Selbyville talks guns, cars, water, power

The Selbyville Town Council on June 6 passed two ordinances, each unanimously, but tabled a third proposed ordinance until the council members could consider some deeper implications.

First, they agreed to retroactively adopt the town’s comprehensive plan, dating back to September of 2002. The plan’s final draft was submitted to state agencies on Sept. 9 of that year and certified by the state on Sept. 16, 2002, but the council never formally ratified their previous acceptance of the plan.

That bit of housekeeping out of the way, they also moved unanimously to fine-tune town ordinances regarding the discharge of guns and fireworks. Police Chief W. Scott Collins explained that the changes had come as the result of a particular problem in the town.

“What we’re having is 12-, 13-year-old boys running around at night with BB guns,” he said. The new ordinance language, he noted, came almost directly out of state code, except to change things “so a 12- or 13-year-old kid can’t walk around town with a BB gun without their parents.”

Instead, minors will be required to be with an adult when in possession of or discharging such firearms, also including paint-ball guns, as well as rifles, pistols, cannons, “safety canes,” air guns or cap guns. The ordinance also prohibits any possession or discharge of firearms within 100 yards of a residence (except the residence of the person in question) as well as within 15 yards of a roadway.

The ordinance clarifies that state Department of Agriculture regulations on the use of fireworks to frighten birds will apply, and otherwise prohibits the possession and discharge of fireworks, per state law. Fines range from $25 to $100 per incident, plus court costs.

Defining inoperable vehicles

Council members tabled action on increased strictures related to non-operable vehicles. The ordinance changes proposed were intended to formally classify untagged vehicles as “inoperable” under existing prohibitions on storing such vehicles outside a building except when screened from view (covers not qualifying as such).

But in defining “untagged” cars as also including cars with expired tags and putting in place a limit of 15 days on such storage, council members said the ordinance might have gone too far.

Town Manager Gary Taylor said the measure had been intended to address the problem of inoperable cars accumulating in driveways, as many as two or three per driveway, he said.

But Councilman Richard Duncan said it wasn’t unheard of for residents to be out of the area in the winter, for six months or more, and the town might not want to fine them for leaving a car with expired tags in their driveway during that time.

Collins noted that the state gives a six-month grace period for expired tags before cars are considered “untagged” and a full year before they’re removed from the motor vehicle system.

Mayor Clifton Murray said the existing ordinances were problematic in that a car could sit untagged in a driveway for four years and not legally allow the town to require it be out of sight. But he said council members could certainly consider the change and return to it in the future.

Water rates hiked

Council members unanimously agreed to a rate hike for water service provided by the town, on the recommendation of Duncan, who cited an increase of some $25,000 anticipated for chemicals used to treat the town’s water, above the $75,000 budgeted for the year. He cited transportation and fuel costs in the increased chemical cost.

That would work out to a new rate of $59.50 per quarter for residents inside town limits and $69.14 for those outside of the town. “This is to break even, assuming no more cost increases,” he noted. Engineer Chuck Hauser compared estimated increased rates for private water suppliers Artesian and Tidewater, at some $130 to $140 per quarter – considerably higher than town rates, he noted.

“We hate to be the bearer of bad news,” Duncan added, “but we can’t keep losing money.”

Duncan also reported approval of the town’s expanded water franchise area, up to 372 parcels.

Also at the June 6 council meeting

• Taylor said the town had signed up with the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce’s tentative electric power cooperative, hoping to save money on its own 35 electric accounts. He said the town council would have the ability to approve or disapprove the final membership decision once potential rates were announced by the cooperative and its aggregator.

• Collins noted efforts to enforce speed limits at the edge of town on Route 54, near Bunting’s Mill, were being made but said the drop in speed limit from 50 to 35 mph at that spot made it difficult. The statement came as resident Ralph Lewes complained of speeding vehicles coming close as he mowed grass at the side of the road. Lewes requested speeds bumps be looked into.

Taylor noted that the area was state right-of-way — unlikely to get speed bumps — and should be mowed by the state, though Collins said police could provide protection for a brief period to allow it to be mowed in the future.

• Planning for the town’s annual Old Timer’s Day on June 17 was reported as smooth, with more than two dozen vendors, 17 police cars and 24 other cars and trucks pre-registered for the event. Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III, son of U.S. Sen. Joe Biden and candidate for state attorney general, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, state Rep. Gerald Hocker and County Councilman Vance Phillips are all scheduled to participate.

• Duncan reported work on the town’s wellhead protection program, with input from DNREC’s Doug Rambo. The town will be looking into protecting its water sources, with additional focus on limited protection for “excellent recharge areas” that primarily appear in potential areas of future annexation. Limits on certain types of use (hazardous materials and underground storage tanks) and on impervious surface would be part of the plan.

• Hauser said work on the town’s third test well was to begin on Thursday, while the water facility project at Route 17 and 54 was to go out to bid at any time. The bids should be back before the council’s August meeting, he said.

• Taylor presented council members with a draft development agreement that the town could provide to future developers. He said the document would define who was responsible for what aspects of the future developments, as well as remind developers of various town requirements. Council members were to review the document to see if they wanted to enact a similar agreement, as well as pass it on to the town’s planning commissioners.

• Mayor Murray publicly mourned the loss to fire of Wilgus Cleaners, which he called “a landmark” in the town. “It was a sad day,” he said. Murray also lamented the loss of the business’ 62 jobs and said owners had not yet told the town of any decision about whether they would return to the location.