The Fenwick Island Town Council met last week to discuss whether or not the Town should apply for a match-grant that would help the Town pay for and install Mobi Mats to aid people crossing the dune to and from the beach.
Interim Town Manager Tom Wonterek said that the State offers a 50-50 grant that would help pay for the mats. He noted that there are no fixed application dates, but if the application is received by March, and granted, the mats could be installed for the start of the summer season.
Mayor Audrey Serio asked council to consider if they wanted the mats and, if so, how much they were willing to spend and where they should be placed.
“If a person who is handicapped needs to access one, the streets can be marked that there is handicapped accessibility on certain streets,” she said. “If we can do four this year, that leaves four left for the future.”
Councilwoman Vicki Carmean stated that she’s probably the only resident in town who is not in favor of purchasing the mats. Carmean further said she did not believe spending town money on the mats would be a wise financial decision. She added that she has walked on them and finds them to be quite slippery when wet, and that some have started to pit, which makes it difficult to walk on them.
“I am also concerned about finances,” she said. “We are building a public safety building that is needed. I think we have been very frugal about the use of the money. We’ve thrown in some extras, like security lights and some other things. We’re also working on a park. I don’t want to turn around come budget time and end up having to tax the people in town because we’ve overspent. I just want to be very, very careful about spending any money.”
Councilman Todd Smallwood said that, although he is in favor of the mats, he does share Carmean’s financial concerns.
“I do share Vicki’s concern a little bit, just from a cash-flow standpoint. I know we still have some taxes that have not been paid yet that we did not figure into our budget. That is a concern.”
Serio recognized Carmean’s concerns but noted that many residents have contacted the town, voicing their desire for more of the mats to increase Fenwick’s handicapped accessibility to the beach.
“I have been amazed by the amount of letters we have gotten requesting more. So I know that it is a public concern and a public wish that we do have more.”
She suggested that the council set a fixed limit of money they would be willing to spend on the mats and apply for the state grant.
“If we say we’ll do $25,000 in Mobi Mats, if we get a grant, we do four streets. If we don’t get a grant, we just do two. That solves the problem of how many we’re going to do and keeps the cost down.”
Councilman Gardner Bunting added that the Town could even solicit tax-deductible donations from residents and community organizations, to help defer some of the costs.
The council voted 6-1, with Carmean opposed, to allow Wonterek to apply for a grant, for a total project cost of no more than $50,000.
The town currently has Mobi Mats at dune crossings at Bayard, Dagsboro, Georgetown and King streets.