LAKEWOOD INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION IGNORES TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT THE STRAND

As previously reported here on FAA News, (https://www.faanews.com/2022/06/lakewoods-strand-theater-is-leased-for.html), the Lakewood Industrial Commission (LIC), which is an arm of the Township of Lakewood, owns the Strand theater building on Clifton Avenue and Fourth Street.


The LIC took over ownership of the building a couple of years ago from the Lakewood Development Corporation (LDC), which is another arm of the Township. (The members of both Boards are appointed by the Township Committee. Both Boards are made up of separate members.)


In this transfer of ownership, the LIC took over the 20 year lease of the Strand theater and banquet hall (for which, Strand Ventures pays an entire $1 per year, and keeps the revenue from renting out the theater and banquet hall, as well as from selling concessions at theater events).


This lease ended last month, and so far, all that LIC Executive Director Steve Reinman has to say is that "the lease renewal process is not completed as [of] yet. The current lessee is continuing on a month to month basis while that works out."


The finances of the residential apartments also deserve scrutiny.


When the Industrial Commission took over maintenance of the building, they expended for several capital improvements including replacement of a 50 year old boiler system and the HVAC system. A lot of the costs were covered by various grants and by the Industrial Commission. It is understandable that while paying for these projects, the Industrial Commission's monthly bill list was higher than normal.


However, according to the Industrial Commission's recent monthly bills, they pay over $9,300 in monthly property maintenance and utilities for the Strand building, and they collect under $7,500 in monthly rent from the residential tenants.


Some of these bills appear to be for utilities for the Strand. Per the lease, Strand Ventures is supposed to repay the LIC for their utilities usage after the LIC demands payment for same. From reviewing the annual statement of accounts it appears that Strand Ventures has not repaid any utility bills this year.


As it stands, the taxpayer and land-sale funded LIC expends more - on regular monthly bills - on the Strand building than it collects in revenue.


Since our initial report on this issue, numerous members of the public have reached out to the Industrial Commission, and it seems that the Industrial Commission is now working overtime to avoid answering questions on this topic.


On June 16th, in response to several questions about the Strand's finances, Mr. Reinman responded "Can you provide a phone number where we can reach you to see if we can address some of these questions? We would be happy to address them with you."


On June 23rd, after again pressed for some simple answers, Mr. Reinman again wrote "if you provide a phone number I will gladly call to discuss. Otherwise feel free to request any documents and we will respond as per guidelines."


At the LIC's monthly public meeting on July 13th, several members of the public again sent in questions regarding the Strand's monthly finances.


Mr. Reinman did confirm that the LIC does indeed pay for certain utilities for the theater and that Strand Ventures does not repay LIC for those bills.


However, Mr. Reinman refused to answer simply questions as to whether we are earning revenue from the apartments or if are losing money each month. He only stated that he will only answer those questions via a phone call.


Amazingly, the LIC then cancelled their regular monthly meeting in August.


Last week, the LIC announced that there were holding a special meeting this past Friday in order to take formal action on one time-sensitive matter.


This special meeting, as all their public meeting, included a portion for public comment.


According to emails obtained by FAA, two emails were sent in with questions regarding the Strand.


--------------


Email 1:


Hi


Can you clarify if the apartments at the Strand bring in revenue or choose cause you a loss?


Thanks!


-------------


Email 2:


Hi LIC members,


This email is for public comment for today's meeting.


I have seen your list of bills and accounts.


For the Strand building, it seems that you spend more on regular utilities than what you collect on rent from the tenants.


Can you explain the logic here?


Thank you!

-----------


The LIC did not even read these emails into the record. Rather, Mr. Reinman stated that the emails which were received have nothing to do with the specific item on the LIC's agenda for that day. He also exclaimed that the LIC staff needs to demand that the commenters provide "their proper contact information" and that it's time to adopt and enforce new guidelines for receiving public comments.


Whoa!


All Township board meetings are held in accordance with the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act, which allows the public to observe and participate in public meetings.


This means that all boards have a point where they open the meeting for members of the public to comment on items related to that Board.


Typically, members of the public are asked to state their name and address for the record.


Being that the Township is still in COVID mode, certain meetings, including the LIC meetings, are held virtually online and over the phone. Public comment is accepted via mail and email prior to the meeting, and over the phone during the meeting.


The LIC has adopted guidelines for receiving public comments.


The guidelines state that written comments may be sent by mail, or by email. Mailed comments must be received by 12:00pm the day before the meeting, and emailed comments must be received at least 8 hours prior to the meeting. Comments may not be anonymous and shall contain the person’s name and address.


The guidelines also state that public comments submitted prior to the meeting shall be read aloud by an authorized representative of the Industrial Commission during the public meeting in a manner audible to all meeting participants, and that if duplicative written comments are received, the name of each commenter will be noted for the record, and the contents may be summarized.


Of interest is that the guidelines do not restrict public comment to only topics on that's day's agenda, nor is there any restrictions on public comment for special meetings.


According to emails obtained by FAA, numerous times, public comment emails are sent to the LIC are sent during the meeting - and not 8 hours prior to the meeting as directed in the LIC's guidelines.


These emails are always regarding LIC business but not necessarily related to the specific items on that day's agenda.


Not once has the LIC refused to answer questions regardless of whether or not the questions met the criteria of the guidelines or whether or not they were related to the specific items on that day's agenda - until now that the questions are regarding the Strand's finances.


Quite interesting...


Seems like the Lakewood Industrial Commission has some secrets they prefer to hide. 


To join a FAA WhatsApp Group, click here: https://chat.whatsapp.com/GePyRrAaRYWJTZeYtUAoL7


To join the FAA WhatsApp Status, click here: https://wa.me/17328065488?text=%20Subscribe



2 comments:

  1. Some points about the LIC

    LIC Executive director got a huge salary increase for the title of economic development $160k salary plus a $500 monthly allowance for a vehicle on top of the salary
    LIC commissioner spouse does the marketing for the LIC $2000 a month
    The payment from the lease of the blueclaws stadium for $175k a year goes back into the LIC bank account and not to Lakewood township
    Some members do not live in Lakewood yet spend taxpayer money

    ReplyDelete
  2. We, the people, have a right to get answers from the folks who spend our taxpayer dollars.

    ReplyDelete