Bethany planning longer, smaller-scale fireworks show

Bethany Beach’s traditional Fourth of July fireworks celebration may be a little less grand this year but could also last a little longer — both changes being a function of the Town’s storm-narrowed beaches.

Town Manager Cliff Graviet on June 16 told the council that, after a review with the fireworks vendor and Office of the State Fire Marshal, they had contracted for an Independence Day fireworks display utilizing 3-inch shells, instead of the 4-inch shells that have been used in recent years.

“We’re having a real issue with the width of the beach,” Graviet told the council. “Normally, by mid-June … we have had … some of the southerly winds that help build the beach back. We have not had that happen yet.”

Graviet held out some hope that condition could change, even in the last few days leading up to the July 4 display, and he said if that were to happen, the officials would switch the event permit over to the 4-inch shells suitable for a wider beach “to give us a better show.”

“We will have a longer show with the 3-inch shells, but it won’t have the impact that the 4-inch shells would have,” he said, noting that the 4-inch shells produce the kind of show people are used to seeing along the coast.

The beach has also been impacted in the early part of the summer season by tides bringing beach grass onto the shore. The Town moved to clean up the grasses but its beach-cleaning machine immediately broke, Graviet said. They then found a private vendor to do the job, and the cleaning machine has since been repaired, he noted. “But the additional beach grass makes the beach smaller and less usable.”

The Town is scheduled to be included in a beach replenishment project starting this fall that is intended to bring the beach back to its engineered design. That could make for a bigger-scale fireworks display for 2018.

Graviet also informed the council of an “interesting meeting” recently with Verizon representatives and a subcontractor, which he said is part of an effort by Verizon to meet with coastal town officials (they’d met with Fenwick Island and Dewey Beach officials already, he said, and expected to meet with South Bethany officials soon) to ask for their support for legislation that would allow the company to install WiFi antennas on utility poles to increase the company’s existing communications capacity.

He said that if the legislation was to be approved, the 18-inch diameter “canisters,” each around 2 to 3 feet long, would be affixed to utility poles, which would primarily be Delmarva Power poles in the Bethany area, along Routes 1 and 26 and Atlantic Avenue.

The timeframe for that installation would likely not be until 2018 or 2019. The company offered a 20-plus-page lease agreement to the Town for an idea of what might be requested for poles located in Town rights-of-way, with some compensation possible.

“We will wait to see what happens in the next two to three years, which is a lifetime in internet technology,” he noted. “When it’s brought to use in a more formal form, we will bring it to the council,” he said, as well as to the attorney who reviewed the Town’s agreement with Mediacom.

Vice-Mayor Lew Killmer reported that the Delaware League of Local Governments has voiced support for the legislation.

“To not do it would be detrimental, especially in Sussex County,” he said, noting that most of the concerns expressed had been aesthetic ones for historical areas. “It would be similar to the one by McDonald’s on Route 1,” Killmer added. “Who knows what the technology will be by then,” he said of the timetable for possible installation.

Graviet noted that Verizon expressed no intent to move its utilities underground, and he said the Town informed them it had no intention of allowing the canisters to be placed on its decorative poles along Garfield Parkway, which he said already present concerns about wind load.

The town manager last Friday also provided an update on the Town’s Blackwater storage facility in the Clarksville area, noting that rainy conditions had delayed foundation work but that they were able to drain the area and pour concrete, with the steel frame now up, though it will take two more months before the building will be close to being ready for occupation, he said.

Town adopts ADA-based definition

of ‘service animal’

The town council on June 16 approved on second reading an amendment to its existing code on animals on the beach and boardwalk during the summer season.

The revision was intended to bring the code into conformity with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in terms of how it defines service animals, which the amendment seeks to clarify are permitted on the beach and boardwalk when performing their work for a person with a disability.

Councilwoman Rosemary Hardiman emphasized that the amendment expands the definition in town code of what a service animal is under the ADA, and what it is not — the ADA does not recognize any species of animal except dogs as service animals, nor does it recognize “comfort dogs,” though the latter are permitted on airline flights.

Dr. Larry Fishel spoke to the council about the change, saying, “I have been asked to sign many of these forms for patients, and I have denied many of them for people who did not need them.”

Fishel said service dogs should be identified by a bandana, vest or flag, and any dog on the beach or boardwalk during the summer should bear such an identifier, along with its owner being able to provide documentation that it is, indeed, a service dog.

“Comfort dogs are basically a luxury for people who are stressed out when they’re not with the dog,” he added. “I have turned 95 percent of the people down,” he said of requests for service dogs among his patients.

A legitimate service dog, he emphasized, “will have a bandana or flag. … It would be like driving a car without your driver’s license on you. Otherwise, it’s very questionable whether they are a service dog.”

Also on June 16:

• Cultural & Historical Affairs Committee Chairwoman Carol Olmstead reported on the group’s preparation for the annual Periers Day celebrating the town’s “twinning” with Periers, France. A dozen visitors from the French town are expected during the July celebration, which will include a number of French-themed entertainments.

Olmstead said the group is also working on suggestions for the town history museum that will be housed in the recently relocated historic Dinker-Irvin Cottage. “It’s very exciting for us to see that the cottage fits well in its new home,” she said.

• Killmer reported the approval by the Non-Residential Design Review Committee of a new, but identical, sign for Fish Tales, in its new location on the south side of Garfield Parkway, in the former location of the Frog House.

• The Planning & Zoning Commission reported the completion and commission approval of the 10-year update to the Town’s comprehensive plan. The completed plan will next go to the council for its approval.

• The council approved setting the annual council election on Saturday, Sept. 9, from noon to 6 p.m. at town hall. The filing deadline for candidates is July 26 at 4:30 p.m. The council also appointed a slate of election officers and Board of Elections members. Finally, they set the date for the council organizational meeting as Sept. 18 at 10 a.m.