Selbyville seeks to isolate, identify intermittent odor


It’s no secret that Delmarva endures the smell of … money. Warm springtime air can remind the public of the importance of agriculture, poultry, manure and so forth, to the area. But while Selbyville is used to the poultry business and nearby Mountaire processing plant, the Town believes new aromas may be emanating from the poultry factory, and the town council discussed the issue at their May 7 meeting.

“We have intermittent odor that is emanating, we feel, from the plant,” said Bob Dickerson, town administrator.

At past town council meetings, council members have speculated that the smell began after Mountaire began using a new waste-treatment process. Dickerson said the smell “seems more of an earthy, sewer type” but said he did know which specific scents may be crossing the town.

Sometimes the factory may not notice a scent that immediately rises and settles down elsewhere, he added. And the smells seem to hit the streets at different times and locations, based on wind direction, humidity and other factors.

“Once it’s reported, by the time you get over there, it’s gone,” Dickerson said. “We’re trying to work with Mountaire and their engineers to see what the problem is.”

Town Engineer Erik Retzlaff said there is not a lot of technology available for odor detection, so the Town is asking residents to call town hall at (302) 436-8314 to report any obnoxious odors. Dickerson is keeping a specific record of times and locations the odors appear. That could help pinpoint a specific process that needs adjusting in Mountaire’s system.

“It may not smell here at town hall, but [there may be] an odor north of town, and we wouldn’t know it unless it’s reported,” said Dickerson. “If we can isolate the time, it’ll help both of us track down the source.”

In other news from the May 7 town council meeting:

• The Town’s new bar and restaurant law is still raising frustrations. The Town Council voted unanimously April 2 to pass a Zoning Code amendment, to Chapter 200, which serves several purposes, most notably to limit the hours each day during which alcoholic beverages may be sold and to define bar, restaurant, nightclub and cocktail lounge.

Sean Oates, owner of Murphy’s Bar and Grill, read the council a letter to the editor he had written that was published in the May 4 edition of the Coastal Point, stating that he felt he should have been advised or notified of the new law, which states that alcohol may not be served after 11:30 p.m. in Selbyville businesses and that liquor may not be consumed after midnight. Oates said that eliminates a few hours of his typical service time.

At the public hearing Dec. 5, 2011, Town Council members had said that existing businesses would be exempt from the new law because of a grandfathering clause. However, it was revealed at the April 2 meeting that the existing restaurants are only exempt from new floor-plan restrictions. Everyone must stop serving alcohol at the same time.

“I was mistaken when I spoke and I said you were grandfathered in, because you are grandfathered for the majority of it,” said Councilman Jay Murray. “I was unaware that you were affected by the closure time. I apologize for the mistake. It doesn’t change my opinion. … We’re trying to protect the town.”

Oates suggested that the Town enact a different “law that says, if you have a number … five, six violent altercations that involves multiple police agencies, the Town of Selbyville removes the business license, and you get shut down. It punishes the one who’s bad. It doesn’t restrict future growth. It deals with the problem ... You pass a law that says if you screw up, you lose your business license.”

“It takes a long time for that rule to shut down a problem establishment,” Murray said. “You put off the situation for another year, two years ... That is why it will work. But it’s time consuming, expensive, from a town’s aspect, a lot of documentation required.”

Murray also said Oates had never submitted numbers to the Town as to the possible impact the law would have on food and alcohol sales.

“I understand your frustration. I really do,” said Murray, who noted that it is not the Town’s intent to hurt business.

Oates restated his frustration with the situation and concluded that he felt the law is not helping the town and could inhibit future growth.

“We think we are,” Mayor Clifton Murray said.

• The Rev. James Van Der Wall thanked the town for its cooperation in the recent National Day of Prayer event, in which 17 churches were represented.

• Although Mountaire has adjusted its wastewater treatment process, small amounts of the “scum blanket” continue to form in the Town’s Church Street pump station, though not as heavily as before. Mountaire has agreed to pay for Selbyville’s new bubbling machine, which will break up heavy layers of waste at the town’s water treatment station.

• Town recreational fields are again available for use this summer. Fields must be booked beforehand. Some of the buildings and structures do need replacing, Dickerson noted.

• To encourage more activity, the town will host a community-wide yard sale, on-site at Old Timer’s Day, scheduled for Saturday, June 16. People may now register for yard sale space or the annual event’s car and truck show.

• Selbyville and Chesapeake Utilities are still fine-tuning a contract for natural gas to come to town. While the company is aiming to serve large users, such as Mountaire, Dickerson said businesses and residents located near the pipe may also have an opportunity to connect. He reminded the public that the Public Service Commission only approves pipes that are economically feasible – ones that will not lose money for the company and existing clients.

• Three of five contractors successfully passed the questionnaire for the Selbyville wells project. Retzlaff said the Town will invite A.P. Croll & Son, Teal Construction and George & Lynch to bid on constructing the project. Bids will be submitted in three weeks and voted upon at the next town council meeting. Retzlaff said he hopes the winning contractor will be mobilized to begin work in late June. Meanwhile, the Town will soon submit building permits for the actual wells and electricity, and accept bids for those projects later.

• For the month of March, Selbyville police had 194 calls for service, issued 119 tickets, made 32 arrests and collected $1,718 in fines.

With increased patrols on the roads, police have seen a decrease in automobile collisions, said Police Chief Scott Collins. He also reminded the town council about the upcoming Special Olympics golf tour and Over the Edge fundraisers.

• Selbyville police collected almost 50 pounds in discarded medications in April’s Drug Take Back Day.

• Weed spraying is beginning around the town. The town also continues flushing dead ends in the water pipes, and chemical residuals were within standards last month.

• The council voted 4-0, with Councilman Clarence “Bud” Tingle Jr. absent, to make editorial changes to the town code by renumbering sections of the recently-passed Chapter 200 zoning code regarding the definitions of bars and restaurant.

The next Selbyville town council meeting will be Monday, June 4, at 7 p.m.