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Marijuana, wind energy farm hot topics at Second Ward meeting

Ocean City Councilman Tom Rotondi expressed his concerns about the recent legalization of recreational marijuana at his Second Ward Zoom meeting Saturday.

The Second Ward encompasses the south side of Fourth Street to the north side of 12th Street.

On Monday, Governor Gov. Phil Murphy signed three bills to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older and to decriminalize it for people under 21.

The married father of three and former police officer said he was “extremely frustrated over the law.”

“I think from the city and countywide perspective, the law is bad. Adults will do what they are going to do and the people of New Jersey spoke and it passed,” Rotondi said. “It is here to stay but if kids are caught with marijuana parents should be notified.”

In another topic, Rotondi said he is not in favor of the proposed wind energy farm by the Danish company Orsted that would be built 15 miles off the southern New Jersey coast, including Ocean City.

Like some other City Council members concerned about the project, Rotondi said that the wind farm could negatively affect tourism. Specifically, he said, because the towering wind turbines would be visible on the horizon during clear days. The other issue is how it could impact property values.

Jim Edwards, a commissioner on the city’s Environmental Commission, asked Rotondi’s views on the issue during the Zoom meeting.

“Environmentally, I am for it,” Edwards said.

However, Edwards noted that there is a lot more that needs to be researched on the topic.

“My understanding is this is a state-mandated program,” Edwards said. “Unless we take some legal action, we will have these off the coast anyway.”

Rotondi said the city has $11 billion in ratables and losing any of the ratables because of the wind farm, or causing problems for the fishing industry, would be detrimental to Ocean City.

“There could be a ripple effect,” he pointed out. “I don’t think it is worth it.”

When it comes to green energy, Rotondi said he believes there are better ideas out there to explore.

“I’ll fight it tooth and nail until the end,” he said about the wind farm. “They (Orsted) aren’t really offsetting the carbon footprint.”

He also spoke about dredging and how the city is going to examine Ocean City’s dredging contracts.

“I took a hard look at dredging with the CFO (Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato) and as you could tell from public meetings, we gave one particular company a big contract,” he noted.

Rotondi said that he wants a pool of potential contractors to determine the best suited company for particular dredging projects.

“Everywhere we look, competition brings better pricing,” he said.

He also touched upon the plan for the city’s new $35 million public safety building.

“Our police department is antiquated,” Rotondi said. “Ours is probably the worst station I have been in.”

The city will replace the antiquated, 130-year-old public safety building, a former school that serves as the police department’s headquarters and location for the municipal court.

Construction on the new public safety building is expected to begin in the fall of 2021 and would take about 18 months to complete, city officials said. A series of preliminary steps must first be taken, including finalizing the architectural designs and hiring the construction contractor through the public bidding process.