Millville invests in future police department

Millville Town Council members looked into the future at their Oct. 11 meeting and decided that they should take a positive step toward the eventual formation of a police department in the town.

Mayor Gary Willey reported that he had met with representatives of the Delaware State Police and the state’s Homeland Security officials since the council’s last meeting and was told the most the town could expect in terms of start-up help from the agencies was a used police car (equipped) and $3,000 in cash.

While the town has investigated grants that would help with the estimated $169,410.27 needed to get one officer and a single car operating out of a police station in the town’s existing garage, Willey said Millville was not currently eligible for any grants, since they require an active police department already be in place.

“It’s a catch 22,” Willey told those present at the meeting.

Willey acknowledged the costs required to get the first officer in place would naturally be higher than for subsequent officers and said the town’s 300 taxpayers simply couldn’t foot the bill on their own right now.

But with nearly 200 homes planned for the near future at Millville by the Sea, and additional homes set for Dove Landing, the potential to both need and afford a police department was definitely on the horizon.

Following up on his own original idea, the suggestion of Councilman Tim Droney was that the town assign a portion of all real estate transfer tax funds collected to be for a future police department.

“If it works, the funds are earmarked. If it doesn’t, we can break it loose to the general fund,” Droney said.

He also cited the possibility that a pre-formed savings earmarked for a police department might prove a plus in applying for grants in the future, a way to show grant providers that the town was serious about getting a department up and running.

Willey noted that the future of the town’s transfer tax funds was uncertain, with discussion by some state legislators of removing the funds from the municipalities and county to state coffers.

“We’ll have to come back with another plan if we lose the transfer tax,” he said.

Town Manager Linda Collins inquired whether use for police protection was among the stipulations of allowed uses for transfer tax funds. Willey confirmed that it was.

Councilman Cliff Toomey pointed out that the town would be investing its transfer tax funds regardless of the intended use and that investing some percentage of the funds with the earmarked use of a future police department would make little difference in how that was done. He recommended a “safe government security,” such as a treasury bill.

Willey suggested that an initial $5,000 investment be made. Droney took the honor of the motion as the originator of the idea and council members unanimously approved the motion.

The mayor noted that the town would continue to contract with the Delaware State Police for the time being.

Also at the Oct. 11 meeting, council members agreed to form a three-person committee to plan events related to the town’s bicentennial, in 2006. Willey suggested events such as a barbecue or parade be considered, with the whole shebang designed, he said with a wry note of humor, “to show Millville really does exist.”

Willey also took the opportunity to suggest the town consider design standards for its commercial area along Route 26. He pointed to a similar move in neighboring Ocean View in recent months.

The mayor suggested an “old town” style be considered as that design standard, pointing also to the modern architecture of the new Halpern Eye Center in Millville as something the town would like to avoid as out of place with its existing architectural character.

“I don’t know that we could tell them not to do that” in Millville, Willey said.

The council members requested Collins contact the town solicitor regarding the development of an ordinance that would allow the town to “suggest” a preferred architectural style, such as that “old town” style.

Council members also unanimously approved the search for a third, part-time town clerk to assist Collins and Town Clerk Sue Knox two days per week. Collins said she was having difficulty leaving the town hall to do work out in the town, due to not wanting to leave the town hall closed when Knox was off from her part-time position.

“We need someone in the office five days a week,” Collins said.

Council members said they believed Collins and Knox could accomplish more if they were given more concentrated time to work together, rather than dividing up weekdays under both part-time positions.

Droney took the opportunity to praise Collins’ work, while Collins praised Knox’s work.

Willey also thanked area residents for responding strongly to the town’s recent food drive to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. The town gathered some 750 pounds of supplies that will be donated via the Milford Food Bank. Collins and her husband had delivered the donations to the food bank this week.

Millville Volunteer Fire Company President Greg Tietmeyer, in attendance at the meeting, noted that he had been unaware of the drive. It had not been advertised on the town hall sign. He suggested the town work to coordinate communication with the fire company in the future, to make use of the MVFC’s sign for additional advertising.

Willey acknowledged the receipt of a letter from state Rep. Gerald Hocker regarding noise from the Fat Tuna restaurant. He said the town had sent a reminder to the establishment regarding a memorandum of understanding about the hours music would be played there.

Willey also announced the town’s official trick-or-treating time for 2005: from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 31 — Halloween night.

Toomey presented the treasurer’s report for the period through Sept. 26, noting that the town’s certificates of deposit were accruing interest every six months and pointing out that the appreciation of assets was now being shown on the town’s balance sheet.

Willey praised the new balance sheet format and Toomey’s work on it, saying, “It’s all that anybody could want.”

Toomey acknowledged that he and Collins had worked hard on the new format, noting that that work was “still progressing.”

Toomey reported $231,211.71 in net income for the period between May 1 and Sept. 26, with $1,062,504.43 in total liabilities and equity as of Sept. 26.