South Bethany welcomes back guards

South Bethany Town Council marked the June 10 council meeting with a welcome back, to beach patrol captain Chris Miller, and a bon voyage recognition for Lloyd Hughes (he didn’t refile for town council this year).

Mayor Gary Jayne presented Hughes with a framed certificate — not from the town, actually, but from the Center for the Inland Bays. Hughes has worked for years with the Tributary Action Teams that laid the groundwork for the state’s recent Pollution Control Strategy (PCS).

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is working out the final version now — PCS regulations target excessive nutrient loading (nitrogen and phosphorus) in Delaware watersheds.

Afterwards, Hughes took a seat in the audience for a change, and Town Manager Mel Cusick introduced Miller, back for his 11th year.

Miller said he’d heard from a few concerned residents, about limited lifeguards on duty for Memorial Day. He agreed the beach had been crowded that weekend, but with water temperature at 54 degrees, they’d had few swimmers to keep an eye on.

He assured everyone they’d have 21 fulltime guards, plus some part time employees, this year. More than half of those guards are new hires, though, and Miller said he was facing a rather daunting task in training the new squad. He told everyone they could expect to see a lot of practice rescues in coming months.

They’ve added a new feature this year — chalkboards on the back of each lifeguard stand, where they will list tide times, water temperature and surf conditions. Miller also noted a pair of beach access wheelchairs that would be available.

Next, Century Engineering’s Walt Hoey presented safety improvements planned for the pedestrian walkway along the south side of York Road. Residents have expressed concerns about increased traffic — both foot and vehicle — along that street, and council members have approached the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and DNREC for a go-ahead.

Hoey said DNREC had given their blessing, regarding a permanent easement onto state lands along the shoulder. As Cusick recapped, the town had applied for and received a $120,000 transportation enhancement grant from the state (South Bethany matches $4,800).

Hoey quoted two prices — either $69,000 or $89,000, depending on what material the town wanted to use between street and sidewalk.

The lower estimate would buy a 2-foot gravel strip, red decorative stone, while the higher figure would actually create continuous paving.

The 2-foot strip would be made of asphalt, but patterned to look like brick. Funding in hand would likely take the town through design and construction for the more durable option, but as Cusick warned, these figures were estimates, and actual construction costs frequently varied.

Hoey agreed now was not a great time to go out for bids (most contractors have all the work they want), and Jayne noted a possible fall timeline. He said they were hoping to use the same contractor to replace the plastic bollards at York Beach Mall’s southern entrance/exit, with curbs and landscaped medians, at the same time.

At some later date, Hoey said DelDOT planned to come back and realign the crosswalk over Route 1, moving foot traffic a few yards to the south, and out of the intersection.

In other business, Barry Grim (York Road) asked for a little clarification regarding what did or didn’t constitute a commercial use, as it related to property owners renting out their homes specifically for events.

He said he’d approached the town with the same concern last year, and it was beginning to crop up again. When renters set up the big tent and hired a band and caterers for a wedding reception, bar mitzvah or whatever, that started to look like a commercial use, Grim pointed out.

According to Council Member Richard Ronan, the breaking point was when money started changing hands. If guests had to pay an admittance fee, that was clearly a commercial activity, he said.

Tom Roche (Henlopen Drive) asked whether DNREC would bring the sea lettuce harvester around soon — he said the algae was starting to develop a rather distasteful odor.

Police Chief James “Joe” Deloach welcomed freshman Council Member Joseph “Jay” Headman and gave a brief report on the upcoming “Operation Firecracker.”

Civilian fireworks put beachfront homes at risk last year, as errant rockets landed on several rooftops. Deloach has rented a pair of ATVs this year, and will have some additional temporary officers on hand to help with enforcement.

Council Member Bob Cestone reported on town charter changes making their way through the Delaware General Assembly. Cestone said everything had appeared to be on track as the bill cleared senate committee, but now some legislators were balking at the town’s request for extended police jurisdiction.

One of the charter changes would give South Bethany police the ability to enforce violations in the crosswalks at York Road (which are just south of town limits), and also on the section of Kent Avenue northwest of town.