Gregory — one year on the job
On Feb. 12, the Ocean View Town Manager, Conway Gregory, will have completed his first year on the job. As with my theme of always keeping the citizens informed, it is important to review his job performance.
Let’s talk about taxes first. One year ago, Ocean View had a budget deficit of approximately $2.2 million over the next five years. In one year, through professional financial planning, Gregory has produced a budget that has a surplus. What does this mean to you as a taxpayer? Ocean View, if it continues with its deficit spending of the past couple of years, would be facing a tax increase of 100 percent to 150 percent. This would have cost the average tax payer $400 to $550 in additional taxes per year.
Let’s look at the governments around Ocean View. Bethany Beach passed a 100 percent tax increase last year, Millville just passed a 150 percent tax increase, the State of Delaware is in such a budget constraint that the state employees will not receive a pay raise next year.
What does the budget prepared by Gregory have in store for Ocean View? No tax increase projected for next year. Manageable tax increases (less than 4 percent) projected for the next four years, salary increases greater than the rate of inflation for all employees, continuation of the great benefits package for the town employees and increased spending on departmental budgets to make sure that the service levels to the citizens are maintained and improved. This was accomplished and the budget still projects a surplus for those last-minute unplanned expenses that always come up.
But it is not all about the money. What are the other accomplishments? Implementation of a new computer system, hiring a financial director and complete reorganization of the financial department, completion of a detailed salary study that gave pay increases to 30 percent of the town employees, completed planning for drainage projects that have plagued Ocean View for many years, established a street maintenance program, helped establish the Historical Society, procured land for the Public Works building, installed an emergency backup generator at the town hall, worked with the Board of Elections to bring Ocean View into compliance with state law, corrected district election boundary problems and the successful completion of a detailed financial audit.
Now let’s talk Ocean View water. Gregory inherited a program that was significantly behind schedule and limping along with no apparent sense of direction. One year later, the project is now only days away from “turning on.” Did Gregory accomplish all of the above by himself? Of course not. The Town Council and the great town employees played a significant role. However, the person at the top is the leader and when things go good or bad he gets the credit.
Ocean View was without a town manager for over six months. The Town Council recognized that there were significant challenges facing the town. The Town Council set high standards for the job candidates and then methodically went through the interview and recruiting process. Our goal was to find the best candidates available. The Town Council believed that the citizens deserved no less. The hiring process was thoroughly “vetted” and the Town Council unanimously agreed that Gregory was the “best” person for the job. It appears, from the accomplishments of the past year, that the Town Council made the right decision.
In order to attract and hire the best candidate it was necessary to offer a very competitive pay and benefits package. Was it worth it? You be the judge when you pay your tax bill. Or need assistance from the police, turn on your water or access the many other improved services that the town provides.
State law prohibits me from contacting other council members, requesting them to co-author this letter. However, from comments other council members have made, I am sure that they will agree that the past 12 months have seen great progress for the Town of Ocean View. This progress could not have been accomplished without our Town Manager, Mr. Gregory.
4th District Councilman, Ocean View
Reader: it’s time to take our town back!
Neighboring communities laugh at our current town council. I attend the meetings as much as I can and can’t believe what I hear and see. I am sure you have read in the local papers about the antics that go on in the meetings.
My main concern as a taxpayer of Ocean View is the wasteful spending of our tax dollars. What we need are people who are fiscally responsible with our tax dollars. There are planned tax increases for the next several years. Wonder why? Most of us live within our budget and when things are bad we cut back on certain items. Not these guys! They did a reassessment on our properties and when that wasn’t enough money, they raised our taxes.
The following are just a few examples of their wasteful spending, in my opinion:
(1) They hired a town manager that receives a salary of about $77,000 a year but the best part is that he lives in Denton, Md. So what does our council do? They give him a car to travel 110 miles back and forth to work. How many of you would like a free car to travel back and forth to work in?
(2) We have a $2 million-plus police station. Did we have to spend $2 million on a police station? Our state police don’t even have a building like that.
