Monthly Archives: February 2011

Mayor Appoints $32.00 an Hour Employee to Post Formerly Held by Volunteer

At the Monday, January 24th SLH Borough Council meeting, the Council voted to accept a list of appointments made by Mayor H. Frances Enright. This laundry list of minor appointments included one that will cost the taxpayers — that of Zoning Officer Joe May to the post of Clean Communities Coordinator.

The Clean Communities Coordinator administers grant money that is received each year from the State’s Clean Communities Fund. There are very specific program stipulations as to what the money can be spent for. Typical items covered by the grant include anti-littering measures, trash and recycling education, and graffitti removal.

Prior to 2008, the Clean Communities Coordinator was Public Works Supervisor Art Herner. At the time, the Borough was being criticized for giving a paid employee multiple tasks, many of which could be handled by volunteers. Also that year, the budget of the Borough’s Environmental Commission was cut from $5,000 to $2,500 and then again in 2009 to $1,500.

In January 2008, then-Mayor Elwood Malick determined to move the appointment to a volunteer capacity. And, to make up for the budget shortfall to the Environmental Commission, Mayor Malick appointed Commission Chairperson Kathleen Crippen to the Clean Communities Coordinator post. This way, the Environmental Commission could determine the best use for the funds, which are environmentally-connected.

However, for 2011, Mayor Enright determined to bring the appointment back into the realm of a paid employee. Mr. May’s salary is $32.00 per hour.

When asked, Ms. Crippen noted that in 2010, she spent approximately 150 hours of volunteer time on the Clean Communities project which resulted in three new combination recycling and trash stations being obtained for the use of the Little League at the Allaire Road Park. Time was spent in meetings and discussions with Joanne Hackett, past president of Little League, in walking the site to determine best placement, and in researching the types of receptacles available. All findings were discussed and approved by the Environmental Commission.

Said Ms. Crippen, “In the course of a year, I spent about 150 hours of my time working on this project and did it all for free. I have nothing against Mr. May, but if he is paid $32.00 for the same amount of time, the taxpayers will be expected to pick up a tab of $4,800. Why, in these times of trying to cut costs, would you pay someone that much money to administer a grant of less than $10,000? It doesn’t make any sense.”

The full Council voted to support the appointment, although the name of the appointee and his pay status were not made public during the meeting.

Fire Chief Willms Expresses His Thanks

As noted in a previous post, the SLH Fire Budget passed on Feb. 19 by a vote of 198 to 102.

Casey Willms, Fire Chief of the Spring Lake Heights Independent Fire Co. No. 1, offered heartfelt appeciation to the residents of SLH, saying, “On behalf of the entire fire department, I would like to sincerely thank the voting public for supporting us during this budget election. It’s a great feeling to know that the community we serve is willing to come out and show support for us when we need it. The community, the fire department, and myself are all safer and better because of it.

“Even heroes need saving once in a while.

“Thank you.”

SLH Council Debates Formation of Recreation Board

At the February 14th Spring Lake Heights’ Borough Council meeting, Mayor Frances Enright opened the new business section of the meeting. “New business. Ordinance Number 3-2011, Recreation, amending and supplementing Chapter 16 of the revised general ordinances entitled “Administration,” Mayor Enright erroneously stated, Chapter 16 being Personnel.

Chapter 2 of the Revised General Ordinances is the Administration chapter. However, a reading of the draft ordinance showed that all provisions were cited as Chapter 17, so it is unclear where the Borough intended to put the ordinance.

“Could I have a motion to introduce and advertise in accordance with the law?” Mayor Enright asked.

The motion was made by Councilman Thomas Vorbach and seconded by Councilman John Brennan.

“Any discussion?” the Mayor asked of the other Council members. “And I assume that everyone has had a chance to look at the recreation thing? Any questions or concerns about it?”

