CAPE MAY – At noon Jan. 1, Cape May City Council held its annual reorganization highlighted by Mayor Edward Mahaney’s State of the City Address. The address is described by Mahaney as a statement of where the city is on a “continuum” of its execution of its long-range planning, looking at “where we are and where we are going.”
The major focus was on sustainability and resiliency. Mahaney defined sustainability broadly as having four components: economic growth, infrastructure, environmental stewardship, and affordability.
Noting that the planning effort is not only important as a guide to the use of resources in an appropriate and coordinated way, Mahaney also emphasized that the city’s planning efforts also made it eligible for and even provides it with priority status for federal and state grants and low-interest loans.
“The days when a town could decide on projects and then look around for the grant funding are gone,” Mahaney said. He pointed to the need for an integrated planning approach tied into financial and capital improvement programs.
As evidence of the payoff for an integrated planning approach, Mahaney noted the city has brought in, through competitive grant processes, almost $15 million in grant funding over the past six years. In a city where the fund budget is approximately that amount itself, the impact over a six-year span is one of getting a “seventh year for free.”
One of the many initiatives cited for 2016 is the use of a balance of $731,000 in Small City Block Grant funding which Mahaney would like to see directed at implementing a “revolving loan program to assist small businesses.”
Mahaney’s focus on the Open Space and Parks component address dealt with the three projects underway: 48-acre Lafayette Park, the Rotary Park refurbishment, and the ongoing effort to acquire and preserve “78 acres of pristine environmental wetlands in East Cape May as a wildlife sanctuary.”
Moving on to Water Supply and Conservation, Mahaney again pointed to the long-range value of the desalination plant build between 1995 and 1998. The plant supplies over two thirds of the city’s potable water and allows the city to support water needs of West Cape May, Cape May Point, parts of Lower Township, and the Coast Guard Base.
The new water supply well project underway is expected “to ensure adequate potable water supply” for the next 25 years. The mayor also cited the recent agreement with West Cape May that resolved an earlier dispute about water metering and subsequent charges.
Physical infrastructure improvements came next with a focus on the street improvements during the last few years, especially with the areas around Washington Street Mall.
Mahaney called for 2016 to be a year in which the city addresses “incorporating multiple feasible options to resolve the ongoing traffic circulation and parking concerns.”
Mahaney touted what he considered the ongoing success in establishing the Tourism Utility and bringing it to the required self-liquidating status. He also pointed to what he considers the ongoing success of Convention Hall as both a community center and location for small conventions and conferences. Mahaney wants 2016 to be one in which the city “strengthens the sales and marketing capability and productivity” of the facility.
In what is more often seen as the traditional definition of sustainability and resiliency, Mahaney then moved into the issues surrounding hazard mitigation. Praising work done by city officials, Mahaney noted that the new FEMA maps have come back around to ones no longer out of line with the realities of what would happen if the city were hit with a major storm.
The maps no longer represent “an overreaction to Sandy,” Mahaney said.
In addition he noted that the city is reasonably close to attaining the next level of classification regarding the community rating that drives flood insurance discounts. Mahaney hopes that the city can make that last effort to gain the 25 percent discount shared by only a handful of the state’s shore communities.
Also listed were hazard mitigation projects underway as well as beach replenishment and beach safety efforts which seek both to maintain the protective and economically-important beaches while reducing natural slopes that can present dangers to beachgoers.
Mahaney cited the budget process and placed an emphasis on the ability to retain the AA bond rating. He added the reminder that the city’s practice is that “long-term bonded debt will be retired in an amount equal to or greater than the new debt being bonded” at the city’s next projected bond sale in 2019.
A printed version of the address has details not able to be covered in the presentation. It is available for those interested on the city website.
Council moved through many resolutions and appointments that characterize a reorganization.
Most notably, Council member Beatrice Gauvry-Pessagno was elected deputy mayor, taking that role from Terri Swain.
Pessagno’s selection places her that much closer to the role her father, Frank Gauvry, held as mayor. Gauvry is credited with leading the fight for the creation of the Washington Street Mall which revitalized the town in the 1970s and serves as a centerpiece for the city’s planning.
Pessagno was elected to the council in November 2014 and had completed her first year on the governing body.
CITY OF CAPE MAY STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS BY DR. EDWARD J. MAHANEY, JR., MAYOR, JAN. 1, 2016
Good afternoon to our distinguished guests, residents, business persons, and visitors!
As we jointly embark upon a new City Council work year, it is appropriate and prudent to review briefly the progress achieved and challenges encountered by the City Council during the implementation of our City’s long-range Sustainability and Resiliency Plan over the past 12 months, as well as to provide a succinct overview of the City Council’s initiatives for the 2016 year.
COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY AND RESILIENCY
As Councilwoman Swain and I pledged when we assumed our governing body positions on July 1, 2008, our City Council has, over the past seven and one-half years, successfully integrated its long-range planning agenda with our long-term financial and capital planning programs to create and implement a comprehensive and systematic sustainability approach for our City over the next two decades. In the case of Cape May, sustainability must be defined in the broadest sense of the term: Our strategies are allowing us to sustain economic growth; sustain the City’s infrastructure to assist in providing the programs and services that our residents expect and demand; sustain exemplary environmental stewardship; and sustain the affordability of the City for our residents, businesses, and visitors. With the State Planning Commission’s award of certification for City of Cape May’s Plan Endorsement Program on October 17, 2012, this achievement verified that the City’s Master Plan was in full compliance and synchronization with the State Master Plan/Redevelopment Plan and also qualified the City for priority status in obtaining federal and state grants and low-interest loans for our ongoing and future community projects. All pertinent City planning documents are now current, valid, integrated, and working documents which chart the future direction of Cape May. As an example, during just the past six (6) years, Cape May has attained over $14.8 million in grants and rebates for City initiatives involving needed public improvements, environmental and energy conservation projects. In fact, $2.753 million in total competitive grant funds was awarded to the City of Cape May during the 2015 calendar year.
However, these working documents must continually be reviewed, revised, and rewritten to reflect the physical, financial, environmental, social, historical, and cultural advancements and challenges in our global society. Following the physical and economic damage and trauma inflicted by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, Cape May has embraced and initiated the opportunity to collaborate with neighboring coastal communities and counties, state and federal agencies, and public and private universities and corporations to interweave physical, economic, and human resources to ensure the sustainability and resiliency of “The Nation’s Oldest Seashore Resort” for our residents, businesses, and valued visitors. As a result, in the past three years, our City has utilized our sound long-range planning foundation to assess and begin to address the effects of the new FEMA flood maps and related National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulations which are being finalized and becoming effective. Coupled with the long-term effects of the recession which initiated in 2008 and the tenuous condition of global relations and international economy, there is now a priority need for the City of Cape May governing body, boards and commissions, citizens, and business owners to partner in a planned, systematic, and comprehensive approach to preserve and advance the wide-ranging assets and quality of life in our community.
Consequently, I am now recommending that the members of City Council collectively spearhead an organized and comprehensive approach with public input and involvement to review and synchronize Cape May’s planning and operational documents to ensure the inclusion of the objectives of emerging federal and state laws and regulations, as well as technological advances, in our City’s sustainability and resiliency which will benefit our residents, businesses, and visitors. Special attention should be devoted to Cape May’s Master Plan, Plan Endorsement approvals, local zoning ordinances, new FEMA flood maps, new NFIP regulations, historic preservation standards, resilient measures, and green construction features. Professional technical assistance in this undertaking has been readily volunteered by such organizations as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NJDEP, Atlantic/Cape May County Coastal Coalition, Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Richard Stockton University of New Jersey, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Sustainable Jersey. Preliminary planning discussions have been completed and working partnerships have been implemented to address Cape May’s sustainability and resiliency issues in a comprehensive and collaborative manner with these above-cited public and private technical and resource agencies. It should be noted that NJIT is New Jersey’s Science and Technology University and houses our State’s only accredited College of Architecture and Design.
