Wildwood Boardwalk

Visitors stroll along the Wildwood Boardwalk near Spencer Avenue. According to Mayor Ernie Troiano, some of the areas of the Boardwalk most in need of repair include between Oak and 26th avenues, Montgomery and Schellenger avenues and Cresse and Burk avenues.

WILDWOOD — Mayor Ernie Troiano said Saturday he was “disappointed beyond words” by a veto by Gov. Phil Murphy of a bill that would have given the city $60 million over the next 15 years for improvements to the Boardwalk.

The measure called for $4 million a year to go to the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority.

In a statement Friday, Murphy called the mandates in the bill unconstitutional and unenforceable.

The veto marks the latest move in the battle between the governor and the Legislature over funding for South Jersey projects.

The 92-year-old Boardwalk is in need of major repairs to its infrastructure, Troiano said, and locals can’t afford to shoulder the cost alone.

“We send tons and tons of money to Trenton and get very little in return,” he said. “It’s not like we’re asking them to generate more money for us, but it’s money that we create and we send to them. And we’d like to keep some of it.”

Wildwood sought funding from the state for Boardwalk work earlier this year. The City Commission in January approved a master plan that called for $64.5 million for reconstruction of a wooden way it said was “failing in many respects.” Targeted areas for overhaul were between Oak and 26th avenues, Montgomery and Schellenger avenues, and Cresse and Burk avenues.

All infrastructure, including fiber optics, sanitary sewer and water piping, would be replaced and upgraded, the plan states. The Boardwalk would be rebuilt with a concrete understructure and hardwood decking.

The city administrator met with the executive director of the Assembly majority office in December to discuss the plan.

Work was to begin in the fall if the money was available.

Murphy said the state Constitution prohibits the Legislature from creating liabilities in future fiscal years without voter approval, as well as creating a debt that binds the state to appropriate funds in future fiscal years.

In addition, the 2019 fiscal year ended June 30 at midnight, and the Legislature did not include the appropriation for the 2020 budget, according to the statement. Lastly, the budget only appropriates money to the authority for Boardwalk improvements if proceeds received from the sale of state-owned property exceed the amount anticipated, for which there is no guarantee.

Wildwood isn’t the only South Jersey entity feeling the sting of the governor’s pen. In July, the state Treasury released a list of $235 million in spending items to be held in reserve, funded only if revenues and savings outperform Murphy’s expectations. On that list was $4.6 million in state aid that would allow Stockton University to begin the second phase of its Atlantic City project.

“I am furious at Gov. Murphy’s shortsightedness on this issue,” said state Sen. Bob Andrzejczak, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, one of the Boardwalk bill’s sponsors. “The Wildwoods attract over 9 million annual visitors, resulting in over $1.5 billion in visitor spending, and the Boardwalk is a prime attraction for those visitors.”

The appropriation outlined in the bill “was a drop in the bucket” compared to the millions of dollars the area sends back to Trenton, he said in a news release, calling the destination one of the state’s top tourism-related economic generators.

Assemblymen Bruce Land and Matt Milam, both D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, who also sponsored the bill, said the legislation “sends the absolute wrong message to the residents of South Jersey” and that there needs to be more support for small businesses “not shutting the door in their face.”

Contact: 609-272-7241

mbilinski@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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