“Well,” began Councilman Butch Maccanico, “My only concern is that it looks like we are giving up a lot of control and authority from the Council for this board, as you call it … you call it a Recreation Board, right? It looks like we are giving up a lot of our responsibility as the Council for this board.”

“The idea is that you want the people who are running it, you know, who are closest to the people, to run the show,” explained Councilman Vorbach. “I’m empowering those folks who are stepping forward, who are civic minded and want to provide recreation for kids and seniors and whoever else, to do what they do best. There is also a provision in here that this is self-funding and if they do, you know, if they do run short or something like that — guess what? — they have to get Council approval before any funds are transferred. Really, we retain the power of the purse strings but we are not going to micromanage this group.”

However, the ordinance proposed by Councilman Vorbach states that the new entity would be established under N.J.S.A. 40:12.1-14, the New Jersey state law that allows municipalities to create a Board of Recreation Commissioners. As such, the proposed group would be entitled to all the powers conveyed upon it by the State law, regardless of the language placed in the Borough ordinance.

A copy of NJSA 40:12.1-14 is available by clicking this sentence.

The State statute clearly states that, “All moneys received by the board shall be paid over to the municipal or county treasurer and be by him kept in a special fund, which shall be under the control of the board.” Currently, all Recreation finances are kept in a Recreation Trust Fund but are managed by the Council. Creating a Board of Recreation Commissioners would pass much of the financial control to that Board, so that the Council would not “retain the power of the purse strings.”

“The problem that I have with this,” said Councilwoman Patrica Cindea, “Is that when I was on the Recreation Commission the first year, we lost all of our volunteers within the first three months.”

“And why was that?” Councilman Vorbach questioned.

“Pardon me?” Councilwoman Cindea asked.

“Why?” Councilman Vorbach repeated.

“Because they weren’t showing up,” answered Councilwoman Cindea. “We didn’t have a quorum. The Council people all came, because we were charged to be here, but the folks … well, people are living their lives and they may not take it as responsibly as a Council member and people, you know …”

“I’ve got to say,” Councilman Brennan began to interrupt.

“You want a councilperson running Recreation?” Councilman Vorbach asked.

“I don’t know. I’m just saying it didn’t work when we had it as the general public. I don’t think as well,” Councilwoman Cindea concluded.

“For years, for years, it worked with volunteers,” said Councilman Brennan. “I mean, I was around when Ms. Crippen created the Committee/Commission thing and, quite frankly, that was an advisory committee and the people who were the volunteers had little or no power or ability to actually be able to get things done. This proposal by Mr. Vorbach, as I understand it, provides for that authority for people, the volunteers, to step forward. We have volunteers for the planning board, we have volunteers for the board of adjustment, we have volunteers for the beautification committee, we have volunteers for the environmental commission, we have volunteers for lots of boards. We have very civic-minded volunteer universe out there, people, and the idea that we can’t rely on them to perform the function of recreation for our community, I just think it is not well founded.”

“Do we have names of people that we are talking about?” Councilwoman Cindea asked.

“You have the have the position before you can … ” began Councilman Brennan.

“You have to have this first, before you can ask for names,” Mayor Enright said.

Councilwoman Sara King then said, “I personally think that … I don’t like the way this is set up for one big reason and it makes me very nervous to see where recreation is headed. After the last few years, recreation has come a long way and I would not like to see us go backwards. I think the best way to do something like this is to have the Council or a designated Councilperson or two persons oversee this. They don’t have to run it …”

“Sara,” interrupted the mayor, “12:17-2.5 talks about a designee from the Borough Council shall serve as a liaison to the board. And if you’d rather it not be a liaison, would you rather they be a member?” questioned the mayor.

However, it is unclear what statute the mayor was referring to. Chapter 12 covers Commerce and Navigation, and does not include a section 17. Chapter 40:12-1 et. seq. that covers the formation of a Board of Recreation Commissioners also does not include a section 17. The other clauses do not include a provision for a member of the Borough Council to serve as a liaison.

