LINWOOD — The annual reorganization meeting, held Jan. 3, marked some changes in the city.
June Byrnes was sworn in as Ward 1 councilwoman. She fills the seat of Elliot Beinfest, who did not seek another term in office after 23 years on the governing body.
Beinfest's former colleagues praised him for many reasons, including his longevity, his talent as a mediator, his tax expertise and even his abilities as a chef. Beinfest started his service to the city of Linwood in 1988 as the public defender, a position he left in 1994 when he was elected to City Council.
City Councilman-at-Large Darren Matik said, “It has been an honor to learn from you. You embraced me and taught, and I learned many things from you, including tact and working together.”
Councilman Eric Ford said he first met Beinfest while he was on the recreation board and said, “Thank you for everything you have done. It shows that your truly care what happens in the city.”
Newly sworn in Ward 2 Councilman Todd Gordon called Beinfest a mentor and historian on council who sometimes acted as a referee. “You have accomplished many things, and you never had a hidden agenda, you have always been here for the right reasons,” said Gordon.
Councilman Ralph Paolone, just elected to be the president of City Council for another year, said of Beinfest, “30 years in Linwood, first as the public defender and then on council, you have never had an agenda to do anything but make Linwood great. Aside from his wealth of experience, he is ethical and I will miss his ear. It has been a pleasure working with such a nice man.”
Mayor Rick DePamphilis' remarks credited Beinfest as the best decision-maker in the city nearly a decade ago when he hired Leigh Ann Napoli as the city clerk.
State Sen. Chris Brown, at the meeting to do most of the swearing-ins, said Linwood is blessed to have great people willing to step forward to help their community like Beinfest and all of the council members sworn in at the meeting.
Beinfest gave his blessing to his successor, Byrnes, saying he is confident he is leaving his spot on council in competent hands.
DePamphilis presented his annual update to residents on the state of the city for the final time, as he has stated he will not seek another term.
The mayor praised the city employees with a nod to the Public Works Department, which he said continues to work its magic for the residents of Linwood, and commended Silvia Washington, the city tax collector, and assistant Danielle Kelly for working hard to raise the tax collection rate for Linwood to 98.89 percent.
Two hundred twenty-eight tax appeals were filed in 2018, and 163 were successful. DePamphilis said the appeals dropped the city’s ratables by $10,940,900 in 2018. “The number of appeals is slowing, but that is still quite a loss to deal with,” DePamphilis said.
Over the past year, the Linwood Volunteer Fire Department purchased a new ladder truck from Ocean City that DePamphilis said significantly increased the department's capabilities.
The Police Department received a Humvee from government surplus that was painted and outfitted with forfeiture funds and did not cost residents a cent. The Police Department also applied for and received grants for body armor, DWI enforcement and National Night Out in the amount of $14,000. The department received a donation of $8,000 to cover the cost of adding a K-9 to the force. “Kaos” and his handler Officer Champion will complete the academy next month.
The mayor announced a grant to purchase of 12 acres at Seaview Landing to preserve as open space. He also announced council decided to combine the function of the planning and zoning boards into one and disband the city’s zoning board in an effort to save money for both the city and the residents appearing before the board.
Big news that was welcomed by the residents at City Hall for the reorganization was that Linwood has settled litigation and reached an agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center. “It was determined that the city had complied with the Mount Laurel IV of the fair housing act. The end result is that Linwood will enjoy immunity from builder's remedy settlements through July 1, 2015,” DePamphilis said.
“City Council remains in good hands and will continue to work hard to provide the services our residents have become accustomed to,” he said. “I have said it many times, that Linwood does things other towns just talk about.”
Resolutions passed at the meeting included continuing the shared service agreement with Northfield for municipal court as well as extending the shared contract with Northfield for emergency services with TriCare Medical Transportation.
The next meeting of Linwood City Council is 6 p.m. Jan. 23 for caucus and a public session to follow immediately.