Consultant recommends concrete-block public works building for OV

On June 27, the Ocean View Town Council met for special workshop to discuss the town’s planned public works building.

Earlier in the year, the Town had signed an agreement with the Freeman Companies to lease an acre of land by Bear Trap Dunes, behind the Wallace A. Melson Municipal Building. The agreement stipulates that the town will lease the land for the next 40 years, paying $1 per year.

Public Works Director Charlie McMullen stated to the council that he, along with Town Manager Conway Gregory and Councilwoman Michele Steffens, had had a meeting with the town’s engineering consultant, Alan Kercher, his associate John Murray and Keith Fisher of Fisher Architecture to discuss what the town is looking for in terms of a public works building.

McMullen presented a letter from Fisher, giving his recommendations to the town as to what type of building the town should construct.

Fisher discussed pole-barn, pre-fabricated metal and concrete block construction.

“It is the most efficient and cost effective way to provide the Town with the required needs as well as the structural stability moving into the figure,” wrote Fisher of a concrete building. “This building type will far outlast the 40-year requirement and, due to the strength of the materials, the maintenance of the building over that time will be significantly less.”

He went on to state that the concrete block building will “achieve” all of the town’s requirements and provide the structural stability required. However, the building could cost $350,000 or more. He added that a more accurate cost estimate would be provided once there is a final design for the structure.

The uses of “green strategies” were also discussed in the meeting, and Fisher said that he did not believe geothermal heating would be a worthwhile investment. He did, however, suggest the town look into using solar panels, as Kercher proposes to orient the building to maximize sun exposure.

McMullen said that dormers were discussed. Dormers had been on the original design plans for the proposed building, back when it was proposed to be built in John West Park.

McMullen said that Kercher and Fisher agreed that the dormers could be kept on the building and made functional, for approximately $1,000 to $1,500 per dormer. They would help with lighting the building, as well as improve the airflow.

The council members agreed that the new building should be 3,500 square feet and constructed as a concrete-block building.

“Why are we heating anything,” Mayor Gordon Wood asked.

At a previous meeting, McMullen had suggested heating in the bays to keep certain equipment warm and to give employees some warmth if they are working during severe snowstorms.

“You could solve the problem about 24-7 heating by simply putting the thermostats on timers,” suggested Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader.

“I think right now, at this stage in the game, we’re spending too much time talking about how many days need to be [heated],” said McMullen. “We need to lay out the building. Heat is one of those things that’s going to come along.”

Steffens agreed, saying she would like to see a study on what kind of energy savings the town could receive from the use of solar panels.

“Somebody tell me a reason – a real good reason – for heating bays rather than employees,” Wood continued. “I challenge you to come up with one. There is not a good technical reason for heating a bay.”

Councilman Geoff Christ stated he felt it was too early on to determine how the town would heat the building.

“Why do we have to decide now about how we heat this building?” he asked. “We don’t even have any plans yet. We just agreed how many feet it’s going to be. We don’t even know how many bays we’re going to have… We’re still at the ground level.”

Schrader urged council members to focus on what they want in a design for the building.

“You really need to put together your shopping list to give to an engineer, let him design the building and come back to you and then pull the [trigger].”

McMullen requested that council make decisions about what they want for the building, so he may present it to Kercher Engineering, stating that the project cannot move on to site planning and other agencies until they do.

Gregory asked whether the council would prefer a metal roof or an asphalt shingle roof.

Steffans said she would be in favor of a metal roof, as solar panels could be attached to that surface. Council agreed to a metal roof for the proposed building.

Steffens requested that Gregory look into whether or not the town would be eligible for any grants that would help pay for the installation of the panels. He said he would report back to the council with his findings.

Council members also asked McMullen whether he would need a freight elevator or a hoist to lift equipment to be stored in the upper mezzanine of the building.

“What would make the Public Works Department more efficient?” asked Councilman Bob Lawless.

McMullen said a freight elevator would obviously be better; however, he said it was far more realistic to use a hoist. Council members agreed with his recommendation.

Town resident and former councilman Bill Wichmann suggested the town look into whether or not they can salvage any money spent on the design they had previously had drawn up for the original building when it was to be located in the park. He said that the design created was just a conceptual design of the exterior — there were no working designs.

Schrader said he would have to review the contract the town signed with the original architect to see whether or not they would be able to use the designs. Otherwise, as the town is planning on spending more than $7,500, the project would have to be noticed to the public and go out to bid.

McMullen said he would take the council’s design requests and present them to Kercher.

Sheeran took the opportunity to address the council about his concerns for the cost of the sidewalks the town will be receiving through a grant from the Delaware Department of Transportation.

“The economy of the country, of the nation, the East Coast, the state, the town, my budget – they’re all in the pits. I’ve been listening to all of this talk on the sidewalks that we’re getting. There’re all nice to have, but they’re not necessary at this point in time.”

He suggested that the council shelve everything related to the sidewalks until the town is in better shape financially.

“We can get out of this,” said Gregory. “We don’t need to build these sidewalks.”

He added that, if the council decides to cancel the project, they will have to pay DelDOT 22 percent of whatever funds have been expended by the state so far, which is currently around $30,000.

Councilman Bob Lawless said he understood Sheeran’s concerns but was hesitant to act for fear of any repercussions from the State.

“Do we totally poison the well, as far as future projects are concerned?” he asked.

Gregory said that it wouldn’t totally poison the well with DelDOT but the town would never be accepted for sidewalk grant monies again.

“There are consequences for actions,” he said. “Eyebrows will be raised anytime Ocean View is brought up to DelDOT.”

“I’m just against spending a lot of money we don’t have to spend,” responded Sheeran.

Lawless said he was also in favor of sidewalks because they will help with some of the town’s drainage issues.

“The benefit outweighs my prudence of ‘I don’t want to spent the money now,’” he said.

“Creating sidewalks will create incentive for people to use sidewalks,” added Wood.

The council planned to discuss the issue further in July.

In other town news:

The council voted 5-0 to appoint Bill Wichmann and Gary Meredith to the Planning and Zoning Commission for three- and two-year terms, respectively. The two men will replace current members Eric Magill and Richard Logue.

The council had planned to discuss Article X, on Signage within the town, which was the only aspect of the Land Use Plan that was not approved in September of 2010. However, council tabled the discussion, which they now plan to address in July.