Five candidates vie for four council seats in Bethany Beach


The 2018 Bethany Beach Town Council election will be held Saturday, Sept. 8, from noon to 6 p.m. at town hall. Candidates who filed to run in 2018 include residents Faith M. Denault, R. Bruce Frye (an incumbent), Rosemary Hardiman (an incumbent), Lew Killmer (an incumbent) and James E. Sirkis. There are four seats up for election in 2018, each with a two-year term. (Mayor Jack Gordon did not file for re-election, and non-resident Larry Fishel dropped out of the race.)

Bethany Beach property owners who are listed on the Town’s property tax list are not required to register to vote in Town elections. Residents of Bethany Beach who do not own property must have registered to vote at least 30 days prior to the election. All voters must be 18 or older, and they may vote for up to four candidates this year.

Absentee ballots may be obtained by contacting Town Hall and requesting an affidavit, or affidavits are also available on the Town’s website at www.townofbethanybeach.com. The written affidavit must be filed no later than noon on Friday, Sept. 7. After approval of the affidavit, an absentee ballot will be provided, either in person or mailed. Absentee ballots must be received before the polls close on the day of the election.

A council reorganizational meeting is set for Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. at town hall.

The Coastal Point’s traditional question-and-answer series with the candidates gives the candidates their final say before voters head to the polls in this year’s elections. Their answers appear below, in alphabetical order.

 

Faith Denault

 

Q. What is your position on the restriction of shading devices on the beach? Should tents, canopies and other non-umbrella devices be prohibited entirely? Should they be permitted, but designated areas to which they are restricted?

A. The decision to pass the ordinance restricting certain shading devices on the beach was not made without a great deal of public input through research, meetings, public workshops and a survey of all Bethany homeowners. The survey resulted in over 70 percent of the 1,200 respondents agreeing that tents and canopies should be banned from the beach. The ordinance was successfully implemented this summer without many problems or incidents. I agree with this ordinance and feel that this subject is a moot point.

Q. Do you feel the Town should restrict the ability of beachgoers to set up umbrellas, chairs, blankets, etc., on the beach early in the morning but not make use of them until some point later in the day? If, so, how would you envision such restrictions being implemented?

A. While greatly annoying to some, restricting individuals from setting up their beach paraphernalia in early morning and not returning until later in the day, is not something that the town should try to regulate. There is no practical way to enforce such an ordinance, and many complications and arguments could be the result. It would be impossible to know if the owners of the equipment had gone for a walk or for something to eat, taking them away from their chairs and umbrellas for a short time.

Q. What are the issues you feel the Town needs to address in the next two years, or beyond? How would you like to see them addressed?

A. • Pedestrian and cyclist safety: The town has been working on solutions to create a safe environment for these activities. I would like to see the completion of the improvements along S. Atlantic Avenue and research funding opportunities for improvements to S. Pennsylvania Ave. as soon as is practical;

• Dune and beach replenishment: Securing funding is imperative for the continuation of these efforts. The entire Delaware shoreline is only 60 feet above sea level and without the protection of restoration, our town, homes and businesses will remain vulnerable;

• Financial viability of the Town: Bethany’s Council has always been proactive in its solid and prudent financial planning. I will encourage and participate in the efforts to maintain fiscal controls through research, strict budgeting and best investment practices.

Q. What are your qualifications to be a member of the Bethany Beach Town Council? What else would you like voters to know about you before the election?

A. I have been an active volunteer in the town for 18+ years. I am very passionate about Bethany! I am currently serving on the Planning & Zoning Commission, and I have served on Bethany’s Non-Residential Design Review Committee, Election Board and the Seaside Craft Show Committee. I’ve served as president of the Friends of the South Coastal Library and chair of the annual Beach & Bay Cottage Tour. I’ve served on the Board of Advisors of the Quiet Resorts Charitable Foundation and delivered for Meals on Wheels for many years.

