Voters to decide council seat Saturday in Ocean View


As time ticked down this week to Saturday’s election, candidates Roxana “Roxie” Davis, Gordon Wood and Richard Nippes prepared for their chance to take a seat as a member of the Ocean View Council, filling the District 1 seat vacated by six-year councilman Eric Magill.

They will vie for the spot the Saturday, April 14, in the town’s annual election.

Ocean View is one of the only towns in the area that implements a council of representatives from designated regions, based on a population census, in Districts 1-4.

William “Bill” Wichmann, having served a three-year term as representative of District 2, was unopposed in the election and will retain his seat. Roy Thomas of District 4, Norman Amendt of District 3 and Mayor Gary Meredith will remain on the council as well.

The districts determine who is eligible to run for a position on council. Registered voters are being reminded by town staff that they are entitled to vote in the election for the contested District 1 seat if they are registered to vote in Ocean View, no matter in which district they themselves reside.

Each of this year’s candidates brought with them a similar concern for the town’s financial status, as well as a few issues of their own.

Registered residents in the town of Ocean View are being encouraged to vote in Saturday’s election from noon until 5 p.m. at the town hall, located at 32 West Avenue.

Qualified voters must be 18 or older, must have resided within the town limits at least six months prior to the election and must have registered, in accordance with the Town Charter, prior to March 15, 2007. County or state voter registration does not entitle residents to vote in the town elections.

Registrants are required to bring photo identification to the election to vote.

Meredith and Amendt both have expiring terms approaching in 2008. Each, having served their allotted terms, will be vacating their seats for next year’s election.

The Coastal Point asked each of the candidates in Saturday’s elections a list of prepared questions. We list their responses in alphabetical order.

Roxana Davis

Q. How do you feel the town should handle its finances in the coming year and over the long term? Do you feel a property tax increase is necessary (if so, how much)? Should expenses be cut (if so, in what areas)? Should the town move to reduce its reliance on real estate transfer tax revenue?

A. I feel the town needs to really tighten the strings on their finances and look at ways to cut back on expenditures. I do not want an increase in taxes, as I am sure most residents of Ocean View would find this a hardship.

Q. How do you feel about the choices made in the construction of the new Ocean View Police Department building? Do you believe the new building is of appropriate scale and features, or is it too large? Does the town need eight officers at this time?

A. (No response)

Q. There have been conflicts and concerns expressed over the actions of some council members during the last few years. Do you feel council members need some kind of additional training, or that the council needs some kind of reform, to help it avoid problems in the future?

A. I think there needs to be better communications among the council members and less animosity.

Q. The offering of public water service to all town properties has been a lengthy process for the town. Do you feel the town needs to be working toward offering other public services or enhancing existing services/facilities as its full-time population continues to grow?

A. I feel the town should try to work with trash removal companies and try to get a reasonable rate for the residents so that we would not have five or six companies traveling on our small roads.

Q. Should the town offer new features for the community, such as additional parks, entertainment options or an annual festival, a town shuttle to public beaches, sidewalks, a community center, recreational facilities, etc.?

A. We are in desperate need of sidewalks, or at least wider shoulders for walking and bike riding.

Q. Should Ocean View be looking to annex neighboring areas in the near or long-term future? What do you feel are the benefits or drawbacks of further annexation for the town?

A. (No response.)

Q. With the rapid growth of neighboring Millville in recent years and continued expansion of that town’s population expected in the coming years, does Ocean View need to make some kind of agreement with its western neighbor over issues such as police and fire protection, other public services, roads, commercial growth (including the addition of “big box” stores), and annexation of the unincorporated areas outside their town limits?

A. (No response.)

Q. How should the town deal with county and state officials over concerns such as the much-delayed planned revamp of Route 26; the re-routing of traffic onto local and back roads; traffic backups on Route 26 and surrounding roads during the summer months; police service to outlying areas; and land-use and environmental issues?

A. If the state doesn’t help with the widening of Route 26 I don’t think there is much that can be done about the problem we have in the summer. I just don’t use 26 in the summer.

Q. There have been several opinions around town concerning the service Mediacom provides the area. What are your issues with the area’s internet and cable providers in retrospect of cost efficiency and the programming offered? What are your recommendations to go about solving this problem?

