margate bill

Margate drops its plan to renovate Firehouse No. 2 on Brunswick Drive.

Danny Drake

A controversial project to spend $1.3 million on Margate’s Firehouse No. 2 has been canceled, while a different construction project will go before voters in the fall.

Commissioners canceled the ordinance authorizing the Firehouse No. 2 project — the subject of a successful lawsuit by petitioners that led to a court-mandated referendums — meaning the fall referendum is no longer necessary, Mayor Mike Becker said. That project would have been separate from ongoing work at Firehouse No. 1.

At the same time, a new referendum — on a $600,000 new building for the construction code office — will appear on the ballot in November after a successful petition drive by a separate group led by resident Sharon Simon.

Simon was successful in her second attempt at gathering the required 354 signatures required.

“Many people are pleased that we received enough signatures to send the (construction office) ordinance to referendum,” Simon said in an email. “Citizens should have the right to vote on capital spending projects.”

Simon said her group believes the project is likely to exceed the proposed $600,000 cost and that “we do not believe it to be a fiscally sound project.”

Becker and Commissioner Brenda Taube, who supported a referendum on the Firehouse No. 2 project, said that they respect the right of the voters to decide on the construction office project.

Taube said that she is disappointed the work is on hold, because it might have been possible to do both that project and the ongoing Firehouse No. 1 project at the same time.

“We could have had an ‘economy of scale’ thing going on, if the same contractor ended up doing both projects,” Taube said. That saves money on supplies and on construction.”

In addition, she said, the city will have to lease the building that houses the construction office again, which Taube said costs $69,000 a year.

Commissioner Maury Blumberg, who backed the now-canceled Firehouse No. 2 project, said that the city should look at other plans for the construction office, adding that “I don’t think right now is a good time to be spending money on this project. There’s a lot going on in the city right now ... and I don’t think it’s a good time to incur debt.”

He suggested using less space in the current office and negotiating a lower lease with the owner.

Simon, for her part, suggested using the vacant Union Avenue School.

Contact Steven Lemongello:

609-272-7275

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