As an element of this integrated process, I am proposing today, through a series of Mayoral Appointments and City Council Resolutions the infusion of new, talented, energetic, and enthusiastic citizen members on the existing City boards and commissions as well as the creation of new and expanded committees to update and upgrade our vital planning documents to ensure that our City’s sustainability and resiliency initiatives are successful. Additional citizens are invited to participate in this coordinated effort and are encouraged to contact our City Clerk if they desire to volunteer their talents and services.
As further evidence of Cape May’s commitment and accomplishments concerning sustainability, our City has achieved and maintained the highest level Silver Certification awarded by the statewide Sustainable Jersey program for the past five calendar years and is certified through the 2017 calendar year. At the New Jersey State League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City in November2014, our City was honored as the Sustainability Champion (small municipality category) and also for having earned the most action points overall in the State of New Jersey for the 2014 certification cycle. This achievement represented the third time in four years that the City of Cape May had attained the Small Municipality Sustainability Champion award. Cape May is one of only 29 communities to have achieved and maintained Silver Certification status in New Jersey. During 2014, the City installed a wind turbine for clean energy and educational purposes at the Cape May Elementary School as a result of a competitive Sustainable Jersey Wal-Mart Grant. Also, the City has prepared bid specifications for the installation of an electric vehicle charging station in 2016 at the Transportation/Welcome Center on Lafayette Street, and with the possibility of a second charging station at the Cape May Elementary School.
Through a $10,000 competitive grant awarded by Sustainable Jersey, the City is collaborating with Johnson Controls and developing an Energy Savings Improvement Plan for critical City and school district facilities. This grant has provided the “seed money” and is the catalyst for Cape May to partner with the New Jersey Energy Resilience Bank to leverage a Combined Heat and Power System (CHP) as a micro-grid for key City buildings and the Cape May City Elementary School for use during major weather and operational emergencies. This particular opportunity has been coupled with a $100,000 competitive grant award from FEMA-OEM for the installation of state-of-the-art generator at Cape May City Elementary School. Such a combined project will modernize the HVAC system at the school as well as qualify the school facility as a multi-day shelter for our residents in times of emergency when evacuation from our City is not necessary or not possible. A recently revised New Jersey statute now permits local government units, including school districts and housing authorities, to institute energy-related improvements to their facilities and pay for the costs using the value of the energy savings that result from the upgrades. That means that there is no new bonding required, and there is no impact on the City budget.
In a companion project, the City and the School Board in 2014 formalized an interlocal agreement whereby the Cape May has loaned $1 million at 0% interest with a ten year repayment period to replace the 50-year old indoor swimming pool in the school complex. This cooperative approach was intended to save tax dollars for the Cape May taxpayers while accelerating the construction schedule, restore a crucial practical element in the school’s physical education and health curriculum, and ensure the continuation of the highly subscribed and diversified aquatic activities for local residents of all ages as a key component of the City’s extensive year-round recreation programs. Unfortunately, during the 2015, the School Board’s bidding process resulted in contractor submissions which placed the pool renovations in excess of $1.7 million which exceeded the project architect’s estimate by approximately $800,000. Following multiple unsuccessful attempts by the School Board to identify and secure additional external funding for the pool replacement project, City and School Board representatives have resumed negotiations to develop a feasible collaborative plan to complete this project successfully during the 2016 year.
Utilizing $1.3 million in FEMA grant funding, the City of Cape May collaborated with the NJDEP and NJDOT to dredge the public waterways in Spicers Creek, Cape Island Creek, Schellengers Creek, Devil’s Reach, and Middle Thorofare to remove silt build-up and debris accumulated during the past 15 years, especially as a result of Superstorm Sandy. By restoring the navigability of these waterways, this cooperative project provided sustainability to commercial and recreational fishing enterprises, private marinas and docks, local marine-oriented businesses, and commercial/residential real estate values on these waterways. This collaborative effort had no impact on the City budget and used no local tax dollars. A subsequent, coordinated regional approach is underway among public and private sector representatives to develop a federal and state-approved dredging program to ensure the necessary periodic dredging and disposal of materials in back bay waters on a permanent basis. During the 2015 year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NJDEP, and NJDOT have joined and supported this regional action group comprised of representatives from Cape May, Atlantic, and Cumberland Counties.
Within our City’s commitment to sustainability and resiliency, the timing is now appropriate to actualize two unique, interrelated, and self-created economic development opportunities to stabilize and grow our year-round population and provide a re-invigoration to our business community, especially in regard to our younger adult population. With the near-completion of the repayment of the Beach Theater Foundation loan by the very loyal and dedicated pledgers, Cape May currently has a balance of $731,610 in Small Cities Block Grant funding. My recommendation is that City Council, in the first six months of the 2016 year, develop, with public input and involvement, a creative and proactive policy and administrative plan, in compliance with NJDCA regulations, to implement a revolving loan program to assist small businesses in the City of Cape May to refurbish, upgrade, and/or expand their business operations while creating new full-time and part-time employment positions. Applicants for this loan funding would be evaluated according to criteria established by NJDCA regulations and City of Cape May guidelines. The second economic development opportunity involves utilizing the balance of $579,871 in the City’s COAH account to assist with the creation of work force and affordable housing for year-round residents in the City of Cape May. These COAH funds were generated from development fees in compliance with the Cape May’s state-certified COAH Ordinance/Plan. The combination and integration of this total of $1.3 million would represent a significant initial step in an ongoing initiative to solidify the base of the related year-round population and core base of the business community, especially for our younger adult population.
In a very positive development, Cape May County Freeholder Will Morey and I completed our cooperative efforts with now Rear Admiral Bill Kelly, Captain Todd Prestidge, and Commander Owen Gibbons at USCG TRACEN to formulate and submit a combined, comprehensive application package which has resulted in the achievement of federal certification for Cape May City and Cape May County as a “Coast Guard Community” in recognition of the longstanding productive partnership between TRACEN and our Cape May County communities. As Freeholder Morey has stated, this achievement represents a milestone, and hopefully not the culmination, of our extensive efforts between the City of Cape May and the County of Cape May. Thus, Freeholder Morey and I co-chaired a steering committee to establish an annual countywide festival to honor the contributions and partnership of the Coast Guard. The first festival was successfully held in May 2015 at which time the formal designation was personally conferred upon all Cape May County communities by Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. Freeholder Morey and I are again spearheading the 2016 three-day festival which will be held on May 6th through 8th.