A. (No response.)

Q. What do you feel are your unique qualifications to serve on the town council? Why should voters choose you as their candidate?

A. I feel that people should vote for me as I am a long-time resident and work locally. Also, I feel that we need a female voice on the council. I will do everything I can to work for the best interests of the residents of Ocean View and the town.

Richard Nippes

Q. How do you feel the town should handle its finances in the coming year and over the long term? Do you feel a property tax increase is necessary (if so, how much)? Should expenses be cut (if so, in what areas)? Should the town move to reduce its reliance on real estate transfer tax revenue?

A. The Long Range Financial Planning Committee has made an in-depth analysis of the Town’s financial needs for 2008 through 2013. The committee has set forth a course of action that, if followed, will lead to a balance budget and reduce the dependency on the real estate transfer tax as a source of income. This plan should negate the need for huge tax increases in the future. I certainly favor tax increases to cover the cost of inflationary increases that impact the budget

Q. How do you feel about the choices made in the construction of the new Ocean View Police Department building? Do you believe the new building is of appropriate scale and features, or is it too large? Does the town need eight officers at this time?

A. I support the police and the new police building. Our police officers have had to endure years of living out of totally inadequate facilities. The new facility will prevent dangerous situations that existed in the old police building to not only the police officers, but to the staff working in that building. Currently the eight officers are sufficient to provide quick response time to all communities that make up Ocean View. The Chief of Police and his highly trained force is a significant asset to this community. The CAP Unit is a valued tool of the Police Department.

Q. There have been conflicts and concerns expressed over the actions of some council members during the last few years. Do you feel council members need some kind of additional training, or that the council needs some kind of reform, to help it avoid problems in the future?

A. The nature of any local government will lead to differences of opinion on controversial topics that come before the governing agency. The key to a well-functioning government is the individual in authority not to allow differences to become personal. If debate is allowed to fester into personal attacks, than the efficiency of the governing agency will deteriorate and spill into the community. I do not feel special training is needed at this level of government.

Q. The offering of public water service to all town properties has been a lengthy process for the town. Do you feel the town needs to be working toward offering other public services or enhancing existing services/facilities as its full-time population continues to grow?

A. The town has assumed a significant debt service at this time and should not add to this debt by adding new services.

Q. Should the town offer new features for the community, such as additional parks, entertainment options or an annual festival, a town shuttle to public beaches, sidewalks, a community center, recreational facilities, etc.?

A. There is a definite need to expand upon the current cultural programs offered by the town. A committee needs to be formed of talented and creative residents to propose some form of annual festival. The cultural history of this community is rich and needs to be brought forth for the whole community to enjoy. A variety of community events will play an essential role in uniting the community into a cohesive working relationship. The town should not sponsor a shuttle to the beach; this should be left up to the individual communities that make up Ocean View.

Q. Should Ocean View be looking to annex neighboring areas in the near or long-term future? What do you feel are the benefits or drawbacks of further annexation for the town?

A. The subject of annexation is a complex topic. The town should not annex existing communities without careful analysis. If a developer requests a new development to be annexed into the town, the Planning and Zoning Board should study this in reference to zoning laws. The Council should impose impact fees on any new developments. New developments provide a source of transfer revenue initially, but the long-range costs may out weigh the initial benefit.

Q. With the rapid growth of neighboring Millville in recent years and continued expansion of that town’s population expected in the coming years, does Ocean View need to make some kind of agreement with its western neighbor over issues such as police and fire protection, other public services, roads, commercial growth (including the addition of “big box” stores), and annexation of the unincorporated areas outside their town limits?

A. I believe the issue of policing in Millville should be discussed by the leaders of both communities. Having a combined police force would benefit by communities financially, but you would sacrifice community control. If Millville is going to form its own police force, I oppose Ocean View policing in Millville since it reduces response time for a need in Ocean View. This is an issue that both communities need to discuss in the very near future. Fire protection and ambulance service is not an issue since these services are provided by a volunteer organized fire protection service that serves both communities. With the growth that Millville is about to experience, the local government must address how this growth is going to impact infrastructure. This has been a big problem for Ocean View.

Q. How should the town deal with county and state officials over concerns such as the much-delayed planned revamp of Route 26; the re-routing of traffic onto local and back roads; traffic backups on Route 26 and surrounding roads during the summer months; police service to outlying areas; and land-use and environmental issues?

