Selbyville loses 60 jobs in business closure

Selbyville’s industrial park has a vacancy for a new tenant, after the closing of local operations by Valmont Structures, one of the two largest facilities operating at the industrial park to date.

The Nebraska-based manufacturer of traffic structures and roadway lighting closed operations in Selbyville recently, losing about 60 skilled, well-paying jobs for area workers, Town Manager Gary Taylor noted at a Nov. 5 town council meeting.

“This is a big loss of jobs,” Taylor said, adding that the closure had been sudden, coming shortly on the heels of owners purchasing the entire operation at their portion of the industrial park.

“It’s one of two major buildings out there,” Taylor said. “I hope it won’t sit vacant for long.”

Mayor Clifton Murray said the Valmont closure did not reflect the success other businesses have had at the industrial park.

“The other businesses are doing really good out there,” he said. “It’s the good part of our being diversified.”

Taylor said the recent slump in the real estate market had pinched cabinet manufacturing operations at the industrial park but that the cabinet business, as well as other businesses there, had managed to find other, niche-type work that was keeping them going as well as or better than in recent times.
New shopping areas on the rise

Business is booming in the Selbyville retail market, with the recent groundbreaking at the new Strawberry Center being evidence of the area’s growing need for business space.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and council members joined Strawberry Center owners for the recent groundbreaking event. Mayor Clifton Murray said he had been told the first tenant into the center, at which parking lot paving is nearly finished, would be Dunkin Donuts.

“This is going to be a real asset for the town,” Murray said Nov. 5.

Selbyville Town Council members on Monday also unanimously approved the annexation of five small parcels on the north side of town, next to property already planned to become a shopping center. With the parcels ranging between 7.78 acres and just 23,500 square feet, about 14 additional acres will be added to the center with the annexation.

According to council members, town planning officials plan to meet again this month and to possibly take action in December to finish work on a new neighborhood commercial district for the town that would target restaurants and professional offices for its uses.

Charity begins at Mountaire

One of Selbyville’s other major employers, Mountaire Inc., reported work at the poultry plant there going smoothly over the last month. Work to extend sewer connections at the plant through jack-and-bore under existing concrete pads has not impacted plant operations, Mountaire’s Ron Witte said.

Witte reported that Mountaire is already working on its annual Thanksgiving for Thousands project, to provide Thanksgiving dinners to thousands of area residents through donations from the company, volunteer time of Mountaire workers and help from area church volunteers.

“It’s been very successful from the first year, and things are starting off well this year,” Witte said. “We’re getting geared up.”

Witte said current expectations were for Thanksgiving meals to be packed in another marathon session by volunteers on or about Nov. 19 this year.

“This is a good thing for the community,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work put in by everybody.”

Selbyville officials are also looking at helping out another local family who are dealing with a dilapidated home. Taylor and code enforcement officials reported that they had recently conducted an inspection of the home, which was previously occupied by the new owners’ parents.

Taylor said the town had previously submitted the property for housing rehabilitation grants but that the former owners had refused the money granted to them because they hadn’t wanted officials to enter the home. He said the family’s adult children were now willing to accept such a grant and had allowed them to enter the home for the inspection as part of that process.

Plans currently call for major — and expensive — repairs to the home, Taylor said, as well as the demolition of a garage that had been serving as a residence.

New R-4 zoning available again

Also on Nov. 5, council members voted unanimously to adopt a resolution rescinding the six-month hold they had placed in May on any new R-4 residential zoning. New regulations clarifying setback and back yard footage elements had since been adopted, clearing the way for the hold to be released.

In other action at Monday’s meeting:

• Councilman Jay Murray reported the purchase of a new police car with a Sussex County Council police grant. The 2000-model car replaced will be sold soon, keeping the police fleet at six vehicles. The department is also fully staffed, Murray reported, noting a quiet “business as usual” month in September with 143 complaints, 201 tickets and $2,969 in fines collected.

• Councilman Richard Duncan reported another month of smooth operations for the town’s water service, meeting all water regulations. He said a previous problem with a check-valve on one of the town’s wells had resolved itself without intervention.

• Councilman G. Frank Smith reported that DNREC’s annual inspection of town sewer operations had also gone well recently. The town’s new generator was also placed on its pad in recent days.

• Town Engineer Chuck Hauser of Davis, Bowen and Friedel reported work on sewer and water expansion along Route 17 nearly completed, with work ongoing to mobilize for commencement of operations on Route 54. Jack-and-bore operations were expected to continue over the next few weeks, with the Route 17 pump station installation taking place after that and leading to installation of remaining service lines before pavement and grass restoration.

• Hauser reported the return to work of one worker on the sewer and water expansion project. The 36-year-old Selbyville man escaped injury after being trapped in a trench on Roxana Road for approximately two hours Thursday, Oct. 18.

According to witnesses, Herbert Jamerson, 36, of Selbyville was walking by a large ditch where he was installing a sewage and drainage pipe. While walking next to the ditch, the ground gave way and the dirt collapsed on Jamerson. Jamerson’s co-workers were able to dig the dirt away from his head and upper body and waited for emergency crews to arrive. Numerous Delaware fire companies worked for approximately two hours to free Jamerson. When Jamerson was freed, he refused medical treatment and showed no signs of injury.

Roxana Road between Polly Branch Road and Bixler Road remained closed for approximately two hours while rescue workers worked to free Jamerson from the trench.

• Taylor handed council members a completed copy of the town’s comprehensive land-use plan for 2007, which has been reviewed by the state’s Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) and amended according to many of their suggestions. The plan is now being submitted to the governor for final approval.

Council members on Nov. 5 unanimously voted to adopt a resolution requesting $4,294.68 in grants from the Livable Delaware Assistance Program, in compensation for planning expenses related to this second major update of their comprehensive plan.

• Taylor called this year’s Halloween parade the “smoothest” ever in the town, lamenting with wry humor that that meant there hadn’t been one at all, due to heavy rain and thunderstorms on Oct. 24.

However, despite the cancelation, the Lions Club’s 50/50 raffle was a success for them and the lucky winner, who took home more than $1,700 when the drawing among tickets already sold was held in a comparatively dry town hall. Trick-or-treat activities also were reported to have gone well on Oct. 31, with the increasingly popular hay maze at town hall having been patronized by approximately 680 children that night.