With the recent retirement of Mayor Gary Willey, Millville Town Council members had some decisions to make at their Sept. 12 meeting. The first was the selection of a new council member to fill his seat. The second was which of them should serve as deputy mayor, as Tim Droney now serves as interim mayor.
In a wealth of candidates compared to what has traditionally been the case in Millville, two applicants put themselves forward for the open council seat. Both men live on Reba Road, just doors from each other, but the rest of their resumes were distinct.
Donald Minyon, a 30-year educator from the Pittsburgh, Pa., area, in his five-minute pitch to council members noted his 20 years of teaching political science in high school, plus the additional 10 years he spent as an administrator in charge of hiring and evaluating teachers.
The seven-year full-time resident of the town told council members he has spent the last three years volunteering at the Center for the Inland Bays and James Farm Ecological Preserve in research and instructional functions.
He has spent much of the rest of his time working with his Rehoboth-based Lutheran church on their board of education, organizing interfaith informational dinners for visiting international students in 2006 and, most recently, working to set up an interfaith soup kitchen that would open the doors of one area church every night of the week for those in need of food or other assistance.
Minyon has also served as a coach for River Soccer and worked with both Reps. Shirley Price and Gerald Hocker to get Reba Road changed from a private road to a state road. Most recently, he said he has been working to prevent a cut-through from Reba Road to the new Meadows development.
Finally, in detailing the kind of council member he wants to be, Minyon told the story of the visit his family received from then-Council Member Tim Droney when the home next to theirs exploded and was destroyed in a suicide. Droney, Minyon said, had told the family to call him, at home, if they needed anything.
“That’s the kind of councilperson I would like to be,” he said — accessible, and willing to sit down and talk with citizens about their concerns.
Neighbor John K. Northway said his main motivation in seeking office was to further his attempt to meet is neighbors since moving to the town last October. The Baltimore native said he had left city life with the birth of his daughter, seeking both to spend more time with her and to avoid the crime and other problems they found in the city.
However, Northway said he was now seeing the threat of those growth-related problems in Millville and wanted to do his best to ensure the town could take the best parts of city life — such as cultural events — and make them its own, without suffering under the weight of growth-related problems.
Northway runs a new satellite office of Wilgus Insurance, which he said he had made profitable within the first year, instead of the three predicted. He also noted experience writing proposals and grant requests – something that could come in handy in the burgeoning town.
“I have a desire to see the town grow to its true potential,” Northway said in concluding his presentation.
Droney marked the occasion with a special note on the usual lack of candidates for open council seats. “I’m glad to see two people apply,” he said, referring to the difficult time the town has had recruiting candidates for the volunteer position in the past.
The interim mayor then recused himself from voting between the two candidates, to avoid a tie, leaving the decision up to Council Members Joan Bennett, Richard Thomas and Gerald Hocker Jr.
The three voted unanimously to appoint Minyon to the open council seat, but not without noting to Northway the expected availability of more council seats in the near future, as general elections come up in March, as well as the anticipated creation of a board of adjustments. Townsfolk will be needed to serve in both capacities, Droney emphasized.
In a slightly unusual move, Minyon was then immediately sworn in and took his position on the council for that night’s deliberations, including the selection of the new deputy mayor. With Hocker’s nomination, Bennett was unanimously selected for that position.
Also at the Sept. 12 meeting:
• Consideration of the annexation request for the Toomey property was canceled from the agenda, due to the town solicitor’s concerns that more information was needed. A future public hearing will be set and advertised.
• Town Manager Linda Collins said she was working to organize a workshop on The Meadows. The workshop, once set, will be advertised, she noted.
• In her treasurer’s report, Bennett reported some $2,061,900 in funds in the town coffers, with a net income for August of $155,985.
• Council members unanimously passed Bennett’s resolution restricting construction hours to between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and to between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays between Sept. 1 and May 15. No construction will be permitted on Sundays, or on Saturdays between May 16 and Aug. 31.
Resident and construction manager Andy Lyons emphasized the need for the town to define construction, including what actions home owners might be permitted that commercial construction workers would not, prior to fashioning a permanent ordinance. Bennett agreed, tentatively setting passage of such an ordinance for November, with research and citizen input being considered in the meantime.
• Non-citizen Townsend Acres residents requested that the town keep more detailed minutes of meetings, citing the lack of mention in meetings of a Millville by the Sea workshop that had yielded a promise that Townsend Acres residents would be included among those permitted free use of the development’s amenities. “We’re not going away. We’re not going anywhere,” one resident said in making the request, as the town’s contentious relationship with its unincorporated neighbor continues.
• Collins noted plans to continue emergency-preparedness work with meetings of town officials, citizens and others on the subject. The committee devoted to the subject will meet once each month, she said, likely on Tuesday afternoons around 4 p.m., with an immediate goal of creating a town emergency plan. Interested citizens should call town hall to get involved.
• Council members unanimously approved the purchase of a tax and accounting software package, at some $17,000, in respect of Collins’ complaints about the problems town staff has had with their existing tax package and the related costs for support and updates.
Town Clerk Deborah Botchie said the new package, in use by Georgetown, will not only permit the town to print tax bills in-house but will also tie together its other accounting needs and building permit records, and reduce man-hours involved in the process. The administrative staff opted not to request an additional payroll module, noting the town only has three full-time employees at present.
“This is the cost of doing business,” Bennett said of the purchase, which will include all needed training and support for the first year but require an additional $6,000 per year for those services in future years.
• Council members also unanimously approved the expenditure of $1,073 for revamps to the town’s telephone system. Upgrading from the two-line (including fax) system that the town has now, the five four-line telephones and one dedicated fax line will address complaints about being unable to reach the town office when any one person is on the phone.
• Collins reported $1,193 in delinquent taxes sent to the town solicitor for possible liens and noted her determination to match last year’s 100 percent payment rate. She said she had also applied for a USDA grant to pay for 30 percent of the cost of a new vehicle for town employees’ use.
Collins said new weekly meetings between staff and the mayor were working well, as is the presence of new Code Enforcement Officer Bill Winter. Collins further noted the $350 scholarship obtained by Botchie for clerk certification training and praised town staff for work to host the August Sussex County Association of Towns (SCAT) meeting.