Frankford voters to select two council members

Frankford voters will head to the polls on Saturday, Feb. 7, from 1 to 4 p.m. at town hall, to select two council members for new two-year terms. Candidates in the 2015 election include incumbents Joanne Bacon and Cheryl Workman and challengers Dorsey Dear Sr. and Velicia Melson.

The deadline for voter registration for the 2015 town election was Dec. 31. Voters who haven’t voted in two consecutive town elections needed to re-register. Registered voters who are planning vote must take with them proof of identification and address, such as a current State of Delaware driver’s license or ID card and a current utility bill, bank statement, credit card statement, a paycheck or another type of bill or statement.

The Coastal Point has once again compiled a series of questions to ask each of the candidates, in order to help our readers cast an informed vote. Two of the four candidates did not return their responses to the Coastal Point before our Wednesday press deadline. The responses of the other two candidates are listed below in alphabetical order by candidate surname.

Joanne Bacon

Q. Do you want new commercial, shopping, or other services to come to Frankford? What would you do make that happen?

A. I am of the opinion that new commercial, shopping and other services would be beneficial to the Town of Frankford to allow economic growth and would certainly be a convenience for the residents of Frankford and the surrounding areas. I do like the small-town atmosphere but would support annexation if it benefits the Town of Frankford.

Q. Do you think the Town should offer its employees a pension plan? Explain.

A. I do believe the Town should offer its employees a pension plan, as long as the financial health of the Town is such to be able to support a pension.

Q. If elected, how do you hope to address the rising cost of healthcare, specifically related to Town employees?

A. Rising healthcare costs is a major concern for many employers and municipalities. If elected, I will strive to implement both a healthcare/pension package that is more in line with today’s standards.

Q. Do you think the Town should have an active police department? If so, explain what you plan to do to get the department up and running.

A. I strongly believe that the Town should have an active police department. As a longtime resident and current council member, it is important to provide police coverage to the town. Just the presence of the police in the town is a sense of security for the residents, and I want that to continue. I will urge the council to act quickly with the requirements necessary to replace the two officers who recently retired/resigned.

Q. What do you hope to bring to the Town if elected?

A. If elected, I hope bring to the Town an avenue for the residents/taxpayers to voice their questions and concerns they may have. It was suggested at prior meetings to form committees consisting of council members and residents/taxpayers regarding issues of concern for the council which ultimately will affect the residents/taxpayers. We recently did this, and I will say that it was informative and I believe very productive. I would like to see that continue. I also hope to bring accountability to the residents/taxpayers, because at the end, that is what the council members are elected to do — represent their interests.

Velicia Melson

Q. Do you want new commercial, shopping, or other services to come to Frankford? What would you do make that happen?

A. The Town of Frankford needs new commercial properties to enable growth and financial health of the Town. The new commercial properties would need to be unique (restaurants or shops that are not available in surrounding towns) to our area and value added for residents to frequent. Marketing of the town and the town demographics to local developers is a must. Ideally, I would like to see unique local businesses thrive and be successful, as well. Years ago, we had a number of businesses in town (grocery store, dress shop, gas station). We have slowly pushed businesses out of town limits.

Q. Do you think the Town should offer its employees a pension plan? Explain.

A. I am in favor of a retirement plan for full-time employees of the Town. The type of plan and total cost of the plan need to be explored in depth prior to reaching a decision. Presently, the Town has only looked into the State Defined Benefit Plan. This plan is irrevocable once the Town enrolls. It is my opinion there are other plans that offer our employees a means to save for retirement, as well as giving them some control and input in the investment.

No matter what the ultimate plan, I believe the employees should be required to contribute to the plan with a specific maximum percentage contribution by the employer. No plan should be implemented retroactively, due to the time value of money expense. Buying back years in a State plan is extremely expensive. A retirement/pension plan should have a vesting period of three to five years to again show the Town values employees and appreciates the longevity of those employees. Pension plans are a means of encouraging employees to remain with the employer long-term.

Q. If elected, how do you hope to address the rising cost of healthcare, specifically related to Town employees?

A. Healthcare costs are going to continue to rise with the Affordable Care Act. There are ways the Town can minimize those costs by exploring carriers and plans available. A committee was recently enacted to research the matter. I look forward to hearing the advice of Marty Presley, Liz Carpenter and others that are extremely familiar with the issue.

I am also of the opinion that family members of Town employees should be covered under the plan, but at the employee’s financial responsibility. In today’s work environment, it is unheard of for an employer to pay 100 percent of the cost of the employee’s healthcare premium and 100 percent for their family members, as well. A cost share for both the employee and their family members is a must. The cost share could be determined after looking at levels of deductibles vs. healthcare premiums.

The employees are going to be shell-shocked, and a compromise could be reached, but a full ride must end, as the Town simply cannot continue to bear 100 percent of the financial burden. It’s also unfair to those employees that do not have family members covered under the plan to “lose” money because other employees receive that benefit. Uniformity and one rule for all employees is a must.

Q. Do you think the Town should have an active police department? If so, explain what you plan to do to get the department up and running.

A. It is unfortunate that Nate Hudson has announced his intent to leave Frankford. I believe if the town council handled things differently, Nate could still be a valued employee of the Town. The Town of Frankford needs a police department! That is now going to require work on the part of Town Council and citizens of the town.

A committee was formed of individuals with expertise in public safety to plan for best practices on a go forward basis. I have a great deal of respect for members of that committee: Robbie Murray, Skip Ash, Dean Esham and Charles Shelton. I look forward to their input and recommendations. I also believe that we should partnership with Dagsboro Police Department and Selbyville Police Department in the interim.

Public safety is top priority for our citizens. We all value our homes, our belongings and our lives; public safety is the responsibility of all who live in the town. A Neighborhood Watch program could be implemented, as well. Past Chief Dudley started the process, and the efforts dwindled for lack of participation. As with anything, it takes active citizens to improve the process!

Q. What do you hope to bring to the Town if elected?

A. Financial integrity and accountability are first and foremost. Without knowing the day-to-day expenses, it is difficult to make long-term goal planning. This is one of the reasons the current town council has not been able to make a decision on healthcare and pension plans.

In utilizing the Quickbooks program for all accounting, it should be very easy to print monthly and yearly profit and loss statements. For some reason, we have not been able to get accurate data for a number of years. I have extensive knowledge of the program and accounting practices, I have offered to assist with proper setup and developing go-forward plans, no matter if I am elected or not. Something needs to change to accurately reflect the accounting.

I would like to have community events to foster a sense of community. We need to bring our citizens together and get to know each other. To merely be individuals that share a ZIP code is not the small-town feel that most people want to experience. The Fall Festival is one idea. We could also partner with the Frankford Public Library and the Frankford volunteer fire department to provide public-safety days or other community events. Giving back to the community that you live in is a big part of my being.

Transparency of the town council is an area I would like to improve. The citizens in the town have very little say in what goes on with town council. I would like to see the committees revised and implemented; for example, Code Enforcement and Planning & Zoning.

There are many buildings in town that are in disrepair and abandoned. These building are unsafe for our first-responders and unsafe for children playing in the area. The infrastructure of the town (sidewalks, roads, water tower and plant) are all in need of repair. If we do not invest in these items and look at grants, we are going to face tax increases.

Revitalize the police department is an urgent matter, in light of Nate Hudson’s resignation. The Town has done very little since Dudley retired the end of December. The time to act is now, and that means more frequent meetings. You cannot operate with a once-a-month timeframe on all matters.

Hard work, dedication and diligence can move Frankford forward. I hope to be an active part of the process to represent the citizens of the town.