South Bethany approves 2006 budgets

South Bethany Town Council approved the fiscal 2006 budgets, set the rental tax rate and adjusted various fees at the April 8 council meeting.

The town will move forward with a $1.52 million operating budget and nearly $1.44 million set aside for capital projects.

Items under operating included (1) a new pickup truck for the public works department, (2) two new salaried positions — a new landscaping crew, (3) continuation of paving east of Route 1, (4) continuation of storm drain work and (5) new street signs west of Route 1.

Mayor Gary Jayne also remarked on a new program slated for later this summer, “Operation Firecracker.” While he said it wasn’t a big ticket item, he stressed the importance of zero tolerance regarding civilian fireworks this July 4.

Stray bottle rockets landed on several rooftops last year, and Police Chief Joe Deloach is planning to rent ATVs and additional help to stave off a repeat.

Under the capital expense budget, the town has set aside $800,000 for a new-or-renovated town hall and a new police station, $300,000 for town canal dredging and $250,000 for the tidal pump program.

The town also signed up with the state pension program for the police department, and bought in seven years of prior service for the officers — $216,000.

The town retains $500,000 in emergency reserves.

Major revenue streams included the rental tax ($430,000), real estate transfer taxes ($350,000) and property taxes ($225,000).

Roughly $180,000 comes in, and goes right back out, for trash service.

The rental tax will once again remain at eight percent of gross receipts. As Financial Administrator Renee McDornan noted, it continues to be the town’s main source of sustenance, despite collections relying in many cases on the “honor system.”

Council Member Bob Cestone explained a few fee increases (and decreases) related to building-related activities. Council hashed out these changes at prior meetings, seeking to retain a level of service for the residents, but recoup their own costs as well.

• Building permit fees for bulkheads, docks, ramps and boatlifts doubled to $50.
• Board of Adjustment (BOA) meetings increased from $280 to $750. However, building permit extensions requiring BOA action will cost only $300.
• Combining or partitioning lots, requiring Planning Commission action, will incur a $100 fee.
• Home occupation (in-home business) applications, requiring Town Council action, used to cost $375, now costs $100, plus $10 for renewals.

In other business, Cestone reported on Assawoman Canal dredging progress, or lack thereof.

He attended the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) hearings regarding that dredging permit (February 22, March 22).

Cestone said witness testimony had wrapped up by the end of the day March 22, but there hadn’t been time for the attorneys (Sierra Club versus the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control) to present their closing arguments.

The attorneys will be turning those in to the EAB by April 25, he said, with a decision probably some time in May.

Council Member Bonnie Lambertson said she was looking for a venue for a windmill pro and con forum. Lambertson plans to host Winergy spokesman Robert Link sometime next month.

Council Member John Fields presented the Planning Commission report, and based on recommendations therein, council agreed to prohibit parking within 30 feet of Route 1 (on the west side).

Finally, Jayne proclaimed May 1-7 the annual Municipal Clerks Week, and recognized McDornan, Dee Burbage and Linda Collins for performing their “time-honored and vital” duties.