WE WERE glad to see other publications recently report on the Convention Hall flood insurance saga, even though they sure took their time — we first wrote about Floodgate in November.
And we were glad to see that the city of Cape May is investigating whether it can seek damages from companies involved with the construction of the $10.5 million building.
It’s been obvious for quite some time that someone screwed up here — the question is, whodunnit?
The fact that the city may be in a position to mitigate the financial damage this debacle could wreak upon its taxpayers is the first piece of good news we’ve had in this story.
If this is your first time to this publication, or you’ve had your head in the sand for a while, here’s the brief background: Convention Hall never had flood insurance when Hurricane Sandy rolled into town on October 31. Which was bad enough. To compound that, it then became apparent that there might be a problem with the elevation of the new building — that it might not meet FEMA criteria and would, therefore, fail to qualify for the most cost-effective insurance premiums.
We’ve accused the city of trying to cover up this issue — no doubt they were embarrassed by this turn of affairs. Who wouldn’t be? And even though the rest of the press were very quiet on this issue until last week, a group of very motivated citizens from the east end of town have been riding the city hard.
It was one of the members of this group, Charlie Hendricks, who blew the whistle and revealed the lack of flood insurance last November. And Charlie was front and center last week when his group released a very detailed letter claiming that, even though the city now had three separate insurance policies on the building, that the coverage was likely not going to be enough to cover the costs of replacing the building in the event of a catastrophic storm.
We were impressed by the detail in the letter, which was jointly authored by Charlie, along with Jim Testa, a lawyer, and former mayor Jerry Gaffney and Kevin Soler, who are both insurance industry veterans.
And so, apparently was Cape May mayor, Ed Mahaney. The relationship between the city’s administration and the East End Four (it’s a snappier name than “a group of concerned citizens”) has been fractious to say the least, but Mayor Mahaney was in conciliatory mood when we caught up with him on Monday to gauge his reaction to the letter.
“The city very much appreciates the diligence of the four citizens who forwarded their concerns about the insurance policies for Convention Hall,” he told us.
“I want to acknowledge their commitment and dedication to the city of Cape May. The city, and myself especially, believe these findings are worth researching. These gentlemen have a lot of expertise and experience in various fields. Between what we had already laid out and what we got from these four citizens we have as comprehensive an examination of these policies as possible.
“We have incorporated their findings and, along with additional inquiries we have made, we will then ask for feeback from our insurance consultants and we hope to hear their initial findings by the end of the week.”
We’re sensing a mood swing in City Hall, a realization that the regular battles (between the city and certain groups of citizens, as well as with this publication) that have been ongoing for much of Mayor Mahaney’s previous four years in office only hurt the city.
Our hope? That whoever messed up the construction of Convention Hall (and it does not seem to be a straightforward matter) coughs up so that the taxpayers do not have to. And also… that we get to use more ink on positive Cape May stories, such as the Singer Songwriter event which happened last weekend and which adds a wonderful burst of energy to the city at a time of year when it’s a leetle too quiet around here.
Go, GABLES, Go
THIS issue was sent to the printer the night before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments against California’s Proposition 8, and two days before the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. So it might seem like a timely decision to include an article this week about the work of GABLES of Cape May County, the nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. But the truth is, there isn’t really a non-timely moment to write about GABLES, as they are always (and we mean always) working to better the lives of all (and we mean all) people — gay, straight, old, young, tall, short, nice, grumpy, you get the idea — in our area. They call themselves the gay group doing good things for the entire community, and their upcoming event — the Sixth Annual Diversity Weekend, which will bring nationally-renowned performers to Cape May — is just one example of this.
We called Doreen Talley, the group’s Outreach Officer, for some background on the history of GABLES. It was founded 18 years ago, and the accomplishments since — including over $100,000 donated to charitable organizations, such as Volunteers in Medicine, Family Promise, and the South Jersey AIDS Alliance — are too many to list here. GABLES has spearheaded an initiative called YouthGATE which educates the community about issues facing LGBTQ youth; they’ve contributed to the United Way’s scholarship program, they sponsor a knitting group that’s produced over 60 hats and scarves for the less fortunate; they host an annual charity auction (which will showcase the work of local artists this year), as well as their ever popular Mardi Gras and Halloween costume parties; and, for their work in promoting South Jersey, they’ve twice been awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Tourism. “We want people to know we are members of the community, and to know we’re pretty much just like everyone else,” Doreen said. “We live here, we work here, and it’s important to us that our community thrive.”
