Bethany Beach officials talk budget, stormwater

Bethany Beach’s Budget and Financial Committee discussed several financial issues at their Oct. 5 meeting, including ongoing concern about Pennsylvania Avenue’s stormwater drainage situation.

The committee addressed ideas for funding sources for the Pennsylvania Avenue stormwater control project — recently elevated once again to the highest priority project under the town’s long-standing drainage issue.

“Funding sources,” said Council Treasurer and committee Chairman Jerry Dorfman, “would likely either be taxes or grants.”

Councilman Bob Parsons, head of the town’s intergovernmental affairs committee, will take the lead in finding sources at county and state levels.

“It isn’t too unreasonable to think that we could get some funding for this if you see what’s happened in Rehoboth,” Dorfman added.

Roughly $1.6 million came from government grants and other funding for a $2.1 million project to replace the Lake Gerar Bridge, which, due to deterioration, was deemed unsafe for transportation. That amount accounted for three quarters of that project’s entire financial budget.

The Pennsylvania Avenue stormwater project is currently estimated to cost between $2 and $2.5 million, though, as Town Manager Cliff Graviet informed committee members, that figure is likely to come down.

“The construction portion was amped up to $1.5 to $1.75 (million),” he said, “because it was hard to get bids during the boom. Now we’re seeing people are anxious to bid. We’d probably be looking at another $5 million to $6 million for the actual water part of the project,” he added.

It was also suggested last Friday that transfer tax revenue could be used on the project for a year or two before tying in with bond funding.

The repair project, said Graviet, “would restore the drainage system, move rainwater effectively off the street, and when tidal flooding subsides, you’ll be able to drive on the street. There are some grating and repaving issues that need to be done along Pennsylvania Avenue, and it will all probably be part of that project.”

From the 2008 fiscal year to 2011, the town will likely see an increase in cash remaining for capital projects, such as Pennsylvania Avenue, as presented by financial manager Janet Connery. “The trend we’re seeing,” she said, “if we don’t have any major projects in the next few years, could go up. But then we’d see it start to go down again in 2012, due to cost of inflation and increase in cost of business.”

Also addressed at the committee’s meeting was the potential change to Bethany’s parking situation.

“The town’s parking department would like to see a shift over to pay stations,” Graviet noted. “We’re asking them to go back one more time and take a really hard look at existing meters and the conditions of the meters, and try to make a decision about what they really want and what’s in the best interest of the town.”

Rather than using the current meters, the project would introduce stations where patrons would insert money to receive a pay stub with the time of purchase, such as now exist in Rehoboth Beach.

“The parking committee made a preliminary recommendation that they’d like to see a $300,000 expenditure,” said Graviet, “which they believe the town would receive after two meter cycles. But we’re really not sure if we want to make that kind of presentation yet.”

“There are a number of issues, from installation, electricity and repair,” he added. “There’s not a great need for [pay stations] right now, because we take very good care of our meters. We take them down and house them in the winter and put them back out. When parking did their write-up for us, I think they were being as frugal as they could, and recommended we only have six pay stations on Garfield Parkway.”

Further consideration will validate appropriate placement and locations of these stations, he said.

One of the major concerns with pay stations includes inconvenience, noted Graviet.

“You could be standing in line, three people deep, trying to get to the pay station, and you’re getting written up for a ticket,” he said. “We would like to work out a good number and see if this is best for Garfield Parkway.”

According to Graviet, the parking department anticipates a 20 percent increase in revenue. Committees will review the issue further before a recommendation is brought to council.