Millsboro Town Council members unanimously approved an $8.5 million budget for the 2019 fiscal year at their July 2 regular council meeting, and the Town appears to be fully intent on continuing their push for growth and quality-of-life improvements.
“We talk a lot about being a Town that is attractive to businesses, and that cares about its citizens,” said Town Manager Sheldon Hudson. “It’s very important to me that our actions match our words. We are very fortunate that this council is so forward-thinking.”
Hudson said after Monday’s meeting that approximately $4 million of the budget is earmarked for water and sewer, with another $2 million going to public safety.
The Town is also moving forward with new technology to help them grow more. Millsboro is partnering with Buxton — an analytics firm that made its name by filtering data to retailers and determining if their businesses would work in specified potential locations, but that is now making a move into working with municipalities to help identify which retailers or restaurants would be good fits for specific towns.
Hudson said he believes Millsboro is the first town in Delaware to partner with Buxton.
The company, according to Hudson, studies each address in town and uses algorithms to determine what stores and restaurants would most likely be attractive to residents. Those efforts, combined with a survey conducted by the Town recently, will help guide Town leaders to specific businesses to target.
The Town will also be working with Govpilot, a software platform that will allow full-automation of the permit process. Again, Hudson said, he believes Millsboro is the first Town in the state to use that technology, and he said he hopes it will be another benefit to builders and residents who do business with Millsboro.
Millsboro is also seeing the benefits of an increase in the Town’s height limit for hotels from 35 feet to 60 feet. One project is already in the works, and Jim Parker Builders is attempting to get the former VFW property on Route 113 annexed into Millsboro to build another hotel and restaurant inside Millsboro town limits.
An annexation committee led by Councilman Tim Hodges has reviewed the request, and recommended the council continue forward on the motion. A public hearing is scheduled for the next town council meeting, on Monday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m.
“We see someone requesting annexation into Millsboro as the ultimate compliment,” said Hudson. “And we love the hotels coming into town. While we don’t see ourselves as a full- fledged tourist destination, we can pick up some of those weekend vacationers who have a hard time finding a non-weekly rental at the beach.”
In other Millsboro news:
• Since there was no council election in Millsboro this year, the council will remain the same. Officers for the coming year will continue to be Mayor John Thoroughgood, Vice-Mayor Michelle Truitt, Secretary Jim Tells and Treasurer Brad Cordrey. Tim Hodges will continue as mayor pro-tem, while Ron O’Neal and Larry Gum will continue in their council duties.
• The Millsboro Chamber of Commerce’s Stars & Stripes event on Saturday, June 30, was deemed a resounding success. Millsboro Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Lynch addressed the council on Monday and thanked Hudson for the Town’s cooperation with the event. He also had high praise for Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway, and his entire department.
“I can’t come up with the words to thank you, Chief,” said Lynch, adding that he thought the spectacle itself was amazing. “Aside from our neighbors to the east with the surf and the sand, I think we’re now the ones to beat,” said Lynch.
• Calloway also discussed the event during his time on the floor.
“I thought this event was very well-thought-out and planned,” said Calloway. He reported that there was one person who lost a credit card (which was subsequently found), and one minor accident involving a mailbox. He also had high praise for Sgt. Barry Wheatley for his work at the event. Calloway said traffic got out of town within 25 minutes after the fireworks ended — a significant improvement over last year.
• DelDOT officials discussed a road project that will start next spring on Route 113 — Bridge 3-507 on the southbound side of the highway. According to DelDOT, the core of the bridge was constructed in 1916 to carry the then-new T. Coleman du Poet Highway over Iron Branch in Millsboro. That original bridge was then modified two more times to accommodate wider shoulders and to dualize the highway, but the concrete-encased steel beams and concrete abutments are showing severe damage.
DelDOT is looking at two alternatives for the project: one would involve lane closures and take approximately eight months to finish, while the other, that they prefer, involves a 14-day shutdown of the southbound side of the road, with detours going through town.
“It will be a lot of pain,” said Jason Hastings. “But it’s for a short time.”
DelDOT will start advertising for the work in the fall, and more information will develop on the project. State Sen. Gerald Hocker was at the meeting, and said he has been in discussions with DelDOT on the project.
• Assistant Town Manager Jamie Burk has been doing research on showing movies at Cupola Park, and he learned that licensing fees add up quickly, and that a discussion he had with Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox affirmed that the Town should take the licensing issue seriously. He found a rental company that takes care of the licensing fees and all equipment for $750. The council agreed to spend the money to do one movie at this point, to see if it’s worth continuing. It will be held on a Tuesday in August, and Burk and Hudson plan to set a date soon.
• The council also decided to put a nightly cap on venue rentals at the Millsboro Town Center, making sure all events are done by 11 p.m. Burk expressed an interest in not keeping Town employees there any later than that, and Hudson offered another reason.
“I think the chief would agree that there’s a different crowd after 11 p.m.,” said Hudson.
“I would,” confirmed Calloway, eliciting laughs from those in attendance.
By Darin J. McCann