By Susan Canfora
At the Ocean View Town Council meeting this week, Mayor John Reddington read a letter from the Ocean View Church of Christ, thanking the Town for its $1,000 donation to support Night to Shine, a prom-style event for those 14 and older in the special-needs community, planned for Friday, Feb. 10.
Ocean View police volunteer at the event every year, Reddington said, as Police Chief Kenneth McLaughlin called it “a great event that shows our support for the local special-needs community.”
“I encourage everybody to come out and participate,” McLaughlin said.
Councilman Stephen Cobb, participating in the council meeting by video, agreed.
“I have worked these events prior to COVID, and it’s just wonderful what this does for this community. I invite everybody who can help and participate. It takes quite a few volunteers to pull this off, but it is just a wonderful evening,” he said.
Council hoping for no tax hike
as budget prep starts
As discussions begin about the 2023-fiscal-year budget, Reddington and Cobb said they don’t want a tax increase, but Town Manager Carol Houck told them she can’t make any promises.
“For the past three years, we have been talking about transfer taxes and certain things that are going to start slowing up. It has happened. We’re doing all the other things — the cleanliness, safety, sense of community, infrastructure projects. All of those things are going to bolster. But if we come back and we realize we’re not there without a tax increase — and we’re not in favor of a tax increase, either — but it’s too premature for me to say,” Houck said.
“There are some good things on the horizon,” Cobb said.
“Inflation does seem to be moderating a bit. I wholly support no tax increase, although I would never say never. If we do need to find some funds, I think we can. Keeping our employees and our community a vibrant place to live, a place to let your family grow up and businesses thrive are our goals and objectives and of course the No. 1 thing is keeping everyone safe,” Cobb said.
The council agreed to continuing providing health, dental and vision insurance for employees at a 2-percent cost to employees, as well as coverage for families, and to offer the no-cost, state-tier vision plan, as has been the policy. The council directed Houck to continue allowing medical-leave payout “to a certain extent, at the end of the year.”
Houck said there is a cap on how much leave can be carried over from year to year.
“We have people who can carry over six weeks. I can only carry over two weeks, in my contract,” she said.
Cobb asked about sick leave and the dollar amount that was cashed in last year. Houck said she will get that information to him.
Also for consideration as the 2023-fiscal-year budget is formulated is a request from the police department for a new, $80,000 vehicle. Houck said it will be funded from the Town’s Emergency Services Enhancement Fund, from which the Town usually provides funds for the Millville Volunteer Fire Company.
McLaughlin, while presenting his monthly report, told the council that the OVPD volunteer unit logged 192 hour of service in December. Officers had anti-bias and duty-to-intercede training.
Two new police vehicles were received in December and are now being outfitted with police equipment. They will go into service this month.
The Ocean View Police Department provided use-of-force training to criminal justice students at Delaware State University and attended the monthly meetings of Delaware Police Chief’s Association and the Sussex County Police Chief’s Association, McLaughlin reported.
Council to support House Bill 39
At McLaughlin’s request, the council agreed to support House Bill 39, an act to “create the expanded protection for our communities and home grant program.”
It was introduced on Jan. 5, with a committee hearing scheduled for 12 days after introduction.
Explained on legis.delaware.gov, the bill “seeks to create the Expanded Protection for Our Communities and Homes Grant Program through a one-time appropriation of $20 million.”
“The grant money would be distributed to every Delaware police agency that chooses to participate. The distribution would consist of a minimum standard allocation made to each agency and an allocation based on the number of uniformed officers authorized for each agency.
“EPOCH grants could be used by the recipient agencies to recruit new officers, promote or encourage careers in law enforcement, initially pay the salaries of newly hired officers, pay for overtime to facilitate additional work to address issues of local concern including traffic enforcement and implement programs designed to improve public safety in the area of the agency’s jurisdiction.”
Grants would be available for the agencies to use for up to three years, after which any unused and unencumbered funding would return to the State’s General Fund, according to the website.
Houck agreed to draft a letter of support from the council.
Town manager’s report
Houck, while presenting her monthly report, told the council that the community will observe the town’s 135th year of incorporation in 2024. Money will be included in the budget “so we can have some fund recognizing the town.”
Houck also reported that developers of five communities are interested in being annexed into town limits, and that she, McLaughlin and Planning & Zoning Director Ken Cimino “have engaged with them.”
“If any of them move forward, council will be immediately informed and the public will be informed. There is strong interest in having police patrols and presence within the community and a strong sense of community. Five different developments is a lot. It’s a very long process, a stringent process. A decision will be made later,” she said.
In November 2022, the Town purchased property at the corner of Muddy Neck and Double Bridges roads, using American Rescue Act and Sussex County excess transfer tax funds. The Town has started to submit grant requests to help develop the property, currently called the Berzins Natural Area. The plan is to create a natural area with scenic boardwalk overlooking wetlands, wooded walking trails with educational kiosks, a picnic area and parking lot, Houck said.
The Town received a $60,000 grant from the State’s Outdoor Recreation Parks & Trails program, and the project is in the final approval stage for additional grant funding for design and development.
“We hope to be in a position to make a presentation to the Sussex County Council in the months ahead,” Houck said.
The third annual Old Town Holiday Market and Tree Lighting in November was successful and “received wonderful support from our community,” Houck said.
She praised members of the South Coastal Village Volunteers for completing their second year of service. By the end of 2022, there were 45 members and 90 volunteers, with plans to expand, she said.
“Great to have them here in our community. They have been good neighbors to us,” Houck said.
She announced that the Town will participate in the annual Fire & Ice event the last weekend in January, with events at John West Park.
The bocce ball court at the park is finished and those interested in playing have been registering to use equipment. “In the spring we will do a big push,” Houck said.
Houck said The town will host Spring Fling — a new event — this year. Originally planned as an Easter egg hunt, it was changed to what she described as a way to “celebrate everything spring,” because Millville is having an Easter egg hunt and Ocean View didn’t want to compete. Details are being finalized, she said.
The Town will plant a tree in observance of Arbor Day.
“These things — this is what makes our community, this is what makes our town, all these events,” Cobb said.
“It’s great to live in Ocean View. We’re a fork in the road, but when you put in these events, this is what makes Ocean View a community and why — one of the major reasons — people want to live in it,” Cobb said.