Letters to Editor - March 7, 2008

Ocean View councilman sets the record straight

As the Councilman from District 2, I feel compelled to address some of the issues that have been emphasized in the campaign literature of some candidates.

Two candidates have made public statements that the mid-term pay raise given to the town manager by Council was excessive and not warranted since he had not completed his first year of service. Along with this pay raise, some candidates object to Council providing the town manager with a town car to drive back and forth to work.

Let me take a moment to provide some background information that will help you evaluate whether Council was correct in its unanimous votes.

Dr. Gregory was selected after an extensive evaluation of all candidates as the candidate best qualified to manage the municipal government and to deal with the impending financial challenges that loomed on the horizon. The council accepted the recommendation and voted unanimously for Dr. Gregory to be the town manager.

He faced immediate challenges in having to hire a financial expert to oversee the daily operations of the budget; the town was in the middle of building a $2 million Public Safety Building and Dr. Gregory faced numerous legal and financial problems with the new town water system that was under construction.

He immediately established a course of action that Ocean View had a town manager form of government and the daily operations of the town were to go through him.

In his first year on the job, the accomplishments are many and have already been enumerated in a letter written by Councilman Thomas. When Council voted to give him a mid-term raise, some people called into question the validity of this raise and are now using it as a campaign issue.

Let me provide you with some background information that might help you to understand the rationale for the raise.

Dr. Gregory was challenged to do a study of all employee salaries. He was given six weeks to complete the study. With very little staff assistance, he presented a very thorough study that revealed some very interesting data. Let me address just one finding and recommendation.

The study showed that a number of our employees were not in the “ball park” salary-wise and Dr. Gregory recommended adjustments that were approved by Council. This study revealed that Dr. Gregory was only the fourth highest-paid employee in the town. Shouldn’t the town’s chief administrator be the highest-paid employee?

This study was quickly shoved aside and individuals said it was incomplete since it did not address the salaries of town managers. Dr. Gregory undertook another salary study and quickly made his findings known. They showed that Dr. Gregory was not the highest-paid town manager in Sussex County and that if he had not received the salary adjustment, he would have been one of the lowest-paid town managers. Quickly this study was put on the shelf without comment.

In reference to the use of a town vehicle, this practice is common among municipalities in Sussex County. The cost to provide this benefit pales in comparison to the value of experience, financial knowledge and management skills Dr. Gregory brings to Ocean View.

Ocean View has received numerous accolades from town managers in surrounding communities about the professionalism of the salary studies and how the statistics and supporting data will be very useful in their own issues of salary and benefits. If the council had hired a professional accounting firm to undertake these salary studies, it would have cost the town thousands of dollars. The final reports would not compare with the analysis and recommendations supplied by Dr. Gregory.

In my opinion, Dr. Gregory has saved this town thousands of dollars that far exceed his pay raise and use of a car. How do you place a value on the positive changes that he has initiated that have led to better efficiency and financial accountability?

I find it interesting that candidates who espouse that the council granting a pay raise and providing the use of a car to the town manager have not expressed public indignation over the council’s decision to build a $2.2 million Public Safety Building. The final price tag for the Public Safety Building was $2.66 million.

Our police deserved a new facility, but why is the town not effectively utilizing the second floor of 7,000 square feet? No criticism is forthcoming about the $50,000 appropriated by Council to get the police facility opened and hold a dedication ceremony. It was fortunate that Dr. Gregory assumed the oversight function as this building neared completion to monitor the expenses, invoices and requests for additional work that were driving the cost up. I am certain that Dr. Gregory saved the taxpayers at least five times the amount of money in his pay adjustment.

To make the raise of Dr. Gregory the thrust of your campaign negates the positive accomplishments he has brought to Ocean View. If you feel that Dr. Gregory has not provided services and expertise to the Town of Ocean View to warrant his pay raise or car, then ostracize the town council for its unanimous decisions. Dr. Gregory has proven his worth 10 times over with his organizational skills and financial restraint that he has brought to Ocean View in the first year of his service to Ocean View.

