Fenwick approves ambulance ordinance

The Fenwick Island Town Council had a full plate at their council meeting on Friday, June 20. Topping the agenda was a motion to accept the ambulance sponsor’s agreement between the so-called “Big Four” and the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s new ambulance service. The agreement was approved by the council last Friday, in a move described by Councilman Gardner Bunting as “a formality.”

“It’s housekeeping on how we hold our meetings,” added Mayor Audrey Serio. The finalized per-parcel fee for the service is $33, assessed annually by the town.

The council also approved on June 20 a motion to authorize town manager Tony Carson to prepare and advertise bids for the town’s roadway resurfacing project. Carson said the timeline would extend to mid-July for preparation of the bids, with the goal to get them back by August and repairs to start in September.

The council also authorized the Carson to purchase a beach wheelchair from the funds obtained by the sale of its trash trucks, at a cost not to exceed $2,000, and approved the purchase of an all-terrain vehicle from the same funds, with that cost not to exceed $10,000.

Carson explained that, initially, they were looking to spend about $8,000 for the ATV, but for a little more money could find a vehicle with more features and capabilities — such as hauling — so the police department, the beach patrol and public works can all use it.

It was noted at the June 20 meeting that TV station WHYY had recently aired a segment on what towns are doing to save gas and energy. Bunting added of the ATV, “It’s a lot cheaper than a front-end loader with a diesel engine — it’s an issue of saving money. It will give the police extra flexibility, help public works and help the beach patrol.”

Serio read the resulting resolution stating that the town “authorizes the town manager to purchase an all-terrain vehicle from the funds obtained by the sale of the trash trucks, not to exceed $100,000,” which she quickly corrected to the authorized $10,000 amount. “Everybody’s awake,” she said, laughing. “That was a test.”

Bottled water sets off budget battle

Also on June 20, the council approved the town’s 2008-2009 budget, which Carson described as “conservative.”

“You always want your revenues to be more than anticipated and your expenditures less,” he added. “Our final numbers are conservative. We are doing our best to stay within the means that we have.”

Councilwoman Vicki Carmean noted that she wanted to reduce the employee relations part of the budget by $500. That $500 is for bottled water for use at town hall. Carmean recently raised this issue at the Fenwick Island Environmental Committee meeting, saying that, after learning from water supplier Artesian about the exceptional quality of the tap water in Fenwick, the town should be an example by drinking from the tap — and therefore, leaving bottled water out of their 2008-2009 budget.

The council voted on reducing the budget by that amount, but the change was voted down, with Carmean and Councilmen Chris Clark and Todd Smallwood voting for the elimination of the bottled water budget and Serio, Bunting, Councilman William Weistling Jr. and Councilwoman Diane Tingle dissenting.

Later, in the public participation part of the meeting, resident Anna Welsh raised the issue again and asked each council member who voted against the move to defend their vote.

Serio said it was “not a budgetary item.”

Tingle said: “I’ll tell you why I voted it down – our employees don’t get a lot of benefits, and they wanted it.”

Welsh disagreed, saying they get plenty of benefits. She added that she, as a hospital employee, always drank from the tap.

Weistling said he had asked Environmental Committee members for the cost of putting in water filters in lieu of the bottled water and the cost of replacing filters, etc., and did not get those numbers. Carmean disagreed with that statement.

Bunting said he had looked at coolers that would accept water from the tap or pre-filled bottles and noted that it would cost $300 just to purchase one, without any connections. That, he said, would eat into any savings from not buying the bottles.

Welsh reiterated Carmean’s sentiment that it was hundreds of dollars they were talking about and said, “Artesian said it’s safe. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be here.”

Serio told Welsh she should gather her thoughts and turn them into Carmean, who was visibly disappointed with the council’s decision.

“You know me, Anna,” Carmean said. “I won’t give up.”

Council moves code changes forward

Council approved a first reading removing, in its entirety, Section 112-8, Parking, from the town code. Weistling said this was to allow more flexibility in bayside parking and could possible open the doors for additional oceanside parking spots as well.

Council also approved a first reading of Section 112-6, Parking for Handicapped Persons. The ordinance adds to the existing section 112-6 a paragraph, #8, describing consequences for violators: a $100 mandatory fee for a first offense, a mandatory fine of $200 for a subsequent offense or a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 days nor more than 30 days, or both; and states that any officer authorized to issue a parking summons may cause illegally parked vehicles to be removed to a private storage area at the owner’s expense.

“This was brought to our attention by [town attorney] Tempe Steen, and she suggested that we add this to define a specific fine for a violation,” explained Westling.