I am someone who, through hard work, grew from an executive secretary to be a (now-retired) vice president of corporate real estate, facilities and business services for two fast-growing start-up corporations, Prudential Home Mortgage Corp. and America Online (now AOL). I have a strong background in management, budgeting, project development, implementation, and a skills toolbox that includes negotiating, conflict resolution, articulating goals, listening, good common sense and patience. I am an independent thinker but can work collegially with others.

I want to work to continue to make Bethany Beach a great place for my grandchildren and future generations. We have challenges, we have issues, but we also have a group of committed individuals who are constantly working to keep Bethany a wonderful place to live or vacation. I sincerely want to be a part of that group, and I have the time, energy and commitment to be an effective contributor.

 

Bruce Frye

 

Q. What is your position on the restriction of shading devices on the beach? Should tents, canopies and other non-umbrella devices be prohibited entirely? Should they be permitted, but designated areas to which they are restricted?

A. I depended on the views from the public when I spoke to them personally and at numerous town meetings, and looked to the recent experience of Rehoboth Beach’s similar policy which predated ours. Because there were a few loud voices on both sides of the issue, it was a perfect time to use the survey process. The result was the majority of residents definitely wanted the restrictions which I then voted to implement. When some new size baby shelters came to our attention, we showed our flexibility by amending the restrictions to permit the 3’x4’x5’ baby shelters as well.

Q. Do you feel the Town should restrict the ability of beachgoers to set up umbrellas, chairs, blankets, etc., on the beach early in the morning but not make use of them until some point later in the day? If, so, how would you envision such restrictions being implemented?

A. We (The Council) have discussed this issue but have not found a fair, workable solution to this breach in beach etiquette. I understand how vacant early setups can be annoying to others, especially when the beach was narrow. The wide replenished beach hopefully alleviates some of the frustration for now.

Q. What are the issues you feel the Town needs to address in the next two years, or beyond? How would you like to see them addressed?

A. We need to continue upgrading streets as was done on South Atlantic. The upgrade uses permeable asphalt and repairs any damaged storm sewers to reduce minor flooding. It improves safety and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We must address the many complaints we hear from constituents about the current providers of broadband service by evaluating other options and looking ahead to 5G needs.

We need to work with the Association of Coastal Towns to start now to ensure the funding is in place for the next beach “touch up” in three years as designed. The high dune and broad beach are essential protection for the town’s infrastructure.

And we need to complete the town park and the Dinker House Museum, working with the agencies involved to ensure timely completion.

Q. What are your qualifications to be a member of the Bethany Beach Town Council? What else would you like voters to know about you before the election?

A. (See also Facebook.com/brucefryeBB.) I am a native Delawarean with a Ph.D. in chemistry from MIT. My wife and I raised three children in Albany, N.Y., where I worked for the General Electric Company for 30 years. I became general manager of over 100 technologists. We returned home to Delaware and retired to Bethany Beach in 2010. I began to attend town and committee meetings to understand town government.

Other community activities included: mentoring, tutoring, volunteering for Meals on Wheels, serving on the Sussex County Science Fair board, homeowner association president, and conducting chemistry lectures/labs in local schools.

I was elected to Town Council in 2014. During those four years, I’ve learned from my fellow Council members, our very competent Town Manager, and his staff. To improve my effectiveness, I’ve taken courses offered by the University of Delaware Institute for Public Administration. I made it a priority to attend the meetings of the Sussex County Association of Towns, the Delaware League of Local Government and the Association of Coastal Towns to find best practices.

I represent the town at the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association to learn the latest coastal engineering and to hear from the federal agencies. I attend the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce to hear of business needs. I am responsible for the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade, overseeing more than 50 volunteers.

 

Rosemary Hardiman

 

Q. What is your position on the restriction of shading devices on the beach? Should tents, canopies and other non-umbrella devices be prohibited entirely? Should they be permitted, but designated areas to which they are restricted?

A. My position and a guiding principle is that, as Council members, we are elected to serve the property owners and residents of Bethany Beach and to do what we believe is best for our Town and citizens. So we provide for and welcome their comments and suggestions in a number of ways in order to understand and consider their concerns and interests on issues.

