Friday, April 06, 2012

Airport manager says fee reduction ‘still not good enough’ - Greenwood Lake (4N1) West Milford, New Jersey

Greenwood Lake Airport Manager Tim Wagner is seen in his office at the airport. He is fighting to reduce high police security costs and township administrative fees as he plans for an Air Show on Aug. 18 and 19.

Aim West Milford

West Milford Greenwood Lake Airport Manager Tim Wagner has been expressing his concerns about police and administrative event charges for over a year. The March 21 council meeting was no exception. Wagner was back hoping that a new council and a new administrator would see things differently than officials saw in the past. "The prior council and township administrator agreed that the fees were too high, but have done nothing about it," Wagner told the governing body. "We now have a new council and I hope we can put this to bed with a decision by the next council meeting in April. Amend the ordinance or do away with it."

Aware that Wagner is struggling with cost figures while planning an Aug. 18 and 19 air show, Councilman Michael Ramaglia recommended the reduction of the township’s administrative fee from 25 percent to 10 percent as an interim measure until there is more study followed by permanent action. The council agreed and immediately voted to approve Ramaglia’s recommendation. Township Attorney Fred Semrau said the action will be memorialized at the next council meeting on April 18.

Ramaglia said there needs to be a meeting with Police Chief Gene Chiosie for discussion of the police costs.

Mayor Bettina Bieri cautioned that care be taken in the wording of the resolution. She said the council did not want to say that the new percentage is only for non-profit applications. She noted that Township Administrator Kevin Boyle resigned earlier this year. She said Nancy C. Gage, the new administrator, needs to be given time to study the situation. Bieri said there is a fine line involved and it is not fair to the taxpayers as a whole to burden them with any of the cost when a group holds an event.

"This still isn’t good enough," Wagner told AIM West Milford in a conversation on March 22. "This is a band-aid on a simple fix. Myself, the boat race organizers and others planning events are having a difficult time putting together an event budget since there is no set rate for police overtime and an administrative fee to be charged in accord with the overtime pay rates."

Speaking at the March 21 meeting, Ramaglia said the 10 percent administrative fee figure was suggested at a meeting in October but it was not based on actual costs. Those present at the discussion Ramaglia referred to were Economic Development Committee Chair Robert Nicholson, Police Chief Gene Chiosie, Township Attorney Fred Semrau, a Police Benevolent Association representative and Councilman Ramaglia.

"The administrative fee is supposed to cover actual cost to the town," said Wagner. "Administrator Nancy Gage and Councilman Joe Smolinski told me that they have the actual numbers but did not say anything about that in Wednesday’s (March 21) meeting. If the amount for costs is five percent or seven percent it could have been voted on and done with."

While speaking at the latest council meeting Wagner pointed out that most of the events are family-oriented.

"If police cost to host these events continue to increase, the ticket prices will be less affordable to a family," said Wagner. "It bothers me when my largest expense to host an air show is the police and not the performers. This results in higher ticket prices to cover the police operating expenses for my event which makes it less affordable to West Milford residents. The police fees are the highest expense for most events in this town. To find out what the administrative fee should be should not be difficult to figure out. It's what the town's actual cost is to cover the benefits and other direct cost to the town related to the police fees. I can assure you that the cost does not amount to 25 percent of the proceeds of the event."

Former Township Administrator Kevin Boyle waived the administrative fees for the past two air shows, anticipating there would be an ordinance change in the near future said Wagner. The mayor said Boyle was not authorized to do this.

Wagner asked for open communication between local law enforcement and event organizers to review industry standards and local police recommendations so that all parties have a better understanding of what is considered adequate security and safety for the event. He would like the option to seek an outside police agency (Passaic County Sheriff’s Department) or a security agency.


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