Ocean View readies changes to election rules

Ocean View is nearing adopting of a revised version of the town’s voting district map and the related verbal descriptions. The two were found to conflict during this year’s council election process, leading to controversy over which candidates should have been running for a seat representing District 2.

The new ordinance discussed at a Nov. 6 council meeting references new maps developed by town engineering firm Davis, Bowen and Friedel in July of 2007 and related verbal descriptions recommended by the town’s Board of Elections in May of 2007.

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader noted Tuesday that he had specifically inserted language in the proposed ordinance that would define the new election district map as superseding any verbal descriptions in the case that one should conflict with the other in the future.

Schrader said he considered the proposed verbal descriptions to still be a little “soft” and town officials raised some questions about minor discrepancies that are now expected to be ironed out in time for a second reading and potential adoption of the new ordinance.

The ordinance is now set for a first reading at an upcoming council meeting.

Council members at their Nov. 6 meeting also heard a first reading of an ordinance that would amend the town’s voting rules to allow eligible voters to register to vote in town elections as few as 10 days prior to an election. The existing ordinance requires would-be voters to register no later than 30 days prior to the election.

The ordinance also makes a provision for the town hall to be open for voter registration on at least one Saturday during the period between 30 and 10 days prior to the election.

The proposed change comes at the suggestion of Councilman Richard Nippes. The ordinance could come up for a second reading and vote at the council’s next regular meeting.

Site near park eyed for town historical museum

Ocean View could potentially have its own historical museum open in the near future, with support expressed by council members on Nov. 6 for the use of the town-owned “Shores House” adjacent to John West Park and the town hall as the future home for such a museum.

At the impetus of Nippes, who leads the town’s historical committee, members of that committee recently toured the old home to assess its suitability for a museum location.

“They were ecstatic,” Nippes reported Tuesday. “This would be an absolutely fantastic facility to have for the town museum.”

Nippes praised the location as one that would place the museum at a focal point of town by the park and make use of property the town already owns instead of the objectionable expense of trying to build something new.

“It has a lot of potential. It will meet our needs and we can’t afford to build a new building,” Nippes said.

While supporting the idea, Councilman Norman Amendt said he was concerned about the costs of fixing up the house for a museum. “I don’t know where we’re going to get the money from. It needs some work,” he said.

Nippes said the committee would be looking for grants but that the grant-seeking process really couldn’t get started until the council gave the committee some kind of formal go-ahead to use the building for a museum.

“My main concern was ADA compliance,” Nippes said of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “But that turns out not to be a big concern.” He said the widening of one doorway and installation of one or two small ramps should make the building ADA-compliant with little expense. Still, he said, “There’s a lot of work to do.”

Nippes assured council members that there was no plan to use the second or third story of the home for actual museum displays, citing narrow, steep stairways that he said would be accessed by museum staff only, to allow storage of some items on the second floor.

The museum project has already netted a considerable amount of interest, Nippes said. “We’ve been gathering a lot of information, input from the public and artifacts,” he noted. “There are a lot of very interesting pieces of information that most in the town are not familiar with.”

That interest may come just in time, he said.

“The town has a lot of history, and it’s being eliminated very rapidly,” Nippes noted. “We’ve already lost the opportunity to interview some of our older residents because they have died.”

Councilman Roy Thomas suggested the council draft a formal letter of understanding with the historical committee, to set down approval of the use and any rules for operation. Mayor Gary Meredith agreed, saying such a letter would help with the group seeking grants for the project.

Councilman Bill Wichmann said he also believed the museum would be a good use for the building, though he asked that more information on the costs of ADA compliance be obtained before any work is done.

“I would say we would have no objections to your using it and would encourage you to use it,” Meredith told Nippes on Tuesday.

Nippes also praised Town Manager Conway Gregory’s expertise Tuesday on the subject of grants for the museum.

The historical committee is set to meet next on Nov. 13, at 10 a.m. at the town hall. The public is being invited to attend.

OVPD hires new officer

Police Chief Ken McLaughlin announced Tuesday that the department has hired a new police officer, a 20-year veteran of the Philadelphia police force who is currently undergoing the final stages of her training for Delaware compliance. After that, McLaughlin said, there will be a 10-week field training period before the new officer will become a full-fledged member of the OVPD.