On the issue of restricting the use of tents, canopies and other shading devices on the beach, our constituents have spoken. In a Town-wide survey conducted between October and December 2017, 73.58 percent of over 1,200 respondents favored banning the use of tents and 70.55 percent favored banning canopies. As to whether they might be permitted in designated areas, more than half (51.34 percent) of those who supported a ban on canopies also would not allow them even if restricted to a particular location. About another third indicated they would consider permitting limited use in a restricted area.

As I and other Council members discussed at the council workshop and special meeting on Dec. 12, 2017, there was a preference to find a middle ground between a total ban and the unrestricted status quo, such as limiting the use of canopies to an area at the base of the dune line. However, the Council could not find a practical solution that wasn’t problematic.

Some of the factors discussed were: the significantly reduced size of the beach that occurs after storms; the growing proliferation of the use of canopies and other non-traditional shading devices identified during the 2017 summer fact-finding study; groups combining a number of canopies together to establish large area “canopy camps”; where and how many rows deep should they be permitted along the dune line; interference with those playing at the back of the beach area; interference with trash collection; increased potential for individuals, especially children, climbing and playing on the Town’s protective dunes; and practical enforcement questions.

Another question before the dunes were repaired and fences added this summer was “where is the dune line”? And even with a replenished beach, a single storm could change all that. 

At the end of the fact-finding and deliberative process, which took about a year and included multiple public meetings of the Town Charter & Ordinance Review Committee and the Council, the survey results were the decisive factor in the Council’s decision. Accordingly, on Feb. 16, 2018, by a vote of 6-1, the Council approved an ordinance that would limit the use of shading devices on the beach to standard size umbrellas and “baby tents” for infants and small children. All other devices, including tents and canopies, are prohibited.

The questions posed here by Coastal Point have already been decided based on the clearly expressed interests of a substantial majority of Bethany Beach property owners and residents on this quality of life issue. This is not to say that the Council will never consider viable alternatives to the total ban in the future based on changing facts and circumstances.

Q. Do you feel the Town should restrict the ability of beachgoers to set up umbrellas, chairs, blankets, etc., on the beach early in the morning but not make use of them until some point later in the day? If, so, how would you envision such restrictions being implemented?

A. The “early set-up” issue was the subject of complaints from beachgoers in 2017, typically associated with canopies, although umbrellas and chairs are also set up early. Although the issue was not the subject of any specific question in the Town-wide survey discussed above, some 5 percent of respondents (about 60) expressed complaints about the practice in the Comments section of the survey.

Since the new ordinance went into effect, I’m aware of one e-mail that the Town has received regarding early set-up, noting that it is still occurring. If and when early set-up of umbrellas, chairs and blankets becomes a significant issue, it will have to be evaluated by the Council. When Council discussed it last year in connection with the shading device ordinance, there didn’t seem to be any practical way to enforce a restriction on the practice.

Q. What are the issues you feel the Town needs to address in the next two years, or beyond? How would you like to see them addressed?

A. Following are three priority issues that need to be addressed.

• Traffic safety. Our streets were not designed or intended to accommodate the current volume of vehicle traffic during the summer. The increase in traffic affects vehicle, bike and pedestrian safety. Several projects and plans to improve safety on the more heavily travelled streets, based on traffic and engineering studies, have been identified and/or approved by the current Council and work will continue on designing and implementing them, including soliciting citizen input.

Based on personal observation and conversations with residents, and public comments at the Candidate’s Night sponsored by Coastal Point on Aug. 24, I believe a multi-step approach to further improve safety should be considered, including: evaluation of completed projects such as S. Atlantic Avenue, with modifications, as necessary for safety; incorporating lessons learned into other projects; evaluating current signs and pavement markings for bikes and pedestrian traffic and making any necessary improvements; increasing public safety education; revisiting traffic flow and other safety recommendations, including provision for one-way streets, which were made in a JMT Engineering Study in 2005; and once again seeking DelDOT approval to lower the speed limits on certain streets.