“I don’t think we need a liaison. I don’t think we need a board,” continued Councilwoman King. “I think what we need is someone from Council to head it up. I have checked into this with other towns and what they do in some of the other towns is they have a councilperson who they consider as the overseer, and they oversee the environmental, they oversee the recreation, they oversee a lot of those little entities and all they do is just basically make sure that the people who are running them do a good job. Right now, we have Shawn Heeter — he is running basketball, I think, for the wintertime? He has worked on the program in the summer. We have Rich Diver sitting up here right now as a councilperson, who basically, when Patty and Kat and Rich were all involved in recreation, he oversaw it.”

“He was the one …” Councilwoman Cindea began.

“Rich, how do you feel about it?” asked Mayor Enright.

“First of all, I’m very conscious about the budget this year,” Councilman Richard Diver said. “I don’t want to hire another secretary for another board and pay them $2500. Someone’s going to have to and I worry about those things, because I just don’t want to spend money needlessly if we don’t have to. I would think … I would agree with Sara and with Patty on this, there is no reason we can’t have someone here and with Butch … much as it was done last year with Butch and with Ms. Crippen who ran it, and it certainly ran fine. Are there improvements to be made? There are always improvements to be made.”

“They ran it without any volunteers,” Mayor Enright interjected. However, this overlooks the fact that residents Evelyn Condello and Michelle Degnan-Spang volunteered time to provide input as an advisory committee. Mrs. Condello is noted for her involvement with the senior community and provides countless hours of time in this area. The Council committee on Parks & Recreation was the only Council committee to hold public meetings, and Mrs. Condello contributed greatly of her time and expertise.

“I understand,” Councilman Diver said.

“It is dumbfounding to me,” Councilman Brennan interrupted, “that members of the majority of this Council are afraid of having members of our community as volunteers on a recreation board. I just cannot accept that that is your position. And I think that the public, when they read about this, are going to frown on your position.”

“John, do you know how we got in this position?” Council President Maccanico asked. “On the Recreation Committee, or Commission?”

“I do. Yes. I do. Would you like me to go through the full chronology?” Councilman Brennan asked.

“No,” warned Mayor Enright.

“For 35 years it was run …” Councilman Brennan began.

“No, no, John…” the Mayor said.

“Just give us the short version,” Councilman Vorbach suggested.

“It was run … we had the best volunteer recreation in the area and you can see the young people out there nodding their heads…” Councilman Brennan noted of the members of the fire company in attendance. “And it was cheap, and it was effective, and it provided tremendous benefits for everyone — seniors, children, couples — and I have spoken to people out there in the community as to whether they are willing to serve on this. And they are willing to serve on this, but they are not going to be pansies to people on the Council. Which is the way it was set up the last time, which is why it failed. And Mr. Diver had to resign in frustration because of it.”

“Well, I don’t think Rich resigned in frustration,” Councilwoman King began.

“I have a letter,” Councilman Brennan stated, “I have a letter.”

“I understand ….” Councilwoman King attempted to go ahead.

“Sara,” Mayor Enright said, “Are you asking saying that you think there should be someone from the council on this committee? A part of the committee, or just in charge of everything?”

“No, what I’m saying is that I think that we should have someone, one of our Council people, that should be the overseer of the recreation …” Councilwoman King continued.

“As a council committee,” added Councilman Diver.

“That does not mean we cannot have volunteers … that does not mean …” Councilwoman King said.

“We tried it,” Councilman Brennan interrupted. “We tried it and it failed. We had a Council … it was Patty, Kat Crippen, and Rich Diver. Three people were the power and they had an advisory committee … it was a commission, they called it a commission, and they had an advisory committee of people and the people who were appointed to it came, saw what was happening, and they dropped off. Because they didn’t have any influence.”

