Fenwick hears from DelDOT

Fenwick Island residents heard about Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) input regarding the median, crosswalks and traffic signals at the Feb. 25 town council meeting.

“We may or may not have trees,” Council Member Vicki Carmean stated.

As with the flowerpots originally planned for the median, DelDOT had decided trees might be a visual obstruction (Carmean said Cleveland flowering pears might still be a possibility).

Regarding the pots, she said local businesses had adopted nine out of the 11 purchased, and she anticipated the arrival of flowering bulbs later this month.

Flowering shrubs could include spireas, azaleas and, later, crape myrtle and winterberry.

Carmean envisioned a mix of white, pink and purple, and planned to do a mass planting of day lilies early in the season.

She said DelDOT had added another requirement to crosswalk designs, to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and proposed plantings for the median.

According to Carmean, the town should expect designs to include a “nubby” (rough) crosswalk surfaces for the vision impaired.

Also on crosswalks, DelDOT’s Gene Donaldson (Traffic Control Systems) explained the timing behind the walk/don’t walk lights.

“Even if you leave the curb just as the signal goes to a flashing “don’t walk,” at a normal pace, you can still make it across the street,” Donaldson said.

However, he recognized there would be more parents with small children, and people hauling beach equipment, in a resort town like Fenwick Island. “We will continue to work with the town on pedestrian timing,” he said.

Donaldson said he’d already looked at one crosswalk in particular, at Dagsboro Street, and found a problem with the pedestrian push button there. He said he was also reviewing the timing at that intersection.

Several residents questioned the quick-change left turn arrow entering Route 1 from Route 54.

Public Works Supervisor Neil Hanrahan said the arrow turned red again after 4 seconds.

Donaldson admitted it was inconvenient, but hard to fix. If DelDOT changed the timing, as he put it, “The next thing you know, we get a call from Route 1 — ‘Why is the light sitting green on the side street? There’s nobody there.’”

Discussion transitioned to flooding issues.

Council Member Audrey Serio read an opinion letter from engineer Chuck Hauser (Davis, Bowen & Friedel) on the topic.

As Hauser explained, the town sees flooding anytime the tides rise more than 2 feet above mean sea level.

He recognized there was probably a perception that the town was flooding more frequently than in the past, and showed figures indicating that was indeed the case (at least over the last few years.

Between 2001 and 2002, tides reached that level eight times — as compared with 19 times between 2003 and 2004.

(For all years, most flooding occurred during September and October.)

“It’s seasonal, and of relatively short duration,” Hauser stated.

He said the town could raise bulkheads and roads to address the problem, but that would impact other areas severely, and require significant improvements to residents’ driveways.

Alternately, the town could put in pump stations — at $250,000 apiece, plus operations and maintenance — and they would only assist, not solve the problem outright.

The town currently uses a combination of flap and “tide flex” valves to address standing water. The valves remain closed against tidal (bay) water but open for storm runoff — in theory.

However, according to Serio, Fenwick Island is flat, and the valves need landside head pressure before they’ll open.

Hanrahan said the town had experimented with the original tide flex valves, with limited success, and was now trying out an improved model in two locations.

While Hanrahan said tide flex valves probably worked better than flap valves, they’re expensive — $1,700 apiece.

“I’m reluctant to get into buying new valves,” he said.

At locations less affected by tidal waters, Hanrahan has been installing a drainage water containment system — a box that temporarily holds and eventually moves water away from low-lying areas.

In other business, council considered the purchase of a vehicle for Police Chief Collette Sutherland’s personal use and discussed a possible fundraiser for the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.

Sutherland presented Ptlm. Robert Beckage with a Valor Award, and Sgt. William Boyden led a discussion regarding identity theft prevention.

Council Member Harry Haon detailed the calendar of upcoming town events, starting with the annual beach grass planting on April 2.