the mayor’s son, Ryan Troiano , and former city police Officer Christopher Fox by the utility.
Commissioner Pete Byron, who oversees revenue and finance, would be in charge of the beach utility, according to the ordinance.
“The purpose is to streamline the process and make it more efficient,” he said Wednesday. That would include coordinating everything from public safety for events to trash pickup and permitting.
Byron said that Troiano and Fox have worked on the city’s beach plans for the past two years on a volunteer basis, but he said neither one has been promised a job.
“There’s no guarantee,” he said of the two men being hired to work for the utility. “Both jobs will be advertised.”
Troiano, who works full time for the city as a firefighter, also said Wednesday that he has helped the city with its beach plans for about two years as a volunteer and that he has not been promised either of the beach utility jobs.
A proposed change to the city’s salary ordinance would allow the director of the utility to receive between $15,000 and $45,000 annually, while the manager would receive $10,000 to $40,000.
Wood said that as of Wednesday no one had been hired for either position.
Baltuskonis, a former City Commission candidate and resident for 25 years, said the prospect of family and friends receiving jobs through the utility equated to bigger government at taxpayer expense.
“When does it end,” she said. “When do the citizens and the taxpayers come first?”
She formed the petition committee with former Mayor Gary DeMarzo, Kathleen McCullough, Maryann Giblin and former City Commissioner Ed Harshaw.
As an alternative to the utility, she suggested the city work with the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority to manage beach events.
“Larger government doesn’t equate to lower taxes,” she said.
Byron said the city was looking to generate new income from the beach by seeking sponsorships and hosting music festivals.
“The Kenny Chesney concert has definitely spurred a renewed confidence,” he said. “It put Wildwood on the map.”
Chesney performed on the city’s beach last summer, drawing an estimated 30,000 people to the island on an otherwise quiet Wednesday.
Wood said he was reviewing the petition to determine if enough of the signatures collected are valid.
At least 117 signatures are needed to put the issue on the ballot. The petition had 140 signatures.
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