South Bethany talking cats
Bill Murphy and his family were beyond disgusted when a colony of feral cats broke in and made themselves at home in his South Bethany house several winters ago.
“The house was winterized,” Murphy had explained several years ago. “When we returned in the spring, they had lived in the whole house. They had defecated, they had vomited…”
The family threw away “everything that wasn’t wooden,” and sprayed to remove the urine smell. Despite $25,000 worth of damage remediation, he said they were still anxious every time their grandchildren crawled on the floors.
At the South Bethany Town Council meeting on Dec. 12, Murphy announced that his house has been completely rebuilt.
And cats are still a problem. Now, Murphy describes the unpleasant task of wiping cat excrement off his grandchildren’s feet before they enter the house.
“It is a health issue. We cannot go out in our own yard. There are six or seven cats in our yard daily,” Murphy told the town council. “Just imagine — every day, you go outside and there’s six geese in your yard. It’s the same thing.”
Despite South Bethany’s laws — written during a contentious time — that forbid the feeding of feral and stray cats, it still occurs in town. The police have written the requisite $100 tickets when they witness a violation, but feeding does continue (though definitely not by the Murphys). And cats have not been deterred from the Murphy yard.
“We appreciate the ordinance, but the problem still exists, as it has in the past,” Murphy said.
Police said they will continue to ticket violators, and people can submit evidence of cat feeding to the police. Impacted neighbors could also pursue civil litigation against perceived violators, said Police Chief Jason Lovins.
South Bethany wants answers on wind-farm proposal
Delaware State Parks is collecting feedback on proposed $18 million in improvements to Fenwick Island State Park in exchange for the Ørsted company to connect a proposed offshore wind farm to the electrical grid there. The company had bid for the federal offshore sites, and Maryland has bid for the electricity credits. But Delaware could see the wind turbines and potentially house the wiring.
“It’s a complex issue, and I firmly believe it’s in federal waters,” said Saxton. “So my approach has been to try and put pressure on our federal legislators around — Is there a way to move it farther out? Or is there a way to move it in front of the Maryland coastline? I don’t mean any disrespect to the Ocean City mayor, but this is a Maryland project. And between Maryland and the federal government, they made a decision, and Delaware’s going to see it and deliver electricity. And somehow that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
“I will state I sound like a NIMBY, ‘Not in my back yard,’” Saxton mused. “Renewable energy is going to happen. … Personally I’m not opposed to renewable energy. It’s just how you do it.”
He said he had contacted Delaware’s U.S. senators to ask “if this is truly a done deal.” If so, he said, he wants local stakeholders to have a seat at the table in implementing the project.
“There is a sense the information has not been well-handled between the State and South Bethany residents,” Saxton said. “I think it’s a very poor deal for Delaware to be the recipient of this whole project and gain some amenities that people never even asked for.”
Moreover, he asked why there was no discussion of ongoing financial incentives for Delaware, such as a franchise fee akin to that any municipality would demand for hosting public utilities.
“That deal would not have gotten through this council,” Saxton said of state park proposal, suggesting that South Bethany would have requested dollars-per-kWh or similar.
The public survey deadline has been extended to Jan. 15. Comments can be made online at www.destateparks.com/FenwickImprovements.
Upgrades could lay foundation for town’s future
South Bethany Town Hall needs some renovations to improve safety. Town Manager Maureen Hartman shared stories of visitors who compromised the safety of Town staff or resources: the angry individuals who storm into unlocked town offices, or the bathroom-break jogger who parked her child in the finance director’s office.
“If we need to make a change that costs $50,000, maybe we need to look at spending a little more and making some of the changes that address growing staff, a need for more space for office, and really establishing access to this space as a community room with a separate kitchen that can be used by the community,” said Councilwoman Sue Callaway, who is advocating for Town Hall to look and act more like a public space.
“Rather than spend a lot of money and put a Band-Aid on it, why not spend a little more” to prepare this building for future needs, she suggested. Also, the Town could build staff cohesion by physically connecting the town hall and police department.
There was some hesitation. After all, recent plans for the police department renovation were significantly downgraded after cost estimates increased significantly.
But the council generally agreed that the only way to determine the full cost now is to invest a little extra in preparing more detailed plans, then send that report to the Finance Committee for ideas. Discussion will continue in future.
In other South Bethany news:
• The South Bethany Police Department is so close to being fully staffed. One of the officers will be deployed by the Air Force National Guard from January until August, and will return to work Sept 20. The chief has also interviewed potential part-time officers.
Cadet Anthony Quiroz is reportedly doing very well in the Delaware State Police Academy. He is more than halfway through his training.
• To increase regional police partnership, the South Bethany Town Council unanimously (with Councilman Dick Oliver absent) approved a Mutual Aid memorandum-of-understanding (MOU) with Ocean View and Fenwick Island. Each town would still maintain an individual police force, but officers would be sworn into each other’s departments for speedier response. Contrary to South Bethany council members’ belief, the Fenwick council has not yet approved the MOU, although the Ocean View council has unanimously signed on.
• Old documents on Pine Street were finally dug up, and it appears that “the vacation of Pine [Street] in 1983 … sealed the fate of the road. Middlesex [Beach] owns the majority, and we own the center of the ditch, west,” reported Hartman.
• For the 2020 summer season, the Town may adjust some of its franchised food and exercise services. They might have a food vendor, but not chair or umbrella rentals. Also, the Town might need to bid out for yoga and/or fitness classes, since other professionals have inquired about offering outdoor classes around town.
“We have to be fair. We’re a government agency. And if someone else wants to take that role, we have to entertain [that proposal],” Saxton said.
Town staff will continue researching the topic for a future council decision.
The South Bethany Town Council does not typically meet in January. Their next regular meeting will be Friday, Feb. 14, at 6 p.m. The Town Council budget workshop meeting will be Thursday, Feb. 27, at 3 p.m.
By Laura Walter