Ocean View Town Council acts on consultant’s salary study

The Ocean View Town Council voted 4-0 this week to approve and implement the compensation study — a 43-page document suggesting that the Town maintain a 14-grade pay structure — conducted by consultant Charles Hendricks.

Mayor Gordon Wood said that, following the council’s monthly workshop, at which the study was discussed, the council members felt that the study of employee salaries should be biannual living process, starting with the numbers set forth by Hendricks, possibly to be revised by the town manager.

Councilman Bob Lawless agreed during the workshop, saying that councilmembers should not get “in the weeds” by determining how salaries are brought up to the recommended midpoints.

“This is the sticky part. This is getting into the weeds… I don’t think that’s council responsibility,” he said. “I think we tell town management, ‘This is the lump of dollars we can give, and you guys have to distribute them.’”

Council members agreed that department heads would meet with Town Manager Dianne Vogel to discuss salaries of the employees under their supervision.

“Town manager and staff shall develop a status within the starting midpoints and maximum points for each employee, which will be affective retroactively Sept. 1, 2012,” he said.

Wood said that the town manager, after any requests by council and senior staff, shall publish amendments that she deems appropriate.

The council noted that the scale for the police department needs to be reworked, as they work a 2,280-hour work-year, as opposed to other town employees, who work a 2,080-hour work-year.

Council members emphasized that the review of area salaries would be done bi-annually, to ensure that the Town is maintaining competitive salaries, with job performance reviews to occur on a yearly basis.

Also this week, the first reading was held for an ordinance that would amend the Land Use and Development Code to restrict the use of outdoor seating and provide for waiting-area bars within restaurants.

Public Works Director Charlie McMullen said that the request for changes came to the council after local restaurateur Rick McGee approached the Town with his hopes to resurrect the Royal Zephyr restaurant.

“Mr. McGee is interested in reinitiating the restaurant at 27 Atlantic Avenue,” he said. “He runs a couple of establishments and was approached by Gulfstream to get this up and running.”

McMullen noted that outdoor seating would be permitted only on a commercial property that does not abut a residential property. There would not be an outdoor bar permitted; however, there would be tables where patrons could sit with a drink while waiting for a table. He also said the ordinance would ensure that no live music would be permitted in the seating area.

McGee further asked that the council consider allowing his 40-foot indoor bar — which, if the ordinance passed, would be allowed to serve food, with seating that is at 10 percent of the capacity of the 200-seat restaurant, instead of 5 percent.

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader said that, even if the ordinance were passed, the restaurant would still be under the review of the Delaware Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

Resident George Walker praised McGee for his efforts in reopening the restaurant.

“We ought to give this man a big hand for trying to take over it there,” he said.

A second reading, followed by discussion and possible voting on the ordinance will be held at the November council meeting.

Councilman Tom Sheeran also introduced an ordinance this week that would allow the police department to send a recruit to the police academy every year. He noted that, over the last nine years, the department has lost 11 officers.

“I’d like to be ahead of the curve in replacing officers,” he said.

Sheeran said he believed the move would allow the chief to keep a full department, without having potential gaps in time between the hiring of an officer and when they can start working for the Town.

Wood said he was opposed to the idea and that he believed such an ordinance would increase taxes by 6 to 8 percent.

“I think that may be overstating the cost involved when you look at the month we just had, where we were down three officers,” said Lawless.

Wood emphasized that he would oppose the ordinance if it ever came to a vote, saying that the Town should instead continue to keep a roaster of applicants.

Sheeran said that he would table the discussion and possible vote until a later date.

The Town this week also held the first reading of an ordinance to exempt the Ocean View Historical Society from being charged fees by the Town. Wood, who introduced the ordinance, said that he supported it because he believes the society has been doing excellent work improving town-owned property.

Councilman Geoff Christ said that, although he supports the historical society and their continued efforts to restore one of the town’s historic homes, he believes it would show favoritism to the organization.

“I have been really impressed with the amount of work the historical society has done with the Tunnell-West property. I just don’t think this ordinance is warranted. I think it creates a precedent. There are plenty of great organizations in the town,” said Christ, adding that local churches hold soup kitchens and AA meetings, for the good of the community.

Sheeran said he agreed with Christ, noting that members on the Board of Adjustment and Planning & Zoning Commission, as well as the town solicitor, were paid for their time on the boards, which is partially paid for by those fees.

Lawless said his initial thoughts were similar. However, he said he believed the historical society was different, because they are bettering property that is owned by the Town.

Resident Lena Kuhblank spoke as a member of the society and said that the Town receives the overall benefit of the improvements the society is making.

A second hearing and possible vote on the ordinance will be held at the November council meeting.

In other town news:

• Council members voted 4-0 to approve an ordinance that would designate dog-walking areas in John West Park. The council voted to regulate the ordinance so that no female dogs in heat would be allowed in the area, nor any dangerous dogs as defined by the state statute.

• The council voted unanimously to approve the purchase and installation of the Web Inquiry and Payment Portal Module from Edmunds & Associates, which would allow homeowners to pay their taxes online. It will take approximately two months to get the system up and running.

• Lawless was invited by the Town of Bridgeville to represent Ocean View in a Scrapple Sling as part of the Apple Scrapple Festival on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 2 p.m. in the Bridgeville Fire Hall.

• The Ocean View Police Department participated in the National Drug Take Back Day and collected 128 pounds of medications.

• The council again agreed to allow Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church to hold its annual Live Nativity.

• On Oct. 23, the Town will hold a commission ceremony for the solar array at the Wallace A. Melson Municipal Building.