“But, John,” Councilwoman King attempted to state as Councilman Brennan kept talking over her, “There was a very success program …”

“Wait, can we go … never mind the past,” Mayor Enright said, “What do we need now? On 12:17-2.5 says ‘a designee from the Borough Council shall serve’ … and this can be changed … ‘as a non-voting liaison to a Recreation Board.’ So to me, that is sort of what you are saying, for a Council member but also volunteers, and that person is to keep the governing body informed of news and information regarding the activities of the board and the Borough’s recreation ….”

“If you have a board, like Rich just said, you have to have a secretary and you have to pay a stipend…” Councilwoman King attempt to say.

“No, you don’t. You don’t have to have that. You don’t …” Mayor Enright said. However. by law, all boards must conform to the Open Public Meetings Act. They must advertise their meetings in advance and, typically, the board secretary takes care of this advertising. Additionally, a board secretary is needed to type up a meeting agenda, field correspondence, take and prepare meeting minutes. Additionally, N.J.S.A. 40:12-6 holds that a Board of Recreation Commissioners has the right to “appoint a secretary or clerk … and fix or determine their salaries.”

“The beauty of this is, it costs the town absolutely nothing,” stated Councilman Vorbach. “It empowers the volunteers and I think it encourages people to step forward because I, for one, would not want to volunteer for something and have an overseer or an overlord or whatever you want to call it, dictating what to do. The question is, do we want to dictate to the people how they are supposed to have fun or do we let the people decide how they want to … you know, do recreation.”

However, Councilman Vorbach completely ignored the reasons that recreation was dissolved and reformed during 2008 and 2009.

In July 2008, while conducting the Borough’s annual audit, Borough Auditor Robert Allison discovered discrepanies in the Recreation Fund. The comments and recommendations section of the audit for the year ending December 31, 2008 cited the recreation fund as a “significant deficiency.” A significant deficiency is defined as “a control deficiency … that adversely affects the Borough’s ability to initiate, authorize, record, process or report financial data reliably.”

The report went on to note that the Borough’s volunteer-run Recreation Commission’s “bank account was not maintained by the Borough Finance Office; Recreation fees were not set by ordinance; and Recreation expenditures lacked the proper approval and encumbering of funds.” This “lack of internal control,” the report explained, “resulted in the violation of New Jersey State statutes and could result in the misappropriation of Borough funds going undetected.”

To remedy the situation, the Chief Financial Officer of the Borough, Colleen Lapp, worked with Council members to implement proper controls and financial reporting procedures. This included dissolving the Borough’s existing recreation fund and moving the money into a Recreation Trust Fund.

For a copy of the Borough’s audit recommendations on Recreation, click here.

NEXT: More on the Borough’s Recreation problems.

Fire Budget Passes

Voters on Saturday, February 19, approved the Spring Lake Heights fire budget by a vote of 198 to 102. The budget does not include a tax increase.

Feb. 14, 2011 Videos Available

Heightsonline posted the video recordings of the February 14, 2011 Spring Lake Heights Borough Council meeting to YouTube. Instead of posting the individual links as we have in the past, we feel it is easier for our viewers to make one click and visit our YouTube channel.

Click here to visit our YouTube channel.

You may also subscribe to the channel so you will be notified of further updates.

The February 14 meeting ran until approximately 9:30 PM. Consequently, there are 10 clips. When you visit our channel, look to the right-hand navigation links. The most recently loaded clips appear at the top of the list. Bear with us while we work out a naming procedure that is easier to read.

In the upcoming week, heightsonline will be transcribing some of the meeting so that our readers who do not have the capability to view the videos will be able to keep abreast of municipal government happenings.

January 24, 2011 SLH Borough Council Meeting

The second regular 2011 Borough Council meeting was held on Monday, January 24. Due to a lengthy Voice of the Public session, in which members of the public are allowed to speak on any topic, this meeting’s tape is broken into 8 segments. The Voice of the Public may be viewed in segments 3 through 7.

Click the links below to view the video clips. Clips are approximately 10 minutes long each.