In conclusion, both Gordon Wood and Perry Mitchell have expressed their support for Dr. Gregory and the accomplishments he has brought to Ocean View. They will both work with Dr. Gregory and the council to ensure the financial stability of Ocean View for years to come.

Please cast your vote for Gordon Wood for mayor and Perry Mitchell for councilman from District 3 and ensure financial accountability.

Richard Nippes, Councilman, District 2
Ocean View

Family puts support behind Esposito

The residents of Ocean View are very fortunate to have Vinnie Esposito as a mayoral candidate in their upcoming election. In the time that we have known Vinnie, we have recognized that he is very personable and he has genuine concern for the well-being of his family, friends and neighbors.

That concern, his knowledge and his previous town management experience will make him successful in this role. Vinnie is just one of those guys who know exactly what’s supposed to be done and how to do it.

Jim and Marlene Rutila

Wichmann responds to previous letter

I must respond to Perry Mitchell’s meritless attack on Ocean View’s Public Safety Department and the CAP unit, or as he coyly called them, the “quasi-governmental unit associated with the Ocean View Public Safety Department.”

Ocean View is fortunate to have a police department recognized as one of the finest in the state of Delaware. The department is led by a chief whose reputation for high standards of professionalism has even extended to the political halls of Washington, D.C. Under Police Chief Kenneth McLaughlin’s direction, the department has grown from a part-time, two-officer force to a 24-hour, pro-active, professional police department. Our officers regularly receive in-service training to keep on the leading edge of technology to better serve our citizens.

Contrary to Mitchell’s opinion, the Wallace A. Melson Public Safety Building was not built on a whim, nor is it extravagant. The building was designed with assistance from the Chiefs of Police Association and to conform to CALEA (Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) standards.

The project was lauded and endorsed by the editors of The Coastal Point and The Wave. To paraphrase their editorials, each editor praised the town council for having the forethought and wisdom to design and build a structure that would serve the citizens of Ocean View and the surrounding area for decades into the future.

Our distinguished state Rep. Gerald Hocker restated that same point in his speech at the dedication ceremony and praised the town for bringing the project in close to budget.

Mr. Mitchell’s stance against the take-home police cruiser policy is another example of his nearsightedness and anti-police attitude. Our town is fortunate that we employ dedicated police officers that respond when called in while off-duty. When they respond from home, I want them to be able to communicate with the officer who requested assistance and I want them to respond in the least amount of time with all the equipment necessary to perform whatever task is required.

What price do you put on an officer’s safety, your safety or the safety of your family?

Our CAP (Citizens Auxiliary Patrol) unit is comprised of non-paid citizens who volunteer their time to give back to the community. These intensively trained volunteers perform, for free, a variety of tasks that save the tax payers of Ocean View thousands of tax dollars each month. Our CAP unit has become a model for others to replicate. Even the Delaware State Police like our format.

Mr. Mitchell, on the other hand, also serves on a “quasi-governmental” board for the town; however, unlike CAP members, he accepts payment for his services.

Mr. Mitchell paints a picture of fiscal irresponsibility and states, “Had I been on the town council in prior years, I would have saved the town at least $1 million and perhaps more by demanding a more cost efficient and smaller public safety building…” His hindsight bravado is called the Monday-morning quarterback analysis from a guy who never played a game of football but read a book on how to play the game.

As I stated earlier, our decision to build the present Melson Public Safety Building was praised by those knowledgeable persons who make similar decisions as part of their political and business lives. However, we could have saved at least $75,000 by not hiring an outside project manager. Additionally, instead of borrowing $1.2 million, the debt he refers to, we could have paid off this project with the then-existing transfer funds, saving the town hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest. But I was in the minority vote when these two decisions were voted upon by the council.

Mr. Mitchell states that he “…supports law enforcement and will endeavor to strengthen law enforcement in Ocean View… we must weigh the values of over-funding public safety to the detriment of our roads and drainage projects.”

