Skip to content

Belmar-nomics: Buy High, Sell Low

Several times our mayor has stated his intention to run Belmar “like a business”.  I guess he’s kept his word on that but I wish he hadn’t picked Solyndra as a business model.

Witness, re-printed with the permission of the Coast Star and annotated (in italics) by yours truly:

Borough not expected to make a profit on concession trailers

By Haley Behre

BELMAR — Rent for the beachfront concession trailers may not break even like the borough originally hoped  as they are looking to give existing leaseholders a pro-rated rent for the summer season.  (What ever happened to “due diligence”?  Did anybody actually run the numbers?)

In late March, the governing body passed a resolution with a 4-1 vote awarding a contract for obtaining temporary beachfront concession facilities for this upcoming summer. Councilman Jim Bean was the sole no vote.  (Bean’s suggestion was to lease boardwalk space to the businesses and let them, at their own expense, rent whatever kind of trailer best suited them.  Seems pretty logical to me.)

The resolution awarded the contract to US Mobile Kitchens, of Finksburg, Md., for three basic kitchen/food trailers for a total of $131,250; one frying/grilling kitchen/food trailer for a total of $43,750; and one ice cream sales kitchen/food trailer for $43,750.  (I have information, which I hope is not true, that at least one of those units is being rented for significantly less than half of what we’re paying for it!  And that doesn’t even include the water and sewer hook-ups.)

All are rented for a five-month period.

A notice to proceed [NTP] was given for three trailers, and there will be a public bid for the remaining two trailers at an upcoming council meeting.

That means that the other two trailers do not have to be rented.

The three trailers the borough is issuing a NTP on are for the three food establishments — Jakes Crab Shack, 10th Ave. Freeze Out, and Annie’s Ocean Grill — that have continued their leases at the beachfront. The two trailers for the public bid are replacing those two food establishments, the Burrito Hut and Matisse, that terminated their leases.

The borough originally said they hoped to break even on the trailers, which would mean the trailers would cost $8,750 each per month.

According to Colleen Connolly, borough administrator, the rent for the trailers varies from lease to lease. Each leasee will pay a pro-rated rate for every month the trailer is rented based on their existing lease, she said.

Mayor Matt Doherty said even if the borough does not break even on the three trailers, “when you look at its entirety without those trailers there would be a drastic decrease in the experience of those coming to the borough beach.”  (This is ridiculous.  First of all, only a very small percentage of beach-goers eat on the boardwalk. They come here for the beach, not for the hamburgers.  I have spent twenty summers on the beach and have not eaten on the boardwalk one time.  Sometimes I’ll get a slice of pizza from across the street, but just as often I bring a sandwich from home.  And why are we taxpayers responsible for their good experience anyway?  What’s next?  Should the town give them sunscreen too?  Should we give them magazines to read? )

He continued, “while we won’t make money and most likely won’t break even, it’s still a good business decision in the context of the overall business of the beachfront.”  (Only a politician could say that losing tens of thousands of dollars is a good business decision.)

The expense for the trailers, as well as the revenue brought in for them, is in the beach utility, “so if it doesn’t match, it doesn’t match,” Mayor Doherty said.

But “it will never be born on the tax payers,” he said.  (He can’t say that for sure.  The beach utility already will have a HUGE nut to crack with the cost of replacing the boardwalk.  If badge sales fall short of the mayor’s expectations then the taxpayers certainly will be bearing the cost of the trailers.)

If there is a difference between what the trailers cost the borough to rent and how much an existing leasee is paying for that trailer, the borough will pursue reimbursement for that cost through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the Ms. Connolly.  (Our mayor thinks FEMA stands for Funding Everything Matt Asks.)

The important goal is for the beachfront concessions to be back on the beach and able to operate, Ms. Connolly said.  (Important for her maybe.  I really don’t understand why, as a resident, it should be that important to me.  Ms. Connolly may be surprised to learn that some of us out here have other important goals.)

According to the mayor, the two trailers being publicly bid will break even since the starting bid is $8,750 each per month.

A public bid on the two remaining trailers is expected to take place the May 1 council meeting. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in borough hall, 601 Main St.


I have to say that this mayor and council (with one notable exception) seem to care more about tourists and restauranteurs than about the actual residents of this town.  Their interests seem to always come before ours.  Believe it or not, the convenient accessibility of hamburgers, crabs and ice cream for beach-goers is not a big priority for us out here.  Anyway, from my observations of people at the beach, it seems the last thing most of us need is more hamburgers, crabs and ice cream.  And if we really must have our hamburgers, crabs and ice cream, why don’t we just allow catering trucks to park alongside the boardwalk in areas that don’t have food nearby on the other side of Ocean Ave?

If we really want visitors to have a good experience in Belmar and to keep returning here, maybe we should reduce the overtime parking penalty from the highly punitive $45 that it is now to a more appropriate amount (say $15 or $20) and maybe go a little easier on writing tickets for some other minor infractions (like smoking on the beach.)  Nothing will drive a visitor away from Belmar faster than the experience of getting an expensive ticket here.  People remember that.

The mayor is placing all our marbles on having a huge beach season this year.  Bonuses to rush the boardwalk construction.  Big contracts awarded with no time for competitive bidding or even a vote by the council..  Huge subsidies paid to oceanfront restaurants.  Every single thing he does to try to make sure we have a great season this year makes having a great season this year that much more important.

We’re in this all the way now.  Everything depends on it.  So my question to the mayor, and to the council (with one notable exception) is…………..what if it rains?


One Comment

  1. Tom Burke wrote:

    As you(Blog Administrator) and I have discussed many times, Government has no business being in business. I had my own business for over 20 years,believe me, our local government has no idea how a business should be run. Whether it be renting trailers, administration of the Special Improvement District,or attempting to run a marina, the track record speaks for itself. Government should leave business to business people.

    Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.