Selbyville approves Head Start preschool

An old doctor’s office in Selbyville will get new life as a preschool this fall. The Selbyville Town Council this week approved a request from the nonprofit Telamon Corporation to open a Head Start program in the empty building near the carwash at the Mason Dixon Shopping Center.

Although zoned as a daycare, the program will really act as a preschool for children ages 3 to 5, with teachers and all. Hoped to open in September, it would have 18 students per class — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. They meet on weekdays, following the local school holiday schedule.

Mayor Clifton Murray asked if that’s a typical class size. Telamon’s Gary Johnson said they aim for 20 students or fewer. There is no charge for the services, and the students mostly come from low-income families, and may have a disability, such as hearing problems or a speech delay.

Children will have “probably twice as much” playground space as the State requires, and it will be surrounded by a privacy fence.

To avoid exposing students to traffic, they will enter the playground through a newly cut exterior door. The building has its own parking lot, and “it’s not in the throughway of the shopping center,” Johnson said.

“Sounds like a good use of the property for me,” Councilman Clarence “Bud” Tingle Jr. said.

Councilmember Rick Duncan wanted to know about the impact of the proximity to the highway. To reach the shopping center, a vehicle would have to first fly over a ditch, although Police Chief W. Scott Collins said a rollover accident has gotten that far.

Selbyville Town Code allows daycare centers as a conditional use, which the council unanimously approved at their May 5 meeting.

“It’s a good use, should be well-maintained,” Councilman Jay Murray said, especially since there are state and federal requirements.

Telamon operates in 11 states and has more than 900 students within 13 Kent and Sussex County locations, Johnson said.

In other Selbyville news:

• The budget for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2015, unanimously passed. The total income and expenses are both $3,046,922.99. That is slightly less than last year, said Town Manager Bob Dickerson. A 5 percent increase in water and 75-cents-per-month increase in sewer fees will make up for a deficit in the last few years, enough to “break even,” officials said.

The highest expenses are sewer costs, not including wages (28 percent); water expenses (15 percent); police salary and taxes (15 percent); and other police expenses (10 percent). Most of the revenue derives from water billing (18 percent); sewer billing (17 percent); real estate taxes (16 percent); and sewer/waste for significant commercial users (20 percent).

• Duncan asked about Mountaire tractor-trailers parking in the new facility, for which Selbyville and the poultry plant have an operating agreement. Jay Griffith, Mountaire director of operations, agreed to review the contract with Dickerson, to ensure Mountaire’s and other contractors’ trucks are using the facility correctly.

Mountaire was also set to submit plans for a new building to house a pricey air conditioning unit at the Board of Adjustment on Thursday, May 8, at 4 p.m.

• Trying to finish paperwork to receive a $2.5 million loan (which will be forgiven on completion of a water filtration project), the council unanimously approved a resolution again spelling out the terms of the loan. Although this form is a new requirement, “It’s pretty standard,” Dickerson said. “It’s still 100 percent principal forgiveness, so we’re good,” Tingle added.

“We’re spending a lot protecting our water quality,” Duncan said, adding that he was concerned about backflow problems.

Driving through town, he said, “Every one of the irrigation installations is improperly installed. … I think we should better monitor installation” of these systems, he said, like complex yard sprinklers. “There’s nothing in there to prevent back-siphoning.”

He said an irrigation contractor can install systems, but a plumber certified in backflow prevention must inspect it. “It’s plumbing code.”

Due to recent code changes, Dickerson said residents who apply for a second meter (often for irrigation systems, but without sewer charges) are required to also install a backflow preventer.

• Recent hydrant flushing brought a lot of dirty water to the surface in Williams Street, which might be the result of particularly heavily rattled underground pipes, Dickerson said. The Town will follow up with future testing.

• Meadow View Estates has seen some drainage clogging near McCabe Street. Dickerson said Selbyville could use manpower from Sussex Correctional Institution inmates to clear the debris, once dry.

• Selbyville police responded to 212 calls and issued 149 traffic tickets in April, a high number partly due to a grant to combat distracted driving. Click It or Ticket will also return to Selbyville in May, as Selbyville partners with Maryland police to patrol the state line area. According to Collins, Selbyville and the Delaware River & Bay Authority were Delaware’s only participants in the Federal Highway Safety grant.

The department finished a drug take-back day and is preparing for National Law Enforcement Week.

• Spring brought sudden rain and sun, which means grass needs to be cut, Dickerson noted. However, he said, it can be a “constant struggle” to get property owners to provide maintenance, especially for Realtor-owned properties without inhabitants.

Town Code says grass more than 12 inches high is a nuisance and detrimental to public safety and health. If the Town (reluctantly) performs maintenance itself, it will charge property owners for the service and put a lien on the property until the fees are paid.

The next Town Council meeting is set for Monday, June 2, at 7 p.m.