To me, these words of support for the police are hollow and patronizing. Chief McLaughlin is personally responsible for acquiring numerous federal and state grants which subsidize the Public Safety Department’s budget. In fact, these grants allow our tax dollars budgeted for the police department to be spent more efficiently.

This is far from over-funding. And in the world of prioritizing, the safety of my town and my family rank higher than driving on a street that has standing water. In case you are not aware, our town is just about at sea level, as is most of the area.

I, for one, will not vote for anyone who is not pro-police. The Ocean View Police Department is one of the main reasons why developers want their properties annexed, why private citizens choose Ocean View to live, why speeders slow down on our streets, why those who drink alcohol and drive avoid the area, why criminals skirt the town limits and why I sleep soundly at night.

Bill Wichmann
Ocean View

Addy ponders Addy Sea legends

Regarding the Addy Sea missing copper tub.

I was somewhat amused yet dismayed to read about the missing tub, which had been in the second-floor bedroom for many years. It had always been a conversation piece and a room requested by many families for generations because of the tub. Never really imagined it ever being put in storage or being removed. Some things were meant to remain in place and continue to convey the uniqueness and antiquity of “the house.”

I’m sure that when Addy Sea was built around 1907 the tub was installed along with the plumbing, and the patriarch, John M. Addy, soothed his aching joints in the hot tub.

Perhaps the missing tub will prompt new rumors or legends to go along with the so-called “ghosts” of Addy Sea. By the way, my great Uncle Kurtz did not fall/jump to his death from the Addy Sea, as some have alleged. He died in California in 1927.

Hope they find the tub.

Bill Addy
Bethany Beach

Resident backs Martinez on message

I am responding to Perry Mitchell’s rather lengthy letter in the Feb. 22 issue of the Coastal Point. He gives political windbag a whole new meaning. He says he wants to amplify a few specific reasons why he’s running for council and then goes on and on about how wrong things are and how he could have done it better. Blah blah!

I have to admit that there is concern for diminishing revenue from the transfer tax. This is certainly an issue of utmost importance. But did he explain how he would replace those lost revenues? No, only how he would have spent past money better. Blah blah!

Mr. Mitchell also mentions the cost of the new public safety building as well as the public safety budget. Mr. Mitchell even suggests that he would have been a better watchdog over this spending, but we all know how successful Monday-morning quarterbacking is.

I think the money spent on the public safety building was money well spent and that the foresight shown in this matter will pay dividends in the future. Mr. Mitchell claims not to be anti-police but he sure comes off as the opposite.

Mr. Mitchell does not question the approval of a sizeable pay raise for a very new town manager. I cannot in my wildest imagination believe that a new employee anywhere in the business world would have received such a generous and outlandish a pay raise after being on the job for such a short period of time.

But does say he would have saved $1 million on the Public Safety building. Blah blah! Why not blow your horn and say $2 million? I often expect a politician to say that “I’m so good the contractors want to pay us to let them build our buildings!”

Mr. Mitchell mentions that an auditors’ report found that public safety overspent its budget. I believe that our highly paid town manager, who should be the watchdog that oversees budgets and actually controls approved spending, should have been aware of and halted this over spending.

Mr. Mitchell also mentions the town manager’s car allowance as small potatoes. This is a policy that gives him a car to commute from Denton, Md. The key word here is commute. And then he rejects a similar policy for our police officers.

I do not know the costs for these allowances and I believe that those costs should be evaluated. However, such decisions are not based solely on costs. I do know that I would rather have one of our police officers immediately available to respond to an emergency because his vehicle was parked in his driveway than have the town manager leisurely commute approximately 60 miles to Town Hall or to a meeting somewhere.

Mr. Mitchell asks a lot of questions when I would rather see him offer suggestions on how he would address these issues. It is so easy to say what you would have done without committing to what you will do. More blah blah!

We should expect a candidate to clearly define his general position. Joe Martinez is basing his candidacy on fiscal responsibility and he would get my vote.

Thomas M. Keeley III
Ocean View