South Bethany adopts $3.3 million budget

South Bethany Town Council members adopted the town’s budget for the 2007 fiscal year at their April 13 meeting (held a day earlier than usual, due to the Good Friday holiday). The $3.325 million budget – on both the revenue and expenditure sides – was settled at the council’s final budget meeting earlier this month and saw no changes before its adoption.

Mayor Gary Jayne noted the bulk of expenditures were going toward several large projects, including the new town hall and police department the town is in the process of building. He said the town was also spending significant funds toward beach replenishment, with it and neighboring Bethany Beach both hoping for substantial federal and state assistance with the planned 50-year beach construction project tentatively slated to begin in the fall.

Jayne also noted continued work on stormwater and drainage issues, commenting, “Hopefully, one day we will get to the point where we have ‘no drainage problems.’” He said the town was intentionally going at the drainage issue with a slow and steady pace, trying to do it the right way. The mayor also mentioned the planned sale of some of the town’s “junkers” – older vehicles he said were proving a higher fiscal drain than the town found efficient.

Finally, Jayne noted the commencement of the town’s beautification efforts with spring planting. “In about two weeks, you’ll see some real changes in the landscaping,” he said. “I think you’re going to see some real improvements.”

Councilman Richard Ronan, representing the Beautification Committee, noted the plan was to take three to five years, starting this year with work on the town’s paths and two entrance signage areas, and then its center medians.

On the revenue side, the town is still expecting most of its influx of cash from real estate transfer taxes, and rental license fees and taxes. On that front, the council also voted unanimously April 13 to again approve the 8 percent gross rental receipts tax on properties rented in the town. “It’s a large part of our revenue,” Jayne noted. The tax requires annual approval from the council at budget time.

Jayne praised town staff and officials for their work in the budget process, saying the officials had really done their homework during the process and staff had done an excellent job of packaging up information on the town’s needs.

At the April 13 meeting, council members also heard the second reading of a proposed parking ordinance change, making final adjustments for some areas of concerns. They added mopeds to the list of two-wheeled motorized vehicles that require parking permits, based on Councilman John Fields’ research.

Fields noted the definition for the vehicles was hazy, with Delaware categorizing them at below 55 CC’s in power, while Maryland calls them mopeds if they’re below 50 CC’s. Either way, the vehicles will now join motorcycles and motorscooters in the list of vehicles requiring parking permits in the town.

Council members opted not to add a suggested restriction from parking near residential streetside mailboxes, after Fields’ inquiry with postal workers netted the opinion that there wasn’t a real problem with drivers blocking the boxes from delivery drivers. He said residents worried about the issue had two options: petition the town individually for a no-parking area at their box, or move the box to an area where it isn’t an issue.

The council members also decided to make no additional changes to language referencing where parking permits need to be displayed. They should be put in plain view, on the dashboard or hung on the rear-view mirror, as has been the practice to date. Cars without accessible rear-view mirrors for hanging the permits were a chief reason for not requiring them to be displayed in that location alone.

In another unanimous vote, council members adopted a version of the “Yes to Beaches” resolution widely adopted by coastal towns across the country. Bethany Beach adopted their “Yes to Beaches” resolution several months ago. In both cases, the towns were advised to make the move by beach consultants/lobbyists Marlowe & Co., as a way to declare their support for beach replenishment funding to state and federal officials.

The town is also encouraging property owners and visitors alike to contact their legislators about the hoped-for beach reconstruction project and its funding, emphasizing the success of non-residents in helping them obtain funding through the larger number of representatives other states send to the U.S. Congress.

In other news from the April 13 council meeting:

•Jayne noted plans for himself and Town Manager Melvin Cusick to meet with Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) officials to help finalize an understanding that will enable the town to obtain permits and proceed with its planned canal dredge. He said they were hopeful the town might be able to piggyback on the planned Assawoman Canal dredge, using segments of the southernmost spoils pipeline and thereby saving money and reducing impacts on the nearby wetlands.

•There was little news on the Assawoman Canal dredge itself, with preparation of spoils sites and to begin clearing of the canal’s banks continuing, despite a still-pending lawsuit from the Sierra Club (last addressed in court Feb. 24) to permanently block the dredging.

•Cusick, Jayne noted, was out of town, attending a hurricane- and emergency-preparedness symposium with many other area officials. Jayne said the town’s emergency operations manual was also nearing the completion of a major update, and he noted the town was hoping to join Ocean View and Bethany Beach in a joint emergency-preparedness seminar for residents based on one held previously by Ocean View.

•Jayne reported on planned paving work for streets east of Route 1 and perpendicular to it, slated to begin in the near future. He said property owners on those streets would be notified immediately before the paving work begins.

•Fields said work on the town’s comprehensive development plan (CDP) continued, with efforts to incorporate elements where the plan was found lacking by state reviewers. He particularly noted a need to recognize in the CDP the town’s small, little-known cemetery – on the property of Goody Taylor.

•Work on the South Bethany tidal flush program is also proceeding slowly, with former Councilman Lloyd Hughes to present the town with his recommendations for next steps in the near future.

•Councilwoman Bonnie Lambertson noted roadblocks being placed in the way of the Cape Wind wind-power project in Nantucket, with a U.S. Congressional committee granting Massachusetts’ governor the right to veto such projects. As the farthest along of the proposed projects – including one tentatively suggested for the area off the Delaware beaches – the fate of the project could heavily impact the implementation of wind power nationwide.

•Council members unanimously approved a contract for the six-wheel vehicle included in the 2007 fiscal year budget, on a single bid from the one area distributor, approximating the amount in the budget.

Finally, Jayne issued a proclamation, declaring April 30 through May 6 as Municipal Clerks Week in South Bethany. In making the proclamation, Jayne praised Town Clerk Dee Burbage, Financial Administrator Renee McDorman and Administrative Assistant Pam Smith, and their work in keeping the town running smoothly.

Jayne noted that while Burbage is currently certified as a town clerk, McDorman is also nearing completion of her own certification and Smith is due to start the process in September, potentially bringing the town’s certified clerk staff to three.

In property owners’ participation:

•Jayne promised to look into further complaints about the lack of gravel ground cover at construction sites in the Cat Hill development, concerns about possible silting in of the cache basin at the Anchorage loop canal and concerns that the town’s code enforcement officer/building inspector is overloaded with work and may need a part-time assistant to split that dual job.

•Town officials were questioned as to the need to close the town office between noon and 1 p.m. each day. McDorman noted that previous attempts to stagger town employees’ lunch breaks had proven unworkable, necessitating a consistent closing time when people would know the person they wanted to see would be in and that the employees would not have their lunches interrupted.

•Police Chief Joe Deloach noted that problems with signs in the town’s and state’s rights-of-way are a code enforcement issue, not a matter for the police. Town officials referenced recent increases in the state’s restrictions on such signs and greater allowances for them to be removed. Residents expressed concern that some real estate signs were becoming too tall for what is permitted in town code – particularly those using a large post with an arm from which signs are hung.

•Jayne reiterated town council’s decision not to consider a pedestrian pathway along Tamarack, citing a lack of requests for the feature from residents of Cat Hill. The council decided to move that budget funding to work on the curbing near York Beach Mall instead.

•Community members firmed up the May 27 election day for the town council (three seats) and mayor, with balloting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the town hall. The day is also traditionally the day for a community-wide yard sale, which will now be coordinated for that day.