The Town of Ocean View held a budget workshop on Jan. 22 in preparation for the 2020 fiscal year. One topic of conversation was the Town’s community events budget.
“I know a couple of events, like the summer concerts, are cued up to be canceled because of maybe competition between Bethany and here, and low attendance,” said Town Manager Carol Houck, who took up that post earlier this month. “I have heard different things from staff members who have told me as much as 300 people come, which is a great amount of people for a band.”
Houck said she’s heard there isn’t enough “showcasing of Ocean View.” She asked if the Town could come up with some additional events, to “always have a seasonal presence.”
“I understand Homecoming had a historic nature — it was when people came home to work the fields, is what I’ve been told. I heard a bunch of different things…”
Councilman Tom Maly said some concerts were successful, but then there were two years of bad weather, which caused concerts to be canceled or poorly attended.
“Cops & Goblins has done the exact opposite — it’s just taken off. If we could come up with a new type of community event like it…”
Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin said he had been approached by the DJ who volunteers for Cops & Goblins about hosting a free movie night in the park — an idea he had previously brought up to the council.
“He has one of these big blow-up movie screens, and he said he would be interested in having one or two showings in John West Park in the summer months,” said McLaughlin. “It would be no cost to the Town; however, there would be a provision that he would be allowed to bring somebody to sell ice cream, someone to sell light food … and he gets his money by getting a cut of the food sold. I think it would be worth a shot to try it once or twice.”
McLaughlin said he thought it would be fun to bring in an synthetic ice-skating rink to the park during the winter, similar to the one used at the Fire & Ice Festival, which will take place this weekend in Bethany Beach.
“I like the idea of a fire pit, some marshmallows and some hot chocolate, and have something in the winter — not for the tourists, but for the locals.”
Councilman Frank Twardzik asked about the amount of work such an event would require from Town employees.
“It’s probably a lot of volunteers coming out and helping,” he said, noting that Homecoming “was a tremendous amount of work with the entire Town staff.”
“It was a pretty neat event. … It was very educational. But, gosh, it was a lot of work.”
Twardzik said both the winter night and movie nights sounded like something he would be interested in learning more about.
Councilman Berton Reynolds said he would be cautious, as perhaps some would think the Town was showing preferential treatment to certain vendors.
“I’m all for the idea,” he added of the additional events.
Houck said Town staff would work on ideas and bring figures back to the council.
“We need more outreach programs in the community — something else, but not compete with the other towns,” said Maly.
“We have a lot more year-round residents than we had just 10 years ago,” noted McLaughlin.
Also during budget discussions, Houck noted that Public Works and now-former Town Manager Dianne Vogel had researched replacing the engineered wood chips used as mulch for the playground in John West Park with “jellybean” rubber mulch.
“I am a little bit on the fence right now, but staff has spent a lot of time on it,” said Houck.
Houck said the Town spends approximately $4,000 per year to buy the current mulch and about $5,400 per year to put it in place.
“It’s very labor-intensive. And after six months, it starts to degrade… even as much as 75 percent — so then it starts losing its safety factor,” she said. “This new rubber mulch is non-toxic, meets all the ADA and Playground Association certifications. It has a 20-year life expectancy… It seems like it’s a good option for us, and in three years it would pay for itself.”
Houck said regular maintenance of the rubber mulch would be similar to that of the wood chips, wherein staff would straighten it up.
“What we’re being told is we won’t have to add more for some time, even if it’s 10 years,” she said. “But I have not used it anywhere, and we want to do a little more due diligence.”
“Pending any negative reviews, it sounds good to me,” said Twardzik.
Councilman Bill Olsen said that, in the past, the Town had had a contractor inspect equipment to ensure safety. He asked if that was still happening.
“I want it done annually,” said Houck. Public Works “also does a daily check, but they don’t keep a log of it. So they’re going to start doing that. The first thing that happens if someone is injured is they want to know, ‘When was it last inspected? And, how often do you do your inspections?’”
Town Land Use & Development Director Ken Cimino noted a budget item that would finance the addition of sidewalks on West Avenue from Route 26 to John West Park.
“I have had several conversations with our constituents regarding sidewalks along West Avenue,” he said. “The goal of this project is to design and provide safe walkways for our constituents to get to town hall and the town park; also, to have some buy-in from the developer of the Stingray Harbor community, who would have to bring them up to 26.”
Cimino said he has been in discussion with the developer and believes they are willing to share in the cost of the project. He added that the Town has verbal agreements with Ocean View Church of Christ regarding its parcels.
“We are aware there was an attempt that there was a lot of energy around,” noted Houck. “Ken and I have discussed it — the first thing we want to do is maybe have a meeting here where we invite all the people who would be impacted, and talk to them first.”
Olsen said that when the Town tried to put sidewalks in on Central Avenue, from the canal to Route 26, “80 percent of that was going to be paid for by the State, and we couldn’t get easements.”
“Easements are always a challenge,” said Cimino. “I think another component of this project which would come along with these sidewalks is curb and gutter, and drainage improvements. The curb and gutter will serve as a barrier from vehicular traffic, as per DelDOT’s standards and specifications…
“I feel very confident having done some legwork on this,” he added. “We’re doing a small segment, so we’re not trying to take a big bite out of the apple first. We’re just doing a small piece from 26 to town hall… This will make the neighborhood safer; it will have separation between the vehicles and the pedestrians. If we bite this off chunk by chunk, I think it’s doable.”
“I think you’re on the right path,” said Olsen.
At the end of the meeting, Twardzik commended Town staff for their work in preparing the 2020 draft budget thus far.
The Town of Ocean View will hold its next budget workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 6 p.m.
By Maria Counts