WILDWOOD — After putting beach fees on the back burner, Wildwood is now pursuing shared services, and the accompanying savings, with its neighboring towns.
Wildwood, North Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest, along with the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, plan to form a shared services committee to formally discuss how the towns can combine services and save money.
“We’re certainly receptive to sitting down to discuss potential shared services,” Wildwood Crest Borough Clerk/Administrator Kevin Yecco said Thursday.
Yecco said possible areas that could benefit from sharing include the island’s beach patrols, beach maintenance programs, engineering and even trash collection.
Wildwood had sought beach fees as a means of adding to its sources of revenue, explaining that maintenance of the beach costs about $1 million annually. The city was to hold a March 5 vote on the issue, but on Wednesday night City Commission rescinded the ordinance that allowed for the referendum.
Wildwood and North Wildwood currently outsource their trash collection, while Wildwood Crest operates its own trash pickup.
Yecco said the four island towns are all part of a joint Urban Enterprise Zone program, and Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood share a construction official.
In the past the towns were all part of the Joint Construction Office of the Wildwoods, known as JCOW, but that effort ended after hundreds of newly built properties on the island were found to have been poorly constructed in 2005.
But Yecco said his community is open to discuss new ways to share.
“The more the island can do together will certainly reduce overall costs,” he said. Any changes, however, may not come in time for this budget year.
Yecco said the borough, for instance, has plans to introduce its 2013 budget at the end of this month, meaning that spending plan has already been developed.
John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Chamber of Commerce, said the authority would play a part in the discussions.
“I firmly believe the commissioners have done the right thing,” he said of the decision by Wildwood to not pursue a vote on whether to charge a beach fee. “Our position was that having one town with beach fees was not a good position from a tourism standpoint.”
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said he was optimistic that shared services and new beach events, such as music festivals, could help the city.
Siciliano, like Yecco, named several possible areas where sharing services could equal savings. They included beach maintenance, lifeguards and police and fire services.
The authority currently contributes about $240,000 to the city for beach maintenance as well as $100,000 for additional Boardwalk policing and other money to support events.
Siciliano said the authority would also support the city as it pursues new beach amenities such as beach bars like those in Atlantic City or concessions on the beach.
“If it’s something that makes sense and it’s an amenity, we can support it,” he said. “We have a large beach. Shame on us for not utilizing it.”
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