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OCEAN CITY – City officials combined two city departments, merging the department of community development with public works to create the department of operations and engineering.

City Council was unanimous for the change, approving it in a final vote on an ordinance Nov. 26. In the same meeting, council approved Mayor Jay Gillian’s pick to head the department, Vincent Bekier.

Bekier started as an aid to the mayor in 2016, and became the head of the department of community development when that department was created earlier this year. City Attorney Dorothy McCrosson told council the change came about after the retirement of Joe Berenato, a long-time city employee tapped to head the department of public works in 2017.

The new organizational chart for the city administration includes the departments of administration, financial management, law, police services, community services, fire and rescue services and the department of operations and engineering.

The only comment at the public hearing on the ordinance came from David Breeden, president of the group Fairness In Taxes, and a former public works employee in the city. He said a similar department was 2013 created in 2012 or, only to be abolished in 2015. Quoting a local news report, he said Gillian stated the department was bloated and unable to keep up with some requests.

“What actions are we taking to make sure that doesn’t happen again?” he asked. Breeden’s comments were not addressed before the vote.

Councilman Robert Barr congratulated Bekier on the new position. Bekier's salary remains under negotiation, according to city spokesman Doug Bergen.

When the ordinance was introduced, Councilman Michael DeVlieger expressed confidence in the new arrangement, citing the city’s experience with George Savastano, who currently holds a dual role as the city administrator in Ocean City and Sea Isle City.

“If he’s half as good as George (Savastano) is at combining roles, I think we’re going to be in great shape,” said DeVlieger Nov. 14.

To contact Bill Barlow, email bbarlow@cmcherald.com.

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