Beach replenishment key issue at meeting

Officials from Bethany Beach and South Bethany trekked to Washington, D.C., on March 15, with the chief hope that continued close communication with the state’s legislators will help bring the $5 million in federal funds needed to keep the towns’ beach reconstruction project on track.

But, according to Bethany Beach Mayor Jack Walsh, both Sen. Tom Carper and Rep. Michael Castle expressed concerns that appropriations for state programs — such as local beach reconstruction projects — would be difficult to obtain in a tight budget year. (Sen. Joseph Biden was unable to attend the meeting, due to immediate demands on his time.)

Walsh said Bethany Beach representatives indicated to the legislators their concerns for the upcoming $5 million appropriation that would be required in the 2006 fiscal year for the beach nourishment program to proceed. They also thanked Carper and Castle for their support in obtaining the $425,000 in federal funding received last year for pre-construction stages of the project.

“Both Sen. Carper and Rep. Castle assured us that they would do everything possible to obtain funding for what they consider to be an important program for our state,” Walsh added in discussing the March 15 meeting.

“I feel our trip was a worthwhile endeavor for our well represented coastal communities, not only for the informational networking opportunities, but more importantly, it helped to emphasize to our legislators our concerns in obtaining beach nourishment funding,” Walsh said.

Walsh noted that the annual Delaware League of Local Governments (DLLG) meeting is intended to allow local officials to discuss with their representatives in the U.S. Congress various issues affecting their communities.

Bethany Beach organized transportation for the trip, he said, “in an attempt to provide optimum representation of our coastal communities.” The annual event brought officials from many of the state’s coastal towns to the nation’s capital, including Ocean View Mayor Gary Meredith, Town Manager Kathy Roth and Councilman Bill Wichmann; South Bethany Mayor Gary Jayne; and Dewey Beach Mayor Pat Wright.

The Bethany Beach contingency included Walsh, Councilmen Tony McClenny and Lew Killmer, and Sgt. Rick Hayden of the Bethany Beach Police Department.

Walsh said, “A number of towns and cities were represented at the meeting and raised concerns regarding the lack of funding for block grants, police and homeland security, etc.” (Hayden recently applied for and received a grant of nearly $50,000 for homeland security programs through the town’s police department.)

Also of concern to law enforcement officers, Walsh said, was “what they perceived to be a disproportionate distribution of monies between the fire departments and the police departments. Police felt they were not getting their fair share.”

Legislators from across the U.S. are currently working on the 2006 fiscal year budget — work that generally involves adding funding for some state and local projects that were not provided for in the president’s annual budget requests. The process often continues into October and beyond.

The final amount of federal funding provided for the Bethany Beach-South Bethany beach reconstruction project in the coming year will be determined during that budgeting process.

Local officials have even been seeking support from local property owners who reside outside Delaware, hoping their support for the project will bring help from those states’ legislators when the project’s funding is discussed in Congress.