Fenwick Island council discusses park and lifeguard pay

Last week the Fenwick Island Town Council discussed the improvements planned for the Cannon Street Park. Mayor Audrey Serio said that the park task force had met earlier in the month and discussed their vision for the park, what should be in the park and its overall layout.

“We made the decision that we should start with the [kayak] launch, which is toward the south, and we would work to the north. We have to put a walkway in. We’re doing a rain garden,” she said. “I think we had a very fruitful meeting.”

Town Manager Merritt Burke said that the project is currently in the design phase and that the Town has received proposals and is currently evaluating them.

“From there, we will bid out the design and, in 20 to 30 days, we’ll receive the bids… The project may be completed by Halloween, but it’s doubtful.”

Burke said the Town would be applying for a Delaware forestry grant by Aug. 1, to help pay for the planting of trees and shrubs in the park area.

He added that the task force had decided that the proposed basketball court should be completely enclosed by a fence.

“We will also be planting azaleas or hydrangeas and other plants at the opening of the basketball court. I think it’s wise to have it, to keep the ball in the court so that it doesn’t impact our trees and shrubs.”

Burke said he was in the process of setting up a meeting with Landmark Engineering to also design a sidewalk to cross in front of the park.

“The funding for that project will come from the state of Delaware Municipal Street Aid Program. We were recently awarded $26,131.34 in unrestricted funds and $6,047.38 of restricted funds,” he explained. “We’ll have funds to complete the sidewalk project and some carryover to complete some of the streetscape projects you already approved in the capital budget.”

Council discusses lifeguard manual

Serio said that it had been brought to the attention of the council that there were discrepancies in employee manuals that the council needed to address, including the length of time Fenwick Island lifeguards work during any given shift.

“Through some review of not only the lifeguards but some of the other departments, we found there were some discrepancies as to how some things were happening,” she explained. “We found that people had changed how things were done but that the policy manual had never been changed.”

Serio said that she had spoken to lifeguard Capt. Tim Ferry regarding a town lifeguard’s hourly requirements for a workday. In the manual, she explained, it was outlined that guards would be paid for a 7.75-hour workday, however guards had been getting paid for eight hours worked per day.

“Bring me up to speed,” asked Smallwood of Ferry. “On Monday through Friday, their time sheets should say 7.75 hours. On weekdays, they don’t come in until 9. I go back and look at payroll, and it looks like they’re still being paid 8 hours for the 7.75 and also on the weekends.”

Ferry responded that Smallwood was correct, however it was not always the case for weekend shifts, due to where the lifeguards were reporting for the day. He added that since the discrepancy had been brought to his attention by Burke in mid-June, he had since been paying the guards for a 7.75-hour workday, per the manual.

“But prior to that, 8, and that has been done for the past nine years?” asked Smallwood.

“Yes,” responded Ferry.

He went on to explain that, although the employee manual stated that a 7.75-hour day was the pay basis for guards when Ferry joined the town staff, it was already the practice at that time to pay the guards for a full eight hours of work.

Ferry added that the guards’ lunchtime varies, depending on a number of factors, and is not strictly enforced.

“The environment that we work in out there is really different than an office or 9-to-5 thing. There are a lot of factors that go in to determining what length of any type of lunch or break employees can get,” he said. “There are days when it’s sweltering hot and you have to give them a little more time. To make it an 8-hour day, I’ve made it at least 30 minutes so that, depending on our weather conditions, surf conditions and whatever things we might have out there going on, that they would get at least a half-hour lunch.”

The council decided that they would discuss the matter further at a later date, following a more thorough review.

“The purpose of this is to make sure everyday work coincides with policy. The harder we can work to make them both gel, I think, the better off we are,” said Serio. “All of these policies — I don’t care what department it is… if there is something that isn’t working or we’re doing differently… I would expect the department head or Merritt to come to us with a suggestion of how they feel as if the situation would better work. We need to listen when they say they feel there should be change.”

In other town news:

• Smallwood said that the Town’s annual bonfire was a huge success, raising $5,800 to help send the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol to the yearly national lifeguard championship.

• The council unanimously approved to allow the Fenwick Island Fishing Club to have a fishing tournament on Oct. 6 inside town limits and to allow beach access for one vehicle.