The Fenwick Island Town Council took steps last week to purchase a computer for the Town’s public works department, hire a police department clerk, solve the town’s flooding problems and move its dredging plans forward.
At the council’s Friday, Sept. 24, meeting, the council, with two new members sworn in at the start of the meeting, also addressed the search for a new town manager, to replace Terry Tieman, who resigned in August following the town council election.
“There is nothing new to report, except a steady stream of applications,” said Mayor Vicki Carmean of the town manager search.
Council Secretary Natalie Magdeburger said the council is “in communication with somebody who is sort of a consultant” to help narrow the search.
Former council member Bill Weistling suggested the council bring members of the community into the search process, adding that that was done for past searches.
“It’s an important task to hire a town manager, so I think you should involve the public,” he said.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Magdeburger replied.
The council also named George Murphy and Steve Magdeburger to the Town’s Dredging Committee, to help the council work through dredging issues. Both men have experience in marine industries, with Murphy having experience specifically in the dredging industry. He said the highest priority for the Town right now could be finding an alternate site for dredge spoils that the Town had hoped to be able to deposit on land owned by the Freeman Co.
The proposed spoil site is the location of Freeman’s proposed townhouse project on Route 54, which the developer has said is proceeding toward a fall 2022 construction start.
“They’ve accelerated their building program,” Murphy told the council. “Our understanding is they’re not to going wait for us,” he said, adding that the dredging project, which would produce an estimated 17,000 cubic yards of spoils, has yet to receive approval from DNREC or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Murphy said the draft memorandum of understanding with Freeman regarding the arrangement “was never signed. … Because we never got this stuff finalized, we’re now playing catch-up.”
Yet to be completed are two studies — one archeological and one soil study — both of which will take several months to complete.
Former council member Bernie Merritt, who spearheaded the Town’s dredging efforts until he resigned in August, said, “Please don’t say the people handling this the last two years weren’t doing their job.” He told the council that the Freeman arrangement should be pursued as much as possible, because “other options are too costly.”
Merritt was urged to stay involved in the project and to attend the first meeting of the new Dredging Committee, on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 9 a.m.
The council, meanwhile, voted unanimously to authorize the expenditure of $51,000 to complete the two studies. Carmean said there is money in the Town’s “dredging account” to pay for it.
While Weistling said the Town should wait to find out if the Freeman site will work out for the Town, Carmean said time is of the essence and, “We’re going to be landlocked if we don’t do something.”
Carmean reported that the Town’s long-delayed sidewalk project has made progress recently, following a meeting Sept. 14 with Century Engineering regarding the sidewalk work.
“I’m ready to push the go button,” on the work, she said, but she added that there will be a public meeting to explain the project, which would stretch from Dagsboro Street northbound along Route 1, “before the first shovel is turned over.”
The council also heard a report from Public Works Director Mike Locke regarding restoration and repairs to the town’s system of valves that have been installed over many years to help siphon stormwater off town streets.
Locke said the public works department will continue work to upgrade the valves, of which 18 have been identified as “collecting barnacles and decaying,” although Locke said virtually all of the valves, except for those repaired this summer, “are, in some way, shape or form, inoperable.”
Locke said the latest round of repairs will cost $32,603, all of which is equipment costs, since the public works department handles the labor.
In police department matters, Police Chief John Devlin explained that hiring a clerk for the department would free officers to be out on the road more, rather than completing desk work. Carmean also said a police clerk would free the town clerk, who currently handles parking tickets and bonfire permits, to devote that time to other town business.
The council also voted this week to drop the Town’s automated parking ticket program, which had been costing the Town $525 per month, even during the winter. Devlin and Carmean agreed that the program is designed for larger communities than Fenwick Island.
“It might work in a big city, but I don’t think it works here,” Carmean said.