Selbyville mulls outside water connections

Although the Town of Selbyville hopes people will annex into the town, it does provide water and sewer to some properties outside of town. At their June 1 meeting, the town council reviewed several such requests, which proved more challenging than just a yes or no.

“These properties are within our comprehensive plan. … A lot of cases, the property is contiguous to town — either right across the street or next door to town limits,” which means it’s eligible for annexation. “Sewer and water mains are, in many cases, running past, or near, the properties.

Town Administrator Bob Dickerson asked this week whether the council wants to consider writing a new set of guidelines for out-of-towners wishing to connect, so that the Town can apply rules in a consistent manner.

Each of the current crop of applicants had a different scenario. William Hudson on Polly Branch Road wanted to extend his line to his daughter’s neighboring property. Steve Morris on Route 54 wanted to sell his small lot to a neighbor for creating one large parcel. Orville Hudson had purchased seven acres, but the individual lots were voided after the prior developer abandoned the proposed subdivision. He said Sussex County will want to see water service is available before allowing him to subdivide, but Selbyville would want the land officially plotted before giving access to seven connections that already exist nearby.

“So Bob’s asking, ‘Are we going to develop a policy?’” Councilman Jay Murray said.

“We have to decide the merits of each one,” Councilman Frank Smith said.

Dickerson raised other issues: Should annexation be required? How does the council want to handle a new lot that never had a chance to hook up originally? Who makes the decision? Are grinder pumps permitted?

Originally, when Selbyville ran pipes outside of town, existing homes had one year to hook up for free. After that, they’d pay impact fees. The out-of-town impact fee is very minimally above the in-town fee, Dickerson said.

However, they couldn’t put laterals out to empty lots where homes weren’t constructed.

More than a year has passed since the pipes were laid, but eligible out-of-towners could still pay the fees to hook up.

“That’s fair,” Morris said.

Currently, a property owner would pay $2,500 for water, $2,500 for sewer, $690 for a meter, plus whatever a plumber costs to make the connection and other minor miscellaneous fees, Dickerson said.

Although initial rules were put in place, Jay Murray said he didn’t believe the council is forbidden from raising fees now. Plus, that money needs to help pay salaries for people continuously working at the water plant.

Until then, fees and policies have not changed. Individuals may request water or sewer service from the Town of Selbyville by calling town hall.

“We had a commitment when we took on the project,” Mayor Clifton Murray said the next day, explaining that the Town had originally sent letters to existing homeowners to offer the new water service.

“I think we just kind of lost sight of what we said when we put the project in motion,” he said. “We’d like to see people come into town and see that everybody shares in the cost equally and that the [taxpayers] don’t get burdened unequally.”

Water and sewer are automatic offered to town residents (and therefore, to annexed land). But for everyone else, he said, he’s not sure a standard guideline will work across the board.

“After that, there’s going to be individual situations. I don’t know if you can have a standard [or] if it’s that cut and dry,” Mayor Murray said. “You listen to the people and make a decision.”

For now, he said, he believes it’s a council decision, not one he’d want to burden a single town manager with.

“We want people to have sewer and water,” Murray concluded. “We just gotta figure out how exactly how to do it.”

Road collapse repair will cost much more

Railroad Avenue has already gotten a temporary fix where the roadway began collapsing over a deteriorated culvert. But a permanent fix will not be cheap.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control has agreed to pay 75 percent of the engineering costs. The town council this week voted unanimously to pay the remaining $13,200 of the $52,800 engineering cost estimate. That will get them a set of plans. No one will know the final repair cost until the engineering plans are completed.

“Then we’d look for funding to do the work,” which doesn’t include any potential railroad instabilities, Dickerson said. “We’re not going to touch the railroad. We’re only going to fix our road.”

Cleaning up the water

The town council has got a look at several proposed designs for a new water filtration system. The Town of Selbyville has received money to add filtration to the existing freshwater plant, to strip the water of gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether), which sometimes flares up in the groundwater.

Jason Loar, principal/engineer for Davis, Bowen & Friedel Inc., said he favored constructing a filtration building with a footprint of 36 by 40 feet on Ellis Alley, directly across the street from the existing water plant. The facility will be elevated on a concrete base to avoid groundwater.

“It’s not going to be a small plant,” he said.

Because the most effective technology uses gravity to filter water downward, engineers are planning two aluminum towers, each 45 feet tall. However, in the historical district, the towers must be enclosed to avoid being an “eyesore.” (Delaware State Historic Preservation Office rules must be followed, since State funding will help pay for the project.)

The preferred design is considered operator-friendly, as employees don’t have to lug chemicals up and down a staircase.

The current plant will still process 500 gallons per minute, but the new filtration system can handle 750, so it has leeway if the water plant’s capacity ever increases.

Loar said the project is a high priority project for the firm, which is why he’s personally helping.

“I’m not going to lie to you — it’s going to take a little more time, but we’re going to get it done,” he said.

The funding is ready, but the Town is awaiting permits and SHPO approval.

In other Selbyville Town Council news:

• Dickerson will be retiring as town administrator in mid-July. During executive session, the council voted to make code enforcement constable Mike Diehl interim administrator. The Town is now seeking a new code enforcement constable to fill Diehl’s soon-to-be-vacated position.

• The Selbyville Public Library is partnering with the Food Bank of Delaware to provide a free daily lunch and snack to local children, an “ambitious, but beneficial” project, said library Director Kelly Kline.

• The Selbyville Police Department is short an officer for another summer, due to an injury. But the school resource officer can return to regular patrol, which will help, according to Police Chief Scott Collins. He also encouraged people to call the station when they see something out of the ordinary, hear loud music or want to report any complaints. Calling the next day is less effective, he emphasized.

Mountaire’s hiring of police officers as on-site security is going smoothly, Collins said. They recently picked up a man who tried to enter with a fake ID, which revealed identity theft and more.

• Resident Steve Morris also said mail delivery seems to be mixed up. He frequently receives mail for other addresses, and loses his mail to them in return, he said.

The council noted that the Town is mostly in charge of its own house numbering system, although Sussex County in recent years had given everyone in the unincorporated areas a five-digit 911 address and changed some street names to reduce confusion.

Meanwhile, Selbyville still has Dukes Street, East Dukes Street and Dukes Street Extended, offering room for potential address confusion. (A similar problem exists on the multiple Church, Baker and Walnut roads, said Collins.)

“We may have to change something if that if it isn’t corrected,” Clifton Murray said.

Councilman Rick Duncan suggested that the street signs be updated.

• Mountaire exceeded its TKN permit for wastewater on April 29. Technically, there were four violations in the following days before the site was testing again. The council voted to impose a $100 penalty for one day of violation.

• A lime silo at the sewer plant is still malfunctioning. It’s costing the Town $1,000 per month for caustic soda because enough lime is not getting in the system. Town Engineer Erik Retzlaff said a replacement system may result in a 25 percent cost increase for materials, but it would be a more stable operating system, and generally easier to use.

Meanwhile, testing now occurs at a precise time, so Selbyville doesn’t violate its own permits.

• Chesapeake Utilities is winding through town to install a natural gas main.

• The Town’s Well C is complete, and results are pending from the recent sample tests.

• The Old Timer’s Day festival returns on June 20.

The next regular town council meeting is Monday, July 6.