Highlands first regular council meeting of 2021!

If the first regular meeting of the year of the Mayor and Council is any indication, Councilwoman Linda Mazzola, the only councilperson who has served since before Jan. 1, will be a lone wolf on many decisions made by the governing body. And Mayor Carolyn Broullon, who has been mayor for a year and was a member of council prior to that, has been given more unilateral powers without need for discussion or assent by the remaining four members of the governing body. It also appears it will be a costly year for taxpayers, if the meeting is any indication. In addition to professional appointments made at the reorganization meeting Jan. 1, the governing body authorized another $70,00 for professional services, approved refunding escrows accounts totaling $13,500, agreed to pay $1,000 a year for ten years for use of a privately owned piece of waterfront property as well as exempting the owners from paying taxes on the land, and paid that month’s bills totaling $409,606.81. With public hearings set for six ordinances introduced at the reorganization meeting, the meeting ran three hours, with the majority of public hearing time spent on the proposed code to vacate a portion of Cornwall St. at the Shrewsbury River with the land being equally divided between the two adjacent property owners, Inlet Café and Turning Point restaurants. Only Ms Mazzola opposed the ordinance and reiterated her opposition to it after the public in which numerous speakers also opposed the vacation. Mazzola had also opposed the proposed code four months ago when it was presented to the previous council. Questions about and opposition to the need for the transfer and the ultimate costs it could impose on the borough focused on a bulkhead adjacent to the roadway with no one knowing specifically who would be responsible for any needed repairs in the future. Representatives of both adjacent properties also spoke at the hearing and both indicated they would be interested in taking on the obligation, but no contract was signed, or the proposed code modified to include that adjustment. Residents questioned the need for the borough to vacate the waterfront piece, saying while everyone has praise and satisfaction with the current adjacent owners, no one knows what may happen in the future. When the governing body approved the vacation by a 4-0 vote, it also approved returning the $7200 the two restaurateurs had submitted as escrow along with their request for the vacation. Ms. Mazzola also was the lone councilperson to oppose the cancellation of the requirement for all employees serving alcohol to have identification cards which had been mandated in the borough’s Code. Council proponents of the change noted the Chief of Police had indicated the ABC has to keep records of employees at licensed premises and that should be sufficient. Mayor and council unanimously approved the ten-year lease agreement with the Waterwitch Beach Improvement Association at $1,000 a year which gives the borough access to the privately owned waterfront section for recreational purposes, and further absolves the Association from paying taxes on the property. It approved the transfer of an on street handicapped parking space for a resident who had moved to another area in the borough, and another to make it a requirement for a business to have a CO before receiving a mercantile license. All but Mazzola voted for an ordinance establishing the position of confidential aide to the Mayor and Administrator and giving the mayor the sole power of setting the salary, time, and hiring and firing of the personnel, with no input either from the administrator or the four other members of the governing body. The position also gives the hired personnel full employee benefits and sets a salary range between $1,000 and $60,000 annually. Mayor Carolyn Broullon said the aide’s duties would be to discharge the day-to-day operations of the borough. The professional appointments approved unanimously included retaining engineer Richard Maser as a consulting engineer for marine coastal engineering for a year at a fee not to exceed $20,000, Phillips, Preiss, Greygiel Lehany, Hughes as a borough planner for the business district for a year at a fee not to exceed $25,000 and McManinon Scotland and Bauman as special counsel for redevelopment projects at a fee not to exceed $25,000. It authorized the return of a $6300 escrow payment to Fred Rosiak for a land use application he no longer needs at Captain’s Cove Marina, and named Frank Montecalvo to a four-year term, and Helen Chang as alternate for a two-year term on the borough’s Land Use Board. Council also approved licenses for 2021 for three inactive alcoholic beverage licenses in the borough.


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