Numerous projects have been initiated and completed in South Bethany since Town Manager Melvin Cusick joined the team five years ago, and his work has not gone unnoticed. Last month, Cusick was recognized as the 2008 Town Manager of the Year by the Delaware League of Local Governments (DLLG), a statewide organization aimed to improve and assist 57 local governments through legislative advocacy at state and federal levels.
“We look at things like savings and being innovative and creative,” said George Wright, executive director of DLLG. “We’re not looking at towns based on their size, but we’re observing what the managers are accomplishing based on the criteria we set up. It’s a strong competition. In a town the size of South Bethany, you can clearly see everything that has been accomplished.”
The town manager role was ready and waiting for Cusick when he came aboard in South Bethany.
“There was a list of projects that had been stalled when I became town manager,” he said, “and I wanted to see them get started.”
Among those projects were, most notably, the construction of the new town hall and police station and beach replenishment.
“Those were big accomplishments that many in the town were waiting on,” he said. “We were really pleased to see those projects get started and finished.”
Other accomplishments that fell within Cusick’s tenure thus far include the implementing of walkways at York Road (which saw 98 percent state and federal funding), the town’s new curbside recycling program and the South Bethany canal dredge project, which was accomplished well under the projected budget.
“We’ve also come on line with the new ambulance service,” he added, “which wasn’t an issue when I first arrived, but it’s a big plus to our town and community to be a part of that.” He added that a number of drainage issues were also intercepted and controlled in the past year, too.
In the aspect of finance, Cusick helped bring town into the FEMA community rating system for insurance reductions for individual property owners.
“It took five years to get into that,” he said, “and it took a lot of work from everybody on the staff.”
Only one of eight towns in the state to be in the rating system, South Bethany was granted a 10 percent reduction on flood insurance.
“It’s a difficult program to get into,” Cusick noted. “But it’s going to help out our homeowners a lot. Fortunately, when it comes to working on these projects, I have a great council that worked together.”
He credited an “excellent staff” for helping him receive the Town Manager of the Year honor.
“I couldn’t have earned this award without them,” he said. “They’re the best group of people I’ve ever worked with.” Prior to his role in South Bethany, Cusick operated as the director of the Roads and Waterways Division in Somerset County in Md., just south of Salisbury.
South Bethany Mayor Gary Jayne noted that it’s reassuring to have someone like Cusick heading the town management position.
“He’s a very competent man on the technical aspect of the job,” said Jayne. “He’s very conscientious and gets along with everyone. The people around town seem to appreciate him, too.”
As for upcoming projects, Cusick already has his aims focused.
“We need to maintain our budget,” he said. “We’ve experienced a shortfall, like everyone else. Transfer taxes are way down, and we have to be active in finding other revenue.”
He noted that, as town manager, he will also stay on top of the town’s beach replenishment, an issue that will be important in the town at least every four to five years when periodic replenishment is needed. Improved beach accesses and street maintenance are also on the close horizon of the town’s to-do list.
“Improved beach accesses was one of our biggest concerns last year,” Cusick said. “We open bids next week on improving walkways, and we’ve already made headway on the walkways in Sandpiper Village.”
The town will use sand material to decrease the slope of the beach accesses over the dunes, making the commute from roadside to seaside easier. While a recently passed ordinance vanquished street vending from the town, beachgoers may be pleased to see beach vending coming to South Bethany this summer. Refreshments for vacationers will be available via a cart or ATV, which will provide drinks and snacks. The vending will also act as a small revenue source for the town.
“[Cusick] knows what the future projects are,” said Jayne. “We’re strapped for money now, like all the towns. We have to hold back on some capital improvement projects until the economy changes, but we know what those projects are, and Melvin has done a great job for us thus far.”