Re-vamps in store for Bethany Beach

Bethany Beach is looking forward to some coming renovations in the town, as plans to repave Route 1, rework the Route 1/Route 26 intersection, make some fixes to the town’s boardwalk and possibly enhance drainage on Pennsylvania Avenue are all in the works.

Town Manager Cliff Graviet reported on the status of the various upcoming projects at the town council’s Dec. 15 meeting.

Re-paving of Route 1 by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), tentatively planned for this winter, is still set to move ahead. But Graviet warned that hitches in the paving process on the state road from north of the Indian River to Dewey Beach might result in asphalt shortages that could put the Bethany-area paving on hold until spring.

But when that project area is done, Graviet said the re-engineering of the Route 1/Route 26 intersection is still planned, with an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant crosswalk to be installed and the easternmost island in the intersection to be removed as a result. He said the crosswalk will be 10 to 12 feet closer to Route 1 when it is completed.

Boardwalk assessed

Reporting on the status of the town’s boardwalk, Graviet said engineering firm Kercher Engineering (KEI) had recently declared the structure to be, overall, “in very good shape.”

KEI’s regular report had noted minor problems with nuts, bolts and crossbraces under the boardwalk, he said. With fall of 2007 still a target date for major reconstruction of the town’s beach and an emergency replenishment still a possibility in the meantime, Graviet said repairs will be made prior to any replenishment efforts, lest any new sand block access to the underpinnings of the boardwalk.

Beach access stairs that were destroyed or damaged during the Thanksgiving 2006 nor’easter that impacted the entire Delaware coast have been cleared will not be replaced until spring, Graviet said. The Garfield Parkway area remains accessible, he noted, and if any replacements or repairs were made, they would remain vulnerable to additional wintertime nor’easters, he added.

Graviet also clarified how much damage was done to the town’s bulkhead by that same Thanksgiving storm and the prior Labor Day storm. “It was not damaged by the last two storms,” he said. “But so much sand was pulled away that older damage was revealed.”

Visible cracks above the bulkhead appeared after the November nor’easter, causing an up-tick in the level of concern over the state of the town’s beach as word on federal funding for a full beach reconstruction has been delayed until at least February.

Stormwater plan in the works

Finally, Graviet reported that KEI is doing additional work to develop a possible solution for stormwater problems in the Pennsylvania Avenue area.

“Ultimately, we know we will not be able to do anything with tidal flooding,” Graviet again emphasized. But KEI’s preliminary concept of creating pipes to channel stormwater from the area of the Bethany Beach Christian Church northward to Fourth or Fifth Street could potentially hold some 1 to 2 inches of rain water, provided that rain was not accompanied by a “tidal event” in which bayside waters flowed into the town from the canals.

The plan would include pipes of appropriate size to potentially accommodate a pump, should one be needed in the future, Graviet said. In the pump-based scenario, the town could potentially pump stormwater into the Loop Canal. That scenario is impossible as things stand now, however, because the Loop Canal is essentially blocked by Route 1, preventing outflow back up the canal and out of the town.

Graviet noted that existing drains on Pennsylvania Avenue are collapsing into the roadway, necessitating that the drainage plan be carried out sooner rather than later.

The estimated price tag for the project is $1.75 million, without simultaneous installation of new water lines — another aspect of town infrastructure that Graviet said needs work and would likely be done at the same time. “It’s more efficient to do both,” he said, noting that an estimate for the project that includes the water line work would be forthcoming.

Concessions not to be extended

Also on Dec. 15, Graviet noted that the town had received a no-go from Town Solicitor Terence Jaywork on the proposed extension of the beach concessions contract for Ron Steen, who had requested the three-year extension of his existing contract after he sustained major losses in the Labor Day storm.

Graviet said Jaywork had strongly recommended against the extension, saying that if the town wished to approve it, it should be re-bid with an option for other concessionaires to also put in bids for the period. The town manager said Steen, upon being informed of Jaywork’s opinion, had wanted simply to keep the two remaining years on the concessions contract and to rebid at the end of that period.

Missing tree and benches noted

During public comment on Dec. 15, resident Phil Boesch inquired as to why the town had neither benches nor a Christmas tree on its revitalized town square.

“People are perching on planters and the edge of the stage,” Boesch complained, saying there was no place to sit in the new town center area at the bandstand. He suggested at least three or four benches should be returned to the area.

“And I’m disappointed that the town Christmas tree is not there. In years past, it was hidden by the bandstand,” Boesch noted, saying that the new configuration allowed for a more prominent display that could be seen miles inland.

In response, Graviet said benches would be returned to the town square by Monday afternoon. The Christmas tree situation was a bit more difficult, he noted.

“Maintaining a live tree on the boardwalk is difficult, so we decided not to have one this year. But we are looking at the same type of artificial tree that shopping centers use,” the town manager noted. He said such trees cost between $20,000 and $25,000 – something not budgeted for in the 2006 budget but that the town would be considering for 2007’s holiday season.

Also at the Dec. 15 council meeting:

• Treasurer Jerry Dorfman noted a continuing decline in the town’s real estate transfer receipts. Revenues through Nov. 30 were 78.54 percent of budgeted amounts, compared to 87.08 percent in 2005. Expenditures were at 66 percent of budgeted amounts, compared to 67.11 percent in 2005. The town’s revenue continues to exceed its expenditures for the year, despite the transfer tax falloff.

• Mayor Carol Olmstead thanked Entertainment Coordinator Gloria Farrar, Volunteer Coordinator Maureen Killmer and their group of volunteers for their efforts in decorating town hall for the holidays.