Ocean View approves controversial move

Several Ocean View town employees will be getting new offices in the public safety building. The move was approved Tuesday, July 8, by the town council after a presentation on space utilization by Town Manager Conway Gregory.

But some residents say the move is a waste of prime space and of money the town doesn’t have.

The police occupy 7,500 square feet of the 15,500-square-foot public safety building. When the building was created, that additional space was supposed to be used for outside personnel, such as the Delaware State Police and the Coast Guard, in the event of an emergency, said Councilman Bill Wichmann.

Now, when the town administrative personnel move into the building, that prime space will be lost, he argued.

“I heard it’s going to cost near $300,000 to do this,” said Wichmann. “We’re one office short in our current facility. Even if we had to add one office, it wouldn’t be near $300,000. We going to spend this and destroy the public safety building.”

Gregory said the actual estimate for the construction needed to prepare the public safety building for the administrative personnel is closer to $170,000. The current town budget already plans for $150,000 for new office space.

Work would need to be done to the second floor of the public safety building to move the town employees in there. Doors will need to be relocated, a stairway shut off and a receptionist area built. The police department would still have a locker room, gym area and radio/computer room on the second floor; but, the Civilian Auxiliary Patrol (CAP) office would need to be relocated, said Gregory.

Once construction is completed, the police department would occupy 8,500 square feet, while the town offices would take up 6,500 square feet, still leaving room for future expansion.

“It looks reasonably fair,” said Mayor Gordon Wood. “My position has been to push hard and look at other public safety uses for this space. This was expensive space, but if we can’t have a public safety-related use of the space, then we should use it as town office space.”

The motion to move town employees into the public safety building was approved by a vote of 4-1, with only Wichmann opposed.

Some residents joined Wichmann in voicing opposition to the move.

“That building didn’t get the proper respect that it deserves,” commented resident Elaine Birkmeyer after the vote.

“I saw this town hall being rebuilt not too long ago, and now again we need more space,” said Vincent Bertoni, who lives up the street from town hall. “We could divide this meeting room into four offices then meet at the police station.”