OPEN SPACE AND PARKS SYSTEM
During the past five fiscal years, the City has been awarded and partially utilized almost $1.6 million in Green Acres and Blue Acres grant funding from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for property acquisition at the Lafayette Street Open Space Recreation Area that is located along the main entranceway to Cape May near the downtown historic area. The City’s project was one of the highest rated applications reviewed by NJDEP, and was one of only three Blue Acres applications to be funded in the State. As a result, the City legally acquired the two major tracts known as “Vance’s Bar” on June 25, 2013 at no cost to the taxpayers. The dilapidated structure was demolished and the surface area was restored to serviceable condition by December 31, 2013. Using these same NJDEP grants, negotiations were concluded for the acquisition of two additional private properties on St. John Street that would be beneficial to this community project. Through a variety of public-private partnerships, the objective is to unite, for programming purposes, the 38 acres of open space into a year round, comprehensive active and passive recreation complex with educational and environmental amenities. In a major accomplishment, during 2014, the City obtained a 25-year lease agreement with the Board of the Cape May City Elementary School for the school’s playing fields and environmental area to be incorporated into the park concept The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has now approved and activated Cape May’s competitive grant application seeking $1.5 million of grant funding to implement the actual construction of first phase of this comprehensive park area. This project has been conceptually planned by our community members of all ages during open public meetings as part of the City’s partnership agreement with the Temple University School of Environmental Design during the 2009 through 2011 academic years. During 2015, the City sponsored two public sessions to gain consensus on the final design and features of this park. As a result, the bidding, construction, and opening of Phase 1 of this park project is scheduled to be completed by July 1, 2016. The project work in Phase 1 (immediately adjacent to the western side of the school building) includes renovation of the turf grass playing field, sports and pedestrian lighting, irrigation, ornamental and chain link fence, relocation of existing playground equipment, storm sewer conveyance, as well as masonry walls, walks, and landscaping to create living outdoor classrooms for a 21st century elementary school. To date, the acquisition phase of this entire park project and the ongoing development of Phases 1, 2, and 3 have been fully funded with a projected cost of $5.3 million. No dollars from City taxpayers are needed for the project. Each phase will open for use upon completion of its construction. Phase 4, which includes the restoration of the environmental trails through the grassy sound of the Cape Island Creek, is the final phase of this multi-year project. The City is currently pursuing external grant funding for this final segment.
Through the long-range planning process and coordinated capital planning, the City has now coordinated funding through a grant and the City’s capital fund for upgrades and improvements to Rotary Park, which is adjacent to our three-block long Washington Street Pedestrian Mall in the downtown historic district. The focus is on transforming Rotary Park into an even more attractive, diversified, and accommodating venue to host a wider array of community-oriented cultural, artistic, historical, recreational, and social events. The City projects commencing with the construction on this project in early February 2016 in conjunction with the ongoing reconstruction of our Washington Street Mall service streets (which I will explain later in this address). Again, on September 29, 2015, the City sponsored a public planning session to gain consensus on the final design and features of Rotary Park. Of special note, a group of civic-oriented residents and business people has established a non-profit organization known as The Fund for Cape May which has committed to supporting the City’s efforts by fundraising to assist with the beautification of Rotary Park. This community group hosted the inaugural Ice Ball at Congress Hall in February 2015 as well as a Mid-Summer Gala in Rotary Park in August 2015. The second annual Ice Ball is scheduled for Friday, February 5, 2016 at Congress Hall.
Regarding the renovation of Rotary Park, the City is collaborating with the NJDEP and Kohler Products Company, which is a nationally recognized plumbing equipment and fixture organization, to upgrade the Lyle Lane public restroom facilities which are adjacent to and serve the park. While the City will be performing the facility upgrades, the Kohler Company, in conjunction with the NJDEP, will be sponsoring a public education program focusing on water and energy conservation by donating all necessary plumbing equipment and fixtures at no cost to the City. As an integral part of this public education program, students and faculty of Cape May City Elementary School will be developing a permanent mural on site to emphasis the importance of water and energy conservation.
The City collectively strives to implement our long-range strategies to achieve our community-based vision and goals that are emphasized in the City’s Master Plan and Vision Statement phase of the Plan Endorsement process. The City is still involved in the process of acquiring and preserving 78 acres of pristine environmental wetlands in East Cape May as a wildlife sanctuary. Therefore, the City continues to be available to participate in the ongoing planning and negotiation meetings with the principals of East Cape May Associates, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the American Littoral Society to reach mutual agreement on the finalization of the permitting process. These negotiations represent the final step of implementing the settlement agreement signed by all the parties at the Cape May City Council reorganization meeting on July 1, 2009. Under this settlement agreement, the City of Cape May will become an owner and managing partner of the 78-acre wildlife sanctuary at a cost of $4.4 million that will be covered totally by grants. This purchase will have no financial cost to the Cape May taxpayers.
WATER SUPPLY AND CONSERVATION
During the period from 1995 to 1998, City Council planned and financed the installation of a reverse osmosis, two million gallons per day, water desalination plant accompanied by two new supply wells drilled into the brackish Atlantic City 800-foot Atlantic Sands Aquifer. This capital project was financed totally by grants and low interest loans. As the first desalination plant in New Jersey, our facility provides 2.0 million gallons of our maximum 3.4 million gallon daily capacity, and currently produces 66% of the potable water used daily on a year round basis in Cape May City, the Boroughs of Cape May Point and West Cape May, and the U.S. Coast Guard Base. This facility has moved Cape May’s status from a water dependent utility to an independent, regional water supplier. During the 2015 calendar year and fiscal year, the City Council has been finalizing the location, design, permitting, and funding for an additional new water supply well to be drilled into the Atlantic City 800-Foot Sands Aquifer to continue to ensure an adequate potable water supply for our regional residents for the next 25 years. This new well would gradually replace the current Well #5 which has become increasingly salt-intruded in the 600-Foot Cohansey Aquifer. Based upon current projections, the cost of developing this new well will approximate $2 million. The new Well #8 will be constructed and operated in compliance with all state and federal requirement while being equipped with state-of-the-art technology and generator service for use in emergency situations. During the past year, the City has participated in planning discussions and the completed the application process with three state and federal agencies to obtain very low interest loans for the financing of this vital project. This approach will reduce the financial impact upon our Water and Sewer Utility’s ratepayers. Concurrently, the City is continuing to assess the desalination plant’s physical and operational conditions to ascertain specific long-term improvements which must be planned, financed, and implemented to sustain the efficiency and cost effectiveness of this facility and expand the volume of potable water production of this plant. Based upon the City’s long-range projections, it will probably be necessary to increase the desalination plant capacity to four million gallons per day in the next three years to ensure Cape May’s continued status as an independent, regional water supplier.
During the 2013 year, City Council completed the planned restoration of the 80 year old, 700,000 gallon Madison Avenue Water Tank and the repair and painting of the 20 year old, 1 million gallon Standpipe at our Public Works/Water and Sewer Utility Complex on Canning House Lane. The City had already achieved a $2.1 million grant and low-interest loan agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which covered the cost of the vast majority of this dual project. With the successful completion of this dual project, both the Water Tank and Standpipe should be serviceable for at least another 50 years with periodic maintenance performed. In addition, during 2014 the USDA approved Cape May to reallocate remaining grant funding for this dual project to rehabilitate the lime silo in the desalination plant and to purchase and install emergency generators for Wells #5 and #7 in our water supply system. These additional improvements were completed by mid-2015.
Over the past five years, Cape May has been installing water meters with encoded registers and radio frequency automatic meter reading and leak detection for all 3,889 accounts. Currently, the completion rate has surpassed 94%, with only the large volume commercial users with larger sized pipes needing to be upgraded. This initiative reduces labor costs since City employees are no longer being reassigned for one week on a quarterly basis to conduct on-site manual readings of individual meters. Also, the leak detection feature has ensured more timely identification of unknown leaks and thus conserved water, especially in seasonally occupied homes. This leak detection feature proved to be a very valuable asset during the prolonged bitter cold intervals during the past two Winter seasons.
During the past four years, the Cape May City Council has genuinely cooperated with the Borough of West Cape governing body to resolve a concern emanating from the West Cape May Taxpayers Association that there is an unresolved discrepancy between 1) the volume of metered potable water purchased by the Borough of West Cape May from the City of Cape May, and 2) the volume of potable water that is sold by West Cape May to its customers. As part of the research and analysis of this reported problem, the City of Cape May voluntarily replaced the master water meters at Wilbraham Park and Canning House Lane with state-of-the-art master meters which also measure low flow below 40 gallons per minute. The City’s cost for the installation of these replacement meters was $250,000 which also included engineering and site work. Then, in compliance with a longstanding, mutual agreement with West Cape May, the City of Cape May completed in a timely manner a data-based study of water volume billed by Cape May to West Cape May and the relationship of flows through the master meters at Wilbraham Park and Canning House Lane. This study was conducted by Kevin J. Dixon, PE, PP, CME of Dixon Associates, and the printed report was released publicly. With the assistance of the State of New Jersey Office of Dispute Settlement, the City of Cape May and the Borough of West Cape May were able to agree on a fair and amicable resolution of this matter during the 2015 calendar year.
