By unanimous vote, the Ocean View Town Council this week approved spending $4,429 to hire the University of Delaware’s Center for Applied Demography (CAD) and Survey Research to assist with redistricting in the town, in association with the 2020 Census.

According to information on the State of Delaware website at www.delaware.gov, redistricting is a federally and state-mandated process “by which states redraw their legislative district boundaries using the most recent decennial data from the U.S. Census Bureau.”

“There are numerous criteria each district must meet, including containing a relatively similar population size and meeting guidelines concerning contiguity, compactness, maintaining a majority-minority population and following natural boundaries.

“Legislative districts should all have roughly the same number of residents. Yet as the population grows and shifts throughout the state year after year, some communities gain a significant number of residents, while others see a decrease, making it necessary to redraw legislative districts. The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a thorough count of all residents every 10 years, and that data is used to craft new legislative districts that have approximately equal numbers of residents and thus that Americans are equally and fairly represented.”

Town Manager Carol Houck, at the Tuesday, Jan 11, town council meeting, told the town council that funding to hire the CAD is available from a consulting-service line item in the Town’s budget for the 2022 fiscal year.

She told the council that having an outside entity manage the map would be beneficial. The CAD would deliver a 2022 Town of Ocean View councilmanic district map, created by using three layers of information that allow experts at the CAD to create the map and assist the council “in following through with charter requirements.” Work could begin Feb. 1 and be completed by Aug. 31.

She also recommended forming a working committee to assist CAD staff, noting that it has been recommended that committee members include Houck, the town clerk, finance director and former councilman Bill Olsen. She said she hoped to add another person familiar with town history, and Councilman Frank Twardzik volunteered.

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader said information provided by the CAD will be demographic and statistical and that council members will likely see some general population shifts.

“After my first look at it and at the districts, I don’t know if there will be dramatic changes, but there will be some changes recommended by the Center,” Schrader said.

The committee will not have the final say, he said. Once boundaries have been established, he said he will draft an ordinance that will go to the council for adoption, and there will be public hearings for public comment on the proposed districts that have been drawn. The council will then adopt an ordinance establishing the districts.

Town council to continue meeting at 7 p.m.

Following a discussion at the Tuesday, Dec. 7, town council meeting about changing the time of meetings from 7 p.m. to 3 p.m., and receiving some public comment, it was decided to not make a change at this time.

“I don’t think there’s any rush to try to do this right now. I think more input would be a good thing to do,” Mayor John Reddington said at the Jan. 11 council meeting.

Councilman Tom Maly agreed and said that, even after more input is received, any change should be done on a trial basis.

Houck said there was “confusion and a Facebook flurry of misinformation shared because people were interpreting the newspaper article differently,” referring to a recent article in the Coastal Point. She said the article was “a misinterpretation, so a misread of what took place” and that discussion at this week’s meeting “clearly indicates they had not made a decision last month.”

The Coastal Point article stated, correctly, that the council had agreed to meet at 3 p.m. on a trial basis, beginning in February, to see if anyone objected, then to reevaluate in June. The article also stated that Reddington had said most people who attend meetings are retired and able to come earlier in the day, but Maly had said he was concerned that those who work would miss meetings. Reddington had said meetings are recorded and available at any time on YouTube, so those who wanted to see proceedings could watch them even if they couldn’t attend.

At this week’s meeting, Houck reviewed for the council responses she received about the proposed time change, including that an earlier meeting would be better for those who prefer driving in daylight, instead of after dark. She received a message from the Town of South Bethany stating that that town had successfully changed their council meeting time from 7 p.m. on Fridays to 10 a.m. on Fridays.

Houck said Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lauren Weaver had also contacted her office and said she would like to have the day of the council meeting reconsidered, because it conflicts with both Sussex County Council’s and Millville Town Council’s meetings.

Another resident opposed changing the time because those who work would not be able to attend.

Houck said she “feels we are at a loss to make a good decision because we didn’t get the feedback we expected” and suggested keeping the meetings at 7 p.m. “until we can determine a better way to survey the residents.”

Councilman Bruce White repeated that there should be more input before any change is made and Reddington agreed.

