Millville considers ceasing to fund police startup fund

The Millville Town Council discussed the first draft of next year’s budget at great length last week, hashing out details ranging from Pumpkin Festival expenses to holiday decorations. The main points discussed included possibly not continuing to designate 25 percent of their gross rental receipts tax to a “startup police fund” that has accrued about $340,000 to date.

Councilman Harry Kent asked if there was a time when they needed those funds, if they were legally able to do so. He also asked if they should continue the practice, since starting a police force and building a police station were no longer in the immediate plans of the Town.

Mayor Gerry Hocker said that, at the time it was set up like that, with 75 percent of gross rental receipts going into the general fund and 25 percent going into the police startup fund, the Town didn’t have the revenue stream it currently has. Kent said that to “just keep putting general funds in there seems counterintuitive.”

“I have no problem leaving it in there, but if we were ever in a pinch, could we legally use it?” Kent asked, somewhat rhetorically.

Financial Administrator Betsy Christian said that general funds could go into restricted funds, but going the other way is “strictly prohibited.” She surmised that, if the town were in dire straits, they would be allowed to do it, but the financial headache of going through years of records would be massive.

“You would have trouble with the audit or a documentation nightmare for the audit,” said Christian.

Kent then asked, if they did decide to start a police force, whether the council would be able to use money from the general fund. “You could, but you wouldn’t need to,” said Christian.

Town Manager Debbie Botchie added that she wasn’t asking the council to try to retrieve the money already placed in the startup fund, just to not continue to fund it.

“I don’t like putting general funds into restricted funds when you already have $3 million in restricted funds,” said Botchie. “We have enough to start a police department if we want.”

The council also discussed whether they would keep a line item of money set aside for comprehensive land-use plan costs and holiday decorations, and possibly allowing Christian to footnote the budget, or passing a formal motion, so future councils would know the rationale behind certain percentage breakdowns, such as the startup police fund.

The council also held a public hearing this week and then approved the final site plan for the Life Style Center “Campus” at Millville by the Sea, which will include a community center, a wellness center and exercise lawn, a pavilion, lawn sports areas, a dock for the stormwater management area, a pool building and a pool.

Chuck Ellison of Miller and Smith, who manages the development of Millville by the Sea, said the pool would have a lazy river, removable volleyball courts, a place for swimming laps and various spray toys to “accommodate the varied constituency in Millville by the Sea.” He said all the buildings were designed with a colorist from San Diego so they will have a similar feel and look.

He assured the council that they had addressed previous comments from URS, the Town’s engineering firm, and assured them that the buildings “can be constructed and opened in sequence, but no building can be used until the emergency access road and walking trail from Sand Dollar Village to the amenity center are complete.”

The URS comments and the emergency access road being opened were two points Planning & Zoning commissioners had added as conditions to their recommendation for approval.

The council also voted to accept the purchase agreements, easements and affiliated documents for the portion of the Town property that DelDOT needed to buy for work on the Route 26 improvements project. They used the 2010 appraisal for the value of the land, as DelDOT did not request a new one. Hocker said he thought that appraisal was “very fair” and added that having a new one done would be “a major gamble” for the Town.

Botchie also announced that the Town is again sponsoring a cleanup day, on April 20, during which residents with a picture ID can bring items to be placed in the big receptacle in the parking lot adjacent to town hall. For more information, visit the Web site at