Over a seven-year cycle, Cape May has successfully attained $2,754,143 million in competitive N.J. Small Cities CDBG grant funds to ensure compliance with ADA requirements. Primary focus has been on providing full access and related amenities on our Promenade, beaches, Washington Street Mall service streets, all intersections in Village Greene, and the Franklin Street Civic Center for our local and visiting disabled and elderly citizens. With the required local matching funding being reduced from 30% annually to only 15% annually during this seven-year funding cycle, the City has only had to pay about $560,000 in total cost-sharing for approximately $3.3 million worth of these needed public improvements.
Based upon this continuing support from Governor Christie and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs during seven phases of this comprehensive, mandated public improvement program, Cape May will initiate in February 2016 the reconstruction of the 400 block of Lyle Lance which represents the final block of the Washington Street Mall service streets to be upgraded and become ADA compliant. Concurrent with the implementation of Phase VII, the City effectuate the redesign and renovation of Rotary Park at a cost of approximately $1.2 million which consists of grant funds, private funding from the Friends of Cape May, and capital improvement funding which has been budgeted and set aside over the past seven years, as I mentioned earlier in this State of the City Address. Phase VII will also include the installation of ADA-compliant ramps at additional intersections in Village Greene, additional beach access modular wooden walkways, and ground protection mats for our beaches. This Phase VII project is scheduled to be completed on or before June 30, 2016. Also, with the funding and implementation of Phase VII, all intersections, which are east of Madison Avenue to Pittsburgh Avenue and from Beach Avenue north to Texas Avenue, will be ADA-compliant. Thus, it will be possible to walk from any location in Village Greene to the Cape May beachfront with the existence of the ADA-compliant ramps. This accessibility was requested of me by the Village Greene Civic Association four years ago, and the City is now progressing to complete this extensive project over a multi-year period primarily with grant monies, as I had promised.
Another exciting initiative continued in 2015 with the continued exploration of a possible partnership among the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, the City of Cape May, and the Center for Community Arts (CCA) to complete the restoration of the Franklin Street School, reinvigorate the mission of CCA, and allow for a possible satellite campus and adult education center. I have continued to engage in discussions with Stockton President Harvey Kesselman and look forward to continuing those discussions in 2016 so that we collectively can make this opportunity a reality.
During the past six years and continuing into the 2016 year, the City has made substantial progress on necessary USDA-funded sanitary sewer improvements and street reconstruction on 26 separate roadways. By utilizing USDA grants and low-interest loan funds, and then coupling these monies with dollars from the City’s general capital as well as water and sewer utility capital programs, the City has been able to replace aging infrastructure and roadways with state-of-the-art technology and materials in the most cost-effective manner with significantly lesser impact on our taxpayers and ratepayers. In addition, the City has been very successful in competing for grant funding from the N.J. Department of Transportation (NJDOT) as Municipal Aid to cover the cost of the base and final asphalt paving for the annual street reconstruction projects. Our City’s 2015 grant award from the NJDOT’s Municipal Aid program is $174,000 which will provide the paving for the sanitary sewer improvements and street reconstruction of the south side of Cape May Avenue between Trenton and Pittsburgh Avenues in 2015.
In the 2013 year, the City completed the 600 block of Washington Street as well as individual blocks on Cape May Avenue, Corgie Street, and Jefferson Street. During the 2014 calendar year, Cape May completed the following funded infrastructure improvements: 1) Reconstructed Cape May Avenue on the North side from Reading to Trenton Avenues; 2) Reconstructed Delaware Avenue from Trenton to Pittsburgh Avenue; 3) Abandoned existing 4” water main and reconnected services to existing 6” water main on Beach Avenue between Howard Street and Jefferson Street; 4) Replaced existing sanitary sewer on Beach Avenue from Jefferson Street to Madison Avenue: 5) Replaced Gurney Street storm sewer from seawall to Columbia Avenue; and 6) Replaced Harbor Lane bulkhead.
During the 2015 calendar year, the City completed the following funded infrastructure improvements: 1) Reconstructed Cape May Avenue on the South side from Trenton to Pittsburgh Avenue; 2) Reconstructed Delaware Avenue from Trento to Reading Avenue; 3) Reconstructed Hughes Street from Decatur to Ocean Street; and 4) Abandoned and installed Philadelphia Avenue storm drain from Beach to New York Avenue.
In the 2016 calendar year, the City will address the following funded infrastructure improvements: 1) Trench and replace utilities on Hughes Street between Franklin and Ocean Street; 2) Reconstruct Missouri Avenue between Trenton and Pittsburgh Avenue; and 3) Reconstruct Cape May Avenue on the South side from Trenton to Pittsburgh Avenue.
In addition, the City completed a year-long capital improvement project at the City Hall complex in December 2013 which included the replacement of all windows and the provision of brick and mortar pointing to this entire historical building in an exhaustive attempt to keep the structure water-tight and prevent continuing water intrusion which was significantly damaging the interior walls, finishes, and amenities. As part of the City’s previously-mentioned new partnership with the Energy Savings Improvement Program through the New Jersey Energy Resilience Bank, Cape May will be initiating an action plan in 2016 to activate additional energy related improvements in public buildings which have already been identified by a BPU-certified third party professional company. It is projected that the City will be able to pay the costs associated with these improvements using the value of the energy savings that result from the upgrades. Again, no new bonding is required and there should be no impact on the City budget. This approach may lead to an opportunity in the future years to install a micro grid which could further reduce energy costs for public buildings while maintaining the operation of City and school facilities in emergency situations.
On December 4, 2013, Cape May submitted a Streetscape Application for competitive grant funding to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) for the purpose of renovating and upgrading the former Oasis Grill and Ricker’s Gift Shop adjacent to the new, multi-purpose Convention Hall in the hub of the commercial district on the promenade and beachfront. This comprehensive project was geared to provide a multi-purpose comfort station which would include public restrooms, areas for changing clothes, secure locker facilities, outdoor foot and full shower stations, and outdoor drinking water fountains. This comfort station would be ADA-compliant and accessible, and it would also offer baby changing tables in both the men’s and women’s restrooms. This venue would also establish secure storage space for equipment and materials to maintain and service the comfort station as well as an administrative office for the Beach Tag Program which is a component of the City’s Beach Utility. While the NJEDA declined to fund this particular application, the agency did approve the City’s application for the Lafayette Street Open Space Recreation Area, as described earlier in this document. However, it is strongly recommended that City Council re-visit the need and opportunity to upgrade this City-owned site (including the leased Angelo’s Restaurant) to its highest and best use as a companion site/structure for our new Convention Hall. A redesigned and rebuilt two-story structure would provide the above-cited multi-purpose comfort station, small breakout rooms to augment Convention Hall’s amenities, an administrative office for the Beach Tag Program, additional required storage for Convention Hall, and a modern, two-story, year-round restaurant which could be leased to generate ongoing revenue for this project.
