Dateline September/October 2008

During the summer months, there had been rumors and speculation reported in the Forums about the fate of the historic Ventnor Theater and whether it would be sold for demolition and new development on the site, or whether it could be rescued for preservation.  By August 30, when WLV held its annual meeting (briefly) followed by guest speakers on the topic of “Can Ventnor Save Its Theater?” there was one speaker who was, in fact, in negotiations to purchase the theater, with that goal in mind. 

The newly constructed Ventnor Pier became topical in late August through September, as questions started cropping up about the construction methods and oversight, again in the Forums.  The pier had been closed during a storm and required inspection; questions were directed to the design plans and specifications; WLV was contacted by an anonymous source with a “tip” that the pilings might never have been driven using a pile driving apparatus (drop hammer or pneumatic hammer).  Photographs which had been taken over the past many months were consolidated, and an OPRA request was filed seeking documents which might answer some questions.  It was learned that the pilings were supposed to be driven but that the contractor, R. A. Walters Inc., had obtained a “waiver” of that requirement from the city engineer. 

At the September 18th Commission meeting (available in video segments on YouTube, click here) , questions were prepared for posing to the City Engineer about the safety implications of not driving the pilings and the ramifications for adding a clubhouse if there was no “rated capacity” to the structure, but the questioning was cut short.  A lengthier OPRA was prepared to seek answers to the questions not pursued at the Meeting,  inclusive of many documents that might be housed with the engineer, and Public Works records which might be indicative of city employees’ having had to complete work that may have been the responsibility of the Contractors and/or Subcontractors, as well as public records from the Building Inspector’s office to determine the status of permits (electrical, plumbing) and inspections at the pier, and foundation clearances through a Piling Installation Log.  Unexpectedly, on Friday September 26th, shortly after that OPRA was submitted, an Investigator from the NJ Office of the Attorney General arrived at City Hall to deliver a Subpoena for all documents relating to the pier, with a deadline for them to be produced to a Grand Jury in Trenton.   That investigation is presumed to be ongoing, and WLV notified the City Clerk’s office that the documents which had been sought from the engineer’s office would be waived due to the investigation, and to allow it to take precedence in announcing any factual findings which would likely be in greater depth than a civic non-profit group’s research capabilities.  Both the Harry Hurley website (click here) and the Downbeach Current (click here and here) offered news reporting on the Grand Jury matter.

In other news from the early months of Fall, the city Commission took action to revisit the situation with placement of tables and chairs on sidewalks outside of Ventnor’s eating establishments.  This was in reaction to having both sides of an issue air views during the summer.  Residents weighed in on instances of sidewalks becoming impassable and business proprietors voiced concerns about financial impacts to them during the season they rely upon, most heavily, to break even or show profit for the year.    Opinions expressed during the summer transitioned into consideration of ordinance language by October, as reported on NBC-40 whose newscast with a video link was reported in our Forums (Click HERE).  The Commission also moved toward seeking a merger of the Planning Commission with the Zoning Commission for better coordination of the related land-use activities overseen by both, as noted by the information at this link

In the early part of September, yet another infrastructure “crisis” struck as lightning from Storm Hanna was initially blamed for striking the water tower causing a loss of water service to Ventnor Heights, but later, a water main break extended the total length of time during which water was unavailable to three days.   News coverage from NBC-40 and from newspapers were featured inside our Forums.  Also during September, questions arose about a neighborhood association in a part of the town, noted for its historic homes, known as the St. Leonard’s Tract.  Some of the debate arose in an exchange of Letters to Editor in the Current, while some of it carried over to the WLV Forums.   

Finally, on the brighter side of the news, the nicest developments during the fall months from September through November included the organization of two complementary groups.  The volunteers who mustered out to be part of a Town Beautification committee were merged with volunteers from the Environmental Committee and became the Environtmental and Beautification Committee, with its first meeting held October 18th, as noted in the Fall Calendar posted in our Forums.   Another group that complements the Ventnor drive toward beautification and cleanliness arose this fall – the PICKUP POSSE!  Click the group’s name to read our Forums postings with their flyers, photos and organizers’ and supporters’ messages. 

Preliminary to the first September POSSE outing, a request for volunteers (posted in the Forums) to initially take a weed whacker to areas around the Newport Ave. municipal parking lot found the Public Works Department seemingly responding and cutting down trees.  That information, in a rapid relay to our WLV e-mail account with photos then posted to the Forums, eventually produced an explanation that the work was halted.  According to poster “richbobb”, the belief was conveyed that there might be replacement plantings where trees had been felled.   The POSSE’s last pickup event was November 30th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and their activities will resume in the Spring.