Fenwick approves lifeguard facility, puts Mobi-mats in place

The Fenwick Island Beach Patrol will soon have an official home once again. Having used space in a shed behind Fenwick Island Town Hall as the base of operations for more than 20 years, the lifeguards will have around 640 square feet in the town’s planned new public safety building. That includes a meeting room, office, bathroom and shower.

A door will link the lifeguard area to the police department, so police officers can utilize the extra space during the off-season. The building will also serve as an operations center during emergencies and natural disasters.

“Lifeguards have always had a facility, up until 1989,” explained Vice-Mayor Todd Smallwood, “and then, imagine my surprise when I was captain in 1990. I returned back here, and it was in a tool shed, where they’ve been” ever since.

Fenwick Island Town Council approved the new facility at a special meeting June 22, when they also chose Selbyville-based Bunting Construction to build the public safety building. Bunting Construction was the lowest bidder, within the range of four base bids that came in between $582,600 and $849,000.

The council elected to officially accept the low bid, including the lifeguard addition, for a total of $603,946. That comes out to approximately $173 per square foot.

Many council members expressed surprise at the low price and approved of having a local company performing the work. They were still unsure whether the Town must pay Delaware prevailing wage rates or non-prevailing wage rates for the work during the project.

Police Chief William Boyden thanked the Council for their support of the new facility:

“Every day, I wake up and pinch myself because I didn’t think this day would come,” Boyden said. “I think everybody in the town will be proud and happy when they see what comes of it.”

Mayor Audrey Serio commended Councilmembers Gene Langan and Bill Weistling Jr. for their dedication to the project and the whole council for their sensibility.

“We were able to come to the decisions that we have made by listening to each other, by listening to the professionals, asking many questions, and respecting each member’s ideas and perspectives,” said Serio.

Construction is slated to begin after Labor Day this year and end by April or May 2012.

Also this week, after much discussion and consideration of a variety of options, the Fenwick Island Town Council elected to place Mobi-mats at the dune crossings at Bayard, Dagsboro, Georgetown and King streets. The town’s limited supply of the beach access aids meant that many more citizens had wanted to see Mobi-mats at their street ends, but the Town could not satisfy everyone immediately.

Town Manager Win Abbott said some people had inquired about the beach mats’ locations. “I said the Council will decide, but wherever they go, that doesn’t mean they’re always going to be there. … If your street doesn’t have one in the early part of the season, you may just see one in the latter part of the season or next year.”

The mats were approved June 22, and they had been put in place by the town council meeting on Friday, June 24.

Also last Friday, on behalf of the Environmental Committee, Councilmember Vicki Carmean requested that the council develop a proactive plan for the future disposal of dead marine animals.

She cited the May 26 incident in which a minke whale died and was buried after beaching itself in Fenwick Island.

“I think Win [Abbott] did the best he could under the circumstances, but the Environmental Committee is appalled that the 25-foot whale was buried on our beach,” said Carmean, noting the possibility of a sinkhole being created when the animal’s body deteriorates.

The council and citizens listed alternatives to burial, such as burning or hauling to the dump. The council also noted that the State of Delaware owns beaches, expressing the feeling that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) should handle such incidents. The council took no action but planned to further consider the matter.

In other news from the June 24 council meeting:

• Beach Patrol Captain Tim Ferry announced that the annual bonfire to benefit the beach patrol and its competitive efforts will cost just less than $995. The beach bonfire will be Saturday, July 2, from 6 to 10 p.m. Guests can attend for free, and there will be games for kids, a 50/50 raffle, silent auction, a DJ and more. T-shirts and other items will be available for purchase, to benefit the beach patrol.

• The council approved the Environmental Committee sending a letter of support to DNREC for the Fenwick Island Yacht Club (FIYC), which has applied for a permit of improvement to build a 3-foot-wide boardwalk at the Seal Island rafting area. A representative from the yacht club said the current platform is difficult to use because of erosion on the island.

Although Seal Island is outside of town limits, the Environmental Committee letter noted that the town’s Comprehensive Plan includes protection of the Little Assawoman Bay watershed. No public monies would be spent because FIYC will provide all funding.

• Abbott said DNREC still has not confirmed when Fenwick Island’s beach replenishment will begin. The month-long process was tentatively scheduled to begin in mid-August.

• Sussex County Council this week approved granting Fenwick Island $10,000 to help defer cost of lifeguard service the town provides on the beach between Atlantic Street and the Maryland state border, an area outside town limits. Serio said county residents use the beach but the town never knows how much funding the County will provide.

• According to Treasurer Gardner Bunting, the town is still under-budget and will probably finish the fiscal year in that condition.

• Boyden reported that two new fulltime police officers joined the police force this month, while two officers are on extended sick leave.

The next Town Council meeting is scheduled for Friday, July 22, at 3:30 p.m., to be preceded by a public hearing at 3:15 p.m. regarding regulations for auction houses.