Ocean View asks DelDOT to keep temporary traffic signals

Lawless reflects on time on council

At this week’s Ocean View Town Council meeting, councilman Bill Olsen suggested the Town request that the two temporary traffic signals at the intersections of Windmill Avenue with Central Avenue and Cedar Drive with Central Avenue remain in place following construction.

When Route 26 was closed in two spots for bridge repairs, from January through March, the temporary traffic signals were installed to improve traffic flow on the designated detour route.

With the detour ended, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) has allowed construction crews to use lane closures on Route 26, even during the morning commute, until May 14. (Previously, two lanes had to be open from 6 to 9 a.m.).

DelDOT officials have said that the temporary traffic signals will remain in place until May 15, when the summer construction schedule begins.

“Then they will come out, immediately following the end of daytime lane closures,” said Ken Cimino, project manager for AECOM, at Tuesday morning’s Route 26 construction advisory group meeting.

At the meeting, Jill Frey, a lead designer for Century Engineering, said drivers should not get used to the signals.

“Those intersections don’t warrant traffic signals. The traffic manuals have pretty specific cases. … They do not meet those [standards], and the longer we leave them up operational, the harder it is to take them out…”

During Tuesday night’s council meeting, Olsen said drivers have already gotten used to using the back roads during the construction.

“I can’t see why we can’t say to DelDOT ‘keep them up,’ because we have two more years of [Route] 26 traffic. All they have to do with the temporary lights is put them on more even. I think the timing is just a little off right now.”

Outgoing Councilman Bob Lawless and Councilman Tom Sheeran both agreed with Olsen’s suggestion.

“The one at Windmill from the east can be handled without it, but when you’re coming off of Windmill or coming from the west, the traffic is coming at a fairly good clip as they’re coming into the Bear Trap area, and it forces them to slow down a little bit,” said Sheeran of an area where the posted speed limit drops from 40 mph to 30 mph.

He added that a house located on the corner of Windmill and Central can make it difficult for drivers to see traffic.

“I think the part-timers or visitors we get every year have become accustomed to the back roads and will continue to use them.”

Councilman Geoff Christ said that, even though Route 26 has been reopened, with temporary lane closures, “It’s almost just as bad as having it closed.”

“The traffic backs up rather quickly. I don’t even use Route 26. I’ve gotten so used to back roads… I think it’s a great idea, because I don’t think the traffic has thinned out on those roads yet because of the state of 26.”

Mayor Walter Curran said he also liked the idea of the lights remaining at those intersections.

“We cannot mandate this. We have to go to DelDOT and request it. It’s entirely up to DelDOT,” he said.

Curran asked Ocean View Police Department Capt. Heath Hall if the OVPD has any opinion on the lights.

“We’re in favor of the lights. We like them,” he said. “I do agree with Mr. Olsen that the timing needs to be tweaked… I’m not really getting too many complaints on the lights — I’m getting complaints on the timing of the lights.”

He said the lights could be switched to flash in the off-season, if deemed appropriate for traffic flow.

“Another thing to think about is, look at your growth area,” said Hall. “We’re just going to keep getting more and more people, more and more traffic back in that area.”

The council voted unanimously to send a letter to DelDOT requesting that the two traffic signals be made permanent.

The Town also held its annual municipal election on Saturday, April 11, for the District 4 council seat currently held by Lawless.

With 133 total votes cast, Wedgefield resident Carol Bodine won the seat. Kent Liddle received 85 votes, Jon DeBuchananne received 23 votes and Don Walsh received 14.

“Congratulations to Carol Bodine for winning the election,” said Curran to Bodine, who was in attendance at the council meeting. “I personally want to thank the other three candidates for coming up to the plate and coming out and doing this. It was a very good election cycle.”

At the meeting, Lawless was presented with a plaque in recognition of his service to the Town. He spoke to the council and those in attendance at the meeting and shared his thoughts on the past six years.

“I’ve gotten to know three Ocean View mayors since moving here — Gary Meredith, Gordon Wood and Walt Curran. All are fine men and have been superb leaders. As long as such people are willing to step forward and invest their effort, the Town’s future is assured.

