S. Bethany candidates have their say before Saturday’s election

Date Published: 
May 26, 2017

It’s time for voters to make their call, as the South Bethany town council election allows them to choose this week from five candidates vying for three seats. Polls will be open Saturday, May 27, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at town hall.

The candidates are Joseph Mormando, Sharon Polansky, Timothy Saxton, Carol Stevenson and Frank Weisgerber Jr. The seats are currently held by Stevenson, Weisgerber and Wayne Schrader, who did not seek reelection.

Each of the candidates was invited to participate in the Coastal Point’s traditional question-and-answer piece, and their answers follow.

Voters must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 by election day. They must either be a town resident (physically residing in town for at least nine of the 12 months preceding election day); a freeholder (property owner or trustee for at least 90 consecutive days before election day); or the spouse of a freeholder (whether or not their name is on the deed). No more than eight people per property may vote as a “freeholder” or “spouse.”

Absentee voting is permitted. A notarized affidavit must be delivered to Town Hall by May 26 at noon, and the completed ballot received by May 27 at 3 p.m.

Details are online at www.southbethany.org, under the “Election Information” tab. More information is available by visiting town hall at 402 Evergreen Road, writing an email to townclerk@southbethany.org or calling (302) 539-3653.

(Per our editorial policy, in order to give candidates the last word, the Coastal Point will not publish letters to the editor this week regarding the May 27 election.)

Joseph Mormando

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. I have had a very successful business career that has spanned four decades. I have built successful companies and managed and led diverse groups of people. I am constantly looking for the most cost-effective way of getting things done.

I am direct, open and always willing to listen to opposing views to get the best answer. I have no personal agendas and look to do the best I possibly can for the owners and bill-payers of this community.

My experience includes developing plans and instituting large capital projects, always within or below budgetary constraints. I was most recently president of a national multi-facility manufacturing company where the revenue and the profits more than tripled over 15 years. I believe I can bring a stable fiscal policy to the town council and will always take responsibility for my actions. I will strive for complete transparency to the property owners as to what the town council is working on.

Q. What do you feel is South Bethany’s biggest challenge for the next two years, and how will you address it?

A. I believe within the next two years South Bethany must get its expense growth under control. There are issues that must be addressed within the guidelines of a long-range action plan that is tied to both the 2016 Comprehensive Plan and the annual budget. It must be a working, long-range tool for the council.

The council seems distracted at times by minor issues and while the 2016 Comprehensive Plan is a useful plan, it doesn’t act as a guideline with what, when and how much of the limited funds we have, will be spent over the next one, five and 10 years.

This is critical to our managing the Town’s income — 76 percent of our Town’s income comes from three sources: real estate taxes, transfer taxes and rental income. Real estate taxes we can control, although no one would prefer we raise them. Transfer taxes are cyclical and are tied to how many homes are bought in town, and this is based on the population moving in and out, because we don’t have a lot of buildable land left.

This past year had a surprising surplus in expected transfer tax revenue; unfortunately, it was necessary to cover unbudgeted expenses and led to basically a breakeven result. This sounds good, but the real question is why were we overspent?

Rental tax income is currently under attack because the State wants to impose its own 8 percent tax levy by considering our summer rentals to be under the same short-term rental guideline as a hotel room. This makes our rental properties less attractive to people looking to vacation here by now having a 16 percent rental tax on summer rentals.

The bill hasn’t made it out of committee yet and may not, but that is this year and the State budget of Delaware is currently underfunded and is looking for additional sources of revenue, so if it fails this year, it may pass sometime in the future. A good solid long-range fiscal plan gives continuity and focus to the town council, even as the members change.

Q. Why do you want to be part of South Bethany Town Council?

A. I know with my experience for managing long-term plans and being a fiscal conservative I can bring that knowledge and focus to the serious issues facing us in the coming years. True water quality improvement, sea-level rise/nuisance flooding abatement and upgrades in lighting, road repairs and municipal buildings are not being addressed with a transparent budget to fund these projects over a period of years. I know I can be an asset to town council in working to develop the action plan, and I am passionate about this town and what it has to offer, so I want to contribute in a concrete way.

