Ocean View discusses fire siren, spending

For years, Ocean View residents who live near the Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s secondary fire alarm have asked for it to be put out of commission.

Although the hours of the siren’s operation have been reigned in to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., those who serve on the Town’s Fire Siren Task Force Committee sent a list of questions to the department following a June meeting.

In a letter dated Aug. 15, addressed to Town Manager Dianne Vogel, Fire Chief Doug Scott said the company currently does not schedule shifts for its volunteers, 11 of whom reside in the area of the siren.

“We need all available volunteers to respond to each call when they hear them. This is dependent on them hearing the call.”

Scott noted that the department currently uses pagers, cell phone alerting and fire sirens as methods to alert volunteers of a call.

The alarm is located at 33 Central Avenue, a property owned by Jeff and Kim Bennett, who have given the department written permission to have the siren located and used on their property.

“We strongly maintain our position that the fire siren is a valuable and reliable part of our current alerting system. The safety of the citizens that rely on our response to their emergency is our primary concern.”

“The fact that the fire department does not currently schedule a shift, to me, is a detriment to the ability to have a faster response,” commented Mayor Walter Curran, who noted that having shifts would help reduce the need for the siren.

Curran said he doesn’t think the citizens want the siren removed altogether, as it should be kept and maintained in case of a disaster.

“I still believe, at this point in time, the fire siren has to go. I think it’s antiquated; however, acknowledging the fact that nothing is perfect in this world and we do have electronic issues, to use it as a backup only if those electronic systems don’t work, I think, would be viable.”

Council Members Carol Bodine and Tom Maly agreed with Curran’s assessment.

“Especially in the electronic world we live in,” said Maly.

“It’s a viable compromise. I would hate to see the fire siren to be completely dismantled and put away in a box,” added Councilman Frank Twardzik. “I also think it would be incumbent on the fire department to educate the citizenry that, when you hear the fire siren, it could be a malfunction of the electronic or it could be an actual emergency.”

Councilman Bill Olsen questioned why the department couldn’t use landlines as a backup. Curran said he supposes that would be an option; however, council should remember the department is trying to reach out to volunteers as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Curran said the Town would reach out to Scott to share their opinion, and go from there.

The council also revisited the topic of sidewalks at their September meeting, following a letter from resident Dana Schaefer, requesting council continue working on bringing them to the town.

“I implore you to continue to pursue the grants and funding to add more sidewalks,” wrote Schaefer. “The health and safety benefits to our neighbors are too great to ignore.”

“We have always known that this is a feel-good project,” said Curran.

Only a handful of properties are keeping the project from moving forward, said Curran. Because of that, the council chose to not sign a letter of commitment to DelDOT, which would require the Town pay an advance of $28,000 prior to starting the design of Phase IV for the Streetscape Improvement Project.

Curran said that perhaps the Town should ask DelDOT to come up with a packet that would give a picture of the properties, so the owners could have a better idea of where the sidewalks would be placed, with the Town signing a letter of intent.

“I think if we got the people that are in the project line to agree to that, it would be worth it to the Town to take the risk,” he said. “We’re still waiting for that to come back. That very may well be a Catch 22 situation… At this point, I don’t see any other clear way to go forward when we have such adamant opposition to it.”

In other Town news:

• The council directed Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader to look into whether or not the Town would be able to pass an ordinance related to the use of drones. Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin said that, from what he’s been told, local municipalities have no standing to enforce such ordinances, because the FAA views the air as a transportation highway.

• The Town was able to procure three radar speed signs. After discussion between McLaughlin and Public Works Director Charles McMullen, it was decided two would be placed on Woodland Avenue between Betts and Hudson Avenues. Speed bumps were also placed to help reduce speeding.

McMullen said the police department will also have access to data collected from the radars so they can tailor their efforts of enforcement to times when speeding and traffic is at its peak.

Twardzik said he commended the department for their aggressive patrol and added that, as a resident, he appreciated their efforts.