Pedestrian and bicycle safety have been concerns for many years and have only increased with time. Many recommendations were not adopted because of opposition from some affected citizens. As with plans to move forward with safety improvements on Collins St., it’s time to update and take a new look at those recommendations and move forward in the interest of the safety of the entire community.

• Internet service. Because of the current inadequate Internet service and the unwillingness of some providers to invest in providing service to Bethany Beach, the Town is exploring other options, including partnering with a new provider. Possible providers have been reviewed in this process. Up-front and ongoing costs, as well as provider capability and performance record, must be carefully considered in evaluating options to meet this essential need. Establishment of a Town utility to provide service is another option being considered.

• Beach preservation. Our beach and dunes are vitally important to protect the Town’s infrastructure, homes and business properties, as well as the local economy and financial stability of the Town. The Council therefore must continue efforts to secure regular funding for the Corps of Engineers’ 50-year beach replenishment project. This requires maintaining the relationships and close coordination with our state and federal legislators, the appropriate agencies and neighboring communities. The Council should also consider development strategies to address funding contingencies and scientific reports on sea-level rise. The Council must also continue to fund its Storm Emergency Relief Fund (SERF) as a priority.

Q. What are your qualifications to be a member of the Bethany Beach Town Council? What else would you like voters to know about you before the election?

A. I believe I have the relevant knowledge, experience and professional background to continue to make a positive contribution to the successful accomplishment of the work of the Council and our Town government.

• Town government experience: I have been privileged to serve the people and Town of Bethany Beach as a Council member since March 2014. In order to keep current I have completed a University of Delaware program for municipal government leaders, which included courses such as State and Local Finance Basics for Officials; Land Use & Development Administration; Creating ADA Accessible Communities; and Flood Ready Communities. In addition, I have served on various Town committees: Communications (member and chair), Recycling and Charter & Ordinance Review (member and chair), and in past years as an election officer (judge) and member of the Election Board.

• County and State experience: In addition, I recently completed two terms on the Sussex County Library Advisory Board and previously represented all libraries in Sussex County on the State Council of Libraries.

• Professional background: In my prior management and professional life, I served as Secretary of the Board and Deputy Executive Director of a federal agency; and later as an attorney in private practice representing credit union clients in the resolution of disputes and providing legal advice on various management issues.

• Community involvement: Over the past 14 years as a full-time resident, I have served as a volunteer at different times in various community activities: The Read Aloud Delaware program at Lord Baltimore Elementary School; St. Ann’s Church bazaar and English as a Second Language Program; Women’s Civic Club of Bethany Beach; VFW Post 7234 (Sunday Breakfast Crew and Chicken Shack); Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build Team; the Farmers’ Market; and as a member of the Board of the Friends of the South Coastal Library.

With the background described, I believe that I have the necessary qualifications to fulfill the responsibilities of a Council member, deal fairly and effectively with the broad range of issues that come before the Council, and represent the interests of all citizens.

The position of Council member is one of public trust. If re-elected, I would continue to solicit input from citizens and devote the time, energy and thoughtful consideration to the work involved in order to keep Bethany Beach a wonderful family-friendly and safe community.

Thanks to Coastal Point for providing this public service and opportunity for candidates; and to all Bethany Beach voters for your consideration.

 

Lew Killmer

 

Q. What is your position on the restriction of shading devices on the beach? Should tents, canopies and other non-umbrella devices be prohibited entirely? Should they be permitted, but designated areas to which they are restricted?

A. My position on the use and kinds of shading devices is different than all of my other colleagues on Town Council. As a person who has continues to fight skin cancer for the last 50+ years, including a melanoma, I know how important it is to protect oneself from the harmful rays of the sun, especially on a beach where there is no readily available shade.