As City comprehensive and integrated planning efforts proceed in 2016, consideration should be addressed to incorporating multiple feasible options to resolving the ongoing traffic circulation and parking concerns that predominate in the peak summer season annually. A series of creative, modestly-sized, and affordable alternatives may have the cumulative effect on reducing summertime traffic congestion to a bearable level for residents and visitors alike. The expansion of the existing trolley shuttle service and the development of remote parking areas with shuttle service are reasonable opportunities to explore. The construction of a parking garage would require a public/private partner for the City and still may not be economically viable. Any potential development of the Beach Theater site may provide an option for additional parking which would support Convention Hall programs and beachfront activities.
Thanks to a multi-year cooperative effort by the City, the City Engineering firm, and the NJDEP, all outstanding mitigation issues concerning underground storage tanks at the Cape May Public Works Department/Water and Sewer Utility campus on Canning House Lane have now been resolved and closed out at the end of 2013. Some of these particular issues originated decades ago, but their total resolution confirms Cape May’s commitment to a sustainable environment. In a related measure, City Council, during the Fall of 2015, authorized Hatch Mott MacDonald, the City’s current contracted engineering firm, to remove and replace the Cape May’s existing, above-ground fuel storage tanks at the Public Works complex on Canning House Lane. Despite ongoing regular maintenance, these tanks are showing aging and deterioration. The engineering firm, in consultation and cooperation with the NJDEP, has also been authorized to conduct a remedial investigation of the soil and groundwater associated with these fuel tanks
THE TOURISM UTILITY AND THE NEW CAPE MAY CONVENTION HALL
Of course, our new Cape May Convention Hall has been our most visible public improvement during the past four years. This state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility opened as scheduled and within budget on Memorial Day weekend in 2012. Designed and built to the Silver LEEDS level, this structure represents a vital economic development initiative that will expand Cape May’s economy to a 10.5 month season and secure Cape May’s niche as a premier tourist destination. While Convention Hall is primarily a community center, this $10.5 million edifice offers the opportunity for conferences, small conventions, and performing arts events. The array and diversity of events conducted in our new Hall during the past four seasons demonstrated the capability and flexibility of this multi-purpose venue to meet the goals established in the Business Plan for our developing Tourism Utility. In fact, the initial functioning of the new Tourism Utility in 2012 through 2015 showed the gradual, but steady, movement toward a more comprehensive, planned approach and strategies by the cooperating public and private sectors to promote and market Cape May more effectively and efficiently as a premier tourist destination for all four seasons. On a very encouraging note, the City’s Tourism Utility did achieve self-liquidating status in the 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 fiscal years as required by State of New Jersey statutes. City Manager MacLeod and I have been collaborating on the development and implementation of the ongoing modifications of a customized approach which should strengthen the sales and marketing capability and productivity of the multi-purpose Convention Hall facility. This initiative needs to be a priority during the coming fiscal year as we have just begun to scratch the surface of the events, activities, and revenue sources that can transform Convention Hall into a major destination and revenue generator for the City of Cape May. As we embark upon the fourth full year of operating Convention Hall, I recommend that City Council oversee an evaluation of our experience with the Tourism Utility’s operations so that the City may upgrade, as necessary, the policies, procedures, allocation of physical, financial, and personnel resources, and affiliated initiatives to ensure the taxpayers are receiving the fullest possible programmatic and economic benefits from the operation of the Tourism Utility, including Convention Hall. My City Council colleagues and I have appreciated the complimentary comments offered by our residents and visitors relating to the multiple diverse and free holiday events which the City sponsored in Convention Hall in December 2015 as an indication of our gratitude for the public’s support of the Hall and its programs and activities during 2015. Of interest to children of all ages, the ever-popular roller skating sessions resumed for the winter season on December 19, 2015.
Following two summer seasons of mutually beneficial mentorship and partnership with the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, the City of Cape May assumed sole authority and responsibility for the sponsorship and production of the eight-week Summer Concert Series in addition to year-round performing arts events at Convention Hall beginning in 2014. A full array of diversified, high quality arts, educational, historical, environmental, social, recreational, and cultural events have been scheduled to attract patrons of every age, area of interest, and socioeconomic group throughout the four seasons of the year.
During the past three years, the City produced and distributed the print and digital editions of an annual City of Cape May Information Guide and Event Schedule to optimize the Cape May experience for both our residents and visitors. This now 66-page guide book has been well-received by recipients, and it has provided the first-ever comprehensive calendar of all events scheduled in the City of Cape May by the City, our eight non-profit partners, Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May, civic organizations, and religious groups. In a related fashion, the City also produced its initial Cape May Concert Series program book which was distributed to all patrons at all major performing arts concerts throughout the past three years. Both the Information Guide and the Concert Series program book were totally supported financially by dedicated individuals, businesses, organizations, advertisers and grant monies so that no taxpayers’ funds were utilized. The Information Guide and the Concert Series program book are both now in production for the 2016 calendar year.
In another related initiative pertaining to the promotion and marketing of Cape May as a premier tourist destination in all four seasons of the year, the City planned, funded, and implemented a new and separate destination website with the aid of a contracted technology consultant firm. Titled as www.DiscoverCapeMayNJ.com, this destination website went “live” in the Spring of 2013, and it has produced measurable results that clearly demonstrate its effectiveness in achieving a larger market share of the regional, national, and global tourism industry. As this new tourism-oriented website develops more fully over the coming year, it is also linked and is complementary to the City of Cape May’s official governmental website, www.capemaycity.com. As City government progresses through the 2016 year, the content of the City’s pre-existing departmental websites will be incorporated appropriately into the two above-cited websites, after which the departmental websites will be terminated. During the 2014 year, the City successfully completed a vital marketing and promotional initiative to establish and expand an extensive social media program which includes facebook, twitter, and related popular outlets. To ensure the most progressive, efficient, and effective approach to utilizing the exploding number of viable social media platforms and communication strategies, City Council in the Fall of 2015 awarded a professional services contract to Seven Mile Publishing and Creative to expand the scope and improve user-friendliness on both City websites, assume the role of the public information office for City government, and spearhead the publication and distribution of a semi-annual newsletter in both printed and digital formats to City property owners. The inaugural Fall/Winter edition of the City newsletter was distributed in November 2015 and was greeted with very positive reviews by Cape May’s resident and non-resident taxpayers who were impressed and pleased with the wide array of information pertaining to City initiatives, projects, and programs.
The City of Cape May is pleased to announce that the 42nd consecutive summer season of free Rotary Bandstand concerts will be conducted from Memorial Day Weekend through the weekend following Labor Day. Some new musical groups will join the traditional and loyal regional bands to provide at least 43 free concerts which address a wide spectrum of musical tastes. With the total renovation of Rotary Park scheduled to be completed by July 1, 2016, the early season concerts in May and June will be held in Convention Hall.
HAZARD MITIGATION PROJECTS
As a direct effect of the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, FEMA, in the latter stages of 2012 and during all of 2013, commenced a multi-year procedure for the immediate updating of the agency’s flood maps and regulations which will have multiple and diversified impacts on coastal communities in New Jersey. The City of Cape May views this process as a major issue. Therefore, beginning in November 2012, the City and I have already been participating in data gathering and planning meetings with FEMA, NFIP, Congressman LoBiondo, Governor Christie, Lieutenant Governor Guadagno, State of New Jersey Cabinet Members, State Senator Van Drew, Assemblymen Andrzejczak and Fiocchi, Cape May County and Atlantic County Freeholders, and Coastal Coalition officials on a continuous schedule to ensure that the best interests and needs of our City property owners are met. Emphasis has been addressed to providing City-sponsored or endorsed educational seminars, informational bulletins, media releases to disseminate accurately and timely the critical information regarding the updated flood maps, regulations, guidelines, and procedures. The seminars have been focused on our Cape May property owners and residents as well as real estate professionals, banking personnel, mortgage personnel, contractors, and other relevant parties. On Saturday, June 15, 2013, the City sponsored and hosted a FEMA Informational Meeting at our Convention Hall which was attended by over 400 property owners who had the opportunity to interact collectively and on an individual basis with 22 FEMA and NJDEP technical professionals concerning the specifics of regulations, guidelines, available grant and loan programs, and other assistive resources that could benefit the property owner and his/her property. Then, as a further update, the City sponsored and hosted the FEMA’s Open House for Cape May County at our Convention Hall on Friday, December 12, 2014 which was attended by over 300 property owners who were able to meet in one-on-one discussions with over 40 FEMA, NJDEP, county, municipal, and consulting technical professionals regarding verifying the specific zone and base flood elevation of their individual properties on the recently-released FEMA Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps as well as viable flood hazard mitigation strategies to be employed and the availability and potential cost of flood insurance for their individual properties. FEMA authorities were very impressed with the interest, dedication, and knowledge of local property owners who participated in these two interactive educational sessions.