A. The Town of Ocean View is at the mercy of DelDot and its financial woes. The town has already given input into the direction of the project and its impact, but the project has been delayed because DelDot is short a billion dollars. Local residents are very cognizant of the back roads and how to get around the traffic jams that characterize the summer months.

Q. There have been several opinions around town concerning the service Mediacom provides the area. What are your issues with the area’s internet and cable providers in retrospect of cost efficiency and the programming offered? What are your recommendations to go about solving this problem?

A. Mediacom is a monopoly of which local government has no control or influence. Our local State Legislators should put pressure on the Congress to force the Federal Communications Commission to permit other cable providers to operate in the Mediacom jurisdiction. Competition between providers would lower prices and offer a better program format, especially for senior citizens on a fixed income.

Q. What do you feel are your unique qualifications to serve on the town council? Why should voters choose you as their candidate?

A. My level of education and leadership positions qualify me to assume the role of a local Councilman. I have taught political science, economics and sociology — all subjects that are essential is comprehending issues brought to the Council. I possess the ability to research, discuss and debate an issue with other members of the Council. I assure the residents that I will work tirelessly to ensure open, honest, and effective government.

Gordon Wood

Q. How do you feel the town should handle its finances in the coming year and over the long term? Do you feel a property tax increase is necessary (if so, how much)? Should expenses be cut (if so, in what areas)? Should the town move to reduce its reliance on real estate transfer tax revenue?

A. I will not at this time support a tax increase for the new fiscal year. I will look at all expenditures and revenue projections before making any decisions regarding the future. I certainly will never support a tax increase unless there are no acceptable alternatives. Cost cutting may be an acceptable alternative.

Q. How do you feel about the choices made in the construction of the new Ocean View Police Department building? Do you believe the new building is of appropriate scale and features, or is it too large? Does the town need eight officers at this time?

A. My focus is on the future. The police station is a past decision. Having said that and recognizing that we will have it as it is, I will be reluctant to invest in other office space for other departments until temporary and long-term use of any excess space is looked at closely.

Q. There have been conflicts and concerns expressed over the actions of some council members during the last few years. Do you feel council members need some kind of additional training, or that the council needs some kind of reform, to help it avoid problems in the future?

A. “Conflict” was not my word; it was in the Coastal Point’s question. We will have comity, not conflict. The continuing members of the council will all support doing the right thing as they see it. We can’t waste time on conflicts. I will not waste time on conflicts. We may disagree — but, agreeably! I am convinced that if some things could be done over, there might still be disagreements, but not conflict. We will work together to revolve issues.

Q. The offering of public water service to all town properties has been a lengthy process for the town. Do you feel the town needs to be working toward offering other public services or enhancing existing services/facilities as its full-time population continues to grow?

A. The water is coming! Hooray! Enough said. Full-time population will continue to grow. Any new or enhanced public services will require tax increases or increased user fees. There are no other magic answers other than learning how better to use transfer tax revenues. We must recognize this. So, at this time, I will not support new public services. When we get the money right, enhanced public services might be appropriate. They will cost money — increased taxes or user fees — there really is no way out of that.

Q. Should the town offer new features for the community, such as additional parks, entertainment options or an annual festival, a town shuttle to public beaches, sidewalks, a community center, recreational facilities, etc?

A. See the answer to #4. More parks? Possibly, if developers donate the land and if we make that a condition of annexations. It seems as though developers want to be part of the town. There is something in it for them. They should contribute; there should be something in it for us. A trail along the Assawoman Canal is a real possibility. We will have to work closely with DNREC and adjacent homeowners. A town shuttle? No, not at this time — for the reasons stated. A community center? Certainly not now. Added recreational facilities? Possibly — after we get the money right.

Q. Should Ocean View be looking to annex neighboring areas in the near or long-term future? What do you feel are the benefits or drawbacks of further annexation for the town?

A. Every annexation possibility is a new issue which must stand on its own, and each must be reviewed thoroughly. What will the annexation do for the town? We must know this. Revenue may not be either a good or a valid reason for annexation. For 10 years, the revenue/cost impacts may be positive. Then in my view, they may well go negative. Over the first 20 years, the total may be a wash (no net income), and after that an annexation may continue as a net loss — added services may cost more than added revenues. The numbers depend on assumptions made, and the assumptions may be so speculative that it will not be possible to predict with precision. If so, a council that works hard seeking answers is a must.

