Short meeting with nothing much of note. No comments at all from the public.
Commissioner Sooy mentioned he attended a Zoning Board meeting. He stated the Zoning Board has become an advocate for those who are applying for variances. Stated that the Zoning Board criticized the City Commission.
Sooy went on to state that he began reading up on the Zoning Board. He found out there the Zoning Board is permitted to have four alternates. He stated there are only two. He wants another two presumably to better represent this Commission.
Commissioner Sooy is incorrect. There are four alternates to the Zoning Board.
It is the Planning Board that has but two alternates. The Commission indicated it would like to increase the Planning Board to have four as permitted by law.
I have no issue with this other than Mayor Orndorf remarked stated that the reason it was needed is that during summer months lots of projects come. But that reason is moot if the Zoning Board is already full. Just sloppy governing. It is obvious this Commission wants its picks on the boards. That is fine.
She suggests the Commission bank the COLA adjustments, which is permitted, for a rainy day fund. Commissioner Sooy voted against doing this in his previous stint on the Commission, but stated they should do it this year since it can be kept for three years. He made the argument that he wouldn’t want to leave a bank of money for the next Commission. Why? If he is willing to have this rainy day fund, wouldn’t it be equally good for whatever Commission? Silly politics with that reasoning.
Whether it makes sense for any Commission to have this bank of money has yet to be determined.
The budget lady (Marcy?) posited that Commissions should raise taxes yearly. Does that jive with this Commission’s plan for the future of Millville? That is a horrible policy!
Millville received $1.7 million from American Recovery (COVID cash) to help balance budget last year.
Salary and wages, insurance, pension contributions, and utilities all going up next year. Not much wiggle room in those areas.
Commissioner Hewitt laid the groundwork that this budget coming up is not this Commission’s budget. Rather, it is a budget that is being passed on from the previous Commission to them. Politics at play. You have a month from now, four months from when you were seated to have influenced the budget. This is this Commission’s budget.
Commission McQuade lauded the Streets & Roads department for snow removal and potholes filled. He also stated there was a clean-up on the south side of the railroad tracks near the tavern. Have been in touch with the railroad for supplies (bags and stuff) to help with this.
Commissioner Sooy stated there is a resolution to increase CME by $70,000. This is due to a change in “scope services” provided. Will be using them for inspections like at the expansion of 4 Seasons. Seems like a lot of money to ensure drainage is completed properly. Mediation on the Wheaton property is coming up. Meeting with lots of developers This is becoming a refrain heard at every meeting. It is far better to say nothing and then present the pay-off than to string along like this and not have anything to deliver.
Mayor reported that the new city planner began this week.
Betty Monteleone spoke.
Commissioner Romanik did not return call for a donation to his church for Ukraine.
Four Commissioners and city solicitor are not returning calls.
Branch pick-up is too early. Need more pick-ups. No communication regarding this.
Stated Mr. Patel pays $150,000 annually in taxes plus 3% hotel taxes on rooms. This is for the three properties, I believe, on 2nd Street. Quality Inn, another motel, and the senior daycare. Isn’t that the same amount NJMP pays?
Mayor Orndorf threw the city professional under the bus for the communication snafu. She stated she was just copied on e-mails, not addressed directly. This delfection is not good. Stand up and take responsibility.
Roger Patel spoke. He wants to put in sinks and cabinets into 24 rooms at the Quality Inn to qualify for extended stay program. This will permit people to stay and cook a little in the room. Extended stay is several days, not permanent residences. Twenty-five rooms already have these. He wants a construction permit to add these. He spent $10,000 lawyer fees to meet the planning board deadline. Planning board said it was not needed.
The gist of it is that the city is not coming through with what he needs. He’s out money and has $90-100,000 of supplies held up because he can’t get this job done. It sounds like the construction department is a mess. Brock is surprised that the lawyer would not have called him. Business owner just wants to add some cabinets and sinks. The city is making this entirely too difficult for a business to enhance his property.
Commissioner McQuade stated Mayor Orndorf and Vice Mayor Sooy are working on bringing businesses to Millville. Be patient and wait a year for the pay-off, he says. Remain in your lane and stop promising.
It began with recognizing John Wallop for his life saving CPR at Wawa. This is a wonderful story and the young man seems to be well-grounded.
Commissioner Romanick went through a number of public events the city is hosting. He kept saying to check the Facebook page for details. Grrr . . . The city should not rely upon Facebook for its messaging. Some of us are not there. But this did get me to start another account to follow Millville’s happenings.
COmmissioner Hewitt reported on the number of fire and rescue calls for December. Unbelievable numbers! 6,841 calls to EMS and 1,465 calls to the fire department. Millville has 27,000 residents. That’s a lot of calling.
Mayor Orndorf explained that former Commissioner Bill Davis has been hired as an executive assistant. Jobs get doled out those in the party’s favor. She also mentioned there are two openings on the Zoning Board.. These are alternate positions.
IT Management Services from SHI International of Somerset, NJ received a contract for 2022 for $79,217.40 for technology services. What will this company do for that kind of money? That seems costly for maintenance. Is there more to the contract than that?
The Commission voted to table paying an $8,000 bill from Marmero Law. This is an interesting decision. The bill stems from the last Commission. THe contract called for $15,000. Marmero billed another $10,000 in October and then sent this $8,000 bill at the end of the year. Apparently, according to the contract, they need to ask before they bill. They didn’t and this Commission isn’t going to pay the bill. The undertone is that these firms all do this. According to Commissioner Hewitt:
Bid low, bill high and be paid.
