South Bethany catches up on central gas

Residents of South Bethany expressed an interest in central gas utility a couple years back, but time has passed, and Sharp Energy hasn’t run any new lines recently. And along some streets, they never did run any lines.
Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY: Pamela Smith is the new administrative assistant in town.Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY:
Pamela Smith is the new administrative assistant in town.

Council Member Jay Headman brought the report at the Oct. 7 council meeting. Of particular interest to Headman was any terms settled upon, between Sharp and residents in the Cat Hill neighborhood where he lives, when Sharp representatives were last in town talking about infrastructure expansion. “What was said back then,” he asked his fellow council members.

Headman referred to an October 2003 survey of 155 residents around Cat Hill (59 answers back, a solid 38 percent response rate). He said 37 percent of the respondents had indicated they’d think about switching to gas (for heat, hot water) at that time, and another 12 percent had considered switching within two years.

With 49 percent of respondents expressing an interest by 2005, he suggested it might be time to check back, see if the sentiment still prevailed and if so, approach the company about maybe running some new gas lines.

He said he’d spoken with Sharp representative Eric Mays, who wasn’t working on the deal back in 2003, but who’d agreed to look into the matter for him.

Mayor Gary Jayne asked if they would need to tear up the streets in Cat Hill to install new lines, and Town Manager Mel Cusick said they would not — there was room in the soft shoulder (right of way).

Council Member Richard Ronan recalled some details, at least as they’d applied to his block (although, in his case, he admitted he’d been able to wheedle a connection because he lived at the head of the street). “When they first started, they wanted 50 people on your street to say, no that they might want gas sometime in the future, but that they would sign up,” Ronan pointed out.

George Junkin, South 4th St., remembered the same. He said he was strong for hookup, and called neighbors along his street until he was able to find one or two also willing to connect, to break the 50 percent barrier.

On another issue, Headman asked about a $75 deposit, indicating interest in hookup, he and some of his neighbors had paid to Sharp (this would have secured gas hookup at least to the meter, if Sharp had ever run lines through Cat Hill).

Jayne asked him how many people had paid the $75, and Headman said he didn’t know. “I think a lot of people might have forgotten about it,” he added. He said he hoped to ask Mays (1) how many paid and (2) if anyone was ever reimbursed.

In other business, Jayne reported back on recent totals from the Sussex County Association of Towns (SCAT), toward a donation to support the devastated town of Waveland, Miss. SCAT had collected $53,000 to date, he said, while that wouldn’t be much more than a drop in the bucket for a city like Biloxi or Gulf Port, it could mean a lot to a little town. Waveland, with a population just over 7,000, was virtually reduced to splinters by Hurricane Katrina, Jayne said.

Jayne also reported on a recent decision to expend additional funds for a second police car (the town had already set aside $23,000 to purchase one this budget cycle). Ed Nazarian, Peterson Drive, asked if the town had considered asking the county for grant assistance — Sussex County government launched an initiative this year to provide up to $25,000 toward capital costs, to every local police department in the county.

Jayne assured Nazarian they hadn’t overlooked it, and suggested the town might be able to use some of those county monies to outfit and buy new equipment for the two cruisers.

• Council Member Marge Gassinger reported a meeting with the town’s engineers on the pending police station/town hall project (French & Ryan). They were moving toward bid packages for sitework and either on-site (stickbuilt) or off-site (modular) construction, whichever was most reasonable and met the specs, she reemphasized. Gassinger said they may have stumbled upon some wetlands, which could affect where they’d intended to build the stormwater management. She said she’d keep everyone posted as things progressed.

• Ronan reported on town beautification — he said he’d spoken with Chantal Bouchard, lately horticulturalist for the town of Bethany Beach, who’d apparently retired to start her own business. “Beautification is really an art — you can have a bed that looks good, but you want the whole town to look good,” Ronan said, emphasizing the importance of unifying themes.

• And last but not least, Jayne presided over a swearing-in ceremony, returning Joe Demul to the Board of Adjustment, and introduced everyone to Pamela Smith, new administrative assistant for the town.