Selbyville doubles water impact fee

Selbyville is one of the focuses of recent growth in Sussex County, and town officials moved Monday night to ensure that their infrastructure can keep up with that growth by more than doubling the town’s water service impact fee.

In a unanimous vote, the council voted to raise the impact fee from $1,200 to $2,500 per equivalent dwelling unit (EDU), citing a need to keep up with costs — something that they said hadn’t been done in recent years.

With massive expansion of the town’s water service under way, reaching out to individual homes and new developments on several sides of the town, and plans to replace their aging treatment plant, Selbyville officials expect to spend at least $5.2 million in current and future costs for the expansion of water infrastructure.

Expansion on the Route 17 and Route 54 corridors alone is expected to bring $2.47 million in impact costs to the town. The replacement of the treatment plant is currently estimated to cost about $3 million, or a good bit more, with a new building for the treatment facility likely to be needed.

The grant portion of a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan is expected to reduce the net cost to the town by $2.1 million, however, leaving it with roughly $4.1 million in infrastructure costs to pay.

The expansion of the service raises the number of available EDUs for the system to 2,886. Each EDU costs the town $1,469 to add, with the additional cost of the water treatment facility also to be reckoned with, totaling a net cost of nearly $2,700 for each EDU on the expanded service — a whopping $1,500 above the current fee assessed per unit.

Council members on Monday, Sept. 10, voted to slim that number down as much as possible, to make a lesser hit on the pocketbooks of those hooking up to the water system. They opted for just $1,300 in increase to the impact fee, setting it at $2,500.

The council also voted to give a grace period to current property owners who are willing to pay for their hookup in the next six months. Those who have their project engineered and its hookup paid for by March 10, 2008, will be assessed the old impact fee of just $1,200 per EDU. That includes both owners of individual unimproved property and those who are in the development pipeline for new communities and commercial enterprises that will be served by Selbyville’s water system.

The grace period mirrors one previously used when sewer service impact fees were increased by the town. No additional impact fees will be charged to any existing town water customers, just those who add service, with the full weight of the new fee not falling until March.

Mayor Clifton Murray said Monday that the town’s impact fees had been “a little on the low side” for quite a while. “This will help defray the costs of the expansion, rather than us increasing the rate,” he said.

“We don’t want to use our residents’ money for new infrastructure,” Councilman Richard A. Duncan Sr. added, noting that the fee was along the lines of a median impact fee for water service throughout the area.

Town Manager Gary Taylor pointed out that the new treatment facility will also help ensure fresh water for outlying segments of the water system, versus having it travel a longer distance to get to those homes. He said more such infrastructure would eventually be needed on the west side of the town if development keeps going there.

Also on Monday, town officials clarified issues surrounding the addition of separate water meters for irrigation purposes and the savings it should bring to residents.

Town Engineer Chuck Hauser of Davis, Bowen and Friedel emphasized that the separate meters were designed to remove the cost of sewer on water used for irrigation, which is only measured for water use, whereas the standard household meter is being used to measure water use for both water and sewer charges.

Residents had expressed concern that minimal water use on one of the two meters might actually result in higher water bills, since the town charges at a flat rate for use of up to 18,000 gallons per quarter. But Hauser said that even for those using significantly less than 18,000 gallons, the second meter should result in a net decrease versus the old single-meter system, due to the sewer fees not being charged for irrigation water.

Expansion of sewer, water systems continues

Hauser on Sept. 10 also reported that expansion of sewer and water systems on the Route 17 and Route 54 corridors is “moving along.” He said the water main on Route 17 was about 95 percent complete, with work primarily taking place on the sewer segment now. The town has also received all but one needed easement, which Hauser said would not hold up the rest of the project.

Hauser said the town had obtained a price quote for the relocation of a pump station from the original location designated on the town’s plans, at the request of a developer whose property was at that location. He said he was still awaiting word from the developer as to whether they were willing to pay for the relocation or whether the town would proceed as originally planned.

Also throwing the town a slight curveball was the recent location of an abandoned cemetery near where deep trenches had been planned during the construction on Route 54. Hauser said plans were being reworked to move deep sewer trenches away from the cemetery and the shallower water trenches closer to it without getting too close. Police Chief W. Scott Collins said the cemetery had been abandoned for at least five years.

Hauser reported that the town was also meeting with contractors on its water plant to discuss the replacement of two motors and some pipes that had been determined not to be up to specifications.

And Councilman G. Frank Smith III reported that he was declining, for now, to assess fines to industrial sewer customer Mountaire Inc. for exceeding limits on Aug. 16 and 17. Smith said the treatment plant had not been able to confirm the same problem on its end, leaving a question of whether there had been an error with the sampling. He said plans were to investigate the problem before deciding if any penalties would be assessed.

