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Ocean City Promises Tougher Action on Dumpster Violations

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Overflowing dumpsters such as this one in front of a home at 52nd Street are a concern of city officials.

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI

Ocean City officials are vowing to get even tougher in their crackdown on contractors who violate the rules for construction dumpsters.

The city has been responding to complaints that some contractors are failing to cover their dumpsters at construction sites, allowing trash, insulation and other debris to blow out and litter the surrounding neighborhoods.

During a City Council meeting Thursday night, members of the governing body said they will consider stricter measures to punish contractors who repeatedly violate the dumpster rules.

Council members Karen Bergman and Keith Hartzell raised the possibility of yanking the mercantile licenses of the most egregious violators to prevent them from working in the city.

“If you enforce that, everybody’s going to wake up,” Hartzell said.

Bergman and Hartzell asked City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson whether the city has the authority to pull mercantile licenses for serious dumpster violations. McCrosson replied that she didn’t immediately know the answer and would have to look into it further.

In the meantime, the city has been issuing hundreds of violation notices and summonses to contractors who have been breaking the rules, City Business Administrator George Savastano told Council.

“Nobody’s getting away with anything,” Savastano said.

He added, “If people choose to ignore the law, they’re going to get a ticket.”

According to the city’s dumpster ordinance, “any person, who controls, whether owned, leased or operated a construction dumpster, must ensure that it is covered when not in use, including overnight, unless it is empty, and shall prevent refuse from spilling out or overflowing.”

Violators are subject to a $100 fine.

Robert Forman, a resident of West Avenue, has been pleading with city officials for months to aggressively enforce the dumpster law. He has repeatedly expressed his anger and frustration about trash and other debris blowing out of the dumpsters.

Savastano credited Forman for doing “yeoman’s work” to bring the issue to the city’s attention.

“We have heard this loud and clear. We’re going to continue to issue violations and tickets,” Savastano said.

City Council discusses the possibility of taking even more action against egregious violators of the dumpster rules.

In addition to the requirement that they must be covered when not in use, dumpsters must have wooden wheels to prevent them from damaging the asphalt roads.

The city has also been handing out violation notices and summonses to contractors for not having the wooden wheels, Savastano said.

He explained that the city has the power to withhold certificates of occupancy for projects that are built by contractors who don’t place wooden wheels under the dumpsters and cause damage to the roads.

“We have that final hammer,” Savastano said.

Councilman Jody Levchuk questioned whether the contractors or the dumpster owners should be held responsible for violations. The owners rent out the dumpsters to contractors for construction projects.

Levchuk said it seems like “common sense” that the dumpster owners should also be held accountable.

Vince Bekier, director of the city’s Department of Engineering and Operations, explained that the owners are responsible for placing wooden wheels under the dumpsters, while the contractors are required to keep them covered when not in use.

Expressing concern that the problem is getting worse, Levchuk wondered whether the city should hire an outside firm – even if only on a temporary basis – to keep an eye on the dumpsters and issue tickets to violators.

“We keep hearing about it, and it’s a fact,” Levchuk said.

Levchuk’s remarks drew strong objections from Savastano, who said he saw no need to hire an outside firm to write tickets in light of the city’s ongoing crackdown.

“I disagree; it’s not fact,” Savastano responded.

Ocean City has experienced a real estate boom during the pandemic, with more people moving to the shore to flee COVID-19 outbreaks in heavily populated areas. As a result, there has been a proliferation of construction dumpsters where new homes are being built or renovations are being made to existing houses.

A narrow, temporary sidewalk at the construction site of a new Republic Bank will be replaced next week with a wider sidewalk.

In other business at the Council meeting, McCrosson reported that a narrow, temporary sidewalk at the construction site of a new bank will be replaced next week with a wider sidewalk.

The narrow sidewalk at the Republic Bank site at the corner of Ninth Street and West Avenue, in the heart of the downtown business district, has been drawing complaints because there is little room for public access.

City Council President Bob Barr called it “an accident waiting to happen.”

“Someone is going to get hurt or killed there,” Barr said in an interview with OCNJDaily.com earlier this month.

Barr received complaints from local residents about the difficulty of walking or using wheelchairs and baby strollers on the narrow sidewalk. Barr, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for his mobility, said he could not navigate the narrow sidewalk.

However, Barr expressed relief Thursday night that a wider sidewalk will be installed next week.

The temporary sidewalk was installed at the request of the city’s construction official to maintain some public access at the busy intersection while the bank is being built. The narrow sidewalk, though, pushed pedestrians perilously close to traffic on Ninth Street and West Avenue.

Barr said he spoke to the city’s construction official, Neal Byrne, about the narrow sidewalk. He noted that Byrne has invited him to discuss ways of making sure the same thing won’t happen again in the future.

Also at the meeting, Council introduced a new ordinance that will raise the salary of Police Chief Jay Prettyman following the creation of the new position of deputy police chief for the police department.

Prettyman’s employment agreement with the city states that if a deputy police chief is appointed, the chief’s salary will be 10 percent higher than the deputy chief’s salary.

The deputy chief will earn a salary of $147,208 starting in 2022, so Prettyman’s salary will be 10 percent higher than that figure.

The ordinance to raise Prettyman’s salary is scheduled for a public hearing and final vote at the Oct. 7 Council meeting. It was introduced by a 7-0 vote. Councilman Terry Crowley Jr. said Prettyman would likely be paid much more if he oversaw the same budget and number of employees with a job in the private sector as he does for Ocean City.

Staff Sgt. Brian Day, an Ocean City resident and member of the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing, is honored with two proclamations from the city and Congress.

In another matter, Council started Thursday’s meeting by honoring local serviceman Brian Day.

Day, a staff sergeant with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing, was presented with a City Council proclamation and a Congressional proclamation from U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew. The Congressional proclamation called Day “an inspiration to all of us” and said he has brought honor and pride to the city, the state and the country.

According to the city’s proclamation, Day has served seven tours of active duty and three combat tours in Afghanistan. He was among the last U.S. service members to leave Afghanistan following President Joe Biden’s decision to end the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

After shaking hands with the Council members, Day publicly thanked his wife, Megan, for all the support she has given him during his military career.