STONE HARBOR – When the Realty Owners Association convened at the elementary school for its spring membership meeting Sat., June 9, the start of the group’s 60th anniversary began.
Among activities that will mark six decades of informing members and working with the borough government for the betterment of the community are a photo scavenger hunt and, later in the summer, a “Best Burger” contest among local restaurants.
Jeff Alderton ROA president, conducted the meeting that began with the national anthem and “God Bless America” sung by the Seven Mile Island Singers.
Alderton gave a quick recap of the organization’s start in 1952 when 125 members convened at a local downtown theater. From that session sprang bylaws that “started a consistency of thought and careful consideration of the town property and how to move the town forward efficiently and effectively.”
The ROA today boasts nearly 1,000 members with 19 trustees who do legwork from communications to attending municipal meetings. The organization contributes funds to the Lions Club and purchases beach accessible wheelchairs for those who need them to access the ocean.
“The ROA has contributed in many ways, and we want to continue to do more,” stated Alderton. “We meet monthly except February and continue to work through each month.” “We want to create new channels of communications,” he said. Of the total membership, about 650 receive email updates on a continuing basis. Those who do not use email offer part of the “challenge how to get to the resident and non-resident member to make sure we hear what they have to say,” Alderton added.
“We want to be an advocate, be helpful,” getting in contact with the town and its mayor. He said the organization wants to help members form a “constructive partnership trying to solve whatever growth issues we have in our great town” he said.
Jim Prendergast, who is spearheading the 60th anniversary celebration, and John Ready addressed the group about the summer activities.
The Photo Scavenger Hunt, which began June 9 and continues until Aug. 1, will offer families an opportunity to seek out 13 mystery spots in the borough then photograph them with people and pets from interesting angles. Winners will be evaluated on accuracy as well as photo angles and other criteria.
Ready told of the brainstorming session that led to the idea of a Best Burger Contest. Eight borough restaurants will join the contest for votes. Posters will be placed in each participating restaurant, Ready said. The winner will be announced at the Sept. 22 joint ROA-Borough Council meeting. At that time a plaque will be presented to the winner, who will then have “bragging rights” to serving the town’s best burger.
He joked he had no idea how many burgers might have to be consumed until a winner is selected.
Prendergast also announced the “Savor September” event that will be held in place of the Wings and Water Festival that, for 29 years, brought crowds to the island from the Wetlands Institute in nearby Stone Harbor Manor. That festival shifted to July this year. In a bid to extend the season the ROA will help sponsor the new event.
Mayor Suzanne Walters, recalled joining the ROA in 1975, being a trustee in the early 1980s. Rapport between the ROA and borough she termed as “wonderful.”
She reminded the members of the June 16 dedication of the Recreation Support Building at the 83rd Street Recreation Field.
The chief executive named activities hosted by the borough throughout the season.
On June 19, Borough Council expects to receive the recommendation of a county library branch site from its sub-committee, and will likely vote on the location at that 4:30 p.m. meeting.
Walters pointed to the removal of an outfall pipe from the beach on 97th Street as being the first of others that will be removed. Larger diameter pipes and retention basins will be capable of holding more storm water and water from flood tides she said.
Dredging of the basins hinges on the removal of dredge material from Site 103, she said. Walters said a tentative plan to haul the material to Wildwood’s landfill, which could use the material as a cover for the base of its solar panel “farm.” All work hinges on the state Department of Environmental Protection, which issues permits, she said.
“We are working with the DOT (Department of Transportation) Office of Maritime Resources which has given us $500,000 to study removing the material and getting the permits,” said Walters.
Borough Administrator Jill Gougher, in the job since January, having worked with retired Adminitrator Kenneth Hawk, said Alderton’s speech about ROA proved it was a “model for how government should work. Other towns could take heed on that,” she added.
She told how, from the beginning, she stressed to department heads accountability and communications were keys to her administration. Among new items she cited as advances were an updated employee handbook, interactive website, reinstitution of employee evaluation forms, and a better control over the budget process.
An interlocal service agreement with Avalon was announced by Gougher for sharing the borough’s municipal court administrator, likely in September.
Since the borough has come close to using its water allocation, Gougher said the borough is seeking to increase an allocation from DEP. Because the borough has been close to using all its water, the borough council passed conservation measures that should stem some water use.
If the borough exceeds its water allocation the possibility exists that a building moratorium could be imposed, which would stymie construction if anyone purchased land and wanted to build.
She introduced Scott Wahl, borough public relations director, who along with Tourism Director Liz Hartman is working to communicate the borough’s news and stories to the world by a variety of methods.