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Council Candidates Debate for the Final Time

The five candidates for the three at-large council seats debated at the high school Tuesday night.

The five candidates running for three open Ocean City council at-large seats in the May 13 non-partisan elections debated for the final time Tuesday night in the high school auditorium. The debate was co-sponsored by the Ocean City Democratic and Republican clubs.

Each candidate chose the same number of questions at random, in sealed envelopes, prior to the debate. Some questions were the same, and some were different from the others.

Once everyone answered the questions they randomly chose, each candidate was given a five-minute period in which to talk about anything they wish, including responses to questions presented to the other candidates.

Some highlights:

On the issue of dredging, and if lagoons are streets and if they should be maintained by the city:

* Eric Sauder cited the need to keep pushing for spoils sites. He said he doesn’t consider the lagoons to be streets, but they are every bit as important and the public ones should be maintained by the city.

* Michael Allegretto said where to place spoils sites is the biggest issue. He said council is looking at a few ideas, but the approval process is long and difficult.

* Michael Hyson suggested the city look at how surrounding communities handle the issue and seek advice.

On the decrease in population from around 15,000 to around 11,701 as of the 2010 Census:

* Keith Hartzell said the key is to inform those who work in Philadelphia that they can “have it all,” by living at the Jersey Shore and commuting to work in the city. He said he works in the city and it takes people who live in Bucks County longer to get to work than it does for him to get there. He also cited three initiatives to bring single families to the city.

* Eric Sauder emphasized the need to zone for single family home and to promote the city as a place to live, not just a place to go on vacation. He said the more residents you lose, the more business you lose.

* Michael Allegretto said strong schools are important and the city should improve some of the year-round facilities. He also said if you get someone over the bridge, they’ll love the town.

On what skills candidates have that would convince other council members to help adopt their proposals:

* Michael Hyson cited his experience as a law enforcement officer, saying he knows how to act diplomatically to resolve an issue. He believes he can put forth a compelling argument to help others see his point of view.

* Peter Madden cited his experience on the Board of Education, citing the need to see both sides of the issues and work together to make the best decisions for the city.

* Keith Hartzell emphasized his willingness to knock on doors, get the opinions from the community and present them to council so that they can vote on something that is well vetted and researched.

On where Ocean City will be in the next 10-20 years:

* Peter Madden said it’s important for the city to maintain its image as America’s Favorite Family Resort. He said it’s important to get ideas from the community and relay them to council.

* Michael Hyson said he would like to see the city become more of a year-round community. He also spoke of the need to beautify the 34th Street entrance. He said the city has excellent schools, which attract residents, and the city needs to get ideas about why people come to the city to shop and vacation. He cited the need for more business on the bayside end.

On Reverse Workshops, where residents have the opportunity to bring their ideas before council:

* Michael Allegretto is in favor of them when “the topic demands it.” He wants to know who would be responsible for selecting the citizens to make their presentation to council, and believes the best venue for this is town hall and ward meetings.

* Michael Hyson said he agrees with Reverse Workshops, even if council has to pack more meetings into a month to do it.

* Keith Hartzell said not everyone is comfortable speaking in public, stating he’d rather see council members seek out the public’s input.

On cutting personnel in the police and fire departments while maintaining safety:

* Eric Sauder said the city needs to look at cutting costs across all departments. He said the city should consider the idea of initially hiring cops on a nine-month basis and moving them into full-time positions as they become available, in an effort to alleviate some concerns for the offseason, when not as many officers are needed.

* Michael Hyson believes the key is in contract negotiations. He said full-time workers can be replaced with part-time workers through attrition, and it will take time to reverse decades of escalating wages and salaries.

* Peter Madden said the police and fire departments are what make the city great, but the city needs to be aware of how to run them from a financial aspect.

* Keith Hartzell pointed out Ocean City has the second lowest number of officers per 1,000 people in the county and cited a plan he and Scott Ping came up with to replace retiring firefighters with EMTs that would be paid a lower rate.

On drainage and flooding, and how to fix roads and infrastructure:

* Keith Hartzell pointed to the city’s adoption of the ranking system used for streets for flooding and bulkheads. He said it’s necessary to take a look at each area and to gather input from the community, saying citizens see things city officials don’t see.

* Michael Hyson said the mechanical pump station in Merion Park and the proposed pump station on the north end are helpful. He suggested the city needs to do more outreach in seeking grants for projects to handle the issue.

On providing public access to the bayside:

* Michael Hyson believes the area between 9th and 10th streets is in need of redevelopment, and that the abandoned marina, Tennessee Avenue and the bayside center provide opportunities for public access.

* Eric Sauder said the opportunity is there at the vacant marina and needs to be addressed.

On preserving the historic district:

* Peter Madden recognizes the importance of maintaining the historic district, but not at the cost of preventing homeowners from doing things they need to do. He believes preservation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

* Michael Allegretto said the city is sending out a questionnaire to residents seeking input on the issue.

On how to help the downtown:

* Michael Allegretto thinks the downtown is doing better than people think, but also said the Tourism Commission and the Chamber of Commerce can work together with merchants to come up with ways to show people outside the city what the downtown district has to offer.

* Peter Madden recognizes that 90 percent of the stores in the downtown aren’t vacant, but believes the downtown could be more compact. He said the city needs to make sure every store is full, and it needs the support of the community to attract business and help it thrive.

* Keith Hartzell stated just nine out of 119 stores are vacant, but agreed the downtown could probably be condensed.

On council members negotiating with unions:

* Eric Sauder believes council should be involved in negotiations to help come up with contracts that are “more fair to the taxpayers.”

* Michael Allegretto cited the city’s ability to negotiate higher employee contributions.

* Michael Hyson suggested a liaison between council and the negotiating table so that council is kept up to date.

* Keith Hartzell cited the city’s ability to negotiate raises down from 4 percent to 2 percent.

On how to ensure quality from the utility companies:

* Keith Hartzell cited the efforts of Ocean City Director of Community Operations Roger McLarnon and added council people should walk the streets in their own wards to get opinions from members of the community.

On altering the Master Plan to reduce the number of districts in Ocean City:

* Peter Madden said the city should constantly look at the Master Plan and there needs to be a balance so that some areas aren’t being more developed than others.

* Keith Hartzell recognizes single family homes need to be kept in mind and protected when it comes to altering the Master Plan.

On how to beautify the 34th Street entrance:

* Michael Allegretto said 34th Street needs to be zoned to encourage business development, and that the city is working to beautify the side of the road and the medians.

On Council Members Bringing Issues Before the Planning Board:

* Michael Allegretto said it should be a case-by-case basis, but if the council needs to get the planning board involved, that's something they should do.

Mayor Jay Gillian and challenger Ed Price will debate for the final time on May 7 at the high school. That debate will also be presented by the Ocean City Democratic and Republican clubs.

Eric Sauder May 04, 2014 at 11:24 AM
Modular construction isn't likely to catch on here for obvious reasons. Kudos for making it happen on your own. Anyone else who is thinking about doing it get moving. I don't doubt they'll pass ordinances to make it more difficult to do. Hey as a candidate I shouldn't be commenting on here. I just miss the free exchange of information. I think we need more of it in our town.
Eric Sauder May 04, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Anyway C check your email. I posted an explanation on Patch that immediately cycled off. I don't know what it is about this place that makes it so hard to get the truth out.
Big c May 04, 2014 at 01:31 PM
I hink If people research it modular homes will catch on. The city can not stop it, they make it hard for induvals to build here but it can be done. Another point is the requirement to install sod and sprinklers. This adds over 7000 to the cost of a home. Seed and a hose are just as good.

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