Frankford steps closer to clean-up of town

Frankford Town Council voted unanimously to move forward on a short list of uninhabited, dilapidated houses on Mill Street, at the Sept. 12 council meeting. This is step two, as Council Vice-President T. Maynard Esender pointed out. An ad hoc committee having identified a list of worst eyesores around town over the past few months, the town will now direct Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader to send out certified letters to the owners of record.

Esender noted the town’s rationale for trying to get these old homes demolished — public safety and the negative effect on neighboring property values. The property owners will have an opportunity to argue reasons why the town should not proceed (and there are other avenues for appeal, in the courts), but if those arguments fail, the town will place a lien on the property equal to the demolition costs.

There was some discussion about who would pay for Schrader’s time, and the postage, but Esender suggested the net benefit to Frankford would probably outweigh a few hundred dollars, even if the town had to pay it. And it would probably benefit the owners, too, he suggested, cleared land being more valuable than land with a tumbledown house sitting on it.

There are two burned-out properties around town that council has already moved to address — they supersede this list, as Esender pointed out.

In other business, Esender talked about overcrowding, and how several apparently unscrupulous landlords around town had effectively turned their residential properties into rooming houses. “There’s no telling how many people they have living there,” he said.

As Esender was careful to clarify, his comments weren’t directed at the occupants — “This is directed to the people taking advantage of the situation,” he said. Whether Frankford didn’t have the right ordinances in place, or whether it was an enforcement issue, Esender said he intended to ask Schrader about looking into landlord licensing issues, to complement the other clean-up efforts.

Council President Robert Daisey reported progress on the town’s Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) update. Anne Marie Townshend at the Office of State Planning Coordination (OSPC) was still waiting on information about town water — current system production, and projected service once the new water plant came online, he said.

According to Daisey, Clarence Quillen (Tidewater), whom the town has retained to help nurse the old plant along, would be able to derive those figures for the OSPC.

Looking forward, Esender noted recent contacts with several town planners.

Kyle Gulbronson (URS), who works with various local towns, stopped by Frankford to introduce himself to council members a couple months ago. As Daisey noted, engineers Davis, Bowen & Friedel (DBF) offered planning services as well, and Esender noted Jakubiak & Associates, out of Annapolis, Md., as well.

He said principal Chris Jakubiak had been “very interested” in one particular large, undeveloped parcel at the town’s heart. “This would be a commercial adventure — whether we tied up to him or anybody else, they’re going to be looking to make a buck,” Esender pointed out. “But given our experience with trying to engineer our own water plant…”

Completed more than a year ago, that plant lies dormant, due to either permitting foul-ups or engineering that made obtaining permits for the plant, as built, highly improbable, or a communication breakdown somewhere between the engineers, the town and the county.

The technical issue at the new plant is disposal (backwash) of solids (silt) into county sewer. The practical issues, for Frankford residents, are sporadic problems with water quality (rust, odor) at the old plant.

Daisey broached the issue of a town-wide fall clean-up, and council tentatively scheduled that for Saturday, Oct. 8. As Council Member Greg Johnson stressed, this would not include curbside pickup. However, the town will rent several dumpsters for residents’ use.

Finally, Daisey reported back from a recent Sussex County Association of Towns (SCAT) meeting, where he said members were hoping to “adopt a town” along the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast. He said Seaford and Bridgeville had each pledged $5,000 — Daisey recommended a more modest $500 from little Frankford, and that motion passed unanimously.