South Bethany Town Council (partial)

South Bethany Town Council members this week voted to support a Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company request for a 'gator' vehicle, but the council could not reach a majority on votes to request the speed limit on Route 1 in the town be reduced to 30 mph.

The South Bethany Town Council voted this week to again support the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company in its efforts to protect local residents through the purchase of additional emergency equipment.

The South Bethany council has acted twice to secure funds for the fire company, whose service area includes the town, by signing up for DelDOT Community Transportation Funds, which helped the BBVFC purchase a new “Gator” UTV for medical emergencies — especially on walking trails. A second request for emergency equipment was made last week by BBVFC Chief Shane Truitt. The CTF is a multi-million-dollar trust fund.

“Shane has reached-out to us again,” said Mayor Timothy Saxton, “and we are proud to assist them on these requests. It is something that will help us, too, as we maintain an EMT agreement” with the BBVFC.

After an early Nov. 6 two-alarm fire, which caused more than $2 million in damage to a beachfront property in North Bethany and in which 12 people narrowly escaped harm, the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company is requesting more community dollars from agencies to upgrade its capability. South Bethany has agreed to support the company’s request, while the issue has not yet appeared on a Bethany Beach Town Council meeting agenda.

“We had a two-alarm fire in Bethany the other night,” said Truitt of the Nov. 6 blaze, which damaged the oceanfront home north of Bethany Beach’s town limits. “The fire hydrant was covered by bushes. There were 12 occupants in the house, and they did escape. It could have been worse.” The Millville Volunteer Fire Company was among the other local fire companies responding to the heavy fire.

Truitt defended the second request for additional equipment.

“When you assisted us last time” with UTV equipment,” he said, I was deputy chief. We were told ‘no’ by Bethany Beach. So, I reached out to [Town Manager] Maureen Hartman. It was a seamless process on obtaining the UTV with community transportation money. We just got an e-mail that said ‘no’ from Town of Bethany,” Truitt said.

Truitt indicated that DelDOT will only release funds to the municipality requesting them: “to act as the middle person to receive the CTF Funds. All I know is Bethany sent an e-mail denying our request for emergency equipment and no further explanation.”

South Bethany Council Treasurer Randy Bartholomew asked, “Why is South Bethany being asked to help Bethany Beach first-responders instead of other townships?”

(Editor’s note: The Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s service area runs from the Indian River Inlet south to Fenwick Island. The fire company’s EMT service is separately supported by funding from an assessment on residences in each of those towns, while those living in unincorporated areas can purchase an ambulance subscription to limit costs of transport by the BBVFC. All local fire companies are primarily volunteer organizations funded through donations.)

South Bethany won’t petition for reduced speed limit on Route 1

The South Bethany Town Council did not have a quorum for this week’s meeting. Two votes were brought forward to align speed limits with those in Bethany Beach and bring the speed down from 35 miles per hour to 30 mph.

The initial vote was to make the speed reduction permanent, following studies by South Bethany Police Department that showed a 5-mph reduction would permit 27 additional feet of stopping distance in the event of hard braking at a crosswalk.

The initial motion for a permanent speed decrease failed with only three votes, with Saxton adding his vote to Sue Callaway’s and Edie Dondero’s support for permanent slower speeds. A second motion was brought forth to make the speed reduction seasonal, as supported and moved by Council Members Randy Bartholomew and Dick Oliver, and it also failed, with just three votes. Again, Saxton added his vote to the duo to try to gain passage of some speed reduction ordinance with petitioning of state agencies.

South Bethany was acting in response to Bethany Beach’s request to make a contiguous 30 mph speed on Route 1 from north end of Bethany to the southern end of South Bethany. Without additional council members voting, the speed reduction request from South Bethany will not take place.

“We will not support the reduction of speed with a split vote,” declared the mayor. The action would be simply to petition DelDOT to reduce the speed on the state highway.

“This is a request that came to South Bethany from Bethany Beach,” he added. “They have already voted to reduce the speed. … We are a good neighbor and partner. It would become a long stretch [at 30 mph] from the north end of Bethany Beach to the South Bethany border.”

Oliver said, “I see the wisdom of having the speed consistent. But I am concerned about the genesis about this [request]. Is this someone’s free-floating anxiety or is there any evidence that speed is a safety issue? I think going 30 mph is frustrating.”

Oliver then asked South Bethany Police Chief Jason Lovins if there had been any pedestrian accidents over the past year, especially with several crosswalks now having flashing lights. Lovins said there had been no accidents with pedestrians or bikes over the past year in South Bethany.

“I don’t have an opinion here, but there would be an educational period and we would have to develop an enforcement policy if we lower the speed,” Lovins told the council. “I don’t think 5 mph is going to make much difference one way or the other.”

Both Saxton and Lovins complimented residents and visitors on adhering to the crosswalk regulations and stopping for pedestrians. There are eight crosswalks across Route 1 in South Bethany. Three of them have the flashing lights and pedestrian-crossing highway signs.

Dondero said she believes 35 mph is too fast during the beach season.

“There are a number of speeding tickets being given out, so we know it is dangerous,” she said. “It is less confusing to have the same speed year-round. We should be a good neighbor and go along with the other towns.”

Staff Reporter

Mike has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern and is a 25-year member of the National Press Club. He has won four national writing awards for editorial work. He is a native of McLean, Va., and lives in Millville.