By MADDY VITALE
Fourth Ward City Councilman Bob Barr discussed the state of the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic, talked about projects and listened to residents’ questions about flooding, trash and other issues during a remote meeting Saturday.
Barr, who was appointed by the governing body in July as Council president, addressed the rest of the team assembled, which includes two new Council members, Tom Rotondi and Jody Levchuk.
“It is an honor to represent the city in the Fourth Ward. I’m glad to be working with my Vice President Mike DeVlieger, a great public servant, and new Councilmen Jody Levchuk and Tom Rotondi,” Barr said. “We have a really good group who wants to be engaged and make Ocean City the greatest town it can be along with the mayor.”
Barr’s ward encompasses the south side of 26th Street to 59th Street and the Ocean Reef community off Tennessee Avenue.
During the meeting, some residents voiced concerns over flooding on West Avenue and Haven Avenue.
Bob Dubil, who lives on 29th Street and Haven Avenue, asked about the new floodwater pumping station at 30th Street.
“We’ve had flooding like we haven’t seen in quite a while and we are not far from the new drainage,” Dubil said. “I had a kayak come down my street. Any pump power issues?”
Barr noted that there was a temporary issue with the pumps.
“One of the pumps was down for a portion of time,” he said. “Those problems have been resolved and it is fully functional now.”
West Avenue flooding also came up.
Barr pointed out that it is a county road and told the residents to contact Cape May County Engineer Bob Church for further details.
One resident had a question about trash collection.
Randall Hughes, who lives at 32nd Street and Central Avenue, asked if there is an ordinance requiring property owners who are renting out their homes to make sure renters adhere to properly recycling and disposing of trash.
He explained that he and other neighbors have had to pick up renters’ trash.
“When you look down the alleys, it is a complete free-for-all,” Hughes said. “It is embarrassing, prior to trash collection.”
He said realtors should give tenants a checklist of how to properly dispose of garbage.
“I will research that with the city clerk,” Barr replied. “I will get back to you with the exact ordinance and we will go from there.”
Barr called these times “extraordinary” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and noted that it can be difficult for the community.
“This pandemic is an ever-evolving situation. It is always changing daily. It makes it a real challenge for local officials,” Barr explained.
He said with the number of COVID-19 cases in New Jersey beginning to trend upward again, he expects Gov. Phil Murphy to enact more restrictions.
“I expect more changes from the governor and I encourage everyone to wear a mask,” Barr said, adding that as a person who has cerebral palsy and a brother with the ailment as well, he wants people to know the importance of wearing a mask.
“Always wear your mask and keep your social distance. Keep everyone safe and do your part,” Barr said.
Barr explained that the impact of the virus on the city budget won’t be realized until the end of the year. The city’s Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato is working hard on the budget to determine how much of an impact it will have on the municipal finances, Barr said.
He also urged the public to heed weather warnings and stay tuned to the forecasts as Hurricane Isaias is moving its way up the coast and is expected to be in the southern portion of the state by Tuesday.
“Frank Donato is on top of it,” Barr emphasized of Donato, who also serves as the city’s emergency management coordinator.
The next Fourth Ward meeting is scheduled in January.
Barr said hopefully it will be an in-person meeting either in the Stainton Senior Center or the library, as in the past, both located in the city’s Community Center at 1735 Simpson Ave.
“Everyone stay safe,” Barr said. “And if you need anything, I am always here.”