Commissioner Kirk Hewitt, 18 January 2022
At the last Commission meeting, this Commission hired the Testa law firm in Vineland to provide the labor legal advice for the same $15,000 Marmero had been contracted for. I sure hope the Commission informed Testa not to bill one penny more than the $15,000.
The Commission is poised to hire Brock Russell as an in-house lawyer and his paralegal Jeanette Pace as a temporary paralegal. I have no issues with this as I hear it other than I am surprised. Mr. Russell seems to be gining up his private practice for $168,000 annual salary that does not include health benefits. Ms. Pace is only going to earn $5,000 for this temporary work. That is assuredly less than she curently makes at Russell’s law firm. Something doesn’t seem right about this. I am probably not understanding some portion of it. Next year (or more likely when a new Commission is seated) Mr. Russell may not be re-upped. If his private practice is gone, so will be his income.
The public comment portion of the meeting brought Pastor Steve Harris to the lectern. Harris made a good point of the Commission needing to change the narrative in Millville. Generally speaking, I enjoyed what he had to say with one exception. Despite the outdated decor of the Commission chamber, that should not be addressed. The ugly yellow seats are perfectly functional. The Commission has plenty to do without beautifying its own house.
Cindi Cooke spoe and shared that through interviews, 90% of Millville’s homeless admit to some form of mental illness. I thought that was interesting.
Commissioner Romanick also wants to refurbish the Commission chamber. Arggh! He also indicated that Waltman Park has received a $40,000 grant to re-do the basketball courts. Sounds good, but my is that expensive!
Commissioner Hewitt lamented the lack of enthusiasm for 3rd Friday. That coincides with my understanding. There is no buzz at all regarding the event these days. That plays into Pastor Harris’s comments.
Mayor Orndorf ended with expressing a need to change the narrative, a boost for the city’s social media, and an overhaul of the phone system. She mentioned she is not able to contact someone within the city from her phone. That seems most problematic. How can that be?
Counter to many things in my life, I welcome change in government. This evening a new City Commission was seated in the Holly City, including the first female mayor for this town. Tradition has it that the highest vote getter is decided to be mayor, although there is no rule governing that. Congratulations to the commissioners!
Lisa M. Orndorf, Mayor: Director of Public Affairs
Joseph Sooy, Vice Mayor: Director of Revenue & Finance
Benjamin J. Romanik: Director of Parks & Public Property
Charles Kirk Hewitt: Director of Public Safety
Robert McQuade: Director of Public Works
McQuade was not initially elected to the Commission. Longtime commisioner/recent freeholder Jim Quinn was. He actually placed fourth in the voting. Quinn decided not to sit on this commissionn (receiving anf filing Quinn’s letter was the first action this Commission took.). Speculation is that since he was alone on the other side, he bowed out. Some might categorize that as quitting. Whatever it is deemed, I am just fine with Quinn on the sidelines. There are no Democrat shills on this commission. I think that is an improvement for the city.
Orndorf presents herself well. She has no political experience, but from what little I gleaned from the meeting, it seems like she has connections. She invoked her faith several times. I’d rather one not lead with that, but I’ll give her a pass at the outset.
Sooy served previously. He was the two-punch to Lynne Porecca Compari’s one-punch. Tied at the hip, they were both voted out in favor of Cooper and Pepitone. That was a mistake for the city’s residents. Sooy is back and will be the vice mayor. It’ll be interesting to see how he operates here. I suspect he will attempt to play operator with how the Commission procedes. Is he up for the task?
Ben Romanik is young and inexperienced. We’ll see what he does.
Kirk Hewitt has been around this town for a while. It seems I met him and he tried to recruit me into the Republican Party some time ago. Yeah, I am not your guy. I am not sure of his talents. Time will tell.
With Quinn not taking hs seat, there is an opening. The Commission probably did the best thing it could do: it reached out to the sixth placed candidate. That is McQuade. McQuade has wanted to be on the Commission for years. Consider me unimpressed. He has spent the last nine years on the Millville Board of Education. Like Cooper, he ran for City Commission while serving on the School Board. Now that he takes the commissioner’s seat, the school board is left with a vacancy. I don’t think that puts one in the best light. His seat is only until November when there will be an election for the remaining two years. This gambit could shuffle McQuade out of office in his attempt to “move up the ladder.”
Brock Russell was retained as the attorney for the city. He has served well over the years and does not seem to be connected politically to any one party (perhaps I am wrong about that. I also think he’s a fine attorney as I have been pleased with his representation of me. 🙂
Lynne Porreca Compari’s husband was approved as part-time city administrator. There’s little money in this, but this is where the political favors are handed out. Interestingly, Brendan Kavanagh, a lawyer entrenched in Democrat politics was also retained by this Commission.
An ordinance on first reading was introduced to repeal the former Commission’s ordinance regarding the sewer treatment plant. According to Sooy, that ordinance had a rate hike involved in it for commercial properties. Sooy does not think that is warranted at this time. I’ll take his word on it as I do not know the particulars; in general, government should collect less from taxpayers/service users.
A few of the items detailed that this Commission wants to address:
Demolition of old rescue squad
Demolition of Wheaton
UEZ money is oming, start a new corporation to oversee that money
Re-adopt the industrial commission with some structural changes; power to make decisions