Lawless takes seat on Ocean View council

Ocean View town council officially introduced Robert “Bob” Lawless as their new council member on Tuesday night, at their regular April meeting. Lawless replaces Roy Thomas in representing District 4. Thomas did not seek re-election after his first term on the council.

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, right, swears in Bob Lawless to the Ocean View Town Council on Tuesday, April 14.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, right, swears in Bob Lawless to the Ocean View Town Council on Tuesday, April 14.

Mayor Gordon Wood presented a plaque to the outgoing councilman on Tuesday and thanked him for his hard work on the budget and other projects, such as street repair.

“From one strong personality to another, thank you,” said Wood to Thomas, to a round of applause.

Lawless’s first act as a councilman was to suggest keeping Councilman Richard Nippes in place as mayor pro-tem, with unanimous council agreement.

Before Lawless was sworn in, the council did tie up some loose ends from the outgoing council term. They voted to give the Millville Volunteer Fire Company an Emergency Services Enhancement Fund grant of $40,000. They voted to approve the submission of a grant application for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant funding of two police officers for the 2010 through 2013 fiscal years, with the town providing full funding in 2014. They also voted to authorize the town manager to start the bidding process for street repairs, using the Street Repair and Enhancement Fund.

There was some discussion of the Emergency Services Enhancement Fund at last month’s council meeting, with some residents saying that felt the entire $40,000 of the funds, and not just $35,000, as initially proposed, should be awarded to the fire company. The remaining $5,000 was proposed to go to the Beebe Medical Center Foundation, which was the only other organization asked to submit an application for the grants.

The council came to a compromise this week, voting to give Millville the entire $40,000 and to award Beebe Medical Center Foundation the $3,000 currently in 2009-fiscal-year budget for donations.

For the street repair project, micro-surfacing will be bid out for Woodland Avenue, Briarcliffe Court, Muddy Neck Road, Gracelyn, Avondale, Old Mill and Thornberry, and hot-mix asphalt paving in a 1.5 inch overlay bid for Mitchell Avenue.

Regarding the COPS grant application, Thomas had originally brought forth a motion to not authorize the application, but after review and comments from Wood about the need for consistent police coverage, Thomas voted with the other councilmen to amend his motion and to go ahead and authorize the application.

Chief Ken McLaughlin then left the meeting briefly to complete the application for the grant, because online submittal was required by midnight on Wednesday, April 15, for an application to be considered. The grant, if awarded, would be for $196,000.

In other police news, McLaughlin said that service calls for the OVPD are up 20 percent from last year and are up 200 percent from 2000. He noted that he had also added a categorization of service calls to his monthly police report to show council members and residents the kind of calls the police take. One such recent call was a burglary and stolen car on Lake View Circle, by an escaped inmate from the Delaware Department of Corrections, he noted.

“[OVPD] were able to lift some fingerprints from that scene and have been working with the Broward County Police Department in Florida,” McLaughlin explained. “Apparently, the inmate drove the stolen vehicle to Florida and, during the course of another burglary, murdered that homeowner.”

McLaughlin added that the OVPD were continually working with Broward County’s Homicide Department on the case.

Also on Tuesday, the council held a second reading on an ordinance to amend the town’s personnel policy to establish a donated-leave policy for employees, and they voted to approve separate light-duty policies for police staff and administrative staff.

Council and residents also heard a first reading of an ordinance to amend the water system fees and rates in the town. Because costs of the system in its first year were most than expected and less than budgeted, and because the estimated number of water users was not as high as originally estimated, service availability charges will rise from about $78 per quarter to $97.66 per quarter, and usage charges will rise about 32.5 percent, to $4.59 per 1,000 gallons.

The fee, according to Town Manager Conway Gregory, is simply a “pass-through” from Tidewater Utility’s proposed increases. He noted that the two main complaints the town gets about the water system – that hook-up is mandatory and that unimproved lot owners must pay, as well – are actually requirements from the USDA loan to build the system. The loan requirements state that the system must be financially self-sustaining.

Of the 678 improved lot owners, 528 already have their water connection installed and inspected; 47 more applications have been received and are awaiting hook-up; and 103 lot owners are not in compliance.

Gregory said letters have gone out to those not complying, and they have 60 days to comply. In response to a question about a fine for those who have not paid, Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader mentioned two as-yet-unadopted ordinances regarding water.

Later, the council introduced those two ordinances regarding penalties. The first would impose a quarterly penalty fee of $500 for failure to connect, and, for people who have obtained a permit but not yet connected, a fee of $100, which could be increased to $250. The second ordinance would permit disconnection of water service for failure to pay.

Neither ordinance addresses the issues of unimproved lot owners having to pay or what penalties they might incur for non-payment, as brought up by local Realtor Kim Hook, who owns unimproved lots in the town.

“Most of you guys sitting on council aren’t affected by these fees. Other towns do not charge unimproved lot owners. I called Artesian and Tidewater, the water companies, and they laughed at me. They said, ‘How do you regulate that?’ Are you going to take 200 or 300 people to court?” she pressed.

Wood said the issue needed new thoughts and ideas, and Gregory reiterated that those requirements were the terms of the USDA loan.

In other news from the April 14 council meeting:

• Council approved a name change of the public safety building to the Wallace A. Melson Administration and Public Safety Building, acknowledging the building’s new dual purpose. The town will hold an open house at the renovated building on April 23, from 2 to 4 p.m. for anyone who would like a tour. Light refreshment will be served.

• Gregory was instructed to seek out information about renting the Lampe House out, before the council’s April 21 workshop. Pending no rental agreements being made, council said the town has an interested party that they are willing to give the house to, but will advertise the house for bidding should other interested parties want to come forward.