Through the dedicated efforts of the Coastal Coalition, which is an authorized body of elected and appointed local and county officials representing each of the coastal communities in Atlantic and Cape May Counties, our affected towns have been responsible for the development and issuance of the accurate and research-based configurations of the Preliminary Work Maps in the summer of 2013 and the subsequent Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps in the summer of 2014, both of which replaced the rushed, overstated, and poorly-designed Advisory Base Flood Elevation Maps (ABFEs) which were released hurriedly in early 2013 with arbitrary and inaccurate scientific content. Based upon painstaking months of shared data collection and analysis with a myriad of scientific and technical advisors from a wide array of fields and locations, the Coastal Coalition was successful collectively in structuring a positive working relationship with FEMA and its subcontractors which has resulted in the release of Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps for Cape May and Atlantic Counties that reflect valid, complete data-based computer modeling displaying reduced numbers and sizes of V (Velocity) Zones as well as a reduction in the Elevations in all Zones. As Cape May’s designated representative to the Coastal Coalition, I can attest that this outcome provides realistic, achievable, and affordable criteria for our City of Cape May government and property owners, specifically in terms of the requirements of future local flood hazard mitigation ordinances and capital projects, the necessity and content of adjustments to the City’s zoning ordinances and construction requirements, the continued availability and affordability of flood insurance coverage for our Cape May residential and commercial property owners, the continued inclusion of the City of Cape May in the NFIP and the Community Rating System, and continued viability and increasing strength of the Cape May real estate market.
While the Coastal Coalition assigned priority status to the achievement of accurate Preliminary Work Maps during the 2013 year and subsequently accurate Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps during the 2014 year, emphasis was also focused intently on the continued availability and affordability of flood insurance coverage for our residential and commercial property owners. A vital component of this agenda was a strong, cooperative working relationship of our Coastal Coalition with Congressional lawmakers of both political parties across the Nation as we collectively worked to override the disastrous requirements of the Biggert-Waters Act. Biggert-Waters became law in July 2012 and completely revamped the fundamental principles and concepts of the NFIP, including the progressive schedule of removing the subsidies of the NFIP which had existed since its inception in 1968. As a result of the strong leadership of our U.S. Congressman Frank LoBiondo which was supported by our Coastal Coalition, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 was enacted. This new federal legislation reversed some of the restrictive measures in the Biggert-Waters Act. Thank you for your cooperation and support in this vital endeavor. During the 2015 calendar year, our Coastal Coalition has focused on building strong and extensive networking agreements with statewide and national research, planning, and data gathering institutions/agencies for the primary purpose of formulating long-term, coordinated initiatives to ensure the sustainability and resiliency of our coastal communities as we collectively adapt to the more frequent exposure to a vast array of storms and weather-related emergency conditions as well as global warming, sea level rise, and extreme temperature conditions. As an example, the City of Cape May has already been conducting discussions and developing or continuing working agreements with such respected institutions as Rutgers University, Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Richard Stockton University, New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, University of Delaware, Sustainable Jersey, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, NJDEP, and the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) which is FEMA-certified and is housed at the University of Hawaii. Among the initial products/outcomes of these partnership agreements are the following:
1) The professional architectural/climatology staff of the NDPTC presented a two-day HURRIPLAN training seminar and a one-day Resiliency seminar in May 2015 at Cape May Convention Hall for the benefit of City staff/consultants, City board and commission members, Coastal Coalition members, professional staff from universities and state and federal government agencies, and the general public.
2) Stevens Institute of Technology and the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium conducted a one-day Storm Surge and Dune Management presentation to the same type of audience in August 2015, and have been following up with the inception of a collaborative dune management program with the City of Cape May.
3) During the 2015 year, the City and the Stockton Coastal Resources Center have implemented an expanded agreement to conduct more extensive beach surveys on a more frequent basis annually to assist with the monitoring and data gathering regarding beach erosion, replenishment, and template changes.
4) In November 2015, the City supported and joined a Rutgers University multi-disciplinary team to deploy currently available and research-based decision-support tools and strategies in the City of Cape May that, through an integrated approach, to enhance hazard mitigation and long-term resilience planning.
5) Virtually all of the above-cited institutions/agencies have cooperated with the City and its contracted engineering firm to complete a feasibility study regarding the beach slope on the City’s 2.3 miles of oceanfront beaches.
6) In December 2015, the City was approved by the NJDEP, National Fish and Wildlife Federation, and Sustainable Jersey to participate in the performance of a Coastal Vulnerability Assessment and an Ecologically-based Flood Mitigation Measure Project to aid Cape May in resiliency planning.
7) At the January 1, 2016 Reorganization Meeting, Cape May City Council is adopting a Resolution establishing and appointing municipal officials and community stakeholders to a Hazard Mitigation Planning and Floodplain Management Public Information Group which will coordinate with the Atlantic/Cape May County Coastal Coalition in planning future hazard mitigation projects and assisting in the evaluation of existing public information disseminated by the City regarding floodplain management and to develop new public information needs.
Regarding the Community Rating System (CRS) of the NFIP, the City of Cape May structured a coordinated and integrated plan from 2009 through 2015 which has resulted in the City’s rating being increased from Class 8 to Class 6. Thus, effective October 1, 2013, most City of Cape May property owners with flood insurance benefit from an increase to 20% discount (from the previous 10%) in their flood insurance premiums as their renewals come due. Cape May was recognized by FEMA as one of 17 New Jersey municipalities for reducing their flood hazard risk through the CRS during an awards ceremony on December 18, 2013. During the awards ceremony, FEMA officials announced that this 20% discount in flood insurance premiums totals a savings of $614,000 per year for the participating Cape May property owners. However, Cape May is only 300 point shy of achieving Class 5 status which is currently the highest level in the State. We intend to complete additional creditable activities within the next two year to attain Class 5 status during our next scheduled five-year review conducted by FEMA. If successful, Cape May will qualify for a 25% discount while joining only ten other New Jersey municipalities at that level. Currently, 2,743 of the City’s approximately 4,000 properties (approximately 70%) participate in the NFIP.
In a related development, in January 2014, the City completed a biennial beach replenishment on our main beach between the U. S. Coast Guard Base and Third Avenue as part of our 50-year agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the NJDEP. Over 530,000 cubic yards of sand was dredged and spread on the beaches between the Coast Guard Base and Baltimore Avenue. This replenishment was initiated in November 2013 and was completed in mid-January 2014. Because of the devastation inflicted on New Jersey beaches by Superstorm Sandy, the federal government waived the 25% state and local cost sharing requirement for this particular cycle. The federal government paid 100% of the cost. The next projected beach replenishment on our main beach is in the autumn of 2016, as per our 50-year agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NJDEP. The most recent eco-system restoration of our beaches between Third Avenue and Cape May Point occurred in the fall of 2012, just after Superstorm Sandy. This long-term replenishment program is on a four-year cycle and is next schedule for the autumn of 2016.