(3) The police brag about the equipment they have because the state police have borrowed some of it. That’s pathetic that this town equips its police better than the state police.
(4) We currently have nine police vehicles with two more on the way. The best part is that each officer gets to take his or her vehicle home with him or her. The average driving distance from an officer’s residence to the Ocean View Police Department is 12.51 miles. These patrol cars are to be used to patrol the one mile by one and a half mile town of Ocean View. We really only need, at the most, four police cars that are stationed at the police station and only used to patrol the streets of Ocean View. What are we doing? We have a one mile by one and a half mile area and nine police cars with two more on the way!
(5) Now they want to build a Public Works Building for a cost of $1.4 million. Wouldn’t you like to have a $1.4 million garage?
(6) In case you didn’t know this, our town council is also in the real estate business. We, as taxpayers of Ocean View, currently own two homes. I know they were going to sell the one on Central Avenue, but now they want to turn it into a museum. Just what we need! It will only cost $200,000 to fix the house to hold the museum.
What gives five men who are elected by us, the taxpayers, the right to waste our tax dollars without asking us? Therefore, I’m going to push for a referendum that says spending of more than $100,000 must be put on a referendum for the taxpayers of Ocean View to vote on. Maybe this will help control the wasteful spending that is currently going on.
Recently, the Coastal Point editorial stated, “Our elected officials are supposed to have the best interests of the citizens in mind, as opposed to one-upmanship amongst their own.”
The mayor and one council seat are up for election on April 12, 2008. It’s your chance to take back our town and send a message that we won’t tolerate wasteful spending. The new candidates for these positions will speak on March 19, 2008, so come and listen to them and decide whom you want to vote for on April 12, 2008.
Joseph J. Fedick
Sisters upset about teacher’s statements
Our 10-year-old sister, Amani, is in the fifth grade at Lord Baltimore, a public elementary school in Ocean View. Last Tuesday, her teacher “taught” her class that Barack Obama is a Muslim and that she would not vote for him because he does not swear on the Bible, nor recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Her teacher told the class that she is a Republican and that Barack Obama “believes in different things and is scary.”
We are very disappointed in this teacher and the Indian River School District. This teacher is telling her class something that is dangerous and untrue.
Barack Obama’s Web site (barackobama.com) explains the truth about him. He says, “In the Internet age, there are going to be lies that are spread all over the place. I have been victimized by these lies. Fortunately, the American people are, I think, smarter than folks give them credit for.”
Many newspapers have debunked the vicious rumors that are being spread about Sen. Obama. Mr. Obama has said, “My grandfather taught me how to say the Pledge of Allegiance when I was 2... During the Pledge of Allegiance you put your hand over your heart. During the national anthem you sing.”
We are American Muslim kids. We love our country. We feel that kids need to be taught the truth in school. We believe that what is going on in our schools is un-American and scary. Kids are being taught hatred and fear of Muslims.
Our sister was badly hurt by what was said in her classroom. Each of us has experienced similar prejudice in our classrooms in three different schools. We would like for people to know that we believe in peace and respect for everyone. We are your neighbors and this is our home, too. We pray for understanding and an end to hate. Please stand with us.
Fatima and Basima Abdelsalam
Frederick asks for unity against developers
The Town of Fenwick Island has announced a Board of Adjustment meeting Feb. 19 at 10 a.m. The developers of the property on the corner of Coastal Highway and West Dagsboro have requested at least five variances from town code. Specifically, they want to reduce the front set back from 25 feet to 11 feet, increase the number of apartments permitted over a commercial unit from one to eight, raise the building height limit from 30 to 34 feet and permit a drive-in associated with a food service company.
Each of these issues has been discussed in detail by various town councils over the past four years. The codes in place reflect the thinking of the majority of the councils and residents.
