Millville’s new Evans Park has been open for about five months now and has gotten rave reviews from the public. There’s one thing, though, that the park has gotten criticized for.
A lack of shade.
Particularly now that the hot, humid mid-summer weather has set it, the town staff has heard many comments about the fact that the park lacks shade from trees or other types of sun shelter.
That is going to change, now that the town council has voted to spend $107,000 on 12 new tables with large umbrellas affixed to them. The only downside, Town Manager Deborah Botchie told the council at its Tuesday, July 13, meeting, is that the tables will take eight to 12 weeks to arrive once they’re ordered.
“It’s too hot,” Botchie said at the meeting. “Elderly people are sitting out there with rain umbrellas” to shade themselves from the sun, she said.
The tables will come from GameTime, the company that designed the playground at the park, and will fit in with the design, Botchie said. The umbrellas come with a 15-year warranty and are guaranteed to withstand winds of up to 150 miles per hour.
Still, plans are that the umbrellas will be taken down during the colder months, in order to save wear and tear.
The council voted 4-0 to approve the purchase of the tables and umbrellas. Council Secretary Robert Wisgirda was absent.
Two other park-related measures were approved at Tuesday’s meeting. Code & Building Official Eric Evans told the council that the park’s parking lot is already showing major signs of wear. The lot, which was always planned to be paved with gravel, is wearing down in spots and developing ruts due to the heavy use of the park, Evans said.
“It really has taken a beating,” Mayor Ronald Belinko agreed. “Aesthetically, that parking lot is starting to become an eyesore,” he said.
Evans told the council that the parking lot, if left paved with stone, “would need monthly maintenance to keep the stone level.” Town Engineer Andrew Lyons Jr. told the council that replacing the stone with asphalt would cost the town about $199,700 and that the paving should last 25 years “if you maintain it.” The council approved seeking bids for the project, by a vote of 4-0.
The council also voted 4-0 to seek bids on an irrigation project in the park. The irrigation had been discussed in the early stages of the park project several years ago but has been on hold as the Town awaits approval from Tidewater Utilities to connect the park to its water system. The park is currently served by a well, which would continue to be used for the irrigation system, while the potable water for the park would be provided by Tidewater.
In other business, town officials announced that the Community Building at the park will soon be open for use. While the park itself has been open since March, the building — which is large enough to host community events such as movie nights, concerts and other gatherings — had been closed to the public due to COVID-19 capacity restrictions.
During the public participation portion of the meeting, part-time resident Ira Sharp asked the council about the use of the community building. He also expressed concern about issues with parking in Bethany Beach and asked whether the council would consider some sort of shuttle service into the beach town, particularly during holiday weekends when parking issues increase.
Belinko said he had had “some dialogue” with officials from neighboring Ocean View about “maybe [implementing] a joint agreement” on some sort of public transportation during the summer months. He noted that Millville’s Comprehensive Plan includes the need for public transportation.
He said if the Town proceeds with any kind of shuttle, one challenge would be figuring out where the riders would park and pick up the shuttle. Shuttles dropping off and picking up inside Bethany Beach town limits are also required to obtain an annual permit from the Town of Bethany Beach, and Bethany Beach officials have always limited the availability of such permits.
Botchie told the council that Millville will receive a total of $337,965 from the American Rescue Plan act, and that the Town has already received half of those funds. She cautioned that municipalities “need guidelines on acceptable uses” for the funds, and that “we are just not getting the information” from state and federal agencies on exactly what the funds can and cannot be used for.
Millville did not lose revenue during the pandemic, Botchie said.
The council also discussed the results of a Long Term Capital Reserve Study, which laid out a potential schedule for what repairs would be needed on Town properties over the next few years.
“It’s time for us to start building a capital reserve fund” to pay for those expected repairs, Belinko said. The Town will open a separate bank account for the fund, with $40,000 placed into it annually.
The council also recognized visitors from Delaware State Police Troop 4: Lt. Mark Little and Cpl. Lewis Briggs. Briggs told the council he wants to bring back quarterly meetings with Millville residents, as a way to hear their concerns and offer information on how the state police serve the town. Millville contracts with the DSP for 40 hours of police coverage per week.
The DSP held the quarterly meetings with Millville residents in the past, but they were halted when COVID-19 forced meetings to be held virtually.