Since 2009, the City has emphasized the priority need to plan, permit, finance, and construct major hazard mitigation projects on both our oceanfront and harborfront. Despite the success of our planning and lobbying efforts, these projects did not move into the reality stage until the availability of federal and state funding materialized following the physical devastation and trauma inflicted by Superstorm Sandy. Consequently, Cape May has now secured assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Continuing Authorities Program to improve 4,800 linear feet of protection afforded by the Beach Avenue seawall in the eastern sector of the City as well as 2,200 linear feet of protection along the Delaware Avenue harborfront coastline. In August 2014, the Army Corps issued a Federal Interest Determination for both projects, based upon preliminary feasibility studies. Currently, the Army Corps is conducting full feasibility studies on both projects which should determine the scope, specifics, and total cost, and cost-sharing aspects in both initiatives. The feasibility study addressing the Delaware Avenue harborfront is projected to be completed in April 2016 while the oceanfront seawall study is expected to be completed in the Summer of 2016. The State of New Jersey and County of Cape May have given preliminary indications of interest in potentially serving as a local funding sponsor on one or both of these federal projects. The long-term importance of these two projects to the sustainability and resiliency of Cape May cannot be understated. The beachfront seawall project would minimize and/or eliminate Cape May’s vulnerability for severe flooding in the Wilmington Avenue/Poverty Beach sector of the City during major storms. Verified FEMA documentation indicates that 25% of Cape May’s repetitive loss properties are located in this immediate area which was hard hit by Superstorm Sandy. The Delaware Avenue harborfront coastline has been subjected to severe erosion which has been undermining the roadway integrity of Delaware Avenue which serves as the only alternative route into the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center. In addition, the ongoing FEMA flood mapping process has directed a close focus on the harbors, back bays, and inlets of New Jersey coastal communities as potentially vulnerable flooding areas, based upon previous experience and/or computer-aided modeling studies.
Additionally, as a plausible strategy to improve communication with the general public on the beachfront during developing serious weather issues and general emergency conditions/situations, The City applied to FEMA three years ago for grant funding to install a reliable, state-of-the-art beachfront public address system to service the entire 2.3 miles of Cape May beaches. FEMA endorsed our need and provided a grant of up to a $35,000 maximum and requiring 50% matching funds from the City. Thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of Cape May’s Public Works Department employees and the Cape May Beach Patrol, this wireless public address system has now been installed, is fully operational, and was activated during the 2014 and 2015 years. The total cost of this project was approximately $50,000 with FEMA contributing half of that total for this vital life safety communications system that can be activated from Beach Patrol Headquarters, Convention Hall, and the Cape May Police Department.
During the winter season of 2014-2015, the City of Cape May partnered with the County of Cape May to use $1.3 million in federal grant funds to repair, replace, and extend the stormwater outfall pipes and cradles with state-of-the-art, non-corrosive materials on our eastern beaches between Madison Avenue and Wilmington Avenue. This important project significantly reduces street flooding during storms in the eastern end of town, reduces the opportunity for pollution and contamination on our bathing beaches, improves public safety for bathers and beach goers on our beach strand, and increases our protection against surf surges during major storms.
It should be noted that, following the Nor’easter in early October 2015, the City engaged a third party marine contractor to perform emergency repairs to the City-owned stormwater outfall pipes and flapper valves on the Queen Street beach. The loss claim for these repairs has been submitted to FEMA for reimbursement.
At the City Council meeting on December 15, 2015, the City’s contracted engineering firm, Hatch Mott MacDonald , presented its findings on a recent feasibility study on the beach slope along Cape May’s bathing beaches. The City authorized the study of the existing conditions of the beaches, with the goal of undertaking modifications to the beach slopes that could reduce the prevalence of plunging waves. The firm’s presentation provided the results of the study, including the evaluation and analysis of breaking wave conditions within the surf zones, as well as recommendations on the practicality of altering the beach slope. The findings from the feasibility study were that the existing beach slopes are primarily a result of the tide and wave climate and, to a lesser extent, the sand grain size and presence of the groins. Although the sand grain size has become coarse since the federal beachfills began in 1990, there was no evidence found that the beachfills resulted in steepening of the beach slope. Project alternatives were considered: 1) Mechanically altering (i.e., by bulldozing) the beach slope; 2) Lowering the crest height and shortening selected groins; and 3) Decreasing the grain size of future USACE projects. However, it was determined that the decreasing of grain size was unlikely to have any effect. City Council will review the project recommendations and make a decision regarding any future action on this issue at its January 5, 2016 meeting.
The City of Cape May stood united with the New Jersey coastal communities in steadfastly opposing the bill sponsored by State Senator Michael Doherty and Senate President Stephen Sweeney in December 2012 and again in 2014 by Senator Doherty which, if enacted, would have required any New Jersey municipality that accepts state or federal aid for rebuilding its beaches to provide beach and restroom access for free. I have actively contributed on a small committee of selected North and South Jersey coastal town Mayors that organized and implemented a well-rounded educational and lobbying plan to defeat this legislation. Our committee of Mayors was in frequent communication with Governor Christie’s staff who had already gone on record as opposing this legislation. Thanks to the tremendous support of the Christie Administration, as well as coastal state legislators and local residents along the New Jersey coast, this proposed legislation has been relegated to the “back burner” and ultimately will fail to become law. The same fate should befall the current pending legislation that basically would change the responsibility for and control of the operations/maintenance of beaches (including bathing beaches and the attendant beach tag programs) from local municipalities to county governments. Again, the diverse and numerous flaws in this particular bill would wreak havoc with existing long-term agreements on local shoreline protection and hazard mitigation projects as well as municipal budgets in a State where tourism is the third leading industry. The City will remain vigilant as this specific bill navigates the legislative process, but it is reassuring to know that the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders has continually adopted the position of opposing this legislative bill.
In 2016, City Council’s goal is to formulate and adopt an overall municipal budget (including the current fund, water and sewer utility, beach utility, and tourism utility) which provides the requisite programs and services expected by the public while maintaining the affordability for all of us to continue to live, work, and visit here. In addition, this 2016 Budget should continue the gradual, but steady, process (which was started in the 2012 Budget) of shifting the cost burden of tourism activities from the residential and commercial taxpayers to the actual participants in tourism-related activities. As required by State law, all three City utility budgets (water and sewer, beach, and tourism) were self-sustaining in 2015, and they are being composed to do likewise in 2016. The City of Cape May is currently being challenged by the following significant factors: 1) The ongoing gradual return from the downturn in the regional, national, and global economies over the past 9 years; 2) The State of New Jersey‘s 2% tax levy cap imposed on municipal budgets; 3) The projected impacts of the new FEMA, NFIP, Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 regulations affecting flood insurance availability and significant premium increases in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy; and 4) The City Council’s commitment to resolve all outstanding issues and recover its long-term consequential costs related to the flood elevation of the recently constructed Cape May Convention Hall.
In a rewarding experience related to Cape May’s commitment to and practice of strong sustainability measures, the City received and opened bids on December 18, 2013 for the collection and disposal of recyclable materials for an ensuing term of five years, commencing February 1, 2014. Blue Diamond Disposal (now Gold Medal) of Woodbine, NJ was the winning bidder with an annual cost of $180,000 for the first year of the contract. Increases in each of the four subsequent years of the contract shall be based upon the advertised October Philadelphia Consumer Price Index in the year prior to the beginning of each contract year capped at 5%. Since the 2013 annual cost under the expiring recycling contract was $234,000, the award of this new contract on January 7, 2014 resulted in an annual savings of $54,000. A major factor is this significant savings is the City’s cooperative partnership with the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority (CMCMUA) in the transitioning from a multiple, separated approach to a single stream recycling method during the 2013 year. As a direct result, this week our City received a recycling tonnage grant award of $12,196 for the 2015 year from the CMCMUA (in comparison to $4,268 for the 2014 year). No municipalities in our county received an award for the 2013 year because of the depressed pricing in the recycling after-market.
