Frankford talks natural gas and feral cats

The Frankford Town Council members and residents heard from representatives of Chesapeake Utilities this week about a possible franchise agreement with the town for natural gas.

Darrell Wilson, director of Business Development and Planning for the utility, said Chesapeake has done several conversions to natural gas over the past 18 to 24 months at businesses including Allen’s, Perdue and Dogfish Head Brewery. He said they had been asked by Mountaire if they would be able to serve their Frankford facility, as well. That would be in addition to Mountaire’s plant in Millsboro, which they already serve.

“We have a franchise agreement in Dagsboro, although we haven’t extended that far south yet,” noted Wilson, explaining that a franchise agreement basically means if they need to bore under a road inside town limits in order to expand the service, the agreement would spell out that they would repair any damage done, etc. He also said that Mountaire is currently running economic models for their Frankford and Selbyville sites and “the next step would be to request a franchise agreement for Frankford.”

Town Clerk Terry Truitt asked if Chesapeake would only come down the Route 113 corridor. Wilson said that, for now, that would be the plan, since it is the most direct route and there is less of a need for easements on privately-owned property.

Truitt also asked if there was a certain number of residents who want to have natural gas be an option for them in order for Chesapeake to offer the service to residents. Wilson said that, typically, it helps to have an “anchor customer,” such as an industrial customer like Mountaire. He also said the distance to the houses or development, the number of customers and the type of energy needed (heat and hot water versus a fireplace, etc.) are all factored into whether Chesapeake offers residential service.

Several residents asked about the price difference between natural gas and propane or oil. Wilson said conversion of a “typical” 1,500- to 1,700-square-foot home might cost $5,000 to switch from oil to natural gas but that it is “cheaper and easier” to convert from propane. With prices as they are now, customers could see a 30 to 40 percent savings from switching from oil to natural gas.

Council members on Monday also discussed what was described as a “huge” feral cat problem in the town after reading correspondence about the issue from a resident. In response to the suggestion that people call the SPCA if they have concerns, Police Chief Bill Dudley said he had personally trapped 12 cats.

“They will take them,” he said of the SPCA, “but the homeowner is responsible for trapping. It is unfortunate, but that’s how it is.”

He also reminded residents that it is illegal and animal cruelty to shoot or kill cats.

“A lot of groups will trap, spay and neuter cats, but there is an expense to do that,” said Councilwoman Crystal Holland. “But I agree, we do have a huge problem.”

Truitt mentioned organizations such as Bethany Town Cats, which operates a trap, neuter and return (TNR) program for feral cats in the Bethany Beach area, and Holland said she would forward some information about Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary and other groups they could possibly contact.

The town council on March 7 also reviewed a proposal from Rileighs Outdoor Décor for completion of replacing the red lights in the town’s holiday pole decorations with LEDs, at a cost of $2,422. They also approved a 14th disbursement request in the amount of $9,086.80 from the Town’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Grant. Engineering costs were $4,437, and reimbursement to the Town of Frankford for generator repair was $4,649.80.

The town council also discussed possibly relocating/monies from the town’s Wilmington Trust transfer tax account to Bank of Delmarva, but they ultimately decided to hold off until they heard from a representative from M&T Bank, which recently bought Wilmington Trust, and to check out other accounts that might serve the same purpose of keeping accounts separately insured or small enough to be insured.

In other news from the March 7 council meeting:

• Councilman Jesse Truitt reported that the town’s new water plant is up and running and that the old water plant was expected to officially be offline this week.

• Dudley reported that, in January, the Frankford Police Department had made 28 traffic citations, five criminal arrests and 18 calls for service. In February, he said, there were 31 traffic citations, one criminal arrest and 21 calls for service. He also said he was “happy to report that our break-in situation is very much under control.”

• The town council voted to extend their existing audit service contract with Jefferson, Urian, Doane and Sterner for three years, to appoint resident Jason Taylor to fill a vacancy on the Planning and Zoning Commission and to forward to the Planning and Zoning Commission a conditional-use application filed by Robert and Marla Daisy to permit special events at their property at 13 Main Street.