It all started when a bullet landed where it shouldn’t have.
“We had an incident in Bishop’s Landing,” said Eric Evans, code and building official for the Town of Millville. “I don’t know how it happened, but the family woke up and found a hole in the house. Somebody’s house got shot.”
Realizing that Millville has no limits on shooting, Evans proposed a restriction on discharging firearms, crossbows, slingshots and related weapons within town limits.
Millville still has some wide tracts of land — many of which are expected to become dense housing developments in the next 10 years. So the town council is now considering a shooting ban to reduce the likelihood of stray bullets landing in a neighbor’s graduation party, or worse.
“It’s to protect the citizens of Millville. … It doesn’t plan for anything with Second Amendment or anything like that,” said Mayor Bob Gordon.
“Everybody has a right to carry,” Evans agreed. “Everybody has the right to have it in their home. Everybody has the right to buy as many as you want. Everybody has the right to go out and target practice in the target zone… This is just to protect the citizens from stray bullets flying around in town.”
“We have not made any decisions. There is no vote on this tonight,” Gordon said at the April 24 meeting.
In his research, Evans said, 10 of 14 local towns prohibit shooting inside town limits. Selbyville prohibits gunfire 100 yards from any residence, except that of the owner, or within 15 yards of public roads. He said some people hunt along the edges of town, where the border is choppy, and one empty field easily leads to another.
The ordinance proposes fines of to $50 initially, then up to $100 for additional offenses, plus court costs.
In recent years, people have asked if hunting and shooting is permitted inside town limits. Evans admitted he’s fudged the answer a bit, for public safety.
“You’re really not supposed to, because there’s just too many homes around. Somebody’s house is going to get shot, or something’s going to happen. So I really don’t recommend it,” Evans said. “However, there is no ordinance, and I’ve bluffed a lot. But some people continue to hunt, and some folks stopped.”
Property owner James Powell joined the meeting just as discussion was ending. Although he doesn’t reside inside town limits, he’s a local native who owns 23 acres, and his father owns 25 adjoining acres along Powell Farm Road and Route 17.
“And I got a lot of interest in shooting. … I hunt on my property. I deer hunt, I duck hunt, I goose hunt, I dove hunt. … If you’re going to take my privileges away, I would like to know what’s being discussed,” Powell said. “If you’re going to do that to me, I’m going to see how I can get ex-annexed from the town.”
His comments prompted the town council to suggest tweaking the proposed law. Perhaps shooting could be restricted within certain areas, or a certain distance from buildings.
The town council will likely continue discussion of Ordinance 19-01 at their May 8 meeting. Millville Code Chapter 80 already prohibits everyday people from carrying firearms, ammunition and explosives into Town buildings.
Employees get better benefits
Town employees will get a more generous policy regarding sick leave and vacation. Councilman Peter Michel said the new policy brings Millville more in line with what other municipalities offer.
“We’re, like, half what most of the towns have. What they’re asking is not a lot. It just gets them up to snuff with everyone else. … It’s just equal rights and equal hours,” Michel said.
When the flu hit hard this winter, some employees relied on personal vacation days when their sick leave expired, Councilman Ronald Belinko said.
Both men said the new policy should help recruit and retain good employees, while honoring the hard work they do and increased workload they will likely see as housing development continues in the future.
The vote was 4-1, with Deputy Mayor Steve Maneri saying he wanted more time to review the policy before voting.
The new policy includes up to 12 paid sick days, plus a range of 10 to 25 paid vacation days, based on tenure. The old vacation policy allowed five to 15 days of vacation.
The change doesn’t increase the budget but will reduce the number of employee work-hours.
Earlier this month, the council also approved merit-based pay increases for all staff. The payroll budget increased this year by about 4 percent, or $14,000 in all.
In other Millville Town Council news:
• Local artist John Donato is planning a mural for the Town. The town council is still brainstorming exactly what to include and where to paint it, such as the future playground or inside Town Hall.
Earlier this month, Donato showed the initial concept for a mural going up an interior staircase at Town Hall. It would resemble a curio shelf inside a mill, laden with Millville symbols, such as pumpkins, schooners, the town seal, the signed articles of incorporation and much more.
“You put enough in here, it prompts discussion. … It never gets boring. When people go through it, they’re always going to see something new,” Donato said.
With bright colors, it would be slightly less whimsical than the vibrantly colored fish and dinosaurs he often paints at local elementary schools.
• Regulations on special-event tents could be removed from the town zoning code Chapter 155-17(C)7 “Temporary Tents” and instead be included in the special-events permit itself. Discussion on Ordinance 19-02 will likely continue at the May 8 meeting.
• This winter, many people were politely baffled by the abstract design of the new holiday lights on the Town’s utility poles.
“The Christmas lights this year were not what the Town ordered,” Town Manager Debbie Botchie said. “So the company came out and looked at them and said, ‘That’s not what we ordered.’ So, they are replacing our lights with what council approved, and you will see a big difference.”
• The town council approved an $11,300 contract, plus time and materials, for George, Miles & Buhr LLC’s (GMB’s) engineering services for the site work and permitting for the two park buildings. The expense doesn’t require public bidding because it’s for professional services.
The Millville Town Council’s next regular meeting will be the Tuesday, May 8, at 7 p.m.
By Laura Walter