Which is why GABLES is bringing magician/illusionist Eric Walton, plus two comedians to Marq’s Pub on April 6 for Diversity Weekend’s Bait and Swish: Trolling for More. We asked headliner Thai Rivera — you might recognize him from Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham — why the show is called Bait and Swish, and he said he wasn’t too sure (though, who knows if he was being serious… you never can tell with these comedians). But he was able to tell us what we can expect from him: a stand-up show that’s “edgy, not at all politically correct, and a lot of fun.”
A lot of fun, whether you’re gay, straight or somewhere in between.
The evening’s host and fellow comedian, Poppy Champlin (whom you may have seen on Oprah, her own Showtime Special called Pride, Entertainment Tonight or The Joan Rivers Show) told us that while she is gay, and excited there are groups like GABLES working to give the gay community a voice, “this is going to be a great night for anyone from 18 to 75 who can breathe and listen.” She also told us that, while she’s thrilled for the chance to bring her off-the-cuff style of stand-up to Cape May, she’s equally excited to “experience and play in Cape May.” (See? More proof for any of you doubters out there that we really are all the same.)
Tickets for the show are $30. To order, call 609-861-1848 or visit gablescapemay.com. Sales at the door are limited. If you want to order dinner, come early, as food stops when the show starts.
Honey, It’s Home
EVERY year, more people realize that West Cape May isn’t simply the little sister to Cape May proper. The last 12 months have seen the opening of Sunset Liquor, the expansion of the Exit Zero Store, and another hugely successful series of farmer’s markets and festivals. Now comes another feather in the town’s cap: the opening of Cape May Honey Farm on Sunset Boulevard, in the former site of the Wooden Village Teak Outlet. “We’re seeing just how many people come this way,” owner Doug Marandino told us. This area is growing, and we’re glad to contribute.”
Doug’s interest in beekeeping grew out of a trip to Bulgaria, where he witnessed the family and friends of his wife Andi working on their own hives. Eventually, the couple decided Cape May would be the ideal place to harvest their own honey. To begin with, they’re already familiar with the area (Doug helps make coffee beans for Cape May Roasters and has worked as the Washington Inn sous chef for 20 years, while Andi served as their catering consultant), but even more than that, it just feels right. “It’s a really laid-back and family-friendly town,” Andi said. “Also, a lot of the tourists who come to Cape May are environmentally-conscious people and many are trying to have a healthy lifestyle.”
Which means this business should be right up their alley.
“Honey can be used for everything,” Doug said. “It has antiseptic and antibacterial properties, antioxidants, minerals, proteins, and vitamins. Eating local honey even helps to calm allergies. People don’t understand how important honeybees are, or that their numbers have been decreasing. We want to educate the community on the importance of this.”
Stop in and chat with the Marandinos, and you will get an education… we learned just how complex a hive can be. “All people associate with bees is that they sting and make honey,” Andi told us. “But what goes on inside the hive, how the honeycomb is built, how the bees communicate… it’s all very complicated. Whenever Doug starts talking about all that, people forget about the stinging.”
Of course, we couldn’t help but ask about that, too. “It’s only happened about eight times,” Doug said. “Every time I’ve been stung it’s been my own fault. Maybe I put my hand in the wrong place or I somehow made the bee feel threatened… If you’re slow and careful in how you handle the hive, you won’t get stung.”
We also learned just how diverse the offerings at Honey Farm will be. “If it comes from a hive, it’ll be in the store,” Doug said. “In addition to the local honey from my hives, we’ll be bringing in imported and rare honeys from other countries as well as from different parts of America. This store is going to be the honey and beehive products Mecca. That’s our goal.”
The Honey Farm will open for business on weekends beginning March 28, before opening full time in May. It’s a great place to take your honey…