Q. What else would you like to tell voters before Election Day?

A. I was a long-term summer renter before buying our home on the bayside, over 20 years. I feel I can offer different perspectives based on that experience, as well as not being a full-time resident... yet. I hope you will give me the opportunity to serve South Bethany in the future.

Please learn more about me and read my speeches and bio by visiting www.betterforsb.com.

Sharon Polansky

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. From the moment my family and I first walked into our South Bethany home, I knew I wanted to contribute to protecting and preserving this community we now call ours. In the many communities I have lived, I have stepped up to serve on committees, boards and in executive leadership positions in both civic and religious life. I bring thoughtful, thorough, and what-if thinking to anything I put my mind to.

To these attributes, I add a 30-year career as a strategic planner and marketing and communications professional, having helped prepare communities, organizations, companies and brands for the future. This includes thinking about competitive challenges: How can we beat our goals, minimize risk through strong planning and ensure room for creative opportunities and future growth?

I am an active member of the Planning Commission, the absolute best preparation for town council, where I have helped author our Town’s 10-year Comprehensive Plan that will guide South Bethany into the future. I also serve on the SBPOA board as the vice president for communications, helping South Bethany property owners keep abreast of town issues and events. For more details about me and my campaign, please visit www.betterforSB.com.

Q. What do you feel is South Bethany’s biggest challenge for the next two years, and how will you address it?

A. Getting our house in order. To do that, I am committed to helping town council use our Comprehensive Plan as the blueprint that outlines our game plan. The Comprehensive Plan reflects community input derived from surveying property owners, and if we are faithful to operationalizing that, we will be responsible representatives.

But the Comprehensive Plan needs some teeth, not just the governor’s approval; town council must commit to its execution, and that execution can’t happen without developing a budget that matches each recommendation in the plan so we know what we can afford to do and when. That budget needs to incorporate maintenance planning as well. Too many surprise budget requests that are not planned inevitably will catch up with us.

Each year, a review of what we set out to accomplish and what we have realized, or not, and how we might amend our plans accordingly will help keep us faithful to goals, budgets and community voices. Part of that plan is not just creating a budget but also working to build up our reserves and strengthen our revenue.

We are challenged by environmental (sea-level rise, storm surge and nuisance flooding), economic (a cyclical economy that directly impacts our revenue sources) and manmade forces (outside development encroaching on our quiet and pressuring our resources) that will impact our quality of life.

Developing a plan to prepare for these is critical, and putting away funds for the rainy days will make all the difference. These challenges will tax our resources. I will be looking for ways to save our resources and strengthen our economy by working to grow South Bethany’s attractiveness as a place to build, invest, rent and buy.

Q. Why do you want to be part of South Bethany Town Council?

A. The skill set I offer is additive. A perspective that comes from not being a full-time resident (yet), a thinking style that is naturally questioning, and a professional expertise that is built on finding solutions to challenges will contribute to making a better town council. I can jumpstart working on tomorrow to make a better South Bethany, not just for my family, but for the entire community.

Q. What else would you like to tell the voters before Election Day?

A. If elected to town council, I will seek out your opinions and look for ways to augment our communications so that I can be your voice in South Bethany. My career began as a newspaper reporter, asking questions to quickly figure out what is happening so that I could inform the community. I later worked at the Gallup organization, where I developed expertise in polling and marketing research, using public opinion to help decision-makers. I know how to do that.

I will ask. I will listen. I will act. I will share with you what is going on. I will keep www.betterforSB.com as a website where I personally will inform you about what I am doing on town council and where you can tell me what you think. I also have created a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/betterforsb/) where I have begun posting events and news. I will look for your comments and take those with me when I am on council.

I hope you will trust me to make a better South Bethany by voting for me.

Timothy Saxton

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. After taking a one-year break, I am seeking a third term on the South Bethany Town Council. During my past terms, I developed my keen interest in the Town’s fiscal management practices. During the two terms served on the town council, 2009-2011 and 2014-2016, I served as the town council treasurer. Some of the major accomplishments and activities in this role were:

• With town council, established the Budget & Finance Committee;

• Developed multiple financial policies and significant revisions;

• Chaired the Budget & Finance Committee and ensured that both part time and fulltime residents, as well as members from both the east and west side of Route 1 were represented;

• Advocated for determining long term costs for any major financial expense to town;

• With the town council, delivered four fiscal-year balanced budgets without using reserves;

• Developed a method to replace town assets from the Capital Reserve, as opposed to utilizing funds from the Operating Budget. This significantly reduces the need to increase taxes and fees.

