S. Bethany kicks in for lobbyist

South Bethany Town Council has decided to match funds with Bethany Beach for beach replenishment Washington, D.C. lobbyist firm Marlowe & Company.
Bethany agreed to sign up with Marlowe late last year, and approached South Bethany to see if they wanted to share the cost.

At that time, South Bethany took a wait-and-see approach, but Mayor Gary Jayne said Bethany had approached them once again.

If Bethany decides to renew this year, South Bethany will pitch in a 50/50 split on the $46,200-a-year contract.

Marlowe quoted the town an additional $500 per month for direct contact with South Bethany. However, the consensus was to decline that service, and work something out with Bethany for copies of Marlowe reports instead.

Council Member Richard Ronan recalled the initial reluctance had been out of concern that retaining a lobbyist might antagonize Dellaware’s Congressional delegation, but as Jayne noted, no problems had materialized after Bethany did so.

He gave Marlowe some credit for keeping the big Bethany/South Bethany dune rebuild on the Congressional radar screen.

Congress approved $425,000 for Bethany and South Bethany in fiscal 2005, for predesign on the project.

Council Member John Fields expressed a doubt. “Really, the only evidence that Marlowe is effective is hearsay,” he stated.

Council Member Bob Cestone agreed, but argued it was never possible to measure the value of lobbying efforts with much precision.

Fields asked what would happen if a major storm hit the coast on the heels of a replenishment project, leading into a discussion on the movements of sand.

More than one council member agreed the sand would indeed disappear from the newly repaired beach, but it wouldn’t move that far offshore.

As Ronan added, “The beach might have washed away, but not the houses or the street,” Ronan pointed out. He said most of the sand returned in the summertime (although 10 percent per year washed out to sea for good).

Jayne said winter-typical nor’easters moved sand offshore, often creating a sandbar, but most of that came back with southerly winds and wave patterns.

Council Member Marge Gassinger had big news from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT).

She read a letter from DelDOT Secretary Nathan Hayward, advising council that the town had received a $115,000 grant for work on a pedestrian walkway south of York Road.

South Bethany will need to kick in $4,800, and clear the project with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) — that side of the road borders wetlands.

Council eventually moved into a budget workshop, outlining revenue sources for the year.

Police Chief Joe Deloach spoke first, with much of his funding appearing on the “special revenue” sheet.

According to Deloach, those funds are “money in, money out.” They are grants for specific projects, in specific amounts.

For instance, Deloach calculated this year’s State Aid to Local Law Enforcement (SALLE) grant down to the penny — $5,368.42.

He said he’d set aside $1,300 of the SALLE grant to hire additional police officers this Fourth of July, following last year’s hail of fireworks upon several beachfront rooftops.

Deloach also anticipated $19,000 from the police pension fund (state money).

His expected his department to top the $65,000 in magistrate fees budgeted last year, and projected $70,000 for fiscal 2006.

However, parking ticket revenues were down sharply, and missed the mark. Council decided to cut that estimate for this year.

For the town at large, rental taxes remained a major revenue source, estimated at $430,000 for this year, but continued to decline from a peak in fiscal 2003.

Trash service revenues were expected to remain at current levels, $183,000. Same for property tax revenues, at 220,000, although council debated the possibility of slightly higher figures.

According to town financial administrator Renee McDorman, the town has accumulated a rather large reserve of real estate transfer taxes — nearly $1 million.

However, the town plans to replace the aging police department trailer with a new modular unit soon, and repair and improve Town Hall.