It may feel like winter outside, but Bethany Beach officials are already looking toward the summer season with a number of projects targeted at improving the town in its summertime glory.
The Bethany Beach Town Council on Friday, Jan. 18, approved a number of projects and funding to go along with them, dealing with everything from summertime parking and erosion concerns to the Town’s beachside comfort station and issues with dog waste.
The council approved on a 5-0 vote (with Councilman Joe Healy and Councilwoman Faith Denault absent) a supplement to the 2019-fiscal-year (current year) budget of $265,000 for the purchase of new parking paystations and for a four-year maintenance agreement for the new stations.
Council Treasurer Jerry Morris noted that the existing paystations, purchased nearly a decade ago as the Town began phasing out mechanical parking meters, had proven to be troublesome from a maintenance standpoint in recent years, with outdated electronics causing some problems. Those paystations were said to have about a nine-year lifespan when purchased, so the need to replace them comes essentially on schedule.
Town Manager Cliff Graviet said the existing paystations are not being supported by the manufacturer anymore, with their 2G modems lagging behind modern technology and 4G modems hard to find, and he said they’d become expensive and problematic to repair.
The Town had planned to replace them in the 2020 budget cycle, which begins this spring, but because of the problems and a changeover in management in the parking department, he said, they had moved that timetable up to this fiscal year, with the purchase in time for the 2019 summer season, which then necessitated the budget supplement.
Graviet said the parking managers had vetted a number of the state-of-the-art machines now available, performing an extensive review of machines from three vendors, who all provided bids. They had recommended the council approve the lowest of the three bids, at $265,500, from IPS, citing that that company was the only one of the three to include both parts and labor in its warranty, as well as guaranteeing service within 24 hours.
He noted that when the costs of purchase, use, warranty and the potential for software updates over the next 10 years were added up, IPS’s bid would cost the Town about $477,000 in total, compared to $588,000 and $774,000 for the other two bidders.
The new parking paystations will have stainless steel exteriors, which Graviet noted would serve them well in their location near the beach. He said they’d proven themselves in Seattle and San Diego already.
The council also unanimously approved on Jan. 18 a four-year maintenance plan for the paystations, at $44,700, which will go into effect after the initial two-year warranty but was required to be agreed to at the time of purchase of the new paystations.
Graviet said he does expect the new paystations to be in in time for the coming summer season.
Loop Canal to get more erosion control
The Town will also be moving this spring to address erosion concerns on the Loop Canal in downtown Bethany. The council voted 5-0 to approve a $35,000 contract with Envirotech for installation of geotextile fabric and stone rip-rap along the northern perimeter of the canal, after concerns about erosion were expressed by neighboring property owners.
Graivet said the original estimate for the project had been $75,000, but the final bid had come in much lower, at $35,000. He said the project was expected to be completed in the next few weeks to a month, depending on weather.
He additionally noted that, while the island in the canal has already been shored up with bio-logs, he expected to come back to the council soon with a request for bio-logs to also be installed on the southern side of the canal, which isn’t considered suitable for rip-rap, due to its angle.
Central Park construction to begin this spring
Graviet also reported on Jan. 18 that the Town had received the engineers’ estimate for construction of the new Central Park, located off the northwest corner of the intersection of Route 1 and Garfield Parkway.
He acknowledged that there had been a delay in getting the project moving, due to permitting issues with the Soil Conservation District over conservation work that had been permitted two or three years ago. That’s pushed the start of construction back about 18 months.
But as of mid-January, he said, the project was ready for formal council approval, with work possibly beginning within 90 days and to be completed within four to five months of that start date. That means completion could come late this summer or in early fall.
Comfort stations to get renovation
Graviet also reported to the council on plans to renovate and expand the comfort stations on the boardwalk plaza, which house both the Bethany Beach Beach Patrol offices and men’s and women’s restrooms, which have been deemed too small as they currently stand.
He said the Town had consulted with an engineering and architectural firm, and was ready to propose a minimal expansion of the building to the south and west, providing additional facilities for the restrooms, as well as renovating the structure in ways that would make it easier to maintain and improve its appearance.
The town manager also reported that the renovations of the Dinker-Irvin Cottage for use as a museum has been proceeding well, crediting administrative and code compliance officer John Apple for overseeing the project. (Graviet also noted that Apple had recently been invited by DNREC to speak on climate adaptation at a local conference.)
He said he expected the interior construction portion of the renovations of the historic cottage to be completed in mid-March, with landscaping to follow and the structure ready for use in late spring.
Cultural & Historical Affairs Committee Chair Carol Olmstead reported that the committee had been working on plans for the museum recently and had already received offers of donations of furniture and other items, including a 1900s ladies’ bathing outfit donated by Lavender & Lace in Clarksville.
Dog waste fines increased
The council on Jan. 18 waived a second reading, and on first reading approved, 5-0, increases to fines for violations of town code regarding dog waste. The fines were increased from $25 for a first offense and $75 for a second offense, to $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense within a 12-month period.
“Bethany Beach is certainly the dog-walking destination” for much of Sussex County, Graviet noted with some amusement, pointing to its appeal for close parking to the beach and pleasant downtown area. “But we have a few people who choose not to pick up after their dogs,” he said, adding that people had reported observing such behavior on the boardwalk, dune ramps and beach.
While the Town already spends $12,000 per year on dog-waste bags available from dispensers throughout the town, he said they now plan to add 12 additional dispensers. But the increase in the fines, he said was “more an attempt to draw attention to the issue, versus punishing people in a draconian way.”
Mayor Lew Killmer emphasized the presence of dog-waste receptacles throughout town, saying, “So there’s really no legitimate excuse. It’s an owner’s responsibility.”
Vice-Mayor Rosemary Hardiman also noted the health hazard such behavior poses, as well as the work it forces the Town’s Public Works employees to do in picking up the waste. “It seems to have become more of an issue this year, for some reason,” she said.
With the waiving of any second reading, the new fines went immediately into effect.
Also at the Jan. 18 Bethany Beach Town Council meeting:
• Councilman Bruce Frye reported that the Fourth of July Parade Committee had approved a new design for the fundraising T-shirts sold each year to support the event. The new design is a blue, football jersey-style shirt, he said, and will feature a large number 35 on the back, akin to the player numbers on jerseys, in honor of the 2019 parade as the town’s 35th.
Last year, he noted, T-shirt sales had raised $16,000 to support the parade.
• Graviet reported that two new 85-inch color televisions would be placed on movable stands in the council room in the coming weeks, providing additional visibility for council proceedings in a room that often has lighting issues.
• Olmstead reported the CHAC members had been shown the new “Bethany Beach ABCs” alphabet/coloring book by Joanne Guilfoil, for which she and the Town had provided information and photographs. The back cover of the book features Town horticulturalist Melinda Lindy, she noted. She also reported the finalization of a revised Heritage Trail brochure for self-guided tours of historical locations in the town, noting that the brochure had been completely redone and was in a new, upscaled format.
By M. Patricia Titus