Ocean View discusses trash removal, emergency services

At its October council meeting, the Town of Ocean View will continue its discussion of the feasibility of Town-negotiated trash service.

In January, council directed Councilman Tom Sheeran to research what it would entail to create a town-wide solid waste program. Councilman Bill Olsen, who presented the information to council at its monthly workshop, said he had concerns about the multiple carriers in town, after receiving complaints from residents.

“It boils down to our roads having too much heavy traffic, and trucks are tearing up the roads,” said Olsen at Tuesday’s council workshop. “There are about six or seven haulers in our town picking up the waste and picking up the recycling. They may have to go up and down the same street, so it’s very bad on the streets… A couple of months ago, they were thinking about increasing the taxes on big trucks in Delaware because of the damage to the roads.”

Olsen suggested the Town look into creating a mandatory program that would control the number of trucks in town. He noted there would be some exceptions to the program, such as State-owned and commercial properties.

Residents who live in home owner association- (HOA-) controlled communities that contract for solid waste services would also be exempt.

Other factors to consider would be the rate of collection, as well as recycling and yard waste pick-up.

Olsen said that, in his research, he found the driving cost for trash collectors is the bookkeeping. Olsen said savings could come to residents because, if Ocean View had a town-wide solid waste service, the Town would do the bookkeeping and collection of fees.

Town Manager Dianne Vogel said she had attended the annual HOA meeting for Wedgefield and noted that the topic of trash had been discussed.

“They have the same concerns that you raised,” she said. “I think that Wedgefield, perhaps, if they were nudged a bit, could put that on their agenda for a full discussion.”

Mayor Walter Curran thanked Olsen for his diligence and said that he too had spent time researching.

“It is true that the cost of street maintenance is a big expense to the Town,” he said. “The majority of the problem is multiple companies, multiple pickup days. That topic is also, for the most part, within the perimeters of the various HOAs.”

Curran said he’s visited many of the town’s communities and has received copies of their bylaws — most of which have a right to a joint single service.”

“Just the same way Bear Trap does,” he said. “From my perspective, if, in fact, most of the problem is within the HOAs, then why not simply help the HOAs coordinate doing their own thing, rather than the Town getting into it?”

The individual HOAs could band together and negotiate collectively with haulers, said Curran.

“And we can help them do that. We would be more than happy to assist.”

Curran also said he did not believe that the driving cost for the companies was bookkeeping, and emphasized that it would be have to be taken over by Town staff.

“From my perspective, you’re talking about at least another half- or fulltime position for the Town, just chasing them,” he said. “I don’t believe the trash company for a minute that that’s one of their major driving costs. I just don’t believe it.”

The Town has many transient residents, due to being a beach community, said Curran, adding that he doesn’t believe the Town should be in the trash business.

“I believe in small government, not big government,” he empahsized. “Our current Census count is approximately 2,030 fulltime residents. In the summer, that jumps up in the 5,000 to 10,000 people range.”

Councilwoman Carol Bodine asked, if the Town takes over trash collection, whether council members would be getting phone calls if residents’ trash wasn’t collected on time or on the right day.

“There’s a company out there that provides cable TV service, and Bear Trap has a contract with them,” said Curran. “It has taken Bear Trap a year and a half to get a phone number for people to call, and when they call, they still don’t get service. So every member of the HOA board gets the call instead. That’s inevitable. You’ll be getting calls, I’ll be getting calls, probably even [Town Solicitor] Dennis [Schrader] will be getting calls.”

Schrader said the Town would have to consider the haulers’ right of contract between them and the people they serviced. If the Town were to offer Town trash collection, the service would have to be publically bid out.

Curran said he wouldn’t be able to justify adding to taxes unless the Town is “absolutely forced to.”

“We’re a seasonal town with greatly fluctuating population, depending on the season. To attempt to grow the services available to residents, owners or residents without a justifiable reason for increasing tax dollars is contrary to common sense and good managerial practices.”

“I think the town of Ocean View will have more people who don’t want it,” added Bodine. “I have neighbors who don’t have trash service... I don’t see them wanting to be taxed.”

Curran said he would be happy to have the Town assist HOAs in negotiations with solid-waste companies; however, he does not want the Town to take it on itself.

The council will continue its discussion at its next monthly meeting, to be held Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m.

At their Tuesday workshop, the council also discussed the Emergency Services chapter of the town code.

“We asked for this topic to be studied, not to begrudge Millville Volunteer Fire Company any necessary funds they need to provide essential services,” said Curran, noting the town receives “superb” service. “We all appreciate those services. But, rather, it’s to determine if the Town of Ocean View is paying its fair share of those funds.”

Curran said MVFC receives grants and aid from four sources — the State of Delaware, Sussex County, the Town of Ocean View, the Town of Millville — as well as funding through private donations.

MVFC receives 2.3 percent of the total of the State’s Grants-in-Aid program, which equated to $135,440 in the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years.

“Delaware is Delaware, and I didn’t try to compare them to the towns or counties, because I don’t think we have anything we can control or say about Delaware except, ‘Thank you for sending our tax money back to us,’” said Curran.

Finance Director Lee Brubaker put together comparisons of money donated from Ocean View, Millville and Sussex County, based on public information he was able to find.

Through Ocean View’s Emergency Services Enhancement Fund, the Town granted MVFC $80,000 in the 2014 fiscal year, $110,000 in the 2015 fiscal year, and currently has $65,700 in the coffers in the 2016-fiscal-year grant fund. The Town of Millville, he said, donated $14,400 in the 2015 fiscal year — 13.1 percent of what Ocean View granted that same year.

Brubaker noted that the Millville donation amount was based on the Town’s annual budget, as posted on its website, as audited financial statements were not posted on Millville’s website.

He added that Millville recently passed a new fee ordinance that added a $500 impact fee, which is to be designated for the fire company.

“That’s likely to create some additional funds,” he said.

Brubaker said the Town’s 2015-fiscal-year grant of $110,000 was 81.2 percent of the State’s grant.

Sussex County granted $250,887 to the fire department in the 2015 fiscal year. A normal County grant, said Brubaker, is approximately $200,000; however, an additional $50,000 was granted for specific equipment.

“I think the point that’s being taken here is that we’re paying more than our fair share,” said Curran. “The question is: (1) Do we cut back on what we give them? I’m disinclined to do that, quite frankly. I’d rather see if we can get more people to pay in. Or, be more specific on what they use the money for?”

Brubaker said the Town has the right to designate what the fire company uses the Town’s money for. Schrader said the Town also has the ability to require the company submit financial statements to show where those grants have gone and how they spent the money.

“So, if they come in and ask for respirators or to replace running gear, we’d like to know that, if we gave them $100,000 to buy running gear, $100,000 or more funds is expended by the fire company for running gear. We have not done that in the past, but the opportunity exists.”

Vogel noted that the recent ordinance passed by the Town of Millville put restrictions on the money granted to the company, while the Town of Ocean View’s grant does not; however, there is no requirement that the Town distribute the funds.

“I don’t think anyone is suggesting we take the money away from them,” said Curran. “We want to spend it more wisely, perhaps; but, more than that, we want to see that the surrounding areas that also get this service step up.”

The council will continue its discuss of the topic at its Oct. 13 meeting.