South Bethany begins new council year with new mayor, member

South Bethany Town Council members on June 8 welcomed part-time resident Mark Damato among their number, appointing him to fill a vacant council seat for a two-year term. The appointment brings the council to its full complement of seven members, including new mayor Kathy Jankowski, who ran unopposed in the 2012 election, as did returning members George Junkin and Sue Callaway.

The council last Friday also appointed Kent Steffen to replace Jankowski on the town’s Planning Commission. The commission was set to meet next on June 13 to begin a scheduled review of the town’s comprehensive plan, with a presentation expected to be made to the council at their July 13 meeting.

Jankowski said she had already, in her first week as mayor, attended a legislative update with Town Manager Mel Cusick and had also attended a board of adjustments training session in Dover — training that is required of South Bethany Board of Adjustments members but which she also recommended to others. Finally, Jankowski said she had already met with homeowners on some issues, with plans to follow up on their concerns.

Jankowski will soon be presiding over a town with reconstructed beach walkways, with the project set to begin on June 11 at the south end of the town and with its handicapped-accessible dune crossing. Cusick said periodic closures of the walkways being worked on should be expected, but that the hope was that adjacent crossovers would be kept open. He said he expected the work to be completed by June 28, if not sooner, as that is the final day of the contract for the project.

With the resort season fully under way in the weeks prior to the official start of summer, Cusick noted that the town’s beach patrol had already conducted four rescues as of June 8, including two rescues of 8-year-old victims from rip currents and a multi-victim rescue, also from a rip current. He said beach patrol members had also helped one beachgoer after a fall while entering the beach resulted in a laceration that sent the victim to the hospital via ambulance.

Despite those efforts, Cusick also reported on June 8 that multiple incidents of vandalism to the town’s lifeguard stands had happened in the week prior. “We have vandalism that occurs every year,” he noted. On June 4, he said, Stand 3 was pulled behind the dunes and was later found with some of its boards missing and cracked. On June 6, Stand 1 was found near the shoreline near Middlesex Beach, having been in the ocean at some point and also having some of its boards missing.

Treasurer Pat Voveris offered good news from the town’s finance department, with $43,000 of transfer tax revenue having come in to the town in May. That’s 18 percent more than in May 2011 and, according to Callaway, the highest monthly transfer tax revenue for the town in five years. Additionally, with property tax payments due by the end of June, Voveris noted that the town had already collected nearly the full budgeted amount from that source.

Police Chief Joe Deloach offered a report of a comparatively quiet May for South Bethany police, with officers having attended to reported water leaks, assisted neighboring agencies with arrests ranging from a drunken and disorderly suspect in Fenwick Island to providing Spanish/English translation after a traffic arrest involving illegal immigrants.

Resident Mike Matera asked what South Bethany police do in cases when they discover illegal immigrants, and Deloach acknowledged that officers generally just get their information and keep track of them, as “we have to have a boatload of them for [immigration officials] to come get them.”

Deloach also reported dispatching of officers to reports of a couple of loud parties, as well as making two arrests for under-age consumption and possession of alcohol.

Voveris complimented Deloach on what she called the department’s “efficient enforcement” efforts, with arrests, traffic citations and seatbelt violation citations up in amounts ranging from 24 to 140 percent.

Work on the water quality in the town’s canals continues through a variety of efforts. Junkin reported that oyster gardening projects were getting under way and that anyone interested in joining in the effort should call resident Alan Allenspach. He said inspection of storm drains was to be ongoing over this summer, with the survey leading to recommendations on ways the town can better handle related water-quality issues.

“Right now, they’re designed to get stormwater into the canals as fast as possible, but that’s not good for the water quality,” he noted.

He again encouraged those with stormwater drains or outside showers that drain into the canals to remove the canal outflows and replace them with infiltration systems that will filter stormwater and shower-generated greywater through the land before it hits the canals.

He allowed that the Town has grandfathered such drains where they already exist until 50 percent of the property is altered, but property owner education has focused on getting those who are grandfathered to voluntarily re-route the drainage to help improve water quality.

“Seventy percent of the land belongs to homeowners,” he noted. “Seventy percent of the rain is controlled by homeowners. Only 30 percent falls on the roads, etc. … We have two fliers we’re going to mail out to all homeowners on the canals, to ask them to do something about disconnecting.”

One property owner said he’d like to see the Town offer a more flexible policy regarding drainage into the canals, such as offsetting continuing canal drainage by use of rain barrels or rain gardens to collect stormwater, letting some property owners off the hook for their drains if they can make other kinds of stormwater infiltration improvements.

For those interested in such mechanisms, DNREC will be offering 50-gallon pre-fitted rain barrels to the public at the UD campus in Lewes on June 28, on a first-come, first-served basis, at a reduced cost of $66.

Junkin said he was still waiting on word about whether the Town will receive an EPA grant for its canal diffuser pilot program, which is set to move forward with only Town funds for an installation along the 1,600 feet of the Petherton canal, with the Brandywine canal as a control, and likely in the spring of 2013, as spring is considered a preferred time to start up such a project.

The Canal Water Quality Committee is also seeking volunteers with boats who will pick up any trash they find in the canals as they use those craft. Junkin also noted that the March/April algae bloom was “the worst algae bloom we’ve ever had.” DNREC officials did use the State’s harvester machine to collect an estimated 100 tons — 6 dumptrucks worth — of algae from the canals in efforts earlier this spring.

Matera noted that he had seen many tree limbs hanging over the canals, which Junkin acknowledged is a violation of town code for property owners who allow that to occur. Cusick said town staff usually check for those problems when doing their annual bulkhead inspections, but that this spring’s scheduled inspection had been rained out. He said they would look for overhanging limbs when the rescheduled inspection takes place, but those who notice the problem can also report them to the town’s code enforcement officer.

In related matters, Callaway reported that final planning was under way on bio-retention areas in the Route 1 median, with the half-dozen plants that didn’t survive set to be replaced this week. Educational signs in the bio-retention areas, as well as in the town’s rain garden installations and near the filtering drainage forebay on the Anchorage canal, are also planned as part of the project.

Landscaping improvements along York Beach have also been completed, she noted, with contractor Lord’s Landscaping set to do the first maintenance of that area in the fall, for free. Other improvements made by the Community Enhancement Committee include the first of new street signs that will be put up on Ocean Drive — this one at N. 2nd Street. Callaway noted that the work installing the signs is involved and that it will be slow, but steady, process.

Other education efforts from the committee will include placing of real-estate flier boxes along Ocean Drive, which will dispense informational fliers reminding property owners about property maintenance needs.

Additionally, Callaway said there had been three more canal ends adopted by residents, including Voveris’ adoption of the canal end at Route 1 and the Petherton/Brandywine canals, another one on Canal Road and Callaway’s own adoption with Carol Stevenson of the Bayshore Drive canal, which now has more than four dozen new plants beautifying it.

She noted that a main focus of the adoption efforts was replacement of existing juniper bushes, the roots of which damage the bulkheads. Callaway further praised Cusick for his work on obtaining grants that have helped pay for the bio-retention project, beautification and plantings and water-quality efforts — more than $200,000 in all.

The CEC will meet next on June 27, from 10 a.m. to noon.