Selbyville moves forward on water expansion

Selbyville is one step closer to expanding the area of its water and sewer service. By unanimous vote of the five council members at their monthly meeting Sept. 12, the town council approved proceeding with the plan on the basis of a successful referendum last month. The town solicitor will now proceed with the related bond issues.

Council Member Richard Duncan Sr. thanked those who voted in the referendum and noted that bidding would soon take place for the two planned test wells in the areas of Route 54 and Route 17.

Also recently up for bid has been the needed repainting of one of the town’s water towers, which was last painted 14 years ago with a 10-year expected lifespan. Duncan recommended the town accept the bid of $63,592 by Utility Systems for the painting and related repairs.

However, the project was not budgeted for the current fiscal year and will wait until next year to be done. Duncan said the demand for tower painting was such that the contract should be accepted now and the company lined up for the work when the time came.

His fellow council members agreed, unanimously voting to accept the contract as recommended. The painting and repairs would likely take place in April or May, to maximize adhesion by the paint in dry weather.

Town Manager Gary Taylor also noted that the town’s other tower is in need of painting, despite having gone less than 10 years since it was painted. Degradation of the tower surface is already being reported.

The town could potentially bundle the two projects together but would need to obtain prices for the work on the second tower and the bundled project before making such a decision.

Duncan also recommended the town keep in mind a potential upgrade to its system of water meters, focusing on a wireless metering system that could reduce the process of meter reading from that of four man-days to a mere two hours.

The new system would allow a water department staffer to drive around the town and read the automatic radio meter devices from his vehicle, without having to stop and touch each meter, as is currently required. It could read up to 10,000 meters per hour and substantially reduce the related costs to the town.

The town could potentially even add an antenna to the water tower and read all the meters in the town with the push of a single button, Duncan said. The accompanying software would not only calculate usage and billing but would also monitor the system for problems, such as leaks or installation errors. Each meter would have a battery life of up to 30 years.

Duncan cited the cost to upgrade to the new meters: $110 to retrofit each meter, versus $200 for a new installation. He said the trend in most municipalities is toward the new wireless meters and gave the information to council members as a heads-up to what they would likely be considering as a standard in the near future. He said he would price the cost of the system for the town for future consideration.

Council members voted unanimously at the Sept. 12 meeting to fine Mountaire Inc. $1,000 for each of four sewage violations in July. Council Member G. Frank Smith III also requested the company keep the town closely abreast of developments for its proposed biological water treatment system. The system is currently in the design stage and will be “neighborhood-friendly,” according to Mountaire.

Engineer Chuck Hauser noted that the town is on schedule for work at the Church Street pumping station, with work being done on the electrical system.

The planned project for the town’s treatment plant is undergoing its third review for final details, he reported. Council Member G. Frank Smith III said of the project, “The sooner, the better,” while Mayor Clifton C. Murray noted the need to move forward with it. Hauser said it could go to bid as soon as final review was completed and the project was approved by council.

Council members unanimously approved a preliminary site plan for a shopping center in the town. The new center will feature a one-story retail area and a two-story combined retail and office space, with 80,000 square feet of total space. No variances were requested for the project, which meets all zoning requirements at the preliminary stage.

A variance was also unanimously granted by council members at the meeting, to allow custom builder Roy Evans & Co. to complete building of a home despite encroaching on a town sewer line easement.

Under the variance, the home will have a 20-foot front setback instead of a 30-foot setback, still leaving it 30 feet from the road. Council Member Jay Murray noted that a precedent existed for just such an allowance and that the rule allowing the council — rather than an ancillary board — to grant it was made for just such an unusual case.

Council members further voted unanimously at the meeting to annex the 15-acre property of Bruce and Sandra Bennett at Route 54 and Road 387, with R-3 zoning.

The town’s condemnation board reported dealing with four homes in recent weeks — three on Bethany Road and a fourth on Railroad Avenue. The first of the three Bethany Avenue homes will be repaired. The second was determined to be in livable condition. The third — on the same lot as a rented trailer — will be razed by its owner and the lot cleaned up.

The Railroad Avenue home was to be condemned by the town but the owner began the process of demolishing it prior to the council meeting.

Taylor noted that work in the Victoria Forest and Sandy Branch developments is “going fine,” while a third development by Gemcraft Homes is finally proceeding with work once again. He also pledged to attend a series of upcoming meetings of the Delaware Economic Development Committee and keep the council abreast of developments at those meetings.

Duncan passed along a reminder from the Sussex County Association of Towns for municipalities to pay close attention to the coming state legislative session, particularly to the issues of the loss of municipal street aid funding and to possible removal of real estate transfer tax from the purview of municipalities to that of the state.

The Selbyville Police Department reported 120 complaints, 189 tickets issued and approximately $4,500 in fines assessed for the month of August.

Chief W. Scott Collins noted a rash of recent phone scams affecting local residents. He said callers had claimed to be from an accounting division of a bank or from the Canadian lottery and had requested account information from the call recipients. Some of those people had given out their information, resulting in what Collins termed “fairly major losses.”

The police chief said he had contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigations about the matter and was told it was a local phenomenon thus far. He reminded citizens to not give out their account information to anyone calling them.

Collins also reported that the department’s restored 1973 police car would be making its debut at the town museum in approximately two weeks. He further reminded residents to keep their cars and garages locked, referring to the current time as a busy one for his department.

During the public input portion of the meeting, representatives of the Lower Sussex Pop Warner football league reported a successful Sept. 3 opening day. More than 150 children, including three teams of football players and associated cheerleaders, participated in the opening-day events, along with town representatives.

The league took the opportunity to request the town consider a gate for the walk-through portion of the new fence at the field, citing problems with dogs. Council members agreed that could be done, with Duncan praising the appearance of the renovated field.

The league also requested the town arrange to have the field’s emergency phone re-connected now that field renovations are complete and reported a 2-0 record and first-place position for its teams in early play.

Council members confirmed at the meeting that there are currently no plans to annex or provide water and sewer in the area of Road 397, to the relief of a home owner who recently had a well drilled on his property there.

Water lines do exist, however, in the former Murray Mills area — but that hasn’t allowed one would-be resident to have her water connected. She requested the town mark the location of the water lines to help her obtain a plumber willing to do the hook-up for her planned home. She reported difficulty in getting anyone to agree to make the hookup with the town’s water lines, which are under a paved shoulder.

Town officials also confirmed at the Sept. 12 meeting that it would be paying for the operation of streetlights at Victoria Forest in the future, but only after the homeowner’s association for the development is turned over to the homeowners and the street thus turned over to the town.

The streets of Buntings Mill also remain in the hands of its developer, pending repairs to a sinkhole that are required before the town will accept the streets. Other aspects of street maintenance, as well as police patrolling, are already in place despite that delay, Taylor said.

Finally, council members voiced early support for a planned second annual Kids’ Art Month set for March. Organizers said they hoped to get the ball rolling on the event early this time, to enable more home-schooled children participate in the art show and contest.

More than 300 children participated in the inaugural event, with support from town officials and businesses.