Frankford officials continue to discuss charter changes

The Town of Frankford’s Charter Committee will meet next Tuesday to continue discussions on updating the Town’s charter.

Recently appointed Councilman Greg Welch said at the Feb. 1 council meeting that the committee met twice in January and is working on drafting a voter registration outline, as well as a provision that would allow for absentee voting.

“This election, there’s no voter registration cutoff in our charter like there was previously. There’s no candidacy cutoff, as there was in our charter previously,” said Welch. “There’s no Board of Elections outlined in our charter anymore. It doesn’t say how many members or what their terms are, and state law requires us to have that. So we’re not in compliance with state law right now with our Board of Elections.”

Welch said the committee is also discussing the possibility of allowing a non-resident property owner to serve on the council.

“We’ve got to vet that and see how it’s taken by the people. There’s not a lot of interest sitting up here. A lot of times, it’s hard to get somebody in here. There are people outside of town we’re willing to serve. We have to decide if that’s what’s good for the town or not,” he said.

“We talked about it, but it’s just been in the discussion stages,” added former councilman and current council candidate Skip Ash, who serves on the committee. “We haven’t made any move to do anything. We’re just now working on it. It will be brought to the public. If you don’t want it, it won’t happen. If you want it, we can make it happen.”

Resident Jerry Smith said the Town and its citizens need to have a “robust discussion” on the subject.

Welch said the committee is also looking to establish a procedure to remove non-attending council members. After looking at other charters, he said, he suggested three unexcused absences would be terms for getting rid of that non-attending member. Absences could be excused for legitimate reasons, by a vote of council.

He also said there needs to be a provision regarding the budget as well.

“We need to start talking about the budget a lot earlier than we have been. We don’t talk about it… and then we pass it when it’s not valid.”

Other areas of focus include the process of passing an ordinance and amending the charter itself.

“We need to set in the charter a process for passing ordinances and amending the charter. There’s no process for passing ordinances now. Right now, all we need to do is type it up, read it one time and vote on it, and it’s a rule… We need to make a provision in the charter how we can proceed in making the ordinances and maintaining the ordinances.”

Welch said the charter also needs to address what defines a quorum, after there were concerns that the council had not properly appointed two residents to vacant council seats last year.

“The way it’s written in there it could be interpreted in any which way, and it was,” he said.

He also noted that some changes can occur through ordinance, instead of altering the Town’s charter.

Council candidate Dawn Marvel-Beck asked if the committee would be distributing drafts of the changes to residents prior to voting, especially for those who do not have computers.

“If people are interested, they have to come up and request it,” said Welch.

Marvel-Beck suggested the council have drafts printed and sent out with the Town’s water bills. She emphasized that the committee and council need to take their time and do it right, rather than fast-tracking the process to get it to the state legislature by June.

Welch said all those interested in helping prepare the draft are welcome to attend the committee meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. in town hall.

“We’d appreciate anybody,” he said. “I’m sure everybody can come up with other things that need to be set forth in the charter that aren’t.”

Election process questioned

Resident Elma Gray asked who was in charge of making sure the upcoming election goes properly, as during one election, the town’s election was off by one vote, she said.

“The voters and the machine should be equal. They should both meet.”

“Nobody has been signing in, has been the problem,” said Welch.

“We need to work on that, because somebody can come in and go right in the machine and go out, and the machine operator does not know,” said Gray.

The council voted 3 to 1 to appoint Pam Hoban, Peggy Schaffer and Dana Aliberti to the Town’s Board of Elections, with Welch opposed. Andrea Dismuke, Lois Mumford and Dora Bell Isler were unanimously appointed to serve as polling judges. Alternates Elma Gray and Edith Sample were unanimously appointed as well.

Gray, who served on the Town’s Board of Elections last year, said that last year’s Board of Elections hearing regarding a complaint filed by Welch was the first time the board had met.

“How did you get your training?” asked Councilman Marty Presley.

“We didn’t! Terry [Truitt, former town administrator] just told us what to do.”

According to the Delaware Department of Elections website, “Some training and forms to assist the Towns are to be provided by the State Election Offices.”

Frankford Police Chief Michael Warchol reported to the council that he had met with representatives from the Delaware State Police and Dagsboro Police Department to discuss the recent string of bomb threats made to area public schools. He said the three agencies are working together to aid the schools in whatever capacity is needed.

Warchol said he is continuing to make use of the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) to supply the Town with items it may need. He was able to procure a 2003 Ford F150 pickup truck with 51,000 miles for the public works department.

“Hopefully, that’ll last us a couple years for maintenance,” he said. “I’m still looking for lights for the park so we don’t have to rent them… I’m looking for anything that will benefit the town.”

Warchol said he looks on the site every week to see if he can find anything that would benefit the Town, as well as the fire company.

Car burglaries continue to plague the Town, although Warchol said he believes he knows the culprit and hopes to make an arrest soon.

“Lock your doors on your vehicles, on your houses,” he said. “If you don’t have to, don’t leave anything valuable in your vehicles.”

The department also assisted another agency in a sizable heroin seizure, in which approximately 1,000 bags were dropped in a swimming pool. Warchol said he believed charges would be forthcoming.

In other Town news:

• The Town’s annual council election will be held Saturday, Feb. 6, from 1 to 4 p.m. Voters must have already registered with the Town. State voter registration does not qualify people to vote in Town elections. Voters should bring proof of identity and address to the polls. The four candidates for three seats, each with two-year terms, are Presley, Ash, Marvel-Beck and incumbent Pam Davis.

• An Easter egg hunt will be held in the Frankford Town Park on March 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. The hunt will be broken down into four different age groups, with “several thousand eggs” to be hidden in the park. Kids’ games will also be held on-site.