Speeding in Selbyville tugs at short police staff

It’s easy for drivers to speed when they don’t think they’ll be caught. That perception seems to persist on Selbyville’s Gumboro Road, where residents are worried about speeding.

Just west of Route 113, cars and tractor trailers are picking up speed on the residential 25 mph road, residents told the Selbyville Town Council on Sept. 8.

“They’re flying by the time they get to us,” said resident Kathleen Simpson. “It’s bad”

“There is a ton of kids there on that street. … If [vehicles] don’t slow down, there won’t be,” resident Derek McCarra said wryly.

Although McCarry could understand people speeding at 35 mph, he estimated that some trucks are approaching 60 mph. That includes unmarked trucks making Mountaire deliveries, according to Simpson.

In the past, Gumboro Road has gotten enforcement aid from Selbyville police officers or an electronic speed monitor box. But a staffing shortage on Selbyville Police Department isn’t helping with enforcement right now. One officer is out on disability, due to an injury, and another had plans to move away soon.

Police Chief W. Scott Collins said he personally parked on Gumboro Road for 2.5 hours, but residents said other police officers left after a fraction of that time.

“I’ve got one officer a shift. [If] you get a complaint” in that time, the officer has to respond, Collins said of why his officers can’t stay in that trouble spot for long.

While monitored by police, the average speed in the area was just less than 40 mph. Nearly 20 hours of monitoring has produced 20 speeding tickets there, Collins said.

The worst times are early morning and afternoon, when people are heading to work and home again. That’s the same time the Selbyville PD gets speeding complaints from other parts of town.

The speed trailer was removed for a malfunction, but should be back soon, Collins noted. But it would cost $4,500 to buy another speed trailer, which must be purchased by a municipality, not by private individuals.

Meanwhile, police grants have been cut dramatically, including $134,000 from the overall State Fund to Combat Violent Crime. However, with an $18,000 grant, Collins hopes to put another officer out at night.

Ultimately, residents on Gumboro Road said, they are worried about safety, as are residents of other neighborhoods that want increased police presence for speeding, such as on Routes 54 and 17.

“That’s our biggest concern — safety of our kids on the street,” Simpson said.

Simpson said she’s “never” seen a Mountaire truck pulled over. But Collins refuted that, stating that Mountaire trucks have been pulled over, typically on the highway, but not recently on Gumboro Road.

The Town will look into stronger signage and enforcement, he said.

A clean audit, but warning for future

Selbyville’s financial reporting is on-point, according to auditor Leslie Michalik of PKS & Co. P.A.

The audit’s primary purpose is to ensure Selbyville presents an accurate record of its finances, although Michalik made some observations and recommendations for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2015.

PKS gave Selbyville’s finance report a “clean” and “unqualified” designation, which is the highest opinion. Selbyville’s reporting showed no material weaknesses and no issues of noncompliance with government regulations.

Overall, “The Town is in fair financial condition,” Michalik said.

But Selbyville has been operating a deficit the last few years, which is “chipping away” at the general fund. As a result, Selbyville pulls money from its utilities fund to support the general fund.

Despite getting more impact fees and capital grant money, the utilities fund had an overall $531,000 net decrease this year, after a transfer to the general fund.

Personnel is among the Town’s highest expenses, as 64 percent of the general fund goes toward salaries and benefits.

Michalik suggested the town council re-examine expenses and the fee schedule for the future.

Mayor Clifton Murray said a bigger tax base is coming, with increased housing development. Michalik acknowledged that point.

So far, increased development has helped Selbyville finances, though transfer tax, licenses and permits.

In response to a resident’s question, the council noted that developers pay for the increased infrastructure. It’s not completely the Town’s responsibility.

But high-cost projects are still looming in Selbyville’s future, including rehabbing the 1989 sewer plant, said Councilman G. Frank Smith III — for instance, the malfunctioning lime silo that will cost more to fix than it’s worth. The modern replacement should be more user-friendly, Smith said. “It’s a good system, but it’s gonna cost.”

Minor Mountaire violations

Mountaire has been found to have excessive amounts of TKN in its wastewater. The council voted unanimously at their meeting to assess a total of $300 for the three violations.

“That’s a minimal amount, so I’ll second it,” said Councilman Clarence “Bud” Tingle Jr.

The poultry processing plant was charged $100 earlier this summer for the same violation. The limit is 500 pounds per day of the ammonia-based nitrogen substance, which indicates manure or feces is present. But at a maximum 129 mg per liter, Mountaire had up to 914 pounds per day.

When that happens, Selbyville’s wastewater treatment plant needs more lime to feed the “bugs” (beneficial bacteria) that are working at a higher level to break down the waste. Although the plant is not severely affected, Smith said, the penalties prove to the EPA that the Town is enforcing the regulations.

Before Mountaire installed a new wastewater system on its end, Selbyville was assessing big fines — tens of thousands of dollars at a time, Smith said. The new system works much better, but still causes complaints of foul odors across town.

In other Selbyville news:

• After a broken water main in July, residents were encouraged to boil their water until the threat of E. coli bacteria was determined to be unfounded. Although the Town placed fliers on residents’ front doors, some people complained that they didn’t know about the emergency until days later.

The Selbyville Police Department has used www.Nixle.com for at least 12 years. The system sends emergency alerts to anyone’s email or phone for free. Nixle alerts were sent out for the water crisis, but the Town is researching additional notification systems.

• Designs are very delayed for a new water filtration system intended to strip gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) from tap water. In late 2013, residents approved taking a loan (which could shift to a free grant) for $2,526,300 from the Delaware Drinking Water Revolving Fund), to fund the project.

At the time, design and installation was estimated at 18 months, maximum. More recently, the project should have at least been out to bid in June, Councilman Rick Duncan Sr. said. In June, the principal/engineer of Davis, Bowen & Friedel Inc., presented several design options, which must be approved by the state’s historical society.

• Irrigation systems need annual backflow testing, Duncan also informed residents.

“The irrigation guy should have told you that,” Duncan told several Victoria Forest residents, estimating that the test costs $65 to $150. The State requires annual testing because the irrigation “heads could get herbicide in it,” Duncan said. He also noted that a check valve is different from a preventer.

• The council approved a $10,706 replacement for two town hall computers, which includes a $3,000 server. That replaces a nine-year-old system, which Duncan said he “was surprised it lasted that long.”

• Gary Steffen was hired earlier this summer to fill the Town’s Code Enforcement vacancy.

• People can get rid of old, unused medicines during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Selbyville Police Department will host take-backs in Selbyville and at CVS pharmacy on Route 54. (Other nearby locations include the Dagsboro Police Department, Delaware State Police Troop 4 in Georgetown, Ocean View Police Department, Rehoboth Beach Police Department, Lewes Police Department and Beebe Healthcare’s Tunnell Cancer Center.)

The next regular town council meeting is Monday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m.