OV approves budget, discusses roadwork, alcohol consumption

The Ocean View Town Council met earlier this week to approve the Town’s 2015-fiscal-year operating budget and capital improvement program.

In the final budget, salary increases were reduced from 3 percent to 2 percent. There was also a reduction in the proposed property tax increase, also from 3 percent to 2 percent.

Finance Director Lee Brubaker said the 2 percent increase in the tax rate equates to less than a half-cent, with 16.2 cents now being collected in property taxes for every $100 of a property’s assessed value.

“Once again, we have a budget that has been thought out,” said Councilman Bob Lawless. “It is the fruit of an enormous amount of work.”

“This budget was the most difficult one that I was involved in — mostly because of health insurance. It took a lot of time. The staff, in my mind, did an excellent job in a tough situation,” said outgoing Mayor Gordon Wood.

Also at the April 8 meeting, Police Chief Ken McLaughlin told the council that the Town has already received “many, many complaints” regarding the construction on Route 26.

“We’re aware of the situation,” he said. “The Town and the Ocean View Police Department has no control of what takes place on a state-owned highway,” he emphasized.

McLaughlin said that, during construction, there are trained professionals out overseeing the roadwork and, many times, OVPD officers are out, as well.

He added that side streets will receive heavy traffic over the next few years and that, unfortunately, there is nothing the Town or police department can do about it.

“The problem will get worse — probably much worse before it gets better,” he said.

McLaughlin said that, during the summer months, construction will switch to night hours, which should help alleviate some of the problems.

“We’re doing the best we can,” he said. “We’re targeting enforcement of Woodland and West with speed and stop-sign violations. In one four-hour time period, one of our officers wrote nine citations on Woodland.”

Also at the Tuesday council meeting, Administrative Official Charles McMullen reported that the Town had received a letter from Salted Rim owners Rick McGee and Karen Fritz, requesting that the Town Code be changed to reflect the State’s regulations when it comes to alcohol consumption.

“Currently, the rule states that a restaurant shall not sell or dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 9 a.m.,” they wrote of the existing town regulations. “We are requesting a rule change to allow restaurant to sell or dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises to the hours regulated by the State.”

In the current Town Code, a restaurant may not serve or have alcohol consumed on the premises between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. McGee said that they often hear from would-be customers that they won’t stay in the restaurant if they come in later in the evening, because they don’t want to feel rushed.

“As the community grows with year-round and seasonal residents, the influx of vacationers and the increase in commercial businesses, we would like to provide this service to the community,” they wrote.

“Let’s find out what our neighbors think,” said Lawless.

Councilman Bill Olsen said that he would be interested in hearing what others thought.

“This region is known as the Quiet Resort, so you might be affecting the sale or rental of property,” he said. “[They may not] want something like Ocean City, Dewey Beach or Rehoboth.”

The Planning & Zoning Commission will review the request and make a recommendation to council. The council would then hold two public hearings, after which the council will have the option to vote to change the Town Code related to alcohol consumption.

As Tuesday night’s meeting was the last over which Wood would preside, having been mayor for six consecutive years, he read a “State of Our Town,” in which he said serving the town was a privilege.

“My tasks are now ended, but some, like drainage, sidewalks and landscaping the park walks, are still to be completed. Like chasing the sun, we chased, but we could not reach everything. Keep chasing!”

In other Town news:

• The town council reorganizational meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 22, at 5 p.m. at Town Hall. Mayor-elect Walter Curran will be sworn in, along with Tom Sheeran, councilman for District 3.

• The council approved a grant request from the Millville Volunteer Fire Company for $70,000.

“I think that it’s important that we continue our recognition of the great work that the Millville fire company does,” said Lawless. “We support them, and we should continue to support them.”

The Town’s Emergency Services Enhancement Fund had more than $74,000 in the account, and the council said they would contact the fire company to see if they require any additional funds and suggest they make a formal request.

• The council unanimously approved allowing Town Manager Dianne Vogel to develop, negotiate and execute a lease with the University of Delaware, to allow them to use town hall for 10 weeks for a spring/fall program for its Lifelong Learning Institute.

Vogel said the first session would be this fall and that the Town would be compensated for use of town hall.