Council also approved a first reading on Chapter 160-2B Definitions and Word Use. The proposed ordinance would add the words “townhouse or apartment” under the floor area definition for total square footage of all horizontal floor areas.

In a related move, the council approved a first reading on Chapter 160-5A, Commercial Zone Use Regulations. The proposed ordinance would more clearly define apartments and identify minimum lot area per apartment unit at 6,500 square feet. It will also define a minimum floor area of 1,200 square feet and a maximum floor area of 1,500 square feet.

Weistling pointed out that the existing ordinance states that only one apartment per commercial building is permitted, with no minimum or maximum floor area. The new one is intended to clarify that allowance as one apartment per lot in a commercial building, with clearly defined minimum and maximum square footage requirements.

Also on June 20, the council approved a first reading of Chapter 160-5c Commercial Zone Area Regulations. The proposed ordinance deletes the present C-1 district regulations and replaces it with a new set of C-1 regulations.

The proposed C-1 defines, for uses other than residential, the front building limit line setbacks, side yards and rear yard requirements as a minimum 5,000 square feet lot area in a commercial zone with a minimum width of 50 feet at the front building line, noting that no lot area shall be so reduced or diminished by this chapter.

Also, under the front building limit line, the proposed legislation adds four sections that state that the front building limit line at ground level shall be set back from the front lot line not less than 12 feet, and no parking will be permitted in this area. Also, it prohibits the placing of merchandise, vending machines and newspaper boxes in this area.

Under the legislation, the front building limit line at floors above ground level, including the roof overhang area shall be set back from the front lot line not less than 10 feet. No part of any structure mentioned in 160-6A(5) – including but not limited to canopies, retractable awnings, soffits or signs — will be allowed in the 10-foot front lot line setback; and, in cases where one or more building facades comprise multiple lots, areas above the ground level will be required to offset the front plane of the building a minimum of 6 inches for every 40 feet of outside wall dimension.

The council noted that, since the legislation is a change to commercial zoning, there will be a public hearing on it before the next regular council meeting, at which the council could vote to adopt it.

Focus on safety, lady lifeguards

Referencing the fatal automobile crash last month in Fenwick Island, the council on June 20 discussed adding a rumble strip or flashing light at Lewes Street, to help control people speeding in and out of town — a recommendation from Weistling.

Carson noted that Fenwick Island does not have the median space for a flashing speedometer or other speed deterrent, but added there might be other avenues to explore. Police Chief William Boyden brought up the issue of enforcement, saying citations were up dramatically, but he also said there is nowhere to efficiently monitor speed on the north side of town.

Fenwick Island Beach Patrol Captain Tim Ferry reported that the lifeguards had received their second certification from the National Lifesaving Association, which he referred to as “basically the Red Cross of open water.”

He noted that, from Virginia Beach to northern Delaware, they are one of only five patrols to receive the certification.

Ferry also reported June 20 that the Lifetime television network contacted him regarding a proposed series focusing on women serving on beach patrols. He said several FIBP members had been, or were expected to be, contacted for casting calls after September.

“Girls have been a big part of our patrol,” Ferry said. “They make up a third, or 10.”

He said that Lifetime had heard about the patrol because Fenwick Island’s beach patrol is noted throughout the country for how well it does in lifeguard competitions.

Serio gave kudos to Ferry, saying, “Congratulations! It wouldn’t have happened without you being here.” Ferry noted that the national championships of lifeguard competition for this year will be held in Manhattan Beach, Calif., on Aug. 7, 8 and 9.

Carson complimented town departments that were under-budget. He also reported that, for May, the town had 13,330 pounds of recyclable materials. He said that has increased dramatically and is a “great thing to see.” Carson also noted that someone had donated Fenwick Island front license plates for sale at town hall. They are for sale for $10.

Building Official Pat Schuchman reported June 20 that she had seen quite a few more roofing permits cross her desk recently than is usual — “nearly all as a result from the Mother’s Day storm,” she added of the May 12 nor’easter.

Finally, the council on June 20 approved a ’50s-style band to play at King Street on Aug. 23 from 6 to 10 p.m.

Also of note to Fenwick Island citizens: The annual Fenwick Island Society of Homeowners (FISH) meeting will be held July 19. Although no formal election will be taking place in the town this year, since only incumbents filed for election to council seats, it was noted that the incumbents are still expected to show up for a “meet-the-candidates” session to talk about their plans for their next term and to answer citizen questions. A second meet-the-candidates event will be held July 22 at 7:30 p.m. for the same purpose.