Shelter from the Storm: OB Board Meeting 4/25/15

By Shoshanna McCollumCorneille Estates, NY – Days before the scheduled Ocean Beach Board meeting, copies of the 2015 -2016 budget were available in the Village Office marked as final, adopted, and post-dated accordingly. It was also announced on the village website, as well as social media channels, that the draft budget introduced only weeks before at a proposed 5.6% tax increase had been notched down a little to a flat 4%. But before the public hearing opened, other business was discussed.In the Mayor’s Report, James Mallot discussed there were still “hiccups” in the present budget, including emergency repair from winter damage to the north marina that came in higher than anticipated. The concrete work on upper Bungalow Walk continues to move forward as scheduled. On a brighter note additional FEMA monies came through to rehabilitate the sewer plant, which Mallot called a “big plus,” with work anticipated to commence this coming September.He also announced that the new bus stop-style structure at the ferry terminal was now in place to offer “shelter from the storm.” Many folks in the audience had a preview of it, as final touches to it were still being put in place as they disembarked from the ferry that morning.Also announced was the small freight office that is anticipated to be in operation in the weeks to come. As Trustee Greg Pace noted, people had been “expressing frustration” at the lack of facilities to collect and store freight since the old ferry terminal structure was demolished in January 2013. The freight office will be used to accommodate items less than 20 pounds, including envelopes and parcels delivered via UPS or Federal Express, as well as small electronics that can’t weather the elements like flat screen televisions. Storage may not exceed five days. Furniture, appliances, and other large items must still be collected under the current system, which includes pick-up from the freight dock on the same day as delivered.Other items on the agenda included ratification to adjust a longtime Ocean Beach Village employee Richard Schelling’s salary to $39.23 an hour, due to an upgrade in his Sewer Plant Operator’s license. Schelling has been with Ocean Beach since 1988.A resolution was also passed to grant Ocean Beach Youth Group access to Village facilities, including the Ocean Beach Community House, while Windswept is still not habitable.“As long as [Ocean Beach Youth Group] is using the Community House they don’t have to provide financials,” said Mayor Mallot. “Windswept is a different kettle of fish.”This dialogue aroused debate from the floor, particularly between two former Village Trustees, John Moran and Steven Einig, but the mayor soon shut it down.“This is for another time,” Mallot said.Afterwards approval was passed to accept design plans for the lift, decks, and ramps for Windswept, at a cost of $30,500.The public hearing reopened prior to formal adoption of the 2015-2016 budget. Answers about where the 1.6% adjustments were made from the draft budget were not immediately clear, except to say much of the said modifications were taken from the Sewer Fund, a fund declared in “distress” at the last meeting, on April 8.“I’m not 100% pleased with it but I’m comfortable for now,” said Village Administrator Steven Brautigam.A line-by-line item analysis points to a number of small budget tweaks to shave down the tax increase. Under the Fire Protection appropriation, equipment was reduced by $7,700. Workers Compensation under the Employee Benefits section in the General, Water, and Sewer Funds was reduced by $10,000, $7,345 and $5,000, respectively. Also in the Sewer Fund, an appropriation marked FEMA under Home & Community Services was cut by $56,632. However total revenues anticipated from all funds is also projected at less by $71,332.In addition some portions of the final budget actually saw slight department increases. Parking for village staff was bumped up in both the Legislative and Treasurer appropriations, $500 each. Electric under the Public Safety Police appropriation went up by $800. Electricity and staff parking also received higher notches of $700 and $500 under the Transportation Sidewalk Maintenance appropriation in the General Fund. The Sewer Fund also saw an incline from $40,000 in the draft budget to $45,000 in the final version under G8120.477, Tank Cleanout.The Youth Services appropriation, while zeroed out in the draft budget, was eliminated altogether in the final budget stage.After close of the Public Hearing, the budget was passed with unanimous vote by the board. Many of the remaining items on the agenda were routine, save the authorization of advertising for bids to façade the modular police station building with wooden shingles, at an estimated cost of $40,000. Many members of the audience asked why such investment in a temporary building was necessary. While aesthetics was the main reason cited by the board for such a move, it was hinted that the modular unit might be kept and repurposed sometime in the future.Neither scaffolding nor police tape was enough to stop this plucky citizen from being among the first to enjoy the new ferry terminal shelter.Printed handouts made available for the April 25 Board Meeting & Budget Hearing.Concrete work at upper Bungalow Walk continues. The next Ocean Beach Board meeting is scheduled for Saturday, May 16, 2015.