Ocean View to raise water rates, fees

The Ocean View Town Council on Tuesday passed an amendment to the water system fees and rates in the town, which would increase rates by about 25 percent. The increases are two-fold: the water usage fee will increase to offset a potential 32.5 percent increase in Tidewater Utility’s water rates, and a miscalculation in the number of properties included in the town’s water service area will change service availability fees by about 25 percent.

As discussed in prior council meetings and public hearings, the water system must run as its own fiscally independent entity, as per terms of the town’s USDA loan for the system’s construction. Under those terms, costs are shared equally by unimproved and improved lot owners within the system.

The 32.5 percent increase, meanwhile, is simply a “pass-through charge” from Tidewater, officials have emphasized.

Council on May 12 also heard a first reading of an ordinance that would permit disconnection of water services for failure to pay water service bills and of an ordinance imposing a penalty fee for failure to connect to the Ocean View water service.

“We really want to collect the money, not turn the water off,” stated Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader.

The fee for failure to connect would be $500 quarterly, with interest accruing at 1.5 percent per month until connection is completed. Property owners who have a permit but have not yet complied with the ordinance requiring connection will incur a quarterly fee of $250, with interest at 1.5 percent per month until connection is completed.

There are also fees associated with failure to pay water service bills, such as the fee for water shut-off for nonpayment, which will be $150, with a reconnect fee of $150.

After questions were raised about the ordinances, council members were quick to point out that economic hardship is a consideration and 78 people had already applied and were eligible for assistance through a Community Development Block Grant, of which there is still $10,000 available. A total of 330 property owners applied for the grants.

Local crime spree continues

Police Chief Ken McLaughlin reported at the meeting that, in the past few weeks, from St. George’s Church in Clarksville to Ocean View’s eastern border, about 20 properties had been burglarized.

In speaking with Troop 4 of the Delaware State Police in Georgetown, McLaughlin said they are under the impression that the crimes are related. In one residential burglary in The Reserves in Ocean View, all the appliances, light fixtures and a granite kitchen island were stolen. The rest of the crimes seem to be petty-cash related, he noted. There are no suspects at this time, but the investigation is ongoing, he emphasized.

The chief added that people should be diligent and leery of suspicious activity. Mayor Gordon Wood agreed, saying people should lock doors, let police know if they are going out of town and be diligent in asking any unsolicited salespersons if they have an Ocean View business license.

“People are falling on hard times,” said McLaughlin. “I don’t know what it’s like to not be able to pay my bills, or have my house be foreclosed on, or go hungry. Unfortunately for some of these folks, they commit crimes to prevent the inevitable.”

Town meets revenue mark – barely

Finance Director Lee Brubaker reported on Tuesday that the town “squeaked by” with transfer tax revenue for the fiscal year, by going just $1,600 over the budgeted amount. “We made it. Keep your fingers crossed for FY10.”

He also noted that the $1.7 million loan for the public safety building was now paid off, and the town was saving $180 a day in interest alone by having done so.

Administrative Official Charlie McMullen said Tuesday that the town was grateful for the materials and man power that the company volunteered to the town as part of their PLANET Earth Day project. Flower beds were mulched and cleaned at the public safety building and at John West Park.

McMullen also acknowledged Public Works employee Jared Steele for his work, as he has worked by himself since January, and employee Melanie Breech for her diligence with getting the business community to understand the licensing requirements. He also reported that 591 properties were permitted for water and 542 were hooked up and inspected.

In new business, the council agreed to look into the possibility of uniform trash pickup across the town, instead of property owners contracting with trash haulers on their own.

They also voted to amend Rule 4 regarding their meeting agendas, to state that there will be no revisions to the posted agenda after noon on the Friday before a council meeting.

They also agreed to a minor change in Procedural Notice 46.2, which deals with responses to active shooter situations by the police department.

During Citizen’s Privilege, the council was commended for a welcome change in the tone of their meetings by Country Village resident Baptiste Damiano. “It’s been a pleasure, and I hope you continue how you’ve been working tonight.”