Fenwick nixes bonfire limit increase

At Fenwick Island’s regular town council meeting held Friday, Oct 24, the council voted down a second reading that would have raised the number of permitted bonfires on the beach on a single day from three to six. They had approved a first reading of the amendment last month but, after talking with residents, they decided they would turn down the motion, as it was not popular.

Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said she had been talking with both bayside and ocean-side residents, and the consensus was the $10 per bonfire fee would not add enough revenue to make raising the limit worth it for the town.

“The police have a hard enough time during holidays and weekends, and there is only one officer on at night,” she said. “It’s a hazard, and a nuisance to clean up.” She also noted that she would like to look at the current bonfire regulations again.

Councilman Todd Smallwood agreed and said that he thought they could maybe come up with a compromise between the three bonfires presently allowed and the six that was included in the first reading of the proposed ordinance.

Mayor Audrey Serio offered that she had heard of other towns that pay people to both set up and break down the fires, to add to consistency. “It helps control how it’s done,” she said.

Councilman Gardner Bunting echoed all those sentiments and offered that he, too, would like to look again at the current regulations regarding times, regulations and fees for bonfires. “I’d like to revisit the whole deal.”

Councilwoman Diane Tingle and Councilman William Weistling Jr. agreed as well, and Weistling offered that, instead of making minor changes or tabling the issue, they should simply vote the amendment down, as introduced, and review it in its entirety later. The council was in agreement on that idea.

Council approves charter updates

The council did unanimously approve a second reading to amend the Charter Section 33 regarding the authorizing of the borrowing of money and issuance of bonds. Town Manager Tony Carson reiterated that the amendment would allow the town more flexibility in borrowing money and would not limit them to the present-day limit of $100,000 in bonded indebtedness, but would instead allow them to borrow 25 percent of assessed property value.

“This will allow the town to increase what it can borrow, and they won’t have to revisit it another 30 years from now,” said Carson. “Before, we were only allowed to borrow $100,000 for capital projects. At the time, it was enough; but now time has caught up with us,” he said in September.

Carson noted that, with a renovation of town hall in their future, Town Solicitor Tempe Steen had recommended the changes to modernize the town charter.

Also, while reading the original charter, they had found there was no provision for absentee voting, in the town. An amendment to modernize the charter now officially provides for absentee voting. The amendment also added the verbiage “the registration books of the town hall shall be conclusive evidence of the right to vote at the Special Election,” cementing what form of proof the town will accept for those who wish to vote in town elections.

Because of questions that former mayor Pete Frederick raised regarding qualifications of voters for special elections, Weistling also added requirements that voters must be “natural persons,” as opposed to corporations. The council then unanimously approved the amended second reading of the updated charter. (All municipal charter changes must be approved by the state legislature before taking effect.)

The council on Oct. 24 also unanimously approved a second reading of an amendment to Article III, Registration. Section 13-23, regarding registration dates and times currently ends voter registration on June 30 for the town’s annual elections and 30 days prior to any special election. The new wording provides that “registration of qualified voters shall cease at 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.”

Sec.13-31 Registration by mail currently requires that those registering by mail must have their registration form received by the registrar no later than 30 days before an election in which they wish to vote. The new wording is requires that the registration form 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 will cease at 4:30 p.m. on the business day preceding an election.

The changes were designed to make the voting registration process simpler and also allow more time for property owners to vote.

Street names to get a review from county

After having heard from transportation officials last month about their concerns over the public safety impacts of some of the town’s street names and addresses, the council on Oct. 24 unanimously adopted a resolution to “enlist the service of the Sussex County Mapping and Addressing Departments to assist the town in re-addressing and renaming streets within town limits that have been identified as areas of concern for public safety.”

Also at the Oct. 24 Fenwick Island Town Council meeting:

• Council members and the public heard from auditors Sombar & Company that the town had a good year, financially.

• Carson noted that street repair on the ocean side is almost complete and that work on the bayside streets was to start in the coming week.

• He also noted that DSWA collected 18, 260 pounds of recycling for the month of September. That was a decrease from the month of August, but Carson noted there were fewer people in the town in September.

• Serio read a recognition from state Rep. Gerald W. Hocker to the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol for their rescue of six young children in one day in July. She also noted that new committees have been organized, and all committee chairmen will now report to the town manager.

• Town staff noted that Election Day is Nov. 4, and Fenwick Island’s town hall will be open for voting but closed for business on that day. Town hall will also close on Return Day, Thursday, Nov. 6.