Residents of the Buntings Mill community in Selbyville avoided having their neighborhood’s lights turned off this holiday, thanks to the quick thinking and generosity of the town’s mayor.
Clifton Murray took it upon himself to authorize the payment of the electric bill for the public areas of the development after the developer — who still maintains ownership of those public areas — apparently did not do so himself.
Crews from the electric company were in the process of being sent to turn the power off when town officials discovered what was happening, and with Town Manager Gary Taylor out of town, Murray was the one to make the decision that — in the knick of time — kept the lights on over New Year’s.
At the town council’s Jan. 9 meeting, residents thanked the town and its mayor for their quick action. Taylor also noted that he had already drafted a letter to the developer, requesting reimbursement of the Selbyville town funds that were paid.
The electrical crisis was the most recent episode in a series of problems with the Buntings Mill developer and his ongoing skirmishes with the town and residents there.
Roads in the community remain in his hands while the town awaits repairs and improvements that would bring them up to town standards before the town officially adopts them as its own.
Residents have complained of that delay, as well as other issues with the construction in the community, while town officials have been unable to do more than try to find someone to arbitrate the dispute, which also allegedly involves some unpaid homeowner fees.
Taylor noted that streetlights in the development were now officially in the town’s name, as far as the electric bill goes, to help ensure public safety. The town is also already taking care of snow plowing, again in the name of public safety.
Despite the continuing complaints from residents at each month’s town council meeting and efforts by the town, the issues have yet to be addressed by the developer. At the December council meeting, though, Taylor said he would be looking into having a third party arbitrate the disputes.
“It’s a shame the way they’re approaching this thing,” Taylor commented.
Again on the positive side for residents of Buntings Mill, the town recently installed “blow-off valves” there as part of an effort to improve the water system at cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets. The valves are designed to automatically flush water at those locations, to reduce stagnation and thereby improve the water’s taste and odor.
Batteries for the automatic element of the system have yet to be installed, and the valves are still being installed at other locations in the town, but when all is said and done, residents should notice an improvement in their water quality. Town officials noted the valves will eventually be set to automatically flush on an approximate schedule of an hour’s flush each night.
Councilman Richard Duncan said residents would most likely not notice the flushing itself — just the improvement in water quality for many at those locations. Work at First and Second streets is set for the near future, and Duncan noted that such valve systems are now being required for all new developments where flushing is an issue.
Duncan also recommended homeowners become familiar with typical maintenance for their hot-water heaters. The town has a fact sheet on such maintenance available at town hall, he said, including recommendations for an annual flushing of the systems. He said some water-quality issues could be traced to a need for maintenance or replacement of the hot-water heaters.
Council members collectively offered their input on a mild complaint about odors at a Buntings Mill lift station, noting it would not be related to the water system but rather to the sewer system. Vents in the lift stations can release odors, they said, but deodorizer for just that use also exists and the town will be looking into that as a result of the complaint.
Taylor also cleared up rumors regarding another developer in the town – Gemcraft. Grading problems with the streets in one current development had been resolved, he said, and work at other Gemcraft communities had never been stopped as a result of the problem, contrary to the rumor.
Back on the water front, Duncan reported that testing had shown the town’s water met state and federal standards – a relief in the wake of recent (and separate) problems in Dagsboro/Millsboro and Bethany Beach.
But he did mention an elevated chloride level at Pepper Ridge Park, stating the town had already arrived at a solution in reduced chlorine levels and possibly using a different type of fluoride.
Elsewhere in the water system, Duncan reminded council members that a water tank was due for repainting this year, per the town budget, and reported weather delays in drilling three test wells off Route 54.
Also along Route 54, Duncan noted that both Tidewater and Artesian water companies had requested interconnections with the town water system – a move that is recommended by federal officials, as it provides a backup for the individual systems should there be a well failure or other supply issue with any one of them.
He further said that engineering information was needed to help the town decide on a course of action for a sand filter system. The two options are a standard metal or stainless steel tank — requiring the removal of a roof at the filter station — or on-site construction of a longer-lasting concrete tank.
Finally, Duncan noted progress in the town’s effort to catalogue and mark its fire hydrants. They will be painted with blue or green markings, indicating 15,000 gallons-per-minute (gpm) and 1,000 gpm flow, respectively.
Moving over to sewer, Councilman Frank Smith III reported only two December violations for industrial user Mountaire — one each in the areas of ordinance and permit for total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) — and recommended $1,000 fines for each violation. The council members unanimously (4-0, with Clarence Tingle absent) agreed to assess the $2,000 in total fines.
Murray also noted a few minor concerns about offal trucks at the poultry-processing plant, but Mountaire’s Ron Witte said there was little the company could do about the situation since the trucks are currently running without a contract with Mountaire. “We can still apply some pressure,” he allowed.
The council also unanimously agreed to annex some 15 acres of land on the town’s borders, all owned by members of the Bunting/Collins/Coffin family, on the recommendation of the town’s annexation committee. There are currently no plans stated for the newly annexed R-3 parcels, though town provision of sewer and water would allow some additional options.
Taylor’s administrative report to the council at the Jan. 9 meeting included a notation of his recent attendance at a Sussex County Association of Towns (SCAT) meeting, at which municipal representatives voiced concern over proposed voting regulations from the state legislature.
Taylor also noted concern from the group over the work on the Indian River Bridge, which is currently on hold. “This really does affect everybody,” Taylor said, mentioning both the ongoing traffic problems in the work area and the long-term impact of the project, which has been hung up in the midst of the state’s financial crunch on road projects.
The town manager said SCAT planned a legislative breakfast to address these and other issues of the coming legislative session with the state’s legislators in the coming month.
Also on the horizon for Selbyville is a scheduled Jan. 18 hearing on plans for commercial development next to Captain’s Pizza, with a retail center named Strawberry Center. The 4 p.m. public hearing will unveil plans for the development of the center and include any feedback from town citizens and officials.
Councilman Jay Murray reported from the police department another quiet month, with only 227 complaints (noting that complaints includes all police responses and not just “complaints”) and 140 traffic tickets. Some $2,900 in fines was collected in December. The mayor also noted the extensive amount of time involved on the part of police officers in court appearances for various cases.
Code-enforcement officers reported they had inspected 94 rental properties in December, with several re-inspections closing out the periodic marathon inspection sessions.
Taylor passed on a request from Police Chief Scott Collins for additional council input as to which streets council members wanted studied in respect to a one-side parking restrictions — specifically the high-traffic and problematic McCabe, or a wider survey.
Council members tabled the issue after agreeing that McCabe was the main issue and noting that Main and Church streets had already been added to such an ordinance. They said they wanted to discuss the matter with Collins before deciding.
In news from the town’s Community Club, the public was officially invited to attend the club’s meetings, held the second Thursday of each month at the library at 1:30 p.m., with a free luncheon. Men are invited, it was noted.
Additionally, the club is working to coordinate the second annual March is Kids Art Month event, including an art show and public displays of the children’s art. Students at all area schools, as well as home-schooled children, are being encouraged to participate, and sponsors are being sought.