Bethany renews beach lobbying contract

Bethany Beach Town Council members voted quickly and unanimously Dec. 16 to renew the town’s contract with beach renourishment consultants and lobbying firm Marlowe & Co.

With Mayor Jack Walsh absent from the meeting, Vice-Mayor Carol Olmstead presided and noted that South Bethany officials had recently also voted to extend their participation in the joint contract with the firm and would be paying half of the related expenses.

Olmstead said the work of Marlowe & Company had proven “extremely beneficial” to the town, adding that it was “very much responsible” for the $3 million in federal funding allotted for the Bethany-South Bethany project in the 2006 fiscal year budget.

The council members also voted 6-0 to approve a $26,750 contract for stormwater and drainage design for the former Christian Church and Neff properties that the town purchased in the last year.

Town Manager Cliff Graviet said some 1.75 acres of the total combined property was federally protected wetlands and would stay in some form or other.

The goal of the design project will be to turn the wetlands area on the western side of the property from boggy to beautiful, moving from just damp ground to a legitimate water feature, Graviet explained. The permitting process is expected to take in excess of two years.

Drainage work at the flood-plagued Bethany West development will also be tackled in the near future, with a 5-0-1 vote to accept a $152,098 contract bid for the Phase 1 segment of an extensive flood control plan for much of the town.

Council Member Wayne Fuller abstained from the vote, noting that he had found one problem area in previous work by the same company and questioning whether the town was satisfied with the quality of work overall.

Graviet said that it was and that he had been unaware of any reports of a problem area in existing work. Fuller elected not to oppose the contract but could not bring himself to vote for it either. The nearest bid of four submitted was $196,000.

Council members took steps to (literally and figuratively) cement the town’s lease agreement with the Mercantile Peninsula bank for use of the bank parking lot at Garfield Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue, accepting a temporarily informal five-year lease commitment for the after-hours use of the parking lot for metered parking.

In exchange for that use, the town will continue to pay an annual lease fee and agreed with a 6-0 vote Dec. 16 to absorb some of the cost of paving the lot — in the form of a $11,700 contract with Paul’s Paving. A formal lease agreement from the bank is expected in the near future.

Paul’s Paving also received 6-0 approval for another contract with the town at the meeting — a $73,000 contract for the grading and resurfacing of shoulders on the east side of Route 1.

Graviet said the work will complete a three-year project tackling the grading and surface along the road’s path through a long list of town sidestreets.

Council members approved 5-1 at the Dec. 16 meeting new committee guidelines that, among other elements, limit the participation of town council members on town committees to two per committee.

Fuller objected to and voted against the changes on the grounds that there was no limit on how many committees individual council members could serve on. He said he feared undue influence if one council member were to serve on myriad committees and championed such a limit.

But the other council members disagreed, saying there was no problem with that circumstance and a restriction could later be enacted if it did arise.

Council members were divided on the wisdom of enacting the changes as drafted, since the language included a series of definitions that weren’t town-specific but rather developed by consultants for their recent council retreat and discussion of the committee guidelines. But they decided those changes could be made later.

Action was deferred on proposed changes to the town’s property maintenance code to incorporate elements of the International Property Maintenance Code (related to the building code the town recently adopted). The legislation was simply not ready, Killmer explained, due to the tremendous amount of renumbering required.

Unfortunately, that means the changes will have to go back through the council’s approval process from the start, since the 90-day window for a second reading has passed.

Council members did, however, agree in principle to waive the first reading at the January council meeting and proceed with the second reading again, if the changes are ready at that time.

Also at the Dec. 16 council meeting:

• From his position as secretary-treasurer for the council, Tony McClenny reported on the town’s financial picture for the year to date.

As of Nov. 30, the town had collected 88.1 percent of its anticipated revenue, compared to 91.9 percent at the same point in 2004. Despite the lesser percentage, revenues for 2005 exceed 2004 by $521,000.

Expenses were also down, at 67.1 percent of anticipated expenditures made, compared to 71.9 in 2004. Expense amounts were up by $153,000 for the 2004 fiscal year. McClenny further noted that expenses were still below revenue for 2005.

• Council Member Harold Steele reported that he had attended a Nov. 30 stormwater management meeting but found that the state discussion of the topic proved Bethany Beach was again ahead of its peers. Steele said Public Works Supervisor Brett Warner, who had also attended the meeting, considered the town “lightyears ahead” of other towns in dealing with stormwater issues.

As a result, Steele said he expected the town would end up taking advantage of municipalities’ ability to opt out of state stormwater utilites, since it has its own program. Participation is not state-mandated at this time.

• Council Member Lew Killmer requested, and received, consent from the council to appoint resident Fulton Lappata to the Charter and Ordinance Review Committee (CORC). Killmer noted Lappata’s resume as a senior administrator for the National Security Agency.

Council members also agreed unanimously (6-0) to close an oversight in town code regarding fences on commercial property that abuts the residential zone, following up on action made at the November council meeting.

Killmer noted another delay in consideration of ordinance changes that would put town fines in a separate table of fines for ease of updating and review, due to delays getting the language back from Town Solicitor Terrence Jaywork. He said he hoped for a first reading on the changes at the January council meeting.

Also under future consideration are code changes eliminating an old prohibition on the transport of untreated sewage material in the town limits (necessary now due to requirements for portable toilet facilities on construction sites) and a new requirement for contractors working in the town to repair any damage done to private property.

Finally, Killmer noted plans to divide the town code book into more than one volume. The current tome weighs in at a hefty 7 pounds, taxing council and committee members who have to lug it to many meetings.

• Olmstead said the Cultural and Historical Affairs Committee (CHAC) was preparing for its next cultural event: an evening of New Orleans jazz with Don Sharp, set for Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m., at the town hall.

The committee is also proceeding with work on its oral-history project, having contacted an audio technician who is prepared to edit the project for the committee and museum.

• Graviet provided an administrative report, noting that construction work on the town’s bandstand renovation project was expected to begin within the next week or two, with the driving of support pilings.

The Candlelight Lane drainage project is also a few weeks out from completion, and work on bulb planting on the shoulders of Route 26 was said to be nearly complete.

The town’s water was reported to be in compliance with state and federal standards, with Graviet saying he hoped the town would be removed from a state watch list after its recent brush with higher-than-allowed levels of a treatment byproduct.

Graviet also issued thanks to Events Coordinator Gloria Farrar and volunteers for their work on decorating town hall for the holidays and organizing holiday events. Olmstead noted that Maureen Killmer had overseen the organizing of volunteers.