It appears that rather than request town council change the various ordinances, which would required public hearings and at least two “readings” i.e. public discussions, the developers are trying to circumvent the system by asking the Board of Variance to grant exceptions. The Board is charged with determining if a unique hardship requires an exception to an ordinance. The Board is not supposed to modify ordinances, which is the responsibility of the town council.
The developers claim that the only way they can implement Fenwick Island’s comprehensive plan is to be granted these variances. It is not the role of the Board of Adjustment to grant variances in order to circumvent existing ordinances, even if those ordinances are not consistent with the comprehensive plan.
If the town council sees the need to implement these aspects of the comprehensive plan they must change the appropriate ordinances, by holding a public hearing and having public discussions at council meetings.
Some may see this action by the developers as a way to avoid the public scrutiny of a town council meeting. Board of Adjustment proceedings do include a requirement for a public hearing. I strongly urge all residents of Fenwick Island and those interested in maintaining the unique charm of our town to attend the hearing Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 10 a.m. at Town Hall to show the developers that they cannot avoid public involvement in their plans.
A strong public presence will encourage the Board of Adjustment to deny the requests and pass back to council the responsibility for changing ordinances inline with accepted procedures.
Reader tackles ‘Mount Bethany’ issue
I would like to offer some comments on what I call Mount Bethany, i.e., our 16-foot sand dune. After months of discussion and feuding over the abhorrent height of the dune, I have come to a number of conclusions that I am sure are shared by many.
The first is be careful what you wish for because you never know what strings will be attached. It is quite apparent that the powers to be in Bethany Beach were so intent on obtaining beach replenishment that they overlooked the fact that the proposed dune would be so much higher than the boardwalk. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt here because I do not want to accuse them of not knowing the height of the boardwalk nor of foreseeing the total loss of beach view.
Second, I applaud DNREC for their apparent unsuccessful efforts to have the 16-foot dune reduced to 14 feet so that the beach view could be partially restored. Some say that these efforts continue but can anyone really believe that the new dune grass and bridges over the dune will be removed, the dune height reduced and the dune grass and bridges replaced?
Third, I salute the Army Corps of Engineers for the planning and implementation of the beach replenishment program. That said I also condemn the Army Corps of Engineers for depriving us of the previously magnificent view of the ocean and beach from the boardwalk.
I understand that the Army Corps of Engineers used a “formula” to determine the 16-foot height requirement of the dune and that they would not budge from it. But I wonder if that formula takes into consideration that a future storm just may find landfall north of Bethany Beach or south of South Bethany thereby flooding the land side of the beach dune.
I have seen pictures of the ’62 storm and I do not believe a 16-foot dune would have prevented its inland flooding. That flooding extended as far north as Milford. I also believe that the Army Corps of Engineers was obstinate concerning reducing the dune height. And, I ask, is this is the same the Army Corps of Engineers that protected New Orleans?
Fourth and last, we will adjust to the unsightly dune that deprives us of much of what we enjoyed about a stroll on the boardwalk, even though we will never understand why such an adjustment is necessary.
Thomas M. Keeley III
Band trip possible due to contributors
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people responsible for making the Steel the Show/Plenty Problems band trip to Trinidad and Tobago a reality.
First of all, many thanks go to John Syphard, the founder and leader of the band which originated through the Southern Delaware School of the Arts. He has put many hours in the teaching and performances of this band and deserves recognition.
Thanks also needs to go to the parent chaperones, including Gloria Abrams, Del Baker, Chris Dispoto, Ron Gunderman and Keith Marvel, who contributed to the safe and educational trip for these deserving students. Students included Mitch Abrams, Dillon Baker, Ben Dispoto, Alex Gunderman, Kyle Marvel, Aaron Pepe, Jung Son, Drew Stewart and Robby Syphard.
I would also like to thank the community for their financial contributions through donations, performances and purchasing their CD’s to help fund this extraordinary trip. A special thanks to the Indian River School District board members who approved this memorable adventure for all involved.
Please continue your support to give the upcoming student members the opportunity to participate in this educational experience.
Ruth Ann Marvel
Steel the Show/Plenty Problems parent