The Millville Town Council voted unanimously at its Sept. 8 council meeting to approve the plans for its new municipal building.
“Over the last year, we’ve been working on plans for an addition,” said Mayor Gerry Hocker. “At that time I formed a committee to go through the whole planning process.”
Hocker served on the committee along with Councilman Steve Maneri, Millville Town Manager Debbie Botchie and Code & Building Administrator Eric Evans, as well as engineer Andrew Lyons Jr. and project architect Morgan Helfrich of George, Miles & Buhr LLC (GMB).
“And then, throughout the process, there were different personnel from the Delaware State Police on the committee.”
“I want to give kudos to our staffer Eric,” added Botchie. “He was a huge, huge asset during this process.”
The two-story addition to the current town hall would be used by both the Town and the Delaware State Police.
The new building would extend to have three garage doors, with a total of four garage bays — three for the Town and one wash bay to be used by the Delaware State Police. Additionally, the first floor would house two secure interview rooms, an IT closet, a handicapped-accessible restroom and janitor’s closet.
The second floor would feature two bunkrooms, a kitchenette, a 31-seat classroom and two full bathrooms.
Along with second-floor access from the elevator and stairs that will be located in the link between the parts of the structure, there will also be exterior stairs.
“It’s been a great experience. All the personnel on the committee did an excellent job.”
Council voted 5-0 to approve the plans, followed by another unanimous vote to authorize Botchie and GMB to produce bid packets ready for public notice and then bid the project.
The council voted unanimously to release bond 41140245, related to the interior roads and work, from Platte River Insurance Company, representing Windhurst Manor.
“We had to call the bond because the original developer, if you remember, left,” said Evans. “We went in and walked it with AECOM, identified all the items we thought needed repairs within the right-of-way, and then worked with the bond company to have them contract George & Lynch, who won the bid.
“They went in and repaired the curbs and put in sidewalks that were missing, top-coated everything, and we have as-built designs done by DBF on file also. Basically, the bond company has lived up to everything their requirements were, and would like to have the bond back.”
“There are a lot of municipalities where developers went under and were stuck with half-done developments. All in all, this is a pretty good result if you look around at other municipalities,” said Town Solicitor Seth Thompson.
“Because of this situation, we have added additional language added to our public works agreement that would cover the cost to the Town for the inspections,” added Botchie.
The council voted unanimously to release the bond.
The Millville Town Council also voted to purchase two new heat-pump systems.
Last year, the Town replaced one of the town hall’s three systems, and had budgeted to replace the remaining two, one per year, in the following fiscal years.
“However, this year, when we got to the inspections, one of them was already in serious trouble and needed a Band-Aid to keep it running,” said Councilman Harry Kent. “And the second one wasn’t a whole lot better off.”
Kent said the units are approximately 10 years old, and have piping issues, as well as electronics issues.
“I’d like to try to get both of these units done this year and be done with it,” he said.
The units will cost the Town approximately $9,800 and approximately $10,000, respectively.
“We’re not buying the Cadillac, believe me,” added Kent. “There’s three above this.”
Botchie said the unit that was replaced last year has saved the Town approximately $400 per month in energy bills.
The council voted 5-0 to approve the purchase of the two units.
The Town was scheduled to close on the purchase of two parcels of land, totaling 4.91 acres, on Dukes Drive from John Scott Evans Jr. on Wednesday.
Thompson said the inspection process had been completed, and an underground storage tank had been removed, with soil samples taken from around the area surrounding the tank.
“Everything looks good to go,” he said.
During citizens’ privilege, Robin McClane who moved into Millville By the Sea two weeks ago, voiced her concerns about a species of tree that was planted within the development.
McClane said she had contacted the Town and the developer about future problems that could be caused by the maple variety that was planted and was told it was “a done deal.”
“I don’t understand how that’s possible, when there’s going to be many issues for the homeowners,” she said adding that her neighbors were “totally unaware” of what was planted. “When they learn of it, their concerns are as mine are. We just need to know how to go about getting the developer to cooperate. I don’t know what to do.”
Thompson explained that the Town has a Town Code, which consists of all its ordinances.
“When a developer or private citizen comes in and says, ‘I’d like to come in and do X or Y,’ we apply what Code that exists at that point in time. Once we have those approvals, they rely on them. They’re entitled to rely on them, and the Town has to stand by that,” he said. “We would call it vested rights.”
He added that the Town Code is a living document and could be changed to reflect her concerns, for future development.
“If the Town or any council member decides, ‘We could probably do something better here…’ that would be something that we would seemly need to put into the Code so anyone developing land or trying to set up a use of land would know, ‘OK, when I file for a site plan, these are the trees that I need to propose in my landscape plan.”
Thompson added that, through the Freedom of Information Act, anyone is welcome to visit town hall to review plans that are up for a vote or have already been approved.
Town Engineer Kyle Gulbronson said the Town does advocate for native trees to be planted but does not have an official list of approved trees.
“I understand your Code is this and that, but as a governing body of a town, I think it needs to revisit the Code, because you’re having so much development down here,” said McClane. “You’re approving plans that are going to be devastating to homeowners.”
Chuck Ellison, project manager and vice-president of Miller & Smith, the developer of Millville By the Sea, assured the council that McClane’s concerns have not been ignored.
He noted that the maples planted are on the State of Delaware’s list of species for street trees, and that the trees have been planted approximately 40 feet apart.
Ellison added that McClane would have the opportunity to address the complete Homeowners’ Association at its fall meeting, and that the development has a program to keep tabs on the trees, and a budget for tree maintenance.
“I do think we have a handle on it. I do think we have it addressed.”