Millville council votes to increase state police coverage

Local crime maps show uptick in incidents

Date Published: 
Jan. 13, 2016

Although summer is the busy season for the area, it appears that local crime increased this past autumn. As a result, police coverage will also increase in Millville. The town council voted this week to hire Delaware State Police troopers for up to 20 hours per week.

Councilwoman Valerie Faden started the conversation, using local crime data on the Delaware State Police website (dsp.delaware.gov — click “Crime”). People can search by geographic area, time range and crime.

“As I began to look at this … [in] the summer months, the crimes were in the single digits. But in the fall and winter months, the crimes were climbing into the double digits,” Faden said Jan. 10.

That’s surprising to some, considering the coast is more heavily populated in the summer (although the website only went live in mid-summer).

Lacking its own police department, Millville currently hires off-duty state troopers for about 12 hours per week.

Indeed, the DSP crime map shows Millville and the immediate area have suffered crimes including vehicle break-ins, burglary, fraud, shoplifting, vandalism and more.

Local police have repeatedly warned residents to take basic precautions to avoid being an easy target: lock vehicles, lock homes, install motion-sensor lights and report suspicious activity.

“Why are we just now hearing about this?” demanded resident Richard Shoobridge, asking why local newspapers haven’t published more about local crimes.

Susan Brewer suggested he ask the newspapers instead of the town council.

Mayor Bob Gordon suggested that crime follows opportunity, and wintertime means fewer residents.

Construction qualms

Although the overall project is under budget, the municipal building addition caused some frustration on the town council dais this week.

It took some time before the council unanimously agreed to increase fees to architects George, Miles & Buhr LLC (GMB). The original project was estimated at about $88,000, but their time has run over because of redesigns and additional time working with state agencies. GMB estimated that Millville should add up to $30,000 more to their project escrow account.

They had tried reducing their hours, said Millville Code & Building Administrator Eric Evans.

Faden questioned who oversees GMB’s timesheets and invoices, requesting more oversight in future contracts. Evans said Town Hall reviews them, but there’s a point, he said, at which they have to trust the contractor for hours spent in the office, not physically on the jobsite. He and Town Manager Debbie Botchie compared it to trusting an attorney for hours billed.

Evans also couldn’t promise that unexpected costs won’t pop up again. The blacktop might present unexpected problems, and it was just discovered that the sidewalk design must incorporate a tiny bridge for water flow

“We’re putting money into an escrow account, hoping that would cover everything,” just like any other developer in town, Evans said. Sometimes you come up on unexpected costs.

Councilman Steve Small said he was displeased to have seen the numbers only a few hours before the Jan. 10 council meeting, stating that he wouldn’t vote for a future extension with so little notice.

But Councilman Steve Maneri said the council had been notified more than a few hours beforehand, and Botchie said she had alerted council members even before she had collected specific figures and changed the agenda to include the escrow issue.

Dollars and changes

Facing unexpected costs before the fiscal year ends in April, the council unanimously approved a budget amendment of $16,579.

Using carry-over funds from the previous year, Millville will pay for the following new costs: $4,800 for town park grass mowing and maintenance; $4,077 for construction insurance for the new building; $2,500 for various service charges; $2,300 for Millville Volunteer Fire Company grants; $1,629 for town hall drywall, which was previously budgeted; $773 for cable/internet/security system equipment; and $500 for more health and dental insurance.

Faden said she didn’t like the idea of giving MVFC more money, but the percentage was already approved for the 2017 fiscal year. Because the original estimate was low, Millville is obligated to give the increased amount, to account for their higher-than-expected property tax income.

When the 2018 budget discussions begin in February, Faden suggested that amount “be revisited, especially because the fire company is getting funds in other ways.”

Neighborhood OK’d

The council unanimously approved Millville Town Center’s site plan for Section 2 of Sea Star Village, located in Millville By the Sea (MBS), featuring 18 lots. The overall neighborhood was cut into sections because of different sewer connections, the third of which is yet-to-be-determined.

Future roads will also be designed to reduce dead-ends and reduce congestion in some areas.

Although the plan included traffic-calming measures (speed bumps), the council opted to let the homeowner association decide specifically where those should go.

Town staff also reminded the developer that Millville’s town solicitor needs to review the HOA documents, just to ensure no roads or amenities are to be transferred to the Town. (“We’re not looking to get involved in terms of what neighborhood restrictions people want to have,” Town Solicitor Seth Thompson said.)

The next council meeting will be a town council workshop on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.