Ocean View discusses joining State healthcare plan

The Town of Ocean View is working with the State’s benefits office to facilitate the enrollment of the Town’s employees into the State’s group health insurance program.

“I received a communication from Leighann Hinkle, who is the policy advisor for the State’s Office of Management & Budget,” reported Town Manager Dianne Vogel at the council’s Sept. 9 meeting. “Basically, she shared with me — which we had heard rumor would occur — that the State’s insurance group health plan would be open for those towns who were not already participating effective January 2015.”

Vogel was instructed to send a letter of intent to the Statewide Benefits office, which she did. Hinkle contacted the Town again, stating the Town can join the State’s healthcare plan beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

“However, we would have to take a six-month contract term, through June 30, 2015,” explained Vogel.

The State has six healthcare plans — four with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and two with Aetna, with only two plans having deductibles.

“Electing to move the Town’s employees to the State’s plan on Jan. 1, … all the deductibles would reset to zero on Jan. 1 and then again on July 1, to get us on their cycle of July 1 to June 30.”

Vogel requested permission from the council to schedule a meeting with the Statewide Benefits office for later this month, to discuss the plans and set up contribution rates.

“The Town still maintains ability to determine what the employee is going to pay.”

The council granted Vogel’s request to set up a meeting in mid-September with the office.

“Especially thank-you to Bob [Lawless] and Tom [Sheeran] for your prior work with Mayor [Gordon] Wood,” said Mayor Walter Curran, “for getting this jumpstarted. This has been a long time coming.”

Also during the Sept. 9 meeting, a public hearing was held to amend the Ocean View Land Use & Development Code relating to the hours of alcoholic beverage consumption in restaurants.

As the Town’s current code reads, alcohol may not be sold or dispensed for consumption on the premises between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 9 a.m.

The amendment proposes to revise the hours of alcoholic beverage service and consumption in restaurants, to be identical to those set by Delaware state law. Those who are licensed with the Office of the Delaware Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner to sell alcoholic beverages may do so from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week.

The new code would add 90 minutes each night when alcohol could legally be served and consumed in the town.

“I don’t think the ordinance is necessary,” said Councilman Bill Olsen. “Most of the people in town — over 50 percent are over age 58, so they didn’t care one way or another… They won’t be using it.”

Olsen said he also spoke with three different real estate firms to see how a change in the code could affect the town.

“‘This is the fastest way to change the character of the town,’” recalled Olsen, adding that only one restaurant in town had made the request for the code to be changed.

Councilman Tom Sheeran said that he believed the restaurateur requested the change in hours was because the business was serving other area restaurant employees who wanted to grab a bite to eat, “and they like to have a beverage with their meal.”

“Personally, I can’t see a problem concurring with the state laws,” he said.

Councilman Geoff Christ said that the proposed ordinance was worded such that it would be restrictive enough to prevent patrons from going to the restaurant solely to drink.

“I don’t think the time is crucial to this, because they have to be seated and dining in order to consume alcoholic beverages. So, if they’re not seated or if they’re not eating, I don’t think it opens this up to a Fat Tuna situation, where you can just sit out on the side and drink without even ordering food,” he said, adding that he would support the change.

Town Administrative Official Charles McMullen stated that the ordinance had been reviewed by the Planning & Zoning Commission, which recommended that council adopt the ordinance.

Also on Sept. 9, the council voted unanimously to deny the request of resident Judith Bundy of Central Avenue for a reduction in a high water bill she received in April.

Bundy’s bill was $636.27, versus her normal monthly bill of $110. In a report to council, Vogel wrote that, while meeting with Finance Director Lee Brubaker in May regarding the bill, Bundy had stated she was aware of a leak and believed it started when she had a plumber review the property and did not turn the water off when he left.

According to Vogel, the Town received a written letter from Bundy in May, stating that her water bill was excessive and that she didn’t want to pay it.

“She’s an absentee owner and, for whatever reason, she has a much higher water bill and she only wants to pay what her normal water bill is. She’s chosen not to take advantage of any other opportunities that we recommended to her.”

Vogel said Bundy’s water meter had a visual inspection by Tidewater, which found it to not be defective.

“I think it is tragic that Ms. Bundy has an extraordinarily high water bill. It’s difficult,” said Lawless. “It’s not unique. There have been other circumstances where people have had broken pipes or other circumstances which caused the water to flow through the meter.

“I am sorry, but I believe she is responsible for it,” he continued. “I think our Town staff was extraordinary in offering at least two alternative solutions— one being that she approach her homeowners insurance company and the other being that she go back to the plumber that she considers the probable cause of the open valve and seek redress from him. Neither was acceptable to her.

“I don’t have any understanding of why that makes it the Town of Ocean View’s problem. Ms. Bundy has a bill that is due and collectible. I don’t think it’s our Town’s responsibility to pay it for her.”

Sheeran and Christ agreed with Lawless.

“The Town is simply a pass-through mechanism,” said Sheeran. “If there is any problem with the water, she should take it up directly with Tidewater.”

“I find it somewhat egregious that, when offered an opportunity to mitigate it, Ms. Buddy chose not to take either of those routes,” said Curran. “I, too, believe it’s not the Town’s problem; it is Ms. Bundy’s problem.”