VINELAND — The city’s new administration is following through on a campaign promise to get more public input regarding the municipal government’s budget.
City Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday to create the City of Vineland Budget Review Advisory Committee.
The committee will have five members, according to the resolution. Mayor Ruben Bermudez will appoint two members of the panel. The other three appointments will be made by City Council.
City residents eventually appointed to the committee will serve terms that expire Dec. 31.
According to the resolution, the committee will “assist the mayor should he deem prudent in preparing the annual operating budget in advance of his submitting the budget to City Council.”
The resolution states that the committee is formed for “advisory purposes only” and will not serve any kind of municipal government function. Committee members will only be allowed to review documents that can be released in accordance with the state’s Open Public Records Act.
Bermudez promised to create the committee when he ran for mayor last year. He renewed that pledge when he took his ceremonial oath of office Jan. 5.
In his inaugural address, Bermudez also promised that his administration will make quality of life its major goal. He said he would wage war on drugs, illegal firearms, noise, vandalism and other crime, and clean up vacant, rundown and dangerous public and private properties.
Bermudez also said he will do all he can to help local shopkeepers and attract new jobs and businesses to the city.
In other action during Tuesday’s meeting, former City Council President Peter Coccaro urged the new members of the municipality’s governing body to continue the investigation into the financial matters related to the Four Corners development project.
That investigation ended Jan. 21 when attorneys for the city and project developer Hans Lampart signed an agreement stating that the City Council committee investigating the project’s finances ceased to have any “lawful authority” at 12 p.m. Jan. 1. That’s when terms of the previous City Council expired.
Both sides also agreed that all subpoenas issued by the committee are quashed. No persons or entities served with a committee subpoena are required to appear before City Council, the agreement reads.
That agreement, signed by Superior Court Judge Anne McDonnell, allows city officials to form another investigative committee if they feel one is necessary.
Coccaro told City Council that “the correct thing” to do is continue with the investigation.
“There are still some unanswered questions,” Coccaro said.
Coccaro provided no specifics while addressing City Council. City Councilman Paul Spinelli said the city is still reviewing the situation and has made no final determination on how to proceed.
Only one part of the $40 million Four Corners project, located at the intersection of East and Landis avenues, has been completed thus far. That part of the project involved about $4 million in Urban Enterprise Zone funds.
UEZ money comes from state sales tax revenues.
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