The South Bethany Town Council this week unanimously approved an agreement with the Fenwick Island Police Department for the FIPD to provide assistance to South Bethany while that town builds its police force back up following an exodus of all but one SBPD officer over the past year.
“It’s the same exact one we have with Ocean View,” South Bethany Mayor Tim Saxton said of the agreement during a May 10 council session.
The Fenwick Island Town Council signed its version of the agreement on May 3. (Ocean View is charging the individual officer’s hourly rate times 1.5, plus $25 per hour for the use of the patrol car, and 10 percent of the employee’s rate to cover administrative costs.)
“The difference that they just have different salaries,” Saxton said.
“It’s not going to interfere with any of Fenwick Island’s needs,” Saxton said. “They’re going to be up here on overtime.”
“They’re ready to have us come down and swear them in as South Bethany officers,” he said. “We could probably get this rolling next week.”
Between 2018 and 2019, all but one officer left the South Bethany Police Department, leaving the Town to find a new chief and full-time officers, plus the regular seasonal staff. Now, they have one regular officer; one recruit in the police academy; one out-of-state officer who is currently gaining Delaware credentials; and one temporary administrator (a retired Pennsylvania police chief who will guide the department, recommend improvements and help with hiring).
Of the agreements with Ocean View and Fenwick Island police, Saxton said, “It’s a very effective way of dealing with the situation we’re in.” He emphasized that the current arrangements are “not outsourcing — they’re supplementing” as South Bethany rebuilds its own force.
South Bethany is also hiring Delaware State Police patrols at an hourly rate of $91.
The Town is also looking to possibly work with Fenwick Island on a street repaving project. South Bethany Town Manager Maureen Hartman told the council that Fenwick is waiting to hear whether South Bethany wants to join in the upcoming paving project.
Council Member Sue Callaway said that no matter how the Town proceeds with its next round of repaving, the timing needs to be better to avoid road closures during the busy summer months. Fenwick Island is planning to do its repaving project in the fall, Hartman said.
She added that she doesn’t know exactly how much the Town could save by joining with Fenwick Island, but since it is a larger project, “We’d probably get a better price on the asphalt.” South Bethany would pay Fenwick Island for the pre-bid work, Hartman said.
She said the Town’s current list of repaving is estimated to cost $231,000 if the Town proceeds on its own.
“I don’t know if you want to move forward with this,” Hartman said. “I think probably Fenwick is going to go out to bid soon.” Town Solicitor Stephani Ballard asked Hartman for clarification on exactly what she is asking the council for at this time.
“There are people in town that are waiting for their roads to get done,” Saxton said. “I think the council needs to decide whether we want to do it or not.”
“We’ve delayed it one year, and we still have the funds. Let’s get it done,” he concluded.
Council Member Gerald Masiello asked whether the speed bumps on Evergreen Street would be removed during the repaving.
“I think they have to remove them,” Hartman said, adding that they would be replaced as part of the project.
The council voted to approve expenditure of $7,000 for preliminary expenses toward the paving project. Hartman said she would ask the Town’s consultant from Kercher Engineering to come to the council’s next workshop meeting to go over the proposed paving project in detail.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the State of Delaware for energy contracts. The Town had previously participated in an energy program through the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce. Hartman told the council that the State’s program will be more beneficial to the Town financially. She estimated the Town could see an energy cost savings of 17 percent by going with the State program.
By Kerin Magill