VENTNOR — City department heads reported on the status of projects that have used or plan to use capital funding at the City Commission meeting Nov. 8.
City Administrator Maria Mento said that in the wake of some unforeseen emergencies such as finding common mold in City Hall and having to install an HVAC system, she had anticipated the city might be forced to make significant financial changes and hard decisions. However, she said that after meeting with department heads earlier that day she was surprised to find that the city was on track with its capital funds.
“We are pretty much falling in line with schedule as we had prioritized here previously,” Mento said.
Fire Chief Mike Cahill said the fire department has completed a “good chunk” of its pre-scheduled projects in the last 18 months.
This included replacing 45 gear racks in station 1 for firefighters’ air packs. The original gear racks had been removed during building repairs after the floor collapsed from hurricane sandy.
The department spent $10,400 of the $16,600 approved. Of the remaining balance, Cahill said, $3,000 will be used for equipment lockers.
The department also purchased turnout gear — hoods, helmets, gloves, preseason coats — for 35 members, leaving a balance of about $33,000 remaining.
The Fire Department accepted bids to replace a 16-year-old ambulance at station one. Bids came in slightly over the estimated $159,000 due to changes needed to update equipment inside the ambulance.
Cahill said the biggest line item was the department's air pack replacement, but a collaborative grant shared with the Margate and Atlantic City Fire Departments will cover most of the cost.
Cahill also updated the public on the status of the Wellington Avenue station demolition, which will include the creation of a temporary structure to still have firefighting equipment available in Ventnor Heights.
“The temporary structure started today, ... they’re going to put the base in next week, and then we’re prepped, ready for when we have our demolition date on the main building,” he said.
Once the department has a demolition date comes, Cahill said, they will begin to relocate to the temporary quarters.
He also reported on the construction of the new firehouse.
“The building is way ahead of schedule, I think, with the planning ready to go to the county and out for bid at the same time,” Cahill said.
He predicted that the department would approve a bid in late December, sign a contract and, 90 days later, start construction.
The new station is partly funded by ordinance and a grant and loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cahill also reported that future components such as a generator and notification sign on the front lawn could also have potential funding from grants.
Police Chief Doug Biagi gave his report on his department’s current and future expenditures at the Nov. 8 commission meeting. According to Biagi, the department has currently purchased 15 rifles for its 30 officers.
It has also supplied officers with tactical bags that include medical kits and ballistic armor meant to withstand fire from heavy duty rifles.
“It’s a shame that we have to purchase this, but if anyone keeps track of the news, more shootings than not are done by high caliber weapons that would go right through our bodies,” he said.
Biagi also reported the department wants to create an emergency public information system. Although still in the planning stages, the system would be placed on the Boardwalk to communicate important announcements such as alerts notifiying beachgoers of a lost child during the busy summer months. Biagi said the system could also be upgraded to make other emergency messages as well.
The Police Department has plans to increase security at City Hall.
“This building is so unsecure, it makes a lot of people in the building insecure,” Biagi said at the commission meeting.
He reported the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted a building assessment in the city and will return to conduct an assessment for places of worship in January.
The department will look into installing security cameras and creating a card access system for the building’s offices. He said locks could be retrofit onto doors or new doors could be purchased.
Biagi said the department plans to purchase vehicle and body cameras. He said Ventnor is the only city in the county that hasn’t implemented body cameras.
He said he believes it will help reduce “frivolous” claims against officers.
City engineer and Manager Ed Stinson also reported on the city’s infrastructure projects that included street paving, drainage, bike lane installations and updates on bulkheads and the feasibility study with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to Solicitor Tim Maguire, the city sent the Army Corps a request to change one part of the contract and he reported that the Army Corps said that it would take 6 months to complete this change.
In other business, the city approved the liquor license to Ventnor License LLC, also known as the Ventnor Square Theater, for $91,100.
“The intention of this was to be a stimulant, and that's exactly what’s happened,” Commissioner Tim Kriebel said.
The theater plans to submit its site plan to the city’s Planning Board Nov. 26.
The next commission meeting will be held Thursday, Nov. 29 at 5:30 p.m.