Frankford elections canceled

This Saturday won’t see town council elections in Frankford after all. Town Manager Terry Truitt announced the cancellation of what would have been the town’s first elections in eight years at a Feb. 1 council meeting, citing the disqualification of one of three candidates for two council seats.

Resident Jerry Smith, who had filed with the town to challenge incumbents Cheryl Workman and Vincent Leon-Check, was found by state election officials to not have complied with new municipal election requirements instituted by the state in 2006, in sweeping revisions to Title 15.

“A candidate for municipal office shall file a Certificate of Intention or a Statement of Organization establishing a campaign committee with the Commissioner of Elections no later than 7 days after declaring that candidate’s candidacy,” one new section of the law reads.

“A Certificate of Intention is submitted by a candidate when the yearly salary for the office for which that candidate has filed a Declaration of Candidacy is less than $1,000 or who does not intend to receive more than $2,000 in contributions or expend more than $2000 for campaign expenses during the campaign pursuant to § 8004 of this title. Otherwise, no later than 7 days after making expenditures or receiving contributions on behalf of the candidate or committee, the candidate shall notify the Commissioner and file a Statement of Organization.”

Truitt said the town had received formal notice on Feb. 1 that Smith had failed to file the required Certificate of Intention or Statement of Organization by Jan. 22 – seven days after all three candidates had filed their town-required “letter of intent” to run, just prior to the 4:30 p.m. deadline on Jan. 15.

The requirement for the form was a last-minute issue for all three candidates in this first election in Frankford since state legislators so substantially changed municipal election law.

Truitt said she had been reminded of the new requirement by Jean M. Turner, deputy administrative director for the Sussex County Department of Elections, when she spoke with Turner on Jan. 22 (after Turner returned from an extended Martin Luther King Jr. holiday) to arrange for voting machines for the anticipated Feb. 7 election.

Workman and Leon-Check both stopped by town hall shortly thereafter and filled out the required form, Truitt said. She said that, though it was not required by law, she also called Smith to let him know about the requirement and that a form was available for him at town hall. But, she said, Smith replied that he was already aware of the requirement and deadline, and he had a copy of the form.

Truitt said she told Smith he could bring the form to town hall or submit it to state election officials in Georgetown or Dover, in person or by mail.

Once the Jan. 22 deadline for the form’s receipt had passed, Truitt said she checked with Turner to see if the third candidate form had been received by state election officials, since she hadn’t heard further from Smith on the issue. Truitt said Turner reported that her office had no record of receiving the required form from Smith but encouraged her to check Frankford town mail once more to ensure it hadn’t arrived late that day. It hadn’t.

At that point, Truitt said, Turner conferred with state election officials in Dover, who advised that there was a “non-compliance” and that the town’s Board of Elections should continue with a plan to meet the following Monday, Jan. 26, to confirm candidate eligibility locally. State election officials were planning to do likewise.

On Feb. 1, Truitt said, official word came from state election commission officials that Smith had been declared ineligible to run due to the failure to turn in the required Certificate of Intention or Statement of Organization.

With only two eligible candidates for the two open seats, Frankford’s 2009 election was officially canceled. Workman and Leon-Check will retain their seats by default. A council reorganization is now scheduled for the council’s March 2 meeting.

Truitt noted that Smith has seven days from the Feb. 1 notice to appeal his declared ineligibility but that he would have to provide a substantial reason why he should be considered eligible, such as having mailed the form and having it lost in the mail.

The cancelation of the election came as somewhat of a disappointment to Truitt, she said this week. “I wish we could go through the whole election to see the process,” she said, pointing to potential snags from the new rules the town – and its candidates – have never dealt with before and that might need to be ironed out.

As to Smith, Truitt said, “We would encourage him to re-run next year. … If you feel like you have something to add to your town, then run.”

In 2010, Frankford’s town council will have three seats up for grabs – those of Council President Greg Johnson, a 24-year council member; Jesse Truitt (Terry Truitt’s husband), a 28-year council member; and Charles Shelton, who has eight years on the council.

Water leak resolved

Tidewater’s Clarence Quillen reported at the Feb. 1 town council meeting that the town’s water use was “back in the normal range” after town staff had spent the better part of a month trying to track down what has been determined to be between 250,000 and 300,000 gallons of water mysteriously missing from the town’s central water system.

A single source for the suspected major leak was not located, but accounting of known past leaks and resolution of a number of smaller ones appears to have closed the gap between normal usage and the storage-draining use the town saw in late December and early January.

The town is in the final stages of preparation for a pre-bid meeting on completion of the town’s long-delayed new water plant. That pre-bid meeting is set for Feb. 11. Plans for those final changes to get the new plant operational are available for review at town hall.

Police Chief William Dudley also reported Feb. 1 that renovations of a town property for use as a police station are nearing completion. Electric, heating and drywall work has been completed, he said, and Dudley said he and other town employees had worked in recent weeks to add a new sub-floor to the existing uneven floor in the building.

The result will be a foyer/counter system as people enter the new police station, with a small step up to the new service counter. Dudley said the area behind the counter will offer desk and office space.

“I think it will work out for the better, even though it wasn’t quite what we had planned,” Dudley said of the last-minute design change due to that flooring issue.

Dudley reported that he had made 10 arrests in January, despite taking time off for surgery. He noted that he was due to be officially cleared to return to full duty in the coming days.

Also on Feb. 1:

• Council members approved a “memorandum of understanding” with the Sussex County government on a 3-0 vote (Workman and Leon-Check absent), creating an agreement for the two governments to cooperate on land-use planning in shared areas of interest.

The agreement calls for regular communication and information sharing; a review of traffic studies on major subdivisions near the town’s borders – particularly in the county’s designated environmental zone; and ensuring that public facilities are in place when development occurs, so that no areas are left un-served.

• Terry Truitt said she would be issuing a letter of appreciation to Mountaire for an $865 donation to the town to cover 50 percent of a landscaping project.

• Dudley said he would investigate Shelton’s report of a potentially confusing conglomeration of signs at the intersection of Delaware Avenue and Main Street. Shelton said someone had apparently made use of a town stop-sign post at Main Street to post a “no stopping, standing or parking” sign related to state-controlled Delaware Avenue.

• The council agreed to reject a grant request from Lighthouse Christian School, noting that the school is a private school and that the council had never given such a grant in the past and had denied grant requests from other community groups.

They also voted not to give a grant to the Frankford Volunteer Fire Company again this year, as the practice in the past had been for the town to give to the FVFC and the FVFC to give the same amount right back to the town, leading to the cessation of the reciprocal grants in recent years.

• Council members added one new registered voter to its voter rolls and removed several voters who had moved outside town limits or had died.

• The council agreed to look into encouraging the improvement of the railroad crossing on Frankford Avenue and Carey Street. Dudley noted that the railroad ties at the location had been replaced in recent weeks, but council members declared the unaltered road surface to still be “bad.” Dudley said he was not optimistic of getting the roadway improved anytime soon.