Millville OKs pension and enhanced state police presence

Delaware State Police officers may be more visible in Millville, now that the town council has decided to hire additional patrols for 16 hours per week.

“In light of what’s been happening around the town, with home invasions and whatnot, … the idea is to contract with Delaware State Police … to patrol our developments, the businesses, give us visibility,” said Town Manager Debbie Botchie.

“We did this about five years ago,” hiring police to patrol 24 to 36 hours per week, Botchie said. “At that time, we were receiving about $5,000 in interest on accounts we had at the bank. That’s no longer the case. However, we do have a police fund with about $457,000.”

“We still have moneys left over from our grants from Sussex County and an additional $5,000 for municipalities that don’t have a police department but contract with the state police,” she added.

The DSP charges about $84 per hour for troopers who freelance for municipalities. Typically, four-hour shifts are posted online so that any DSP can claim them.

Botchie and DSP will create the official schedule for the patrols. If there are any incidents, the Town receives a report and any collected fines.

“As far as I know, we have not had any violent crime in Millville. Things have happened outside of corporate limits,” Botchie said. “We have had DUIs, [but] I am more concerned about the criminal things.”

A longer shift allows officers to really cruise around town and individual neighborhoods, suggested Councilman Harry Kent, citing his own community watch experience.

Millville already hires an officer to help with its farmers’ markets, long weekends and other events. Botchie said she believes it brings “a little more peace of mind” to residents, business owners and property owners.

“That’s one of the things we specified they do — check the businesses,” Mayor Gerry Hocker Jr. said.

Pensions approved for some employees

Pension benefits are coming to part-time Millville employees.

In an effort to encourage longevity, the Town will match employee pension contributions for any part-time employee who has completed one year, or 1,000 hours, of continuous service.

Currently, Millville has one part-time employee with five years of experience. Part-timers are not offered healthcare through the Town.

In the new fiscal year, regular employees will also be switched from a simple IRA to a 403(b), which is like the government version of the 401(k).

Designing a new town building

The council in January unanimously approved a $106,942 contract for the design of a second Town municipal building, plus other services. Architectural design, permitting and soil testing will be done George, Miles & Buhr LLC. The project consists of a new 40-by-50-foot, two-story building that connects to the existing Town Hall.

The first floor would hold four garage bays, including an enclosed wash bay; two secure interview rooms (not holding cells) for the Delaware State Police; a repair shop and Town storage.

The second floor would be open “flex space” to be used as a mini troop office, space for police training, two bunk rooms, two full bathrooms and a kitchenette.

“They come very highly recommended … for municipal work. They have a very good reputation,” Botchie said of GMB.

Thus far, the Town has only sketched some building ideas with DSP’s suggestions. GMB will flush out those ideas.

Bidding was not required because the contract is for professional services, not actual construction.

Town Solicitor Seth Thompson said he wasn’t fond of some of the contract’s little details, such as a prohibition on the Town suing for more than the cost of the project; or if Millville lost a potential lawsuit, it must reimburse the contractor’s legal fees, but if the contractor lost, it would not pay Millville’s.

In other Millville news:

• The speed limit on Cedar Drive is being reduced from 35 to 30 mph.

• Two restaurants are coming to Millville this spring: Hooked Up, a raw bar and public house in the Millville Town Center, and Surf Taco, on Route 26 near Lord Baltimore Elementary School.

• Millville was lauded during its audit for the 2014 fiscal year.

“The Town had a great year, fiscally and operationally,” said Herb Geary of the TGM Group. “The Town has no debt and plenty of cash in the bank. Congratulations on another great year.”

But with such a large chunk of money, “The hard part is to collateralize and insure it,” Geary warned. The Town has 400 percent of revenue over its expenditures (most towns have 15 to 20 percent, Geary said. Millville earned the highest ranking that TGM Group can give a local government.