“Replenishment, for all intents and purposes, has finally wound down on the beach,” Bethany Beach Town Manager Cliff Graviet announced at the Aug. 17 town council meeting, bringing to a close the core of the much-awaited but inconveniently-timed beach renourishment project of 2018 in the town.
With that said, Graviet noted that there were some lingering tasks yet to be completed as part of the project, mostly involving the installation of dune fencing.
“There are still little snippets of dune fence being put in to fill up some voids that have been discovered here and there with final inspection,” he explained.
Additionally, Graviet said, the project had experienced an issue in the final days of construction wherein the sand used to construct the dune and widen the beach at the south end of the project area has “more stone than what DNREC would have wanted.”
He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which funded and oversaw the project, was having the contractor come back to sift the stony sand and pull out larger stones.
As the final bits of dune fence go in place, Graviet acknowledged that the dune fence installation process has been problematic.
With a separate subcontractor in charge of the dune fence installation, he said the Corps had first had to sign off on completion of the renourished beach, then sign off on the completion of the reconstructed dunes, before the subcontractor could begin to install any dune fencing. That resulted in some procedural delays, he said.
Graviet said the intervening time had seen some home owners concerned about the lack of fencing and that people were crossing over the dunes with no fencing to keep them out. He said DNREC and the Corps, though, had not wanted any enforcement of keeping people off the dune until the dune fence was installed and signs telling them to keep off the dunes were in place.
Once the fence was installed, he said, some home owners then expressed frustration that the newly installed dune fence was a solid line preventing them from accessing the beach directly from their oceanfront properties. But, Graviet explained, the dune fence installation also has to be signed off on by the Corps before individual property owners can make their requests to DNREC to cut holes in the dune fence for access.
“We would have issues with both the Corps and DNREC if we were to do that” before those individual requests were approved, he noted, adding that some property owners had been understanding about the situation, while some hadn't.
Another sore spot (literally, for some) of the completed renourishment project has been the dune crossovers, which are “basically completed,” Graviet described. The problem there is the hard, clay-rich material used to construct the crossovers, which he said had proven problematic in the past as well.
“We have found that the crossovers don't work the way we like them to until it wears off and the sand comes through,” he said. The Town has had to hold off on reinstalling some of its accessibility-enhancing Mobi Mats on the crossovers until there is enough loose sand to hold them in place.
In the meantime, Graviet said, there are still issues with people tripping, slipping and falling on the harder surface. He reported that DNREC officials had said they were “working on it.”
Finally, except for the planting of dune grass in late fall or winter, the last element of the project to be completed in Bethany Beach will be the Oceanview Parkway handicapped access ramp, which is now being constructed by a contractor.
The parking and pedestrian crossover on Oceanview Parkway were closed on Aug. 20 for the work, with the construction expected to take about two weeks and the contractor hoping to be out of the project area by Labor Day, Graviet said.
“That would be the end of the Bethany Beach project,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Graviet said the Town was making contact with property owners along Cedarwood Street, in the areas of Ashwood and S. Atlantic, which will see a drainage project with other improvements beginning around Oct. 1.
Unlike the recent Atlantic Avenue improvement project, he noted, where there was a 2-foot buffer from the property line, on the Cedarwood project the Town is using a 7.5-foot buffer from property lines to the blacktop, all of which is in the Town's right-of-way.
Vice-Mayor Lew Killmer also reported on Aug. 17 that the Planning & Zoning Commission had approved on July 21 a partitioning of the lot housing the former Jerry Mueller real estate office, at 678 Half Moon Drive, into two lots.
In other business from the Aug. 17 meeting:
• The council unanimously approved a contract to purchase a new rear-load garbage truck for $174,000. Graviet said Public Works Supervisor Brett Warner had gotten 12 bids on the purchase, with an aim of finding a vendor who could deliver the truck sooner, rather than later.
The selected bid was the third-highest bid ($4,000 higher than the lowest one), but was the only one of the three that could deliver the truck in less than nine to 12 months. The new garbage truck will be delivered by the end of September and will replace another one in the Town's fleet, with the one replaced then being sold through a vendor.
• Council Treasurer Jerry Morris reported that, four months into the fiscal year, the Town had seen a strong real estate transfer tax revenue, and, in spite of several wet weekends, strong parking revenue.
• Cultural & Historical Affairs Committee Chair Carol Olmstead reported that the committee had decided to defer on having town host the 2019 historical homes tour planned to benefit the future Coastal Towns Museum. This year's tour includes historical homes in Fenwick Island, and last year's tour focused on Ocean View.
Olmstead said they'd informed tour organizers that their efforts with the Dinker-Irvin Cottage museum would keep them busy in 2019, and they'd recommend South Bethany host the tour in 2019, and Bethany Beach in 2020. For the same reason, the group has decided to table proposed trolley tours of the Town's Heritage Trail until at least next spring.
• With the next town council election scheduled for Sept. 8 and Mayor Jack Gordon not running for re-election after 10 years on the council and four years as mayor, Graviet offered his thanks and that of Town staff for Gordon's time in those positions.
“It's been a pleasure to work with you,” he told Gordon.
“There are certain things in life that you've done that you've felt very good about,” Gordon said. “The 10 years here I've felt very good about.”
“It's been an honor,” Councilwoman Rosemary Hardiman added.
The council also voted on Aug. 17 to cancel its September meeting, in favor of holding a council reorganization meeting on Sept. 17, at which time they'll select new council officers, including a new mayor.
By M. Patricia Titus