“Further, term limits are a good thing. After two terms, a person begins to think he is the repository of good ideas and knows how best to get things done. We see the result of this dangerous thinking in towns where councilpersons remain in place for decades. Thank god it doesn’t happen here.”

Lawless said that, during his tenure on council, he was able to see the creation of a public works building, the Town’s staff is paid based on objective data, and street maintenance follows a professionally managed plan, among other things.

“Challenges remain for the next and future councils. Unexpected regulatory burdens will be imposed by county, state and federal governments. Our neighbors will continue to resist the Town’s best intentions and refuse easements. Property owners who are not fulltime residents will continue to need outrage to feel themselves to be part of our town. Business owners must be made to feel like they have a voice in our town’s governance.

“It has been an honor to represent the people of the Fourth District. I now join the Ocean View alumni association. The fact that four excellent candidates contested to replace me makes me certain our town is in good hands.”

Lawless added that he hopes the “Lawless rule” that has been said at every council workshop will continue following his departure.

“At a workshop, the person whose cell phone rings buys pizza for all present.”

Christ acknowledged Lawless’ time, and his ability to have the most citizens turnout for a meeting, when he suggested Woodland Avenue be made into a one-way street.

“It was Mayor Curran, who had the first suggestion, and I made a motion essentially so we would get people to come to our meetings,” noted Lawson. “The good part of having an effective council is people aren’t angry, so they’re not motivated to come out and attend meetings.

“The bad part of that is we get complacent. We begin to think we’re doing everything right and we have all sorts of wisdom, and we don’t. We really need the townspeople to be involved… We should have more people here. We must be doing something right.”

Resident Steve Cobb said that Lawless brought stability back to the council.

“People still disagree, but they disagree with honor,” he said. “Thank you.”

In other Town news:

• In his report to council, Hall noted that Chief Ken McLaughlin had received a letter from Charles Tennermann, a paramedic with Sussex County EMS, commending Officer Justin Hopkins for his response to an incident at the end of March.

Tennermann said emergency personnel were dispatched for a cardiac arrest reported at World Gym on March 28. Hopkins arrived to the scene before any other units were able to. Tennermann said that, according to World Gym staffers, Hopkins took over CPR measures from bystanders and administered two shocks from an AED machine on-site.

“The patient had pulses back by the time I arrived on scene and regained consciousness during our time with him. By the time we arrived at Beebe Medical Center, the patient was fully conscious, with stable vitals and neurological function, with no memory of the incident. By all signs, the patient appears to be headed toward an extremely favorable outcome, thanks in large part to the actions of bystanders at World Gym and Officer Hopkins.”

In his letter, Tennermann wrote that he did not speak with Hopkins much on scene but wanted to reach out to the chief to share how impressed he was with Hopkins’ professionalism and actions.

“As you may know, up to approximately 90 percent of out of hospital cardiac arrest patients die, and more still have unfavorable neurological outcomes. This patient was very much on the lucky side of statistics today, and much of that outcome comes from Officer Hopkins’ prompt and skillful actions.”

The council voted unanimously to officially commend Hopkins for his actions and that it be made a part of his permanent personnel record.

• Hall reported that an epoxy and sealant had recently been applied to the floors in the OVPD cellblock and sally port. He said that, along with enhancing the appearance of the floors, the epoxy is 10 times stronger than concrete and is slip-resistant.

Sheeran said he had heard about a young woman who had since been brought into the department and who had previously been in the cellblock.

“When she walked in, her comment was, ‘Oh, I like the way you fixed the place up.’”

“I guess we can take that as a comment,” Curran said with a laugh.

• The council unanimously approved the annual operating budget for the 2016 fiscal year, as well as an ordinance establishing the Capital Improvement Program for fiscal years ending April 30, 2016, to April 30, 2020.

• The town council will hold its reorganizational meeting on Tuesday, April 28, at 6 p.m. at town hall.

• The town was recently named a 2014 Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation. An Arbor Day celebration will be held at the Wallace A. Melson Municipal Building on April 24 at 10 a.m., where a river birch tree, provided by the Delaware Forest Service, will be planted.

• Ocean View’s annual Homecoming event will be held Saturday, May 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine.