Bethany reviews weather-challenged Fourth of July events

The Fourth of July holiday in Bethany Beach was a little quieter this year than in the past, with the first-ever cancelation of the Bethany Beach 4th of July Parade, due to weather, and a partly weather-related scaling down of the Town’s fireworks display, which was postponed a day, also due to Hurricane Arthur.

Mayor Jack Gordon at the July 18 town council meeting praised the work of the town committee organizing the parade for the first year, after decades of it being run by volunteers. He noted that, after a year of work putting the parade together, they’d had to rush to undo all of their work the day before it was to have taken place.

Fourth of July Parade Committee Chairman and Councilman Chuck Peterson said of the work, “We planned for everything except a hurricane, and as you mentioned, it rained on our parade,” he added in response to Gordon’s comments.

Peterson said the group had, nonetheless, benefitted from the year of work, having come up with some recommendations to improve the planning process for the future, including adding an email address to the information collected for contracts with bands and other entertainers, so that the committee could contact them more easily, such as in the event of a cancelation.

He also praised the work of Ray and Christine Aumiller on T-shirt sales to benefit the event, noting that they had “basically sold out” of the shirts, even though 35 percent of the sales usually take place on the day of the parade.

While the parade was a washout, making for the “first time in anyone’s recollection that the parade was canceled,” Town Manager Cliff Graviet said, they’d had better luck with the annual fireworks display, which was postponed a day, to July 5, with the uncertainty of Hurricane Arthur’s impact looming over the event.

“I think we made the right decision,” Graviet said of the postponement, noting that the width of the beach after the storm was a factor in how large the display could be, as well as in whether it could even safely take place.

Graviet said the Town had received several emails about the fireworks having been “less spectacular this year than in the past,” with the explosions being lower and making less noise. He said that perception was correct.

Citing a change in vendors this year, he explained that the vendor the Town previously had used may not have complied with state regulations on fireworks displays, with which the new vendor had complied.

“The size of the shells is contingent on the size of the beach,” Graviet noted, saying that past years in which beach replenishment had been done relatively recently had meant they’d been able “to do more than we were this year. I think they put on a fantastic show, given their limitations.”

While Arthur did rain on Bethany’s parade, the resulting water will now clear out faster than it has in previous years, with additional work done on the N. Pennsylvania Avenue “patchwork” drainage system “in the infamous area where it constantly floods,” Graviet said.

At just $20,000 in cost to the Town, with town employees providing some of the labor and using the Town’s own supplies, Graviet said, the repairs made a significant improvement to drainage in that area.

“It’s nothing that’s going to resolve the issues with tidal flooding, but now it drains much more quickly,” he said. Even during recent “significant” rain events, Graviet noted, within 12 to 24 hours, the area was dry, except for some puddling on the shoulders.

Graviet said he’d also had some inquiries as to why the Town had not placed its accessibility-enhancing Mobi Mats on some of the dune crossovers this summer. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had replaced the hard surfaces on some of the crossings, he explained, and the Town hadn’t put the mats back at those locations as a result.

“The mat moves on that hard clay surface,” he noted, adding that the sand on other crossovers anchors the mats in place. If the hard-surfaced crossings do degrade in the future, Graviet said, the Town has enough mats to put down on them and will do so. “It has not been an issue in terms of being able to traverse them,” he added.

The Town has also recently made changes to the route for the town trolley, removing two stops over concerns that people coming from outside the town were parking nearby and using the trolley to get downtown without having to pay for metered parking or walk significant distances.

The Lake Bethany stop was removed, he said, because of complaints from that development about people from outside the town parking in and around their entrance and at vacant lots, and then taking the trolley.

The stop at the South Coastal Library was also removed, Graviet said, as “the parking lot had become a de facto park-and-ride.” He said that when the library closed at the end of the day on July 5, library staff had reported that there were only two empty parking spaces in the entire parking lot, despite there being no one left inside the library.

People were boarding there and getting a ride into town, he said, emphasizing that such transportation of residents of areas outside of Bethany “is not the purpose of our trolley,” which is intended for the use of residents and visitors of people residing in Bethany itself.

Lifeguards to make the call on balls and boards

The council held first readings for two revised ordinances on July 18, both having to do with lifeguards’ control over activities at the beach.

The first ordinance addresses activities involving throwing things on the beach, such as balls or flying discs. Peterson said the change was to make such activities “at the discretion of the lifeguards,” which is current Town policy but is not reflected in the ordinances on the books.

He said a few suggestions had been made since the ordinance had been drafted — including specifying that it impacts both the sand and water along the shoreline — and that a revised version would be presented at its second reading, when a council vote could take place.

The second ordinance getting a first reading on July 18 addresses times and locations when surfing and similar activities are permitted on the beach, making that at the discretion of the lifeguards, as well.

Input on the ordinance has included expanding it to other activities, such as body-boarding, which Peterson said would be included in the second reading. In essence, he said, the ordinances “simplify it” so that it’s clear that the “lifeguards are in control when they’re there.”

Gordon also noted that the existing ordinances reference a requirement for body-boards to have leashes, even though leashes haven’t been commonly used on the boards for years. “It’s never been enforced,” he noted. “It should definitely not require leashes. It’s very out-of-date for that activity.”

The second readings on both ordinances are expected at the August council meeting.

Four incumbents, one challenger to vie in Sept. 6 election

That August meeting could be the last for the existing council makeup, as the annual municipal election will be held on Saturday, Sept. 6, from noon to 6 p.m. at town hall. Four council seats are up for election in 2014, currently held by Gordon, Rosemary Hardiman (appointed earlier this year to replace former mayor Tony McClenny, whose term expires in September), Lew Killmer and Margaret Bogan Young.

In addition to the incumbents, the five candidates for the 2014 election include resident R. Bruce Frye, who currently sits on the Charter & Ordinance Review Committee, Fourth of July Parade Committee and the Board of Adjustment. Frye was previously considered by the council as one of three candidates for the appointment to replace McClenny. (Hardiman was selected.) He also endorsed Peterson as a candidate in the 2013 council election.

The Coastal Point will once again host Candidates’ Night ahead of the election, on Friday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m. at town hall. The event will again be available live, in audio form, via the Town’s website, for those who can’t attend in person.

Also at the July 18 council meeting:

• Councilman Jerry Dorfman reported on the Town’s fiscal year as of June 30, noting that it had taken in 51.2 percent of budgeted revenue (compared to 49.1 at the same point last year) and paid out 25.4 percent of budgeted expenses (compared to 23.7 last year).

• Dorfman said the Audit Committee had also received the Town’s annual audit report, again finding no problems and coming with compliments on the Town’s internal controls, policies and personnel. He said a compliance “single” audit on the water tower construction project had also been required because the Town had used more than $500,000 in federal funding, as the project’s loan originated through the EPA. That, too, yielded a favorable report, with no incidents of non-compliance found.

• Reporting for the Budget & Finance Committee, Dorfman also addressed the Town’s fiscal year thus far, with revenue coming in at 8 percent over the budgeted figure and expenses at 5 percent under the budgeted amount. Both, he said, were up 2 percent over the figure for that point in the prior year, with transfer taxes and building permits the primary sources of the increases in revenue.

• Dorfman also reported first-quarter revenues as 6 percent higher, with parking revenue alone up by $60,000 over the same point in 2013, due to the delayed start of paid parking last year. The first quarter also saw 13 percent higher expenses, which Dorfman said was primarily due to the replacement of equipment and work on drainage projects.

• Addressing one last area of the Town’s finances, Dorfman said the committee had done a five-year review on its sanitation and water funds. Over the last five years, he said, the Town’s cost for trash service had increased by 43 percent — about 11 percent per year on average — as a direct result of new State regulations regarding recycling and yard waste, as well as increases in DSWA dump fees. He said the water costs had increased at about 3 percent per year over the last five years.

• Councilman and Planning Commission Chairman Lew Killmer reported disappointing turnout for the commission’s June meeting, to which 35 individuals and firms had been invited to garner their input on a draft ordinance on residential bulk density in the R-1A and R-1B zones, but only five attended. Despite that, Killmer said, good input had been received, with changes to be considered and voted upon by the commission at their August meeting before the final draft ordinances goes to the council for possible adoption.