Frankford addresses dilapidated structures

Frankford Town Council took a first formal step toward cleaning up various tumbledown, potentially dangerous houses at the March 7 council meeting.
Resident Elma Gray had approached council at the Feb. 7 meeting, asking for action on the unsightly homes.

Some are abandoned, and she suggested they should be boarded up at the least, because she had seen bicycles leaned up outside at times and suspected children might be wandering inside.

To that end, council formed the Fire Hazard Inspection Committee.

Town Clerk Terry Truitt said she’d asked for legal advice on how such a committee should proceed, and reported Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader’s advice on the matter.

By Truitt’s report, the committee members should canvass the town for “dilapidated or uninhabitable” houses — abandoned — and present a list for possible action and then disband after council addressed the complaints.

Following the delivery of a certified letter to the property owner, the town would advertise a public hearing and give said owner a chance to argue the case before council.

Council would then decide whether the house in question was indeed “dilapidated or uninhabitable.”

If structural damage were such that the building couldn’t be made safe by boarding up the doors and windows, council would then authorize the demolition of the tumbledown building at town expense — and place a lien against the property to cover the costs of that demolition.

(The property owner would retain the right to appeal the town’s decision in the courts.)

According to Council President Robert Daisey, the section of town code authorizing such a committee required a member of council to chair it.

A silence ensued, but Vice-President Thomas “Maynard” Esender eventually took the assignment.

“It’s embarrassing when you ride around this town,” he stated.

He suggested such properties could deter prospective homebuyers from investing in Frankford, and if they did buy, leave them asking, “How much did I spend — and look at what I’m sitting next to.”

Council Member Jesse Truitt expressed reservations, asking, “How much are we going to spend.”

However, both Cheryl Workman and Crystal Holland added their support, joining Esender and Gray on the committee.

On the topic of new committees, Council Member Pam Davis asked about the status of an unrecognized beautification committee and the disbursement of a $500 grant from Sussex County Council.

Daisey reported no change on the lack of consensus regarding official recognition for that committee.

The county approved the grant, to support the “Frankford Town Beautification Committee,” back in January.

Daisey commended the group’s intent — to provide welcome baskets to new residents of the town, and translate useful municipal information into Spanish for the many Hispanic residents of the town.

At the same time, he noted council’s uncertainty as to whether it should recognize the group as an official committee, or as a private entity, or decline to recognize it.

In the meantime, Daisey said the town was holding the grant money.

Council is considering the possibility of coordinating the efforts of those residents with the town’s existing parks and grants committee, headed by Council Member Greg Johnson.

Johnson listed items on his own agenda, including the removal of the existing pavilion at the park, and replacement with a new, metal structure.

Council okayed the proposal, with teardown slated to take place March 19. The park will be closed until the old pavilion is cleared away, but should be reopened by Easter.

Johnson said he was still looking for volunteers to help him with the upcoming Community Day parade and car show (slated for May 21), and Former Council President Ron Atherton offered to help find some car enthusiasts.

In other business, approved work on the drop-down cords, and 100-amp service on three utility poles, for the town’s holiday lights, and heard a presentation from Chesapeake Utilities regarding a possible expansion of natural gas service to new developments in Sussex County.

According to Chesapeake’s Jim Schneider, the company hopes to run a pipeline through Georgetown and Millsboro, all the way to Worcester County, tentatively by 2007.