Our City has been an ardent practitioner of a long-range budgetary process with capital improvement budgets which address the ongoing development/evolution of Cape May in a systematic and cost effective manner. Consequently, the Cape May government has gradually attained an excellent bond rating which ensures that the City taxpayers and ratepayers benefit from the lowest possible interest rates when Cape May finances capital improvement projects. On June 19, 2013, Standard and Poor’s Rating Service elevated our City’s bond rating status from AA- to AA. As an immediate outcome, during our subsequent bond sale involving the conversion of $13 million of bond anticipation notes to permanent financing, the City received almost 80 bids that resulted in the City achieving an interest rate of 3.38% for this bond issue. This particular bond sale primarily involved the construction costs of our new Convention Hall and was strategically scheduled in accordance with our long-range capital planning to occur when $14 million of bonds were being retired. Thus, there was no increase in the debt service for the City of Cape May. In June 2014, Standard and Poor’s re-evaluated and confirmed Cape May’s bond rating status as AA. Another City bond sale in the summer of 2014, at a significantly lesser value, yielded an interest rate of 2.41%, and there was a comparable amount of bonding being retired simultaneously. Based upon my review of the content of this presentation with our City Auditor, it should be noted that the ongoing and future capital improvement projects contained in this State of the City Address can be accommodated individually and collectively within the City’s long-range debt service program without causing an increase in debt service in any given year. The next projected bond sale for the City of Cape May is 2019 with actual new bond payments beginning in 2020. As is the City’s financial practice, long-term bonded debt will be retired in an amount equal to or greater than the new debt being bonded in 2019.
Within the parameters of long-range planning, prudent fiscal management, and operational effectiveness, the City of Cape May has strategically positioned itself in Fiscal Year 2016 with a rare, yet daunting, opportunity to continue the restructuring of the Table of Organization and related service delivery systems to ensure the sustainability of the necessary array of programs and services that are expected and demanded by our taxpaying public over future years. This window of opportunity occurs very infrequently and must be embraced if City Council truly desires to solidify and gradually expand the economic foundation of our City so that we can maintain and improve the quality and quantity of governmental, social, arts, history, environmental, educational, recreational, and tourism functions and activities which make Cape May a desired destination in which to live, work, and visit. The City Council has a fundamental right and responsibility to review periodically every current program and service to ensure that the service delivery system is the most efficient and effective achievable and that all physical, personnel, and fiscal resources are being deployed appropriately and to the best benefit of our residents, businesses, and valued visitors.
As an example, in December 2014, City representatives initiated a working relationship with the Division of Codes and Standards within the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs for the purpose of evaluating the structure and operations of the City’s Construction Office, and to guide Cape May in the necessary strategies and tasks of organizing, staffing, training and certifying credentialed staff so that our Construction Office could provide efficient and effective service to our community as we progressed during the transition in staff members. The operational, financial, educational, and professional benefits of this collaborative effort were realized during the 2015 calendar year and have set the stage for additional partnership efforts with state government agencies for comparable restructuring of other City departments, programs and services in these challenging economic times and with the proliferation of federal, state, and local regulations. It is also recommended that the City pursue the identification of a new timekeeping/payroll system which incorporates state-of-the-art technology to ensure the employment of “best practices” for recordkeeping and accountability on behalf of our Cape May taxpayers.
As you have observed during this State of the City Address, Cape May’s dedication to sustainability and resiliency is a comprehensive commitment encompassing all interrelated operations and aspects of City government, including the municipal budget, new Convention Hall, infrastructure improvements, water supply and conservation, hazard mitigation projects, and open space and parks system. In an effort to increase communication, maintain public participation, and ensure coordination and cooperation among the public and private sectors regarding the implementation of this sustainability plan, I reorganized the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on January 1, 2013 to focus on this vital endeavor. Specific initiatives and goals have been assigned with completion deadlines, and the Committee has reported its findings and conclusions to City Council in a public meeting setting. In its initial assignment, this Committee was tasked with completing an overview of the City’s aesthetic appearance and providing recommendations to City Council in March 2013 regarding improvements and upgrades to improve the appearance and functionality of Cape May that could be achieved operationally and affordably by City government prior to the commencement of the 2013 Summer season. A significant number of these recommendations were instituted prior to and during the 2013 Summer season, while the remaining more complex, time-consuming, and expensive improvements have been addressed on an ongoing basis. Subsequently, the Mayor’s Advisory Committee in 2014 and 2015 concentrated on more longitudinal topics concerning proactive and progressive economic development-oriented initiatives which will facilitate the attainment of goals within our City’s Sustainability Plan. Such concentration will continue to require the Committee to interface with both public boards/commissions and private organizations within and outside the City to develop feasible strategies which again will be reported to City Council in a public meeting setting. Composed of a diversified cross-section of the Cape May community, the Mayor’s Advisory Committee is being expanded in membership in 2016 to address the expanded role and increased number of initiatives being tackled by this group. Concurrently and in a coordinated fashion, Cape May will continue an ongoing cooperative effort which I have initiated with Cape May County Freeholder Will Morey to establish a regional economic development program which will benefit all of our County’s residents.
At this time, I want to thank just retired Councilmember Jack Wichterman for his leadership in spearheading the statewide effort to address and rectify the school funding formula that continues to affect Cape May City taxpayers negatively in the operation of the Lower Cape May Regional School District. In both the November 4th general election and the December 9th special election in 2014, Cape May City voters overwhelmingly supported City Council’s position at a 70% approval rate. The new City Council met with our Special Counsel Vito Gargliardi in January 2015 to share information and strategies regarding the future course of action on this important issue. At the recommendation of Mr. Gagliardi, our City Council has been awaiting judicial decisions on similar, more advanced cases throughout New Jersey prior to initiating any further strategic actions in Cape May’s case. Mr. Gagliardi and his staff continue to keep Cape May City Council updated on pertinent statewide developments.
It should be noted that the City was awarded another in a series of competitive grants in the amount of $24,999 by the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for the 2015 year. Thus, our local HPC has completed an additional 200 historic property surveys through a qualified third party professional contractor as a component of our ongoing plan to retain our City’s National Historic Landmark Status. Early in 2016, the City will be submitting another grant application to the SHPO for the continued funding to survey the remaining segments of the total of 1,500 properties needed to be reviewed in this lengthy process.
In a truly complimentary gesture to the Cape May residents and businesses, Governor Christie, Lieutenant Governor Guadagno, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker have again personally commented to me, on several occasions during the past year, how much they appreciated the warmth, hospitality, cooperation, and support which they received during their visits to our City.
In concluding this State of the City Address, it is imperative to emphasize that the accomplishments achieved and the challenges that have been overcome are possible only by the cooperation, dedication, commitment, and hard work of the residents and business people who comprise our Cape May community. Your involvement, input, direction, and work ethic are the key ingredients that give Cape May the quality of life that motivates all of us to live and/or work in this National Historic Landmark City and encourages visitors to seek Cape May as a premier tourist destination. Thank you for all you continue to do for our community, and we look forward to working with you on our priority initiatives in the coming year. On behalf of my colleagues on City Council, I wish a happy, healthy, prosperous, and enjoyable year in 2016 for all our residents and business persons.
Dr. Edward J. Mahaney, Jr.
City of Cape May