Delaware Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) founder Dolly Banks addressed locals gathered for the Fenwick Island Town Council meeting on May 20 – two days after the eighth anniversary of the death of her 23-year-old son, Michael.
Banks, former president of the organization, has since become a victims’ advocate. MADD started a pubic awareness campaign for victims’ services this year, and Banks explained how the program helped get her deal with that loss.
“You always think it’s something that’s going to happen to someone else — it’s not going to happen to you,” she said. “But it did happen to me, and I wondered how in the world was I going to go on with the rest of my life.”
Obviously, there was no Delaware chapter at the time, but Maryland MADD heard about Banks’ case, and called to offer their assistance.
“I don’t know what I would have done without them,” she said. “After you lose a child, your friends don’t know what to say to you, your neighbors don’t know what to say to you, your family doesn’t know what to say to you. You’re left grieving pretty much alone.”
MADD gave her someone a step removed — someone just willing to listen, she said. And, Banks said the chance to get involved, maybe help the next person, had advanced her own healing process.
She worked with victim support groups, handed out literature and answered questions at public awareness venues, and eventually participated in a victim’s impact panel.
“After I went through all that, they said, ‘Now you’re ready — it’s time to start a chapter of your own,’” Banks recalled.
She was still working at that point, but decided the time was right to retire and devote her efforts to the cause. “I had to do something else,” she said. “I had to do something about drinking and driving.” Banks worked to gather the membership, and by late 1998, 20 months after her son’s death, Delaware MADD was up and running.
“Can we make a difference,” she asked. “I think we can, so we try.”
Banks noted the organizations’ role in supporting victims of what she had come to consider — not random accidents — but violent crimes, a direct result of the drunk drivers’ series of choices. MADD workers strive to educate, to remind everyone that certain choices sometimes lead to dire consequences and to support those victims, she explained.
Following Banks’ presentation, current Delaware MADD President Rosalie Walls recognized Fenwick Island PFC Jason Bergman (he’d been unable to attend a prior awards ceremony). Walls again thanked everyone for their involvement, saying the results of police officers’ efforts “cannot be measured, or proved, but it is their greatest achievement.”
They bowed out stage left afterwards, and Police Chief Collette Sutherland took over, recognizing Ptlm. Stephen Majewski for his service, and then welcoming Trudy Schuyler aboard as this year’s seasonal officer.
One more photo op — Lifeguard Captain Tim Ferry introduced new-hire 1st Lt. Ethan Long, noting Long’s 14 years in the business, and passed Council Member Theo Brans a framed letter from the U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA), recognizing the Fenwick patrol’s certification.
Brans reminded everyone of the upcoming June 4 beach clean-up (attend that one, and the one in September, and earn a T-shirt), and this year’s Bonfire, slated for July 2.
In other business, Council Member Harry Haon offered an ordinance governing docks, boat lifts, etc. In essence, the town is moving to permit said structures in 50-foot-wide canals, an easing on the 60-foot width requirement presently in code.
Haon said they’d modified the section specific to boat lifts and davits (crane-arm lifts), to follow Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) guidelines, so the ordinance was coming back through as a first reading.
However, Alex Daley brought up another point for consideration — the max height limit to which boats should be raised. “I have a problem with boats being hoisted way out of the canals, from a visual standpoint,” he said. “I think that’s a detraction, aesthetically, and probably not the way we want to go.”
Council Member R. Chris Clark agreed, noting certain boats hoisted a good 12 feet above the waterline.
A consensus arose to study just what height would be enough to keep boats out of a storm swell, yet low enough to permit some kind of view down the canals. The ordinance should return next month for another first reading.
Public Works Super Neil Hanrahan reported progress in the newly-landscaped Route 1 median — all the plantings are in now, and he expected work on the handicapped crossovers would be completed in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Hanrahan also reminded residents that the town would offer the biannual heavy appliance pick-up between June 7 and 9 (not a general hazardous waste pick-up, he added).
Building Official Patricia Schuchman noted the town’s recent property reassessments, and said she’d be sending out letters to residents whose property values had changed since the last appraisal.
Schuchman also asked council to consider make an exception to the sign ordinance for Scott Fornwalt (Fenwick Crab House). She said he’d won Delaware Today magazine’s “Best Crabcakes” award, and was hoping to display a banner he’d received, for the summer.
She said there was a precedent — the town made a similar exception for Baltimore Trust, allowing them to fly their centennial anniversary banner for one year. Council unanimously approved the exception for the Fenwick Crab House, 5-0 (President Peter Frederick and Council Member Martha Keller absent).
• Haon noted the first event of the summer at Town Park this Saturday, May 28 — the second annual Memorial Day commemoration, at 11 a.m. State Treasurer Jack Markell is slated to appear this year.
• Town Clerk Helen Torres reminded anyone interested in running for town council to sign up by June 22. The election will be held Aug. 6. She also said the Board of Adjustment had set a quarterly schedule for variance hearings (the next date would be July 25, if needed).
• After some additional conversation regarding parking, Haon agreed to become signer for the town on documents related to the Aquathlon (swim-run) scheduled for later this summer, to benefit the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.
• Clark offered a first-step budget policy regarding donations, with the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company, Millville Volunteer Fire Company — ambulance and the lighthouse on the short list, at $1,000, $1,000 and $500, respectively. However, after some wrangling, council agreed to list those worthies, but not the dollar amounts, in the policy.
• On a related note, Haon pushed for the addition of the South Coastal Library to that list. That motion failed 3-2 (Council Member Vicki Carmean voting alongside), but as a result of all these discussions, council did vote to give the library $500 out of fiscal 2005 funds.
Finally, restaurateur Imad Abu, the tentative proprietor at the former Libby’s restaurant, approached council asking for some guidance regarding his ability to obtain a liquor license.
Abu is looking at a least-to-own option with the current owner, Rick McGee.
McGee allegedly started using a downstairs service bar as a full service bar (prohibited, because there’s already one upstairs). His liquor license was revoked, and a court ruling would now require him to physically remove the downstairs bar altogether. McGee has appealed.
Meantime, the tentative lessee would like to get some kind of liquor license in time for Memorial Day weekend. Council Member Audrey Serio voiced encouragement for Abu’s plan to return the downstairs bar to its proper use as a service bar.
However, several in attendance questioned the appropriateness of extended conversation on this topic at a town council meeting — it was really only of interest to the parties involved, not the general public, they said.
Abu said he had plans to offer a Mediterranean/Spanish menu on the first floor, but would likely keep the upstairs bar basically unchanged.