South Bethany looks at issues

The South Bethany Town Council met for the first time last week in the new town hall, for their monthly special meeting/council workshop, and they wasted no time at all, jumping right into hot topics — including additional adjustments to the town’s upcoming recycling program, and vendors and smoking on the beach.

In ongoing work to make the town’s new curbside recycling program both functional and aesthetically pleasing, the council took another look at how to deal with the receptacles, which are to be distributed through town in January, when South Bethany’s two-year contract with Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) begins.

Initially, the council intended to require the 35- or 65-gallon receptacles used in the optional program to be returned to garages or along homes when not in use. That enforcement element was dropped over the acknowledgment that many homeowners within the town are not year-round residents and may not be able to store the receptacles in such a manner after each pick-up.

The council agreed that the bins can remain curbside, under the condition that they are stored in designated receptacle bins, as are most trash cans throughout the town, and providing that one end of the bin is easily accessible for DSWA workers, by way of a hinged or sliding gate, or an opening.

“DSWA has been kind enough to work with us, but we have to be accommodating to them,” said Councilman Jay Headman.

Making the receptacles readily accessible in these curbside bins would require modification to most bins already existing throughout town, as the majority do not have an opening. Lifting the cans out of the bins – in the case of the 65-gallon receptacle in particular – is not a feasible task for most people in town, noted Councilwoman Bonnie Lambertson.

“The receptacles are going to get very heavy,” she said, “and many people here already have back, knee and foot problems.”

The initial plan to require the receptacles be returned to the house or garage from the curb fell in line with Lambertson’s and other committee members’ concerns about the appearance and aesthetic value of the receptacles.

“I don’t think a bright blue-and-yellow recycling bin is very pleasing for this town,” said Lamberston. “It doesn’t look attractive at all.” However, little can be done to accommodate that concern, as painting the receptacles is prohibited by DSWA. More analysis on these topics is expected to take place at the next council meeting, in December.

During the council workshop, Mayor Gary Jayne also addressed the issue of food vendors at the beach locations in the summer.

“It’s getting to be more of a liability issue than anything else,” he said.

With beach replenishment starting to make its way through South Bethany now, it’s difficult to say what changes the 2008 summer will bring between the number of beach-goers and safety risks.

Although some believed that the whimsical chimes of “Do Your Ears Hang Low” flowing from the “sno-ball” and ice cream trucks have become synonymous with the beach experience, others claim it’s bothersome and poses a safety threat to children.

“Kids go running up along Ocean Drive when they hear the trucks go by,” said Councilwoman Marge Gassinger, “and cars don’t pay attention. There have been a lot of close calls where a child could have been seriously injured.”

The council agreed to place a moratorium on all ice cream, “sno-ball” and similar vendors at South Bethany for the entire year of 2008, until they get a chance to see what changes a new, wider, and likely more appealing beach may bring.

With a beach smoking ban under consideration in neighboring Bethany Beach, South Bethany officials have begun to toss around the idea as well.

“If we’re going to do something similar,” said Councilman John Fields, “We need an ordinance to satisfy the public, and also be relatively enforceable.”

Enforcement seems to be the determining factor holding back further advancement on the issue in South Bethany.

“There are people who aren’t abiding by the rules we already have,” said Lambertson. “I’ve had instances where people had a dog or glass bottles on the beach when they weren’t suppose to, and they think they can do whatever they want. How can we enforce another rule if people aren’t abiding by these ones?”

The town hall has already received inquiries pertaining to whether or not South Bethany Beach will become smoke-free. “Sometimes you learn the most from experience,” said John Rubinsohn. “We should wait and see what Bethany does. We’ll learn from what they find before trying anything of our own.”

“I’m not taking any side here,” said Fields. “There are strong arguments for either side, but I think we need to realize that we’re going to hear from the town.”

Again, council decided that the best approach was to see what impact the beach replenishment has on the area and number of visitors. “We’re not sure how this beach is going to work out,” Headman agreed. “I think this is something that needs to be studied more.”

“Rock bottom,” said Mayor Gary Jane, “we have to realize that this is a matter of public safety. Anything that distracts from the lifeguards’ attention is a risk. I would like to get some experience with the replenishment first.”

He added that he will head a beach committee, whose priorities will lie with resolving these issues (a possible smoking ban and beach vendor concerns), as well as other problems on the beach. Input from the South Bethany police chief and beach patrol captain will likely be obtained before final resolution on these matters is made.