Ocean View seeks residents’ input on ditch maintenance

At the town’s monthly council meeting earlier this week, the Ocean View Town Council discussed drafting a maintenance ordinance to define the responsibilities for the maintenance of ditches, swales, popes and culverts for property owners, associations and Town-owned property.

“It is so critical to our town since we are dead flat, there has to be a place for water to go. I have facetiously said over the years that the solution is to borrow a Rocky Mountain and raise the level of the town by a couple of feet,” said councilman Bob Lawless. “Since we can’t do that we better understand who’s responsible for maintaining the means by which a drop of water moves from the heavens into the bay or into the ocean. We don’t have that understanding now, we don’t know who is responsible for which part of the drainage system. This will clarify it.”

Town Manager Dianne Vogel said that she searched for similar ordinances in Delaware and was unable to find any that met the town’s needs, however she did find some in other states, such as Florida, Kentucky and Texas.

“I literally took parts and pieces,” she explained.

Lawless acknowledged that the possible future ordinance could upset citizens but stressed the importance of public input during the discussion process.

“It is going to upset whole bunches of people. Lots of oxen will be gored in this process. We need people to look at these drafts as we come out with them. If we decide to workshop it, we need them to come out and look at it and not tell us a year from now, ‘well no one ever told me you made me responsible for maintaining my ditch.’”

He added that it may be difficult and costly ordinance for citizens but necessary and that it is “critical” citizens pay attention and get involved.

Councilman Tom Sheeran said he would like to also have discussions with surrounding towns whose properties are adjacent to ditches in the town.

“You’re right about the problem with adjoining municipalities and Sussex County,” agreed administrative official Charlie McMullen. “We’re going to have to get some kind of understanding with them about what we can do.”

McMullen added that council and residents have to be realistic in their expectations about what can be done about flooding with the maintenance change for ditches.

“The water doesn’t have anywhere to go when the water comes down like that. I don’t care if those ditches are cleaned out, the only thing that would make them better would be if they were another ten feet deep and even that is just going to hold volume.”

“Part of that process is having our community understand the realities that we face,” agreed Lawless. “The more we talk about this, and the more our neighbors and friends understand what the reality, the better off we are.”

A drafted ordinance regarding ditch maintenance will be discussed at the Nov. 12, with a workshop date to be announced at that time. The draft will be available for members of the town at that time.

In other town news:

• The town will hold a workshop on Oct. 22 at 5 p.m.

• The town’s offices will be closed on Oct. 14 in observance of Columbus Day.

• Halloween Trick-or-Treating will be held on Thursday, Oct. 31 from 6 to 8 p.m.

• Council commended Sgt. Sidney Ballentine for his receipt of the Officer of the Year Award, presented by the Delaware League of Local Governments.

“He has not stopped since day one. He is a leader amongst a group of really good men we have working for us,” said Chief Ken McLaughlin. “The training and amount of money we’ve invested in Sid has paid off tenfold as far as I’m concerned.”

• Councilman Lawless will be competing in the annual Scrapple Sling competition at Apple Scrapple on Sat. Oct. 12.

“Anyone who wants to join us for the Ocean View cheering section is welcome,” he said.

• Ocean View Homecoming is scheduled for May 10, and is still looking for volunteers to help organize the event.

• The town has a preliminary timeline set for the new Public Works building, which includes a prebid meeting on Oct. 29, with the hopes of beginning the project on Dec. 9.