Umbrellas work well for a person or two, but not for a larger group, such as a family, especially one that includes young children and the not-so-young. I offered a compromise to have all of the canopies, tents, etc., placed along the front of the dune, thereby satisfying the concerns expressed by other beachgoers about the issue of blocking their view of the ocean, but that was not approved by the Town Council.

I hope this issue could be revisited in the future with the hope of finding a compromise so that all of our residents and visitors can fully enjoy the use of our beautiful beach and at the same time protecting all of the members of their family.

Q. Do you feel the Town should restrict the ability of beachgoers to set up umbrellas, chairs, blankets, etc., on the beach early in the morning but not make use of them until some point later in the day? If, so, how would you envision such restrictions being implemented?

A. If it is the will of the people and the majority of the Town Council to prohibit this practice in the future, the Town Code should be amended specifically prohibiting it. If the practice becomes law, there should be a one-season grace period before enforcement by informing those that setup in the morning that in the future they could be liable to having their beach equipment possibly confiscated and a fine imposed before their equipment was returned to them.

Personally, I feel that setting up a position on the beach and leaving it for their later personal use should not be permitted. The entire beach is for everyone to enjoy!

Q. What are the issues you feel the Town needs to address in the next two years, or beyond? How would you like to see them addressed?

A. The beach is the primary reason that people live, vacation, own a business and invest in Bethany Beach. The maintenance of our beach and dunes is our No. 1 priority. As members of the Town Council, working along with all of the other coastal communities, together we speak with one voice to our county, state and federal representatives to insure that federal and state funding is forth coming. It has been stated in various publications that every dollar invested in maintaining our beaches returns seven dollars back to the State. Tourism is Delaware’s second largest industry!

Bike and pedestrian safety is also a top priority. South Atlantic was the first street that was recently updated to address this issue by adding a continuous sidewalk and a designated bike path. Cedarwood Street, South Pennsylvania Avenue and Collins Street in Bethany West are also slated to be updated in the near future to deal with bike and pedestrian safety.

As soon as all of the final approvals from various state regulatory agencies are received, I would like the Town to begin the development of the Town Park at the corner of Route 26 and Route 1. The overall plan has been developed by our outside design consultant and approved by the Town Council. The development of the park will be done in sections over the course of several years.

Q. What are your qualifications to be a member of the Bethany Beach Town Council? What else would you like voters to know about you before the election?

A. For a person to want to be on Town Council, service should be high on the list of qualifications. You need to understand the uniqueness of Bethany Beach. The Town has ≈1,200 residents who call Bethany Beach their home, but another even larger contingent are those who primarily rent their properties but are not residents. In Bethany Beach, both groups have the right to vote in Town elections, and each group has their own various needs and concerns that can be challenging at times.

I have served my community on Town Council for the last 12 years and have been honored to be the Town’s Vice Mayor for the last four years. In addition, I serve on the following committees for the benefit of Bethany Beach:

• Bethany Beach Planning & Zoning Commission

• Bethany Beach Non-Residential Design Review Committee

• Bethany Beach Business Forum

• President of the Delaware League of Local Governments (DLLG)

• Sussex County Association of Towns

• Association of Coastal Towns

• University of Delaware’s Resilience & Sustainability Community League

• State of Delaware’s Regulatory Advisory Committee

• State of Delaware’s 2020 Census Commission

• DLLG Legislative Advocacy Committee

• Organizer of the Sussex County Science Fair

I do my homework. I listen to the needs of the members of our community and ask questions that need to be addressed. I am a team player who works with the Town Manager and the Town Council to solve problems, but at the same time I have the clear understanding that not all problems have answers and not all answers make everyone in the community happy and satisfied. 

I am asking for your continued support by again asking you to vote for me on September the 8th!

 

Jim Sirkis

 

Q. What is your position on the restriction of shading devices on the beach? Should tents, canopies and other non-umbrella devices be prohibited entirely? Should they be permitted, but designated areas to which they are restricted?