Q. With the rapid growth of neighboring Millville in recent years and continued expansion of that town’s population expected in the coming years, does Ocean View need to make some kind of agreement with its western neighbor over issues such as police and fire protection, other public services, roads, commercial growth (including the addition of “big box” stores), and annexation of the unincorporated areas outside their town limits?

A. Millville is our neighbor. There is a lot of good will. We must retain it. Yes, we should have understandings, if not contractual arrangements. As for police, it is important to work together. We can give Millville a limited amount of time to resolve their police issues. There has to be cooperation between police forces, but there must be equity in the costs of cooperation. Give Millville a little more time. A little!

Q. How should the town deal with county and state officials over concerns such as the much-delayed planned revamp of Route 26; the re-routing of traffic onto local and back roads; traffic backups on Route 26 and surrounding roads during the summer months; police service to outlying areas; and land-use and environmental issues?

A. Dealing with the county and state: this question requires and deserves a five-page answer. I don’t have that opportunity or knowledge base — nobody does. Here are some thoughts: Route 26 goes through our town. Our town! We are impacted by the lack of infrastructure. We are impacted by what at best can be kindly described as nonfeasance or malfeasance in the poor planning of roads at the state level. The delays are disgusting. We are impacted by a county government which loves revenue from our part of the county. It is obvious to all that something is not working. I am a strong believer in planning — but not planning which results in interminable delays. I know Sen. Bunting and Rep. Hocker agree, and I know and have worked well with each. It is imperative that Ocean View participate in every forum in a constructive manner. It is not too late to have strong views, backed up by analysis, which we articulate fully and, if necessary, loudly. Having said this, it is necessary that we work to make sure Ocean View is part of the solutions.

Q. There have been several opinions around town concerning the service Mediacom provides the area. What are your issues with the area’s internet and cable providers in retrospect of cost efficiency and the programming offered? What are your recommendations to go about solving this problem?

A. Mediacom! I was the only candidate who raised this issue at the Meet-the-Candidates Night. There was essentially no support when I asked those attendees satisfied with Mediacom to raise their hands. My experience with Mediacom is not what it should be. I suspect yours is too. Why don’t we have access to NBC and Fox on high definition? Is the channel lineup consistent with constant cost increases? Why do we have to wait 20 minutes for someone at Mediacom to answer the phone? Why did we have to wait weeks for new or replacement digital HD boxes? Why do we get screen messages to please wait and service will be restored “shortly” with no estimate how long? Why are the on-screen schedules so often wrong? I believe the answer is that we are a cash cow and that Mediacom thinks we have no power to force changes in anything. I believe there are some things we can do even in this era of deregulation. It will be a while, but our contract comes up for renewal in about five years. I can say that Ocean View will be ready then to negotiate from the strength of understanding Ocean View resident’s views (good and bad) on Mediacom service. If necessary, I will do a timely survey myself so we can be informed, tough-minded negotiators when the time comes. Is Mediacom meeting their contractual requirements? I will ask for council support so we will be prepared to ask Mediacom what they are doing — now — to satisfy their Ocean View customer concerns and address complaints. Dozens of people or even a whole town with the same concerns will have more impact now and at contract time than individual complaints and comments.

Q. What do you feel are your unique qualifications to serve on the town council? Why should voters choose you as their candidate?

A. What are my qualifications? They are extensive. If I am elected, Ocean View’s Council will have: A lawyer who understands the laws impacting our town and how to draft ordinances; A lawyer who understands and has personal experience on most environmental issues — one who is most knowledgeable on water issues; An experienced engineer who was asked to spend his last five career years as Deputy Director (executive officer) and counsel for a unique, joint DOD, DOE and EPA environmental research and development program; A good manager; A banker who was one of the first three organizers of Delaware National Bank who served on the organizing board and the Board of Directors for over 25 years; Someone who served as an elected and re-elected commissioner of Bethany Beach — years ago; Someone with an impeachable record of ethics and integrity; Besides all the above, someone who loves Ocean View and will work hard for our town!