With Gov. John Carney’s announcement that COVID-19 restrictions will largely be lifted on July 13, Fenwick Island Town Manager Teresa Tieman told the Fenwick Island Town Council this week that the office staff has been getting “a lot of questions” about whether the Town will continue with special allowances for town restaurants during the summer months.
With restaurants having felt the effects of the pandemic particularly hard — including a 56 percent loss in food and drink revenues and 13.8 percent unemployment in the industry — Tieman said, “It’s important to support the restaurants. We think we should do everything we can to support them.”
Last spring, the council passed a “special events” measure that allowed restaurants to apply for special permission to expand outdoor seating, in an effort to allow them to serve diners while COVID-19 restrictions limited indoor dining.
The council passed the measure 6-1, with Council Member Vicki Carmean the sole “no” vote.
“I just want to see us go back to normal,” Carmean said. “I am ready for life to resume. I don’t see the need for all these special exceptions,” she said.
Likewise, when the council voted to keep the town hall closed to the public a bit longer, the measure was approved by the same 6-1 vote, with Carmean questioning the reasoning for the decision.
“I don’t know why Fenwick Island is in this predicament,” she said, while other towns have begun to open their doors to the public in recent weeks.
Council Member William “Bill” Weistling Jr. said he feels Fenwick Island is right to continue to use caution.
“We’re a resort town, and we’re getting people from all over the country,” Weistling said. “I don’t think it hurts us to play it safe for another couple months.”
When resident Gail Warburton questioned the decision during the public participation segment of the meeting, Mayor Eugene Langan asked her, “Do you want go down there and clean the bathrooms?” alluding to current regulations that restrooms in public buildings need to be cleaned every 15 minutes if they are open to the public.
Several members of the public pointed to difficulties in hearing what council and staff members were saying during parts of the council meeting, which was held virtually, with some members in the council chambers and some in their homes.
In other business, the council on June 25 approved the expenditure of $13,000 to allow the Town to outsource mowing of town rights-of-way, medians and other areas, to allow town staff to continue the replacement of valves on the bay side of town that are needed to reduce flooding that occurs there in storms. The Town recently replaced 11 valves that were not functioning properly, Tieman said, but there are about 45 that need to be replaced.
Tieman said the replacement of the 11 valves took about three weeks, and that she hopes an additional 14 valves can be replaced during July and August.
“They’ve been evaluated,” and ranked in order of the need for replacement. “We do have a plan,” she said.
She said the town’s public works department had been short-staffed for several months during the pandemic, which put them behind in the replacement of the back-flow preventer valves. Allowing the staff to do the work would save the Town approximately $20,000 over the cost of having an outside contractor do it, Tieman said.
Town Clerk Raelene Menominee also told the council that absentee ballots are now available for the August council election. Ballots may be dropped in the new ballot box, which is by the police department and will be monitored by security camera and is accessible by a ramp or stairs.