Frankford discusses annexation, election

The Town of Frankford recently discussed the possibility of annexing land west of Route 113, where a developer hopes to build a commercial center.

“I know some of you haven’t been on council very long,” said Kyle Gulbronson of the Town’s engineering firm URS. “This annexation has been in the works for a number of years now. It is a slow process. It has been slower than it probably should’ve been based on situations here in town.”

Gulbronson said the annexation application is for 55 acres of land on the west side of Route 113, at Gum Road. The property would be developed by The Pence Group based in Virginia. They had previously been looking into the property housing one major big box retailer, along with several smaller stores.

“Back in 2014, it was reviewed by the planning commission, who found it to be advantageous for the Town. At that time, it went for the State PLUS review with the Office of State Planning. The Office of State Planning recommended approval of the application.

“All of the applicable state agencies have signed off, saying it’s a good thing for the town; they approve it. The State actually approved the annexation almost a year ago. The process now is, the Town needs to hold a public hearing on the annexation.”

Landowners who own land contiguous to the land need to be sent a letter of notice, with a public hearing to be scheduled, with at least 30 days’ notice.

He added that the Sussex County Council has already signed off on expanding the sewer district to service parcels on the west side.

“The County is going to want assurances on their side to make sure that improvements being made are being paid by the developer,” said Gulbronson.

The Town’s newly hired solicitor, Chad R. Lingenfelder, Esq., noted that any roadway improvements required by the Delaware Department of Transportation would be paid for by the developer as well.

Gulbronson said the annexation could be beneficial in terms of repairs and maintenance to the Town’s water tower.

“The good thing about a situation like this is, with the status of your water system here, there are obviously improvements that need to be made town wide.

“In order for you to be able to provide them with a steady stream of water some of those improvements need to be paid for by the developer.”

Gulbronson said the reason things have been slow moving is because the Town was without an attorney. At the time, said Gulbronson, he recommended the Town not move forward until it had a solicitor who could draft an annexation agreement.

“They were very concerned about the delay, which understandably, they should be. I talked with their attorney on Friday and they are still interested in moving forward with the annexation, as long as the Town can give them some type of assurance that it will be a steady and smooth process.”

While the Town was hoping to have a charter amendment to the state legislature before the end of the year, Council President Liz Carpenter said the charter committee found “it was much more work than some of us anticipated.” Carpenter said the committee would reconvene in January 2016.

She said council recognized there were issues in the charter, specifically related to the upcoming election.

While a draft charter amendment had previously been created by the Town’s former solicitor, Dennis Schrader, to address election concerns, the council did not send it to the Legislature.

Lingenfelder said he would be in contact with Delaware Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove regarding what the Town needs to do for the upcoming election. He opined that the Town would follow the State’s election standards for its 2016 election.

In other Town news:

• Presley told those in attendance that State auditors would be in town hall later in the week to start an initial assessment. He noted the Town anticipates the audit to be completed in the next month or so.

Greg Welch voiced his concerns regarding the sinking fund, noting that is an area he would like the auditors to review. Wesley Hayes Jr. asked if the audit finds there was a misappropriation of funds, if the Town would seek to file criminal charges.

“That would be up to the interpretation of the Attorney General’s office,” said Presley.

• Frankford Police Chief Michael Warchol introduced council to Patrolman Tyler Bare, who will be the Town’s new part-time officer, while its recently hired officer is deployed. Bare is currently a fulltime patrolman for the Dagsboro Police Department.

Bare, who graduated from Indian River High School, and served eight years in the United States Marine Corps, said he looks forward to working for the town.

• Skip Ash drew attention to absent councilman Charles Shelton, and said he “needs to step up.”

“The Town needs their other council member,” said Ash. “It should be in our Charter that as a councilman if you don’t make it you should get sent a certified letter.”

Carpenter said there is nothing in the Town’s current Charter that states a councilperson may be removed from council for not attending meetings. She added the Town plans to address that issue in it’s Charter amendment to be sent to the State Legislature next year.

Lingenfelder said if the Town wanted to take action against Shelton now, they would “basically have him impeached” by the Legislature.

“I would hope the town would know of the absence of that person, and if that person elected to run again that the citizenry of the town would take that into account.”

• The Town of Frankford will be working with the State’s Government Information Center to develop a website to replace the Town’s current site. The State’s service is free, however the Town will need to purchase the domain name.

The Town’s current website does not have recent agendas or minutes posted or the most up-to-date version of its Charter. The Town’s current Charter may be found on the State of Delaware’s website.

Presley said citizens will even be able to pay town-related bills online. The Town council and staff will be trained on how to update the website, which may include links to other town entities, such as the Frankford Public Library.

“It’s going to be a much more up-to-date modern website that is going to be interactive,” he said.

Until the new website is online, citizens are encouraged to view the Town of Frankford’s Facebook page for meeting postings.

• Carpenter said that Dawn Beck compiled a list of eight different companies that are qualified to give bids on the Town’s water tower maintenance. The water tower committee will be working on contacting those companies and asking them to bid on providing the service to the town.

• Council voted 4-0 to give Town Maintenance worker Dave Ward a $2 an hour raise.

• With the Town’s contract with Artesian expires this month, and the Town voted unanimously to contract with White Marsh Environmental Systems, formerly known as Tidewater Utilities. The details of the contract were not presented at the time of the vote.

• The water fountain in Frankford Park has continued to be vandalized, said Ward. Individuals have been jamming sticks into the mechanism to keep it running, numerous times, and the motor burned up.

“If people are going to keep doing it, we don’t have to have a water fountain,” said Carpenter.