Letters to the Editor -- November 21, 2008

Reader asks town to open bid process

I am a teacher at Worcester Preparatory School in Berlin, Md. My wife and I also own and operate some beach concessions in the summer, renting beach equipment to beachgoers in Ocean City, Md.

Next Friday evening, Nov. 21, the Bethany Beach Town Council will be voting on the question of which vendor to award a contract for the right to rent umbrellas and chairs on the beach in Bethany. The bid was held during silent auction on Nov. 7, and the high bid was fairly won by our business, Will’s Beach Service. Our business has been in operation for more than 21 years. Our many references are excellent. The competition in this bid is Ron Steen, who also owns and operates concessions in Ocean City, Md., as well as Bethany Beach.

We would like to offer some background on the history of the bid process in Bethany, which we have been through before. The first time we bid on these concessions in 1993, we won the highest bid as well. When we went to the council meeting to be awarded our contract, we were shocked by members who voted quickly to overturn the bid and award the contract to Ron Steen, even though the town would be losing thousands of dollars per year in doing so.

Steen’s argument in 1993 for why the town should award it to him was that he was “a long-time resident of the town and that he had served the community well over the years.” While that may count for something, it is not a compelling reason to ruin the integrity of the bid process and drive away competition, costing the town literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue over the years.

Steen also suggested in 1993, without basis or proof, that Will’s Beach Service would probably raise prices on beach-goers and that he would not (umbrellas were $5 that year). And so the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder, Ron Steen. Needless to say, umbrellas in Bethany now rent for $10, a 100 percent increase in price since then. Yet Ron’s bid over the last 15 years has only gone up 15 percent under a bid process with no competition.

After that 1993 bid loss, we decided we would not bid in Bethany anymore, because the bid and contract award process did not appear to be fair to all legitimate beach operators.

In most beach towns, as long as you can show that you are a legitimate beach operator with good credit, the highest bidder wins the right to rent on the beach. In Bethany, by awarding this contract to Steen simply because he has had a monopoly for many decades, the town is losing out on a lot of potential revenue.

It is also notable that Steen offered much less money for the bid in the years when he had no competition bidding against him. In fact, he bid an average of $20,000 per year less than he did this year when bidding against Will’s Beach Service. For a six-year contract, that amounts to nearly $120,000 in lost revenue that the town could have had (if competition was not discouraged by this process of continually awarding the contract to the incumbent operator). What could Bethany have done with an extra $120,000 over the last six years? Steen’s bid went up 55 percent this year with competition bidding against him. That’s 55 percent more revenue for Bethany Beach!

Why is it that for the last 15 years no one has bid against Ron Steen for these concessions? It is because an unfair monopoly has been supported by the council in the past. If Will’s Beach Service is not awarded the contract this time, how long will it be before any other beach operators bid against Steen? Maybe another 18 years with no competitive bids?

We hope that all the members of the Town Council will give this process more serious consideration than it was given 15 years ago. We ask that the council please do the right thing this time by voting to award the contract for the beach concessions to the highest qualified bidder, Will’s Beach Service. We ask the council to vote in support of fair competition and an honest bid process.

Please don’t let Bethany Beach lose any more money in this process. Please write your council members or come to the meeting on Nov. 21 to support fair competition and more revenue for the town of Bethany.

Will Edmunds
Will’s Beach Service

Birkmeyer takes town to task

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” These words are as relevant today as they were when they were written by Thomas Paine during the Revolution.

We are now engaged in a global economic recession that worsens daily. When we speak of looking down the road – it is more likely looking into a pit. Job losses continue to grow as more businesses declare bankruptcy. This economic atmosphere will be with us for a very long time.

According to the Ocean View Council’s own figures, we are spending more than we are taking in – and this will continue. It is irrelevant which budget line the money is in. All of this money is taxpayers’ money.

I am calling for a moratorium on all capital spending in Ocean View, plus a job freeze. We don’t know what’s ahead of us, and I am not referring to the weather. According to the media, food banks are running low on supplies and the needs of the people are escalating. Charitable collections are down.

There is no urgent need to reconstruct the Public Safety Building to accommodate the vengeance of the 4th District councilman, or to build a Public Works building, which, by the way, is tantamount to a stick in the eye of the citizens affected by this building’s proposed location and appearance.

To spend any amount of money on these major projects at this time is inconceivable, incomprehensible and fiscally irresponsible in today’s climate.

