Ocean View rejects addressing system

Ocean View town officials were to consider implementing Sussex County’s five-digit 911-friendly house-numbering system at Tuesday’s town council meeting, but Mayor Gary Meredith took to the microphone first and dismissed the idea.

He said that town council members had considered it but opted instead to send the town’s current addressing system to the county to be entered on its county-wide map, which is used to screen calls at the Georgetown Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

“We will not develop an ordinance,” Meredith told the crowd, which most had expected would be collectively against readdressing the town.

By not allowing the county to readdress the town with five-digit addresses, the town will be responsible for readdressing new developments within town limits, emphasized Donna Pusey, the county supervisor for 911 addressing.

Once the town’s system is sent to the county, though, it will be entered into the county’s map. After that map is updated, Pusey sends it to the EOC, where it is used to screen calls.

Once an emergency call enters the EOC grid — if that address is on the grid — a light will appear, showing the exact location of the property with the emergency. EOC’s Sussex County Director Joe Thomas said having addresses on the call allows for more speedy emergency response times.

Ocean View’s current addressing system will enter the county-wide map days after it is sent to the county, leaving no need for the county to readdress the town, according to Councilman Norman Amendt.

Towns that need the county to oversee their systems usually don’t have the staff to maintain their system because of development — as is the case in neighboring Millville. Millville is currently considering the option. So far, Dagsboro is the only town in the area that has allowed county officials to completely readdress properties within town limits.

But, as Amendt said, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Though the council rejected the readdressing idea, Ocean View Town Manager Kathy Roth recommended that the council still consider introducing an ordinance that would require town residents to post their addresses on their mailbox or on the exteriors of their homes, however.

A recently adopted Sussex County ordinance — which carries a fine — requires residents in the unincorporated parts of the county to either post their addresses in 3-inch numbers on their mailboxes or in four-inch numbers on their homes.

Council is expected to introduce a similar ordinance at its May meeting but will not consider implementing the county’s five-digit system after all.

“Originally, it sounded like a good idea,” Roth said.

In the more than eight years since the five-digit numbering’s inception, Sussex County officials have readdressed all of the unincorporated areas of the county, except for certain areas outside of Bethany Beach, Pusey said.

County officials are still, however, waiting for Ocean View’s and other towns’ information. Pusey — who was in attendance on Tuesday — said that the goal is to have 95 percent of the county’s addresses on the county’s system. Half of that goal has not yet been accomplished, she said.

In other action:

• Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin told the crowd in attendance on Tuesday that crime rates had risen dramatically in March. Ocean View town officials filed 74 criminal charges in March, compared to about 115 in all of last year, the chief said. Those crimes ranged from first-degree rape and kidnapping to disorderly conduct, he added. On the positive side, though, Ocean View’s volunteer and paid officers have raised more than $16,000 for Delaware Special Olympics in recent weeks, he noted.

• Transfer taxes continue to be a problem for the town. After receiving more than $204,000 from the tax in March 2005, the town only received $31,800 this March, continuing the trend of sharp decline seen in January and February. In January, the town didn’t receive any funds from the tax, which has been the largest revenue source in the town for the last three years.

• Ocean View town officials are considering separating the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission into two separate commissions. Roth urged anyone interested in serving on either commission to drop off at town hall a letter stating their qualifications and reasons for volunteering.