Smith did ask Mountaire’s Ron Witte to notify the town in the future if it has an ammonia leak, which the poultry processing facility did on Aug. 25. Witte said the leak had been reported to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), as required, and that DNREC was responsible for reporting the problem to local authorities, if needed.

But Smith said he would prefer if the town were notified so that evacuation could be facilitated, if needed. “It would be prudent for all concerned if you would notify the police department,” he said. Witte said he would relay the request to other company officials.

Quiet July for SPD, with hiring on the horizon

Collins reported a quiet month of July for the Selbyville Police Department, with 116 complaints and 198 tickets issued. He said he expected to need to begin the hiring process for at least one more officer in the near future, as two officers are currently being considered by the Delaware State Police to be hired as troopers. Collins said four Selbyville officers had already gone to the DSP during his tenure as chief — a compliment to the town, though it leaves them potentially short-handed.

Also on Monday, Collins asked the council to formalize a policy requiring anyone organizing an event on the town’s streets to meet with police no less than 30 days prior to the event, to coordinate plans for street closures and the police and fire police needed to guide traffic during parades, races and other such events.

Collins said some event planners were better about the situation than others, with a recent road race having come as a complete surprise to police and town staff until it was under way. The council supported the request and planned to contact organizers of regular events about the new policy.

Industrial park,annexation requests see action

Council members on Sept. 10 also voted unanimously to approve the sale of the final fully town-owned lot at the industrial park to an existing business there. Alutech United, which manufactures storm shutters and metal awnings, is already the park’s second-largest employer. They requested to purchase a lot adjacent to the two they already own for needed expansion, versus leaving the park altogether.

The council also approved plans for one of the park’s other businesses, with two 4,500-square-foot buildings and a conjoined, oversized parking lot for the business being granted unanimous approval and a needed variance to allow about 50 percent of the lot to be paved for large trucks to use it.

Council members also unanimously approved Monday the final site plan for Strawberry Ridge, a residential community of 40 lots on 24 acres between Routes 17 and 54 in the R-4 zone, on Polly Branch Road behind Victoria Forest. The plan includes 11 acres of open space and 2 acres used for public use and right-of-way.

Councilman Jay Murray said the developer had obtained all needed permits and was ready to proceed with construction. The project obtained the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Committee.

The council also annexed on Monday nearly 6 acres of property east of Route 17 and contiguous to the existing town limits. The property is zoned as R-3.

Annexation has been requested for five lots on the north side of town, next to the property already planned to become a shopping center. About 14 additional acres will be added to the center if annexation is granted.

The council also agreed to set a public hearing on an annexation request from M&M Investments LLC, which is partly owned by Mayor Murray. The two parcels are contiguous to town limits, on Route 54, comprising about 7.5 acres total, and are included in the town’s current comprehensive plan. A public hearing will be held on Oct. 1. The property would be zoned R-3 if annexed. Both the mayor and Jay Murray abstained from the vote.

Electrical lines and election laws bring change

Taylor announced on Monday that plans call for a new Delmarva Power main electrical line to be run through the area, running from New York. The line, rated at 500 kilovolts, would provide roughly three times the current power currently provided to the area. It is estimated to be completed in 2014. Two large gas provider lines are also set to be brought through the Route 113 corridor in the near future, he said.

Also on Monday, Taylor noted the impact on Selbyville of last year’s election law changes, which he said will mean major changes for the town’s election officials. The next town election will be the first Saturday in March, so they have until then to train a new set of election facilitators and an oversight board, none of whom can be related to or work for town officials or candidates.

The question still remains as to whether the town will have elections in 2008. It has been infrequent, at best, that the council has had any contenders for council seats other than incumbents. The council makeup has not changed in many years.

Taylor reported Monday that the town’s emergency committee had also not met in years — since 1999, specifically. He said the committee did meet recently and planned to meet at least a few times a year in the future.

Under way as a result of that most recent meeting is pricing for needed emergency equipment, including three self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA’s) needed for safe operation of the town’s water plant due to the presence of chlorine there. The full list of equipment is expected to cost less than $10,000, most of which is the SCBA’s.

Taylor said Monday that he expects a written report on the town’s comprehensive plan from the state Preliminary Land Use Service within the next week or so. He said he has already forwarded to PLUS documents requested verbally at the comp plan hearing earlier this month.

Renovations on the town sports fields are expected to get under way soon as well, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Sussex County Council. The informal softball field neighboring the field used by the Pop Warner football league is expected to be completed with new dirt and stands, which Duncan said could then be used by existing recreational leagues or even become a home field for some of the area’s 55-and-older softball leagues.