Ocean View council debates grants for MVFC, Beebe

The Ocean View Town Council this week voted to table the issue of awarding grant monies from the town’s Emergency Services Enhancement Fund to Millville Volunteer Fire Company and Beebe Medical Center.

Town Manager Conway Gregory had proposed awarding the Beebe Medical Foundation and MVFC $5,000 and $35,000, respectively.

Doug Scott, deputy chief of the MVFC, spoke at the meeting, saying that, at the risk of sounding greedy or ungrateful, the fire company was fundamentally against Ocean View giving the money to Beebe and thought the total amount would be better spent on the fire company alone. He read from his grant request that the $44,500 the company had requested would be used for the purchase of 15 sets of turn-out gear and one thermal-imaging camera, which would allow for easier access and maneuvering in a hot, dark and/or smoky house.

Resident and council candidate Jerry Mueller agreed with Scott, saying that, in a recession-type time such as this, grant money should be focused on organizations such as the MVFC that operate only on donations. Several other residents expressed sentiments that the money should stay in the immediate area. Scott also said that the MVFC is one of the busiest fire companies around, responding to 350 fire and 1,700 EMS-related calls last year.

Councilman Roy Thomas, noted, however, that the fire company and Beebe were often in a partnership and said it seemed prudent to disperse the money as the town manager had proposed.

“Where does the ambulance take you?’ he asked rhetorically. “To a hospital.”

Scott also said, after the issue was raised by a citizen, that the equipment Beebe was requesting money for – a CPR Assist Device for their Lewes emergency room – is already available through county ambulance services.

“You don’t have to go to the hospital to use that device when your county tax dollars pay for it to be brought to you,” said Scott.

A 3-1 majority would be needed to either vote on the proposed grant award or on an amendment to it, but Councilman Perry Mitchell was unable to attend the meeting and Mayor Gordon Wood had recused himself because of his social involvement with the fire company.

In the end, both Councilman Bill Wichmann, who had made a motion to give Millville the $40,000 in totality, and Councilman Roy Thomas, who had offered an amended motion to give Beebe $5,000 and MVFC $35,000, took their motions off the floor. They both agreed with Councilman Richard Nippes, the only other councilman voting, to defer a decision until they had enough council members to get a majority vote.

Also at this week’s council meeting, Gregory congratulated Public Works employee Jared Steele and manager Charlie McMullen for a great job during last week’s snowstorm, keeping the roads clear. He also publicly recognized McMullen for work he did in reducing the town’s workman’s compensation costs 17 percent for next year.

Gregory also reported that he and McMullen had met with residents of West View and Savannah’s Landing, and the town’s engineer, to discuss a ditch between the Gentilly and Brown properties. Gregory said he believes the project could be completed for less than the $200,000 budgeted. The town would need to obtain some easements from the property owners to go ahead with the project, he noted. (Wally Brown has previously expressed opposition to granting the town an easement.)

Gregory also posthumously thanked Joe McCort, who had been instrumental in the compromises in the plan but who recently passed away.

In other news from the meeting:

• Council held a first reading of an ordinance to amend the town’s personnel policy, to establish a donated leave policy. While employees could donate vacation or sick leave, the receiving employee must only use the time for sick leave in the event of a catastrophic illness.

• Council voted unanimously to appoint Michelle Steffens as a member to the Board of Supervisors of Elections and Jean Spanutius and Barlett Derrick as alternate members.

• Council voted unanimously to create an “overlay zone” known as the HPOZ – Historic Preservation District.

• Council voted unanimously to amend an ordinance “to establish an emergency Reserve Trust Fund for the Town of Ocean View.” This ordinance states that transfer taxes from new construction will no longer go into this fund.

• Council voted to allow Gregory to send letters to the 149 property owners who have not yet hooked up to town water, notifying them of $10,000 in grant money available for such hook-ups. The deadline for hook-ups without additional fees was March 1.

• Council voted to introduce an ordinance to amend the water system fees from $78 per quarter to $97.66 per quarter and the water-use charge from $3.4649 per gallon to $4.5910 per gallon, under Tidewater Utilities’ proposed 32.5 percent increase. They will have a first reading of an ordinance to make that change in April, with a possible second reading and adoption by May.

• Council voted unanimously to appoint Elaine Herbert to the Board of Assessment, as a replacement for former appointee Henry Pilot.