McLaughlin reported a quiet October for the OVPD, with no serious incidents. Halloween had been entirely without incident, he said, though a much larger number of trick-or-treaters had been out this year than last year.

Volunteer hours put in by the OVPD’s Citizen Auxiliary Patrol (CAP), McLaughlin said, has tallied 328 hours so far this year, saving the town an estimated $61,626 to date in 2007, according to state cost equivalents of $19.87 per CAP hour.

Council members on Tuesday unanimously approved a new police procedure for response to active shooter situations. Council members voted without discussing the policy in public, citing the potential abuse of the information by criminals if it were made available.

Town Finance Director Lee Brubaker reported Tuesday that Web site developers had been provided with the new town seal and were in the process of making design changes to incorporate the town seal and its colors into the site with a new navigation scheme. Town officials have also started to review sample Web site policies and expected to receive a first draft of the changes to the site next week.

A first reading of a proposed change to town personnel policy also took place on Nov. 6, with the aim of the new ordinance to add sabbatical leave for professional or educational development by staff to an existing list of acceptable types of leaves of absence.

Gregory and Public Works Supervisor Charles McMullen also confirmed on Nov. 6 that the town had hired a crew from Dover to erect and remove the large tents used for the formal opening of the new Ocean View police station.

McMullen said that he had inquired about renting tents from two local businesses but had been told neither would erect and remove the tents for the town. The Dover business had been able to offer that service, he said. Gregory said the town uses local businesses whenever possible but also considers aspects such as price when making a decision on where to spend its money.

“We understand our local dollars are generated here,” Gregory said, adding that the town’s three-person public works department simply hadn’t been able to handle the large tents by themselves.

Council members on Tuesday also set Dec. 14 as the date for the town’s Carols in the Park event. They also tabled until next month a decision on whether to cancel a planned Dec. 18 council workshop.

Approvals granted for two developments’ projects

Council members on Tuesday also gave approval to two proposed renovations on properties in the town: new storage sheds proposed for the clubhouse at Bear Trap Dunes and a new entrance for the Country Village community.

Planning commissioners on Oct. 18 had heard about and recommended approval of the building of three custom storage sheds at the Bear Trap Dunes clubhouse, which had previously been commenced. The sheds are designed to replace existing mobile storage units being used to store dry goods and catering needs.

Council members unanimously approved the request from Bear Trap with the brief series of conditions recommended by the planning commission, including the addition of a gate to screen the area from the street and homes.

The council also granted approval Tuesday to the request of the Country Village homeowners association for a new entryway element and sign.

Citing problems with degradation of the existing wooden planter box, water wheel and plantings, as well as traffic entering the development at too rapid a speed, HOA representatives said the new plan calls for concrete curbing, a concrete sign structure with two arches, a rock-face sign of Pennsylvania bluestone, a Country Village nameplate constructed of painted steel and backlit, and plantings designed to withstand low water, high wind and high temperatures.

The proposed changes had been reviewed by McMullen, who said they would meet town requirements.

Amendt said he had no objections to the plan, while Wichmann said, “It looks nice.” Meredith and Thomas abstained from the vote, as both own property in Country Village. The other three council members voted to approve the request.

Council denies police discussions with Millville

Wichmann queried his fellow council members on Nov. 6 as to rumors that some kind of discussion of shared policing with neighboring Millville had recently taken place, with a $220-per-hour figure having been floated.

Meredith said Millville Councilman Richard Thomas had been inquiring about the idea but that no formal response had been given by Ocean View.

Council members expressed a consensus that the town doesn’t have enough personnel to supply police to Millville on more than the current emergency assistance basis.

But Wichmann said he was concerned about whether town communications policy had been breeched in any discussions that led to the rumors he had heard. “If that didn’t happen, I’m very happy,” he said.

Thomas agreed, saying, “If Millville has a request of Ocean View, they should go through the proper channels. … If Millville wants something, Millville should ask for it. … There shouldn’t be a number being thrown flippantly around.”

Wichmann asked whether the other council members felt Ocean View should establish some kind of liaison arrangement to discuss such things with their neighbor, but the consensus was to wait for Millville to approach the town with any requests.

“We’re in the business of protecting the citizens of Ocean View, not subcontracting our services,” Thomas said. “The onus is on Millville to come to us.”