Ocean View council aims to slash $2 million

The Ocean View Town Council on Tuesday, June 10, in a marathon session that lasted until past 1 a.m. on June 11, moved to adopt a series of cost-cutting measures for the town, which Councilman Perry Mitchell soon afterward described as reversing “much of the town policy for the last three years."

Mitchell noted that the council had passed nine major resolutions that night, with plans to formally vote upon resulting drafted legislation later this summer or early in the fall. The budget changes proposed would save the taxpayers more than $2 million dollars over the next five years, he said.

“That is a large accomplishment. We reversed much of the town policy for the last three years, and I think we made a major policy changes in the ways things will be done in Ocean View,” Mitchell wrote in an update to citizens on June 11.

The first of the adopted resolutions was on a revised budget for the 2009 fiscal year, which began May 1. Council members voted 4-1 — Councilman Bill Wichmann voting against — to adopt the resolution, which directed Town Manager Conway Gregory to prepare a revised budget that would save that $2 million. The council will consider the revised budget at a future meeting.

The council also somewhat reversed the previous council’s stance of support for the town’s existing take-home policy for police officers’ vehicles. They voted unanimously to direct Gregory to draft a policy directing the Public Safety Department to limit police car take home at the end of officers’ four-day shift. Gregory was to consult with the Police Chief Ken McLaughlin — who has championed the program — on details of the change and report back to the council at its next meeting.

That policy, along with some of the others dealt with in adopted council resolutions on June 10, are among those expected to be considered and voted upon by the council later this summer or in early fall.

The council last Tuesday also adopted Gregory’s “space utilization study” on town office space, with a resolution that directed him to plan to move some offices currently in place at the crowded town hall to space planned for future growth at the town’s new Public Safety Building. The council was split on the issue, voting 3-2 in favor, with Wichmann and Mayor Gordon Wood opposed. A bid package for the move was to be prepared in time for the council’s September meeting.

In a related note, Mitchell said later that the committee assigned to investigate a possible lease of that underutilized space on the top floor of the public safety building to other governmental or police agencies had met on Wednesday, June 11, and reported that the Delaware State Police had no interest in moving into the space, due to a lack of funding in their 2009 budget.

He said he welcomed the news, as the town could now move forward to have town staff occupy the space.

Further dealing with issues related to the town’s police department, the council last Tuesday adopted a resolution to move forward with consideration of possible reforms to the town’s Citizens Auxiliary Patrol (CAP). Gregory was appointed as superintendent of the program and tasked with studying its charter. He was to report back to the council regarding his recommendations for reforms and reorganization of the group. Wichmann, a member of CAP, cast the lone vote against the move.

With a resolution adopted by the council on June 10, council members would no longer be able to serve on CAP. Mitchell said, “Dual membership was seen as a conflict of interest and violation of the separation of powers in the Charter.” The resolution would force the resignation of council members from CAP if they wish to be on the town council.

Generator still poses concerns for town

The council on June 10 also adopted a resolution designed to determine the condition of the 130-kilowatt emergency generator placed at the public safety building and whether the town will need to take additional steps to ensure that the building has sufficient emergency power.

The generator’s temporary installation atop portions of its shipping crate in 2006, while the public safety building was under construction, led to concerns that it might have sustained damage by not being properly installed on a concrete pad or other permanent surface.

A concrete footing was later poured around the temporary base, apparently resolving any immediate concerns. But the flawed initial installation voided the generator’s warranty.

Ocean View Councilman Bill Wichmann was deemed to have violated town code in 2006 by personally authorizing the $16,000 installation of the generator without receiving other bids or consulting the town. The issue set off more than a year of public displays of personal enmity between Wichmann and Councilman Roy Thomas, who had already battled Wichmann over the design of the public safety building itself. Wichmann received a council censure over the issue and related charges.

With a new council in place and hopes that those days are behind them, the council moved June 10 to direct Gregory to determine whether the current generator presents a safety hazard. If the determination is that the generator is a safety hazard, they said, it should be taken offline and a planned course of action reported to council by this week.

The resolution also directed Gregory to ensure that the generator and auxiliary equipment perform to the proper capacity and functionality — if necessary, through the certification of qualified experts. He was also to arrange for an engineering study to determine the total power requirements of the public safety building and to report to the town council at the August council meeting with an update and recommendations on the issue.

Museum, planning commission considered

Some $15,000 in expenses were authorized in a unanimous vote by the council on June 10 to be spent on repair of the Shore House, as was the preparation of a lease for the house by the Ocean View Historical Society — all of which is planned to lead to the conversion of the house into a town museum. The lease was to be reviewed at the August council meeting.

Council members indefinitely postponed on June 10 ongoing work to develop a procedure for obtaining legal opinions.

Mayor Gordon Wood re-nominated residents Richard “Dick” Logue (current Planning and Zoning Commission chairman) and Lois Saraceni to serve on the town’s commission, clearing a past procedural error in the nomination process. Both repeat nominees were approved by the Council.

Wood also nominated former Councilman Eric Magill for the third vacancy on the Planning and Zoning Commission. That nomination was also approved by the council.

The council will meet next on Tuesday, June 24, for a council workshop.