All of this, plus denigrating the mayor, the continued harassment of the police chief and now thumbing their noses at the Attorney General’s office, gives us pause as to just how far the gang of three, plus the town manager, is willing to push the citizenry before they have a true revolt on their hands. The entire state is well aware of their poor and inadequate stewardship.

It is time to back off!

Elaine Birkmeyer
Ocean View

Bowers family grateful for support from many

This will be one of the most touching letters that we will ever have to write. With sincere appreciation we would like to thank the community, friends and family for their financial, emotional and spiritual support that they have most generously given.

It was absolutely amazing to us the number of friends and family that attended the benefits given by the Elks of Cape Henlopen #2540 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars #7234, and the number of local businesses that provided items to make these benefits both memorable and successful events.

Our thanks also go out to the Lord Baltimore Lions Club, American Legion #24 and the Salisbury Elks for their generosity. My friends were very helpful in many ways, and therefore we are indeed grateful to them for being there when we needed help, love and friendship.

Bob died on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008, but he will always be remembered by his family and his many friends as a wonderful person to know and love. Thank you all for your support.

Dolly Bowers and family

Women’s club event a hit, thanks to many

The South Bethany Women’s Club held a Fashion Show on Thursday, Nov. 13. We would like to thank the following Bethany businesses: Calico Tree for the lovely fashions and generous donation; also, Armond’s Pizza; Atlantic Book Store; Fisher’s Popcorn; Bethany Beach Books; Bethany Blues Restaurant; Made by Hand; Papa John’s Pizza; Seacrest-Bethany Beach and McCabe’s Gourmet Market for their donations.

The wonderful response from our members and guests with donations for Thanksgiving food for the needy was greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Florence Smith, President
South Bethany Women’s Club

The spirit of Christmas is in the air

Families Connected Inc.’s annual Spirit of Christmas, adopt a family or child drive is under way and we need your support.

This Christmas, many children will awake to the sounds of Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, and Dunder and Blixem [original spellings] and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on Christmas day. Children all over the county will be waiting with anticipation and hoping to find a toy or two under the tree. However, because of the economic crisis that’s looming over our country, struggling families need your help more than ever to help provide a good Christmas for their little ones.

Please consider what you can do this year to help stuff some child’s stocking and warm some little person’s heart. If you can afford to sponsor a needy child or family this Christmas, here are ways you can help:

Adopt an entire family: Let us know the size of the family you would like to sponsor. We will send you the family’s wish list and you can either purchase the items or send us a gift card or check and we will purchase the items for you.

Adopt a child: We will send you a wish list for a child. The list will include clothes/shoe size, toys and other needed items. You can shop for the child or send us a gift card or check and we will purchase the items for you.

Donate other items: You can donate a new toy, clothes, gloves, winter hats, coats, personal hygiene items, etc., and we will stuff a child’s stocking. You can also send us a gift card or a check and we can pick up an item for you.

Sponsors are matched with a needy child or family and provided with a wish list that details what the child/family needs/wants for Christmas. This list will include the first name, sex and age of each family member and gives a brief description of why the family needs help.

If you can help, please give us a call at (302) 934-1930 (office), 228-3572 (cell) or e-mail me at Familiesconnected@verizon.net. You can also mail your tax-deductible donation to P.O. Box 1954, Millsboro, DE 19966. Thanks again for your continued support of our efforts. Together we can “build strong communities one family at a time.”

Carolyn C. Showell, Director
Families Connected Inc.

Butler family grateful for help from many

My family would like to thank everyone who contributed to the Families Helping Families benefit for Ray Butler.

We were overwhelmed with the support and kindness from everyone who attended and from those who could not make it to the benefit. Ray enjoyed seeing so many of his friends that he hadn’t seen for awhile and was touched by the community support for the benefit.

It is times like this that living in a small community makes you realize how wonderful it is to be here in a place where people take time to recognize the little things that make a difference.

Will Diefenderfer of Big Peaches was so kind to have the benefit. Megan Brosnahan, Ashley Farren, Leigh Ann McIlvain, Abby Funk and Shantel Willey did a great job organizing the benefit.

I can’t begin to thank the numerous people who contributed. We will forever be thankful for making Ray’s final days here more meaningful. I am looking forward to next year's benefit to help in whatever way we can.

Thank you all very much.

Rita Butler