In my experience as Town treasurer, I worked to ensure that each spending vote required a full understanding of short-term and long-term costs of a proposal, the rationale being that long-term costs of any proposal will have an impact on future revenue needs of the Town. It is imperative that the town council has this knowledge prior to proposals being brought to a vote.

In addition to experience in the Town finances, I have written ordinance changes and policies. I have always listened to the homeowners during and outside of town council meeting to better understand their wills and desires and vote accordingly.

Q. What do you feel is South Bethany’s biggest challenge for the next two years, and how will you address it?

A. As the Town moves forward, there are a number of planned projects that will require significant funding in order to be completed. These projects will be in addition to the normal operating budget that is required to fund the normal business of the Town. Examples of these projects are: police building expansion, canal water improvement that could include dredging, full funding for Phase 2 of road resurfacing, lighting and establishing a beach replenishment fund contribute toward future replenishment if required by state or federal government. These large projects should be a part of mid- to long-range plans for the Town.

Planning should be performed for all projects, so that the town council is fully informed to assist with decision-making. The town council should then set priorities among the large projects that the Town is facing to determine the funding for each of these projects. As a result of the analysis, some projects may be deemed not feasible.

Once completed, the council should inform the public of this prioritization, timing and future funding needs. Public input is essential so that the town council has the priorities of the homeowners in mind when making final decisions and assure appropriate funding is available to execute priorities effectively.

Lastly, we need to have a renewed priority of canal water quality through appropriate funding to study the issue. Whether the ocean or canals, water has a large effect on all of our property values. We need to work diligently on the issue that affects both.

Q. Why do you want to be part of South Bethany Town Council?

A. After the end of my last term in May 2016, I continued to follow the activities of the new council. I observed that increased spending continued to be passed and new large Town projects had yet to be prioritized. I became concerned what the impact of this new spending and Town projects, such as police department building expansion and road resurfacing across the entire town, would have on the FY2018 budget. It became apparent that the impact led to a difficulty in balancing the town budget for the Town’s needs without going into reserves.

Due to this, I would like to join the town council to work on the prioritization of projects, setting budgets for each project and then determining if and when each project could be completed. This needs to be done in conjunction with assuring we continue to have the funds for the yearly Operating budget.

Also as water, whether the ocean or the canals, has a large impact on all of our property values, I would like to work on improving the quality of that water in our [canals] and assuring we maintain our beaches.

Q. What else would you like to tell voters before Election Day?

A. As one with a keen interest in the town finances, I believe each spending vote requires a full understanding of short-term and long-term costs of the proposal, the rationale being that long-term costs of any proposal will have an impact on future revenue needs of the Town — in other words, the potential need to increase taxes or fees.

I believe that South Bethany is a safe, relaxing environment. If elected, I will work toward ensuring that we keep it that way, and that we manage our finances wisely and prioritize the needs of the Town thoughtfully.

I ask for your vote on May 27.

Carol Stevenson

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. Having served on the South Bethany Town Council for two years, I believe I am qualified for a second term on council. Prior to serving on the council, I was active in the South Bethany Property Owners Association (SBPOA) and the Community Enhancement Committee of South Bethany (CEC). I learned first-hand about the concerns of property owners.

In working with the CEC, I saw how volunteers could make a difference for the community. Encouraging property owners to adopt a canal end and beautify their community gave me a perspective on the great things that can happen when citizens work together.

While a member of the town council, I had the opportunity work with other members on issues that were important to our town. Just this year we addressed concerns about excessive traffic in our town, which was very disruptive to part of the community. We formed a Traffic Committee, of which I was a part. Working with the Delaware Department of Transportation, we drafted and implemented a traffic restriction during high traffic hours during the peak tourist season.

