South Bethany nears vote on ordinances

South Bethany officials moved one step closer to passing two ordinances, with second readings at a record-settingly brief 45-minute June 9 town council meeting.

The first ordinance is considered a “housekeeping amendment,” to bring town code more in line with a new procedure allowing people to voluntarily pay assessments to the town rather than going to court over violations and receiving a fine.

The second eliminates a section of code enacted to create a town ethics board and code of conduct for officials and employees. The town’s several attempts to do so had been rejected by state officials as not stringent enough. Councilwoman Bonnie Lambertson said the town had already invested a lot of research and attorney time in the failed effort and should spend no more. Instead, the town will just use the state ethics board for such purposes in the future.\

Shed violations up for hearing

Also at the June 9 meeting, resident Michael Matera questioned the decision to go to a hearing for property owners whose shed is allegedly built on their property line. Matera said the hearing, set for June 26, was exceptional in that there are “a lot of others” whose sheds are likewise in violation of town ordinance.

“Why pick on one or two people?” he asked.

Mayor Gary Jayne replied, “We didn’t pick on one or two.” He said some properties were grandfathered as preexisting in that condition before the related ordinances were passed, while some other property owners simply didn’t know about the rules.

“There should be equal enforcement for everyone,” Matera responded. But Jayne said the violations “just creep in from time to time” and were dealt with on that basis.

Town goes for electric cooperative

In response to an inquiry from resident Ed Nazarian, Town Manager Melvin Cusick reported that the town had applied to enter the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce proto-electric cooperative, paying the $250 application fee. “We won’t know for a few months” what the reduced price for co-op members will be, Cusick explained. “But in the first year we expect to recover the $250 fee.” The town accounts involved only relate to town hall electric service.

Nazarian clarified that he was curious about the possibility of a residential cooperative involving South Bethany residents. Though no effort has been made to specifically court South Bethany residents for such a cooperative, some efforts at residential cooperatives are being made. “I can’t imagine anyone saying no,” Councilwoman Marge Gassinger opined. “That would be wonderful."

Also at the June council meeting:

• In his mayor’s report, Jayne reported that all police officers serving in Iraq were to get awards from the state’s council of police chiefs. Jayne said he’d also been appointed to serve on one of three county groups — Transportation Management Teams — assigned by the Sussex County Association of Towns to study emergency transportation needs.

• Cusick’s town manager’s report included a reminder for citizens to report algal blooms in the town’s canals to DNREC, including the option of reporting them through a Web-based reporting form. Cusick also thanked the council for approving the purchase of a 6-by-6 all-terrain vehicle in the new budget. The vehicle had been delivered, Cusick said, and, “It has proven much more useful than we originally thought it would be.” Council members noted the vehicle was being used every morning to help clean the beach.

• In his first report as town treasurer, new councilman Jon Rubinsohn reported some $2.372 million in reserves for the town as of May 30. The Wharton School MBA-holder said he was in the process of reviewing the budget and ascertaining the impact of the current slow real estate market on the town’s finances.

• SBPD Senior Cpl. Eric Watkins reported on some of the police department’s activities from May, including an incident of “road rage” in which a motorist had rammed another vehicle on Route 1. Other incidents included apprehension of a fugitive, investigation of construction theft and damage possibly caused by a street sweeper, and the arrest of a motorist who Watkins said had 43 grams of marijuana.

Police also pursued an Acura Integra clocked at 123 mph on Route 1. Watkins said the motorist in that case had abandoned the vehicle in Dewey Beach but was later located and arrested. He explained to police that he had had a fight with his girlfriend, Watkins said. Several complaints of loud parties had also been reported recently. Watkins referenced the traditional “June-bug week” and asked those with such complaints to call the police department.

• Canals: While Rubinsohn reported no change in status of the Assawoman Canal dredge project, slated to begin work in the fall, Jayne said he and Cusick were due to meet this week with an engineer on the town’s proposed canal dredge project, in what he hoped would be the last meeting needed before permits are issued by the state. Information from the engineer was due to go to DNREC. “I hope we’ll get the permit as soon as possible,” Jayne said.

• Town hall: Gassinger reported that additional surveying required by the state on the planned town hall/police department project had been completed some two weeks prior, with an estimated 60- to 120-day period for state agency review before permits might be issued. She said the project was taking on “shades of Assawoman Canal,” with the delays. “I feel like it will never end,” she said. “It’s frustrating, but it will end,” Jayne assured her.

• Planning Commission: Councilman John Fields reported completion of changes to the town’s long-overdue comprehensive plan and submission of the new version to state agencies for final review. The town was still awaiting a response to the plan, he said.

• Tidal pump program: Councilman Jay Headman said he had met with former Councilman Lloyd Hughes to discuss the program. Additional members had been added to the committee researching the idea, he said, and next steps were being determined, particularly to define the scope of the work and, from that, the estimated cost. Jayne acknowledged that the project will likely eventually become a state project. “It’s too big, too complicated and too expensive” for the town alone, he said.

The council is scheduled to hold a special meeting/workshop on June 22 and their next regular council meeting on July 14, at which the two proposed ordinances could be adopted.