McLaughlin: OVPD not getting ‘short end of the stick’

At the Tuesday, June 30, town council workshop in Ocean View, Councilman Richard Nippes said that he understood the reciprocal relationship between the Bethany Beach Police Department and Ocean View police but asked OVPD Chief Ken McLaughlin what their relationship was with the state police, in an attempt to understand OVPD’s duties regarding response to calls outside town limits.

“The crux of the matter is with calls within the corporate limits of Millville,” said McLaughlin. He said they are assisting the state police because they are asked to. “In essence, the Delaware State Police are the Millville police. We responded 70 times in 2008 to calls in Millville, most of which were of serious nature.”

Nippes asked if officers are protected insurance-wise when they are called to go outside of town limits. McLaughlin said that, when they are asked by any dispatch center, they have the same powers as the Delaware State Police, because they are “acting within the scope of their authority,” and they are protected liability-wise.

McLaughlin noted that he and Mayor Gordon Wood have visited the Delaware State Police Division of Communication. Because Ocean View has no 911 center, they rely solely on this center to relay calls for help.

“That alone makes it worth it,” McLaughlin said of providing service outside town limits. “The state police reminded us that they are under no obligation to provide us with dispatch service. And, when they call us, we are helping them, not the Town of Millville.”

Wood added that Rehoboth Beach has its own dispatch center, at a cost of $483,000 per year. He also said he still feels as if Millville’s police services are subsidized by the Town of Ocean View, and he does not know what the answer to the situation is.

“It’s a difficult situation. If we bill, who do we send the bill to?” asked McLaughlin, rhetorically, referencing recent calls by some council members to recoup Ocean View’s costs by billing for police service provided outside town limits.

“Their support is invaluable,” emphasized McLaughlin. “If not for the support of the Delaware State Police, we could not afford to be in the police business in Ocean View. I feel confident we are not getting the short end of the stick.”

McLaughlin also said that, in talking with Sussex County Council President Vance Phillips, he was reminded that Ocean View pays nothing for 24-7 county paramedic services. “It is tit for tat, and it’s a good system, and the system only works because we all work together.”

In other news from the June 30 workshop:

• The town discussed legal fees and the retention of attorneys. Wood offered that he will have a resolution for the July 21 meeting stating that all requests for outside counsel be approved by the town council, the mayor and the town manager.

• The council discussed the modification of the restrooms at the Wallace A. Melson Administration and Public Safety Building. Wood said it was “inevitable” and that the council needs to do what is “logical within budget bounds” to keep the building’s existing shower and locker area secured for the members of the public safety department while offering a public restroom for administrative staff and visitors.

Councilman Bill Wichmann, who was not a supporter of the decision to move administrative staff to the Melson building in the first place, offered that he has “great issue with this” and reminded the council that he had asked 15 to 17 questions about the decision before the move and pointed out then “that it made no sense.”

“It’s not a huge inconvenience to go downstairs,” he said. “How much money to we have to keep spending to destroy the building?”

Wood countered that the project to renovate for the move came in $50,000 under budget and they were looking to spend $12,000 to $13,000 to make the necessary changes.

• Town Manager Conway Gregory reported that there will be several informational meetings this fall on the Assawoman Canal trail project. The town has been working with other adjacent towns and with DNREC on plans for a trail along the state-owned portion of land adjacent to the canal. He said there are no final plans but the renditions are a starting point to get public input. Gregory said the $250,000 project is to be funded mostly by the federal government, with the remaining portion covered by the state. He said the project is still about three years away.

• Gregory also reported that he has been working with DelDOT on sidewalk projects and will go back to them each year so the town has adequate bike path/sidewalk plans so “something gets accomplished each year.”

• He also reported that the town had had some contractors out to the former Shores house and are waiting to see where the bids come in regarding roof and foundation repair.

• The council decided, at Gregory’s urging, to not enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with Sussex County regarding shared areas of concern for development. Gregory said there was much debate over the MoU (which some municipalities have already signed) at the last Sussex County Association of Towns (SCAT) meeting, and offered that they should wait a few months to see where “the lay of the land is.”

• Council agreed to appoint Bob Harrington, a native of Ocean View, as police historian.

The council will discuss and possibly vote on these and other matters at their Tuesday, July 21, council meeting, which will be held at town hall.