Concerns about the feeding of feral cats creating a nuisance to property owners resulted in an ordinance that should now protect private property while ensuring that feral cats are treated humanely. We have looked at our police department building and are working to make sure it meets current regulations for public safety.

As the chairman of the Communications & Public Relations Committee, I have led a group of citizens who have worked hard to build community connections between all property owners (both full-time and part-time) and with summer visitors. Current projects include summer yoga and boot camp on the beach, a community band concert, a boat parade, a float for the July 4th Bethany Beach parade, movies on the beach and numerous potluck suppers to give our citizens the opportunity to get acquainted and to build community spirit!

Outreach to Realtors has been a critical part of our work. Each year we work to give Realtors the most current information about our town. We seek Realtor input about any issues that may affect rental income. Our goal is to maximize income for both property owners, Realtors and our town government. Rental income continues to grow, helping the Town keep property taxes low.

I have worked hard to fulfill the duties assigned me by the mayor and council. I have studied the issues before the council and voted in a manner that I believe represents the best interests of South Bethany. I believe am qualified to continue as a member of the South Bethany Town Council.

Q. What do you feel is South Bethany’s biggest challenge for the next two years, and how will you address it?

A. I believe our biggest challenge in the next two years will be to secure our future. We need to continue to protect and improve our beaches, to work on improving our waterways, and make reasonable and cost-effective improvements to our town infrastructure. We need to make sure that our town has adequate fire and police protection. As we look to the future, South Bethany must partner with other coastal towns and work together on issues that affect us all, now and in the future.

Q. Why do you want to be part of the South Bethany Town Council?

A. There is more to be done! Improving communications through new media platforms and exploring advertising our community through Delaware Tourism websites are goals to which I aspire in the next town council term. I hope we can continue to reach out to all our property owners both full- and part-time and to make sure they feel a part of our community.

Q. What else would you like to tell voters before Election Day?

A. This is a chance to make your voice heard. Please vote on May 27 and continue to let the town council know what your concerns are. Just voting, however, is not enough. Step up to the plate and volunteer for a committee or board, help out with an activity, attend a town council meeting. We are a small town with limited resources. To augment our resources, we are fortunate to have a group of residents and property owners with great experience and expertise. Together we can indeed make South Bethany the “Best Little Beach in Delaware.”

Frank Weisgerber

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

My wife and I are retired and full-time residents of South Bethany. I’m an owner who wants to give back to “The Best Little Beach in Delaware.” I’ve volunteered on numerous committees and events in South Bethany, which helps gives me insight on what the community needs are:

• Canal Water Quality Committee chair;

• Current first-term council member;

• Community Enhancement Committee;

• South Bethany Historical Society;

• South Bethany Property Owners-sponsored property-walker;

• June community Bull Roast setup/takedown volunteer;

• South Bethany Little Free Library builder;

• South Bethany July 4th float team.

Q. What do you feel is South Bethany’s biggest challenge for the next two years, and how will you address it?

A. I feel that the council’s responsibilities center around four key areas:

(1) Our beaches

(2) Our canals

(3) Our roads

(4) Our budget

With the State and federal budgets seriously considering cutbacks in future funds for beach replenishment, South Bethany needs to address how to manage this shortfall. We need to seriously prioritize what’s important to the town and budget funds appropriately to support those priorities.

Our canal waters, being man-made, have a design flaw of not providing for continuous water flow, which is creating a stagnant sediment in our canals. The canals need to be skim-dredged to clean up this sediment and then a system put in place (we’re planning oysters and floating wetlands) to filter and re-energize the oxygen.

Q. Why do you want to be part of South Bethany Town Council?

A. My knowledge of the community obtained by past involvements, plus a year’s worth of serving on council, gives me a head start on addressing South Bethany’s four key areas (beaches, canals, roads and budget).

Q. What else would you like to tell voters before Election Day?

A. South Bethany is a unique coastal community. It sits between high-activity towns Ocean City and Dewey/Rehoboth. This allows owners and visitors to enjoy the quiet peacefulness yet have a short travel to enjoy entertainment. I’m well aware of the impact this has on property values. If re-elected, I will continually do what’s best to preserve this wonderful uniqueness of our town.

Your vote would be much appreciated.