A. I think the town could have done a better job with the canopy ordinance. Many larger families that used to bring canopies to the beach can no longer use them, and now need to use five or more umbrellas in order to have the same amount of shade as they had with a canopy. I feel that canopies (maximum 10-by-10 size) should be permitted and be in a designated area. A possible solution would be to allow canopies on the beach in limited size and location. They should be no larger than 10-by-10, and the front of the canopy needs to be within 15 feet of the dune fence.

Q. Do you feel the Town should restrict the ability of beachgoers to set up umbrellas, chairs, blankets, etc., on the beach early in the morning but not make use of them until some point later in the day? If, so, how would you envision such restrictions being implemented?

A. Absolutely not. Bethany Beach is a public, safe, friendly beach. We do not need useless unenforceable restrictions such as this.

Q. What are the issues you feel the Town needs to address in the next two years, or beyond? How would you like to see them addressed?

A. • We need a reliable Internet provider: Mediacom is not reliable, and Verizon DSL is too slow. The town needs to work with a vendor to improve technology. They may have to re-examine the height restrictions of the cell towers and their locations to accommodate 5G when it becomes available. I want to research what services could be provided to the Town and help bring in multiple options so that we all have choices.

• Bicycle/pedestrian safety: Every year someone either gets seriously injured or killed while riding their bicycle in or around Bethany Beach. The Town needs to do a better job enforcing the helmet and headlight/taillight laws. Too many of these accidents or close calls happen because the cyclists are not wearing helmets or do not have the appropriate lights on their bicycles. We need to do regular bicycle safety inspections at various locations throughout the town all summer long, and enforce the bicycle helmet and light laws. The Town should post additional signs so that motorists are always aware of cyclists and pedestrians, and look into lowering the speed limit on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Another concern is the lack of safe crosswalks across Route 1, other than the stoplight crosswalk at Garfield Parkway. I feel the Town should be working closely with the State to put in red flashing lights at other Route 1 crosswalks that are enabled when a pedestrian wants to cross Route 1 at these crosswalks. These red lights would be identical to what Rehoboth Beach had installed on Route 1, which seem to be working very well.

• The tidal flooding on Pennsylvania Avenue: This has been an ongoing problem for more than 40 years. There have been many studies over the years, and nothing has been done. I think those studies should be dusted off and reviewed, determine which of them are feasible, and implement a combined solution of utilizing porous asphalt and the best solution from those other studies. We may not achieve a 100 percent solution, but an 80 percent solution is better than doing nothing.

Q. What are your qualifications to be a member of the Bethany Beach Town Council? What else would you like voters to know about you before the election?

A. Bethany Beach is a great small town for families to come and enjoy their summer vacation and others to live here. I walk the streets every day with my dog Benji, and I talk with people throughout the town and listen to their concerns. I want to address these concerns, and help make positive changes. Both of my kids have worked and interned for various businesses in Bethany for the last four years. We are part of the fabric of this community and enjoy giving back.

• Volunteered as a driver for American Cancer Society.

• Tutored at-risk students in math and science,

• Held every position on the HDG Lions Club board,

• President of Beach House Civic Association,

• Volunteer at the Ocean View Cheer senior center, doing dishes, serving lunch and preparing meals for Meals on Wheels.

Professionally, I have a BS in computer science and MS in management. I was founder and owner of Log.Sec Corporation, an IT/logistics company providing software development and IT support to the U.S. Army and 14,000 users at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Log.Sec was successful because our people solved problems that other companies could not solve. In 2008, Base Realignment & Closure (BRAC) was in full swing, we had over 380 employees and the largest IT contractor at APG, and were being pursued by several large companies, and we eventually sold to Computer Sciences Corporation.

Before founding Log.Sec in 2000, I worked for two IT companies, providing systems analysis, software development and management to the U.S. Army.

I’m qualified and can bring another perspective and viewpoint to the Bethany Beach Town Council. I want to serve you, the people of Bethany Beach, and help solve some of these long-term problems that haven’t been given enough attention.

By M. Patricia Titus
Managing Editor