Fenwick corrects voter registration ordinance

The Fenwick Island Town Council met on Friday, Jan. 23, for their monthly town council meeting. Topics up for discussion at the meeting included the town’s voter registration ordinance, utility construction policies and town charter updates.

Councilman William Weistling Jr. last Friday introduced a second reading of a proposed amendment to Sec.13-31, Registration by mail. The existing ordinance required that a voter’s registration form be “received by the registrar not later than 30 days before any election in which the person desires to vote,” while the change specifies that the registration form must be “received by the registrar by 4:30 p.m. on July 8 for the annual election or the next business day if July 8 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday. Registration for a special election shall cease at 4:30 p.m. on the business day preceding such election.”

The voter registration ordinance was first introduced in September, but at the October council meeting, the last sentence concerning “deadline for a special election” was not included in the council packet for the planned second reading. Council then approved that second reading without the sentence referring to special election deadlines.

According to Weistling, once that was approved, it was too late to amend the new ordinance by putting the additional sentence back in at the council’s October meeting. So, at the December council meeting, he offered a new first reading and, on Friday, the council approved the amended (and finally final) second reading, making the more complete rules for voter registration into town law.

With a revision of the town’s voting rules last year, the town is now asking all eligible voters to re-register and has wiped the existing voter rolls from prior to August of 2008 to ensure compliance.

The council on Jan. 25 also approved a second reading of Chapter 61-17, Utility Construction Policy. The amended second reading offered a few changes – the major ones being ones that allow the town to have some flexibility on a case by case basis regarding open cuts in the roadway.

The original “Part H” of the ordinance read: “Open cuts in the roadway shall not be permitted. Exceptions will be made in cases where there is no alternative as determined by the town on a case-by-case basis.” The amended sentence reads: “Open cuts in roadways shall not be permitted. In the event no other options exist, road cuts or overhead connections in lieu of road cuts may be considered. Such exceptions, when there is no other alternative, will be determined by the town manager and Public Works supervisor on a case-by-case basis.”

Weistling also reported that the Charter and Ordinance Committee is currently reviewing the town’s existing charter to see where improvements can be made or where updates are needed. He mentioned that deleting the section on aldermen could be considered, since Fenwick Island has not had one in more than 15 years.

“It could be difficult to get it back (or impossible) if we take it out,” noted Weistling. “[Town Solicitor] Tempe [Steen] also said that Chapter 5 on aldermen is outdated, and we should delete it or start over.”

Weistling recommended council leave the section on aldermen in, in case they ever would need it in the future, and delete Chapter 5 regarding aldermen, and if an Alderman’s Court is restored in the future, an entirely new ordinance can be drafted. The council agreed. Currently, Fenwick Island uses Frankford’s alderman during business hours and, after hours, uses Georgetown’s, who is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The state system is a great system,” said Police Chief William Boyden of the alderman’s court system. “They bend over backwards. It’s great how it’s set up.”

Weistling also brought up council eligibility as something for the council to discuss further in the future. The old ordinance regarding eligibility requires that a certain number of councilpersons live within 50 miles of Fenwick Island, and most of the council agreed that requirement was outdated. Also, they discussed adding a section about what to do if a council member left the council before their term was up or forfeited their seat for some reason.