Maneri joins Millville town council to replace Subity

A new face will now look out over the council table at Millville Town Council meetings, as Steve Maneri was appointed to a vacant council post on March 11.

“I just want to try to help the community out any way possible,” he said.

He brings town council experience from four years as a trustee for the Village of Monroe, N.Y.

“I’m just interested in the whole town … and the way it’s been run,” Maneri said. “The board’s been fantastic in the last year.”

Before this, he served on the Millville Planning & Zoning Commission for two years.

“I enjoyed my time with them,” Maneri said, calling it a “professional group.”

Maneri retired to Delaware nearly four years ago, mostly attracted to the low tax rates, he said.

“Where I was in New York … it would be very hard to retire,” he said. Now in Sussex County, he calls himself “just a plain guy, just trying to help out.”

When no candidates entered the recent council election, Maneri volunteered to serve.

Maneri is taking over for former Deputy Mayor Jon Subity, who resigned after learning that his wife is expecting twins. The council laughed Tuesday night as Subity initially strode toward the council table but was quickly turned back by the sight of Maneri’s nameplate at the empty seat.

Having served on the council since 2008, Subity was named deputy mayor in 2011.

Mayor Gerry Hocker Jr. called him “an outstanding councilman who gave 110 percent to the Town of Millville. All his hard work is appreciated.”

The council presented a farewell gift to Subity and lined up to shake his hand. Grinning, Subity wished them luck.

Maneri was sworn in, and Hocker was sworn in to his new two-year term, promising to “always place public interest over any special or personal interest,” and to uphold the state and U.S. constitutions and the town charter.

The council leadership positions now include Hocker continuing as mayor, Deputy Mayor Bob Gordon, Secretary Harry Kent and Treasurer Joan Bennett.

In other Millville news:

• Developer Peter DeMarie requested a three-year extension for his H&D subdivision on the corner of Beaver Dam and Substation roads. The final site plans for the 57-unit townhouse community were approved in May of 2011, but subdivisions are deemed null and void after three years unless substantial construction is in place.

No work has been done on the site to date, but DeMarie said he plans to begin in the next three years.

“The economics of townhouses has been quite poor,” DeMarie said. “The housing market has picked up in the last year … [but] houses are about the same cost as we would like to charge for these units.”

He described the planned project as including higher-end townhomes, 28 feet wide with garages.

If the community is not complete in three years, H&D must at least prove substantial construction if they want to request another extension in the future. Otherwise, the entire site plan would have to be resubmitted, subject to the Town’s new new density laws.

The extension was approved on a vote of 4-0, with Hocker abstaining, as he is a co-owner of the property.

• The council unanimously approved a new chapter in the town code, pertaining to public records and the Delaware Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Ordinance 14-03 clarifies that Millville follows state guidelines but establishes its own fee schedule for FOIA requests.

In the last two years, Delaware state legislature amended the Freedom of Information Act so towns can have a different fee schedule for FOIA requests, but the schedule must be codified, Thompson explained.

For instance, a person could request 600 pages of information, but a town that doesn’t have the capability for large-scale copying could contract the print job to a third party and then bill the requestor, Thompson said.

“This isn’t adjusting anything other than, when someone comes in, what they would pay for the copies. It doesn’t affect response time,” Thompson said.

Under the State fee schedule, the first 20 pages requested are free, and the first hour of research is free. Delaware recommends a billing rate of the municipality’s lowest hourly administrative rate. Millville will charge $20 per hour.

“The purpose is so that people look for exactly what they want,” rather than sending staff on a broad hunt, Thompson said of the FOIA procedures. So, someone might pay for the hours needed to physically locate a 1957 document, but those five pages are free.

Bennett asked about protocol for submitting FOIA requests. Millville already has a method in place, using state request forms. The town manager or their designee is the FOIA coordinator.

Kent asked if the process only applies to residents.

It applies to everyone, resident or not. However, Thompson noted that Delaware law says that, if the person is not a Delaware resident, the municipality does not have to respond. Most current information is on the Town website anyway, officials noted, so people can avoid the FOIA fees and time costs by doing some research on their own.

Hocker and Thompson commended Town Clerk Matt Amerling for drafting his first ordinance.

• Farmers’ market organizers are working up to a new summer season. Market Manager Linda Kent reported that five vendors will return, while two will not, and she’s waiting to hear from about six more.

• Millville had a taste of Route 26 Mainline construction recently, as work slowed traffic around Town Hall. To prevent confusion and bottlenecks, Kent has been inspired to write detailed back-roads directions to reach Town Hall during various phases of construction.

• Resident Pat Plocek had an idea to create town parks in Millville. He suggested that Millville work with incoming subdivisions to use their open space. Perhaps two adjacent communities could create one large park open to the general public, he suggested.

Hocker noted that the developer in such cases has to allow that kind of use, as it’s usually private property. Perhaps Millville could be responsible for upkeep of such a park, Thompson said. That would keep homeowner’s association fees down — a boon to the developer and residents.

Maintenance fees are less expensive than buying all new land and equipment, Plocek said.

“I worked in parks … my whole career and I’d hate to see an area like this not have a facility for young people to use,” Plocek said. “I’d be happy to work with anyone on that.”

The council thanked him.

• Fees will remain largely unchanged for the 2015 fiscal year, except for those impacting building developers. Currently, developers place $1,000 in escrow to pay for Town review and engineering fees. But Hocker said bigger and more expensive plans have required Millville to call up and ask for additional deposits.

To prevent that, the new escrow formula will be based on acreage: $1,000 for up to 100 acres; $2,500 for 101 to 350 acres; and $5,000 for 350 acres and above. When Town service is complete, leftover funds in the escrow account for the project will be returned to the developer.

“Everything else remains the same as it was last year and in years past?” Bennett confirmed. “Good.”

• The draft budget for the 2015 fiscal year is still being revised. Currently, the biggest changes are one-time buildings and grounds expenses, said Financial Administrator Betsy Christian, including the example of a water conditioning system and heating ducts that haven’t seen maintenance in at least six years, a Town building survey and phragmites removal.

Thanks were given to her, as well as Town Manager Debbie Botchie and Code & Building Administrator Eric Evans for their “thoughtful” and detailed work.

The council’s next meeting will be their workshop on March 25.