Budget process to begin for 2023 fiscal year

Town officials have launched the 2023-fiscal-year budget process, Houck told council members, as she asked for the council’s guidance in several areas.

The council agreed to:

• Continue offering residents a 1-percent discount if they pay taxes early, a practice that has been successful in Ocean View.

• Continue to not rely on transfer tax to run the Town. Houck asked council members if they supported the Town continuing to “have no reliance on transfer tax and funneling to the Trust Fund as noted.” Twardzik and Maly said they liked that idea, as did Reddington.

• Continue to offer Town employees State of Delaware basic insurance at a 2-percent cost to employees and the State’s vision plan at no cost. In support, Maly said, “Our employees are our biggest asset. We should take care of them.”

Houck said there is a long turnaround time — up to 15 months — to get new police cars and that the Town has been successful in ordering early. Ocean View Police Chief Kenneth McLaughlin said he is hearing that the problem will get worse.

“I really can’t wrap my head around what’s going on. I think a lot of it has to do with parts being unavailable to build the vehicles,” he said, adding that it will take a year or year and a half before the Town can get replacement vehicles. He asked for permission to order two vehicles on Wednesday, Jan. 12, the day after the council meeting, but Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader said the council could not vote to approve purchasing vehicles because nothing specific about the budget was on the meeting agenda.

McLaughlin said the OVPD wouldn’t have to spend any money until it took possession of the vehicles and that he only wanted to get the order in, but Schrader said the matter would have had to be on the agenda.

Police report

McLaughlin, while giving his report to the council, was asked by White whether anyone had been arrested for robbing Artisans’ Bank at 35696 Atlantic Avenue in Millville on Dec. 29, 2021, and McLaughlin said the case hasn’t yet been solved.

“OK. That’s disturbing,” White said.

After the robbery, the Coastal Point reported that a man had entered the bank, demanded money and fled on foot. Anyone with information regarding the investigation is being asked to call Det. Dustin Yencer of Delaware State Police Troop 4 at (302) 752-3791.

McLaughlin also reported he and Planning & Zoning Director Ken Cimino had met with representatives of Lord Baltimore Elementary School concerning security enhancements and emergency planning.

He said volunteers at the police department logged more than 179 hours during the past month.

Police department staff, in conjunction with community partners, hosted a Christmas party for residents of the Mommy & Me Recovery Centers on Dec. 18.

“It was a last-minute program put together quickly. It was a big success. A big shout-out to all the community members that participated in that and that helped us obtain gifts for the mothers and children,” he said.

Staff also participated in a police memorial to honor law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, including Ocean View’s Wallace Melson.

Town manager’s report

Houck said the Town’s property reassessment is complete and that information was sent to property owners on Jan. 4. Appointments to file an informal appeal must be made by Friday, Jan. 14, she said, adding that there have already been 40 conversations, e-mails or in-person meetings with property owners.

Houck also noted that Ocean View will participate in the Fire & Ice festival on Jan. 28-30.

Citizen concerned about speeding

Ogre Drive resident Dick Jennison said drivers are speeding down his street to avoid nearby speed bumps. Ogre Drive is already a narrow street, he said, asking McLaughlin “if there is anything you can do other than putting speed signs up.”

He thanked McLaughlin for his responsiveness but said drivers are not slowing down.

McLaughlin said speeding is a problem throughout Ocean View and that there are cameras on Ogre Drive that capture data. He said he will look at the data and see if he can isolate the times speeding is most prevalent.

Planning & Zoning report

Cimino reported to the council that Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk refurbishment in Savannah’s Landing is continuing.

He said the Town “managed the winter weather event on Jan 3, 2022, and cleared all roads and also managed the Jan. 7 winter weather event.”

Houck thanked the Town’s Public Works Department and Cimino for their work during both snowfalls and said the Town received many positive comments for how the first plowable snow was handled.

Notices have also been sent to West Avenue residents who will be affected by a streetscape project. Cimino said a public meeting was not able to be held last year due to pandemic restrictions but that anyone interested, or with questions, can contact his office if they would like to review the plans.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.