Selbyville officials award wasewater contract

At a Monday town council meeting, Selbyville councilmen awarded the contract to upgrade the town’s wastewater facility to Greensburg Environmental Contracting Services Inc., a Pennsylvania-based company licensed in five states.

Through a low-interest state loan, the town will pay $1.65 million to replace the aeration system on the treatment facility and will likely save on energy costs in the process, according to facility manager Jim Burk and town manager Gary Taylor.

Burk said that when expected Delmarva Power rate increases start on May 1 (when a rate cap is lifted), the facility’s energy costs will rise by an additional 68 percent. The bids to replace the “out-dated” and partly-broken aeration system on the facility ranged from $1.8 million to $3.1 million. Town officials negotiated the Greensburg Company’s bid down to $1.65 million after opening the low bid.

“There’s new technology that allows for more cost-effective operations,” Burk said. “That’s one of the big issues we’re addressing.”

Whenever someone flushes a toilet or runs water down shower or sink drains in their Selbyville-area homes, that sewage water ends up at the treatment facility on Polly Branch Road.

Facility officials then use microorganisms to remove the waste from the water. Those microorganisms consume the waste, cleaning the water, but they — like humans — need oxygen to survive.

The facility’s current above-ground aeration-system constantly pumps oxygen into the water, sometimes pumping more oxygen than needed. There is not as much outside oxygen needed in the winter, for instance, as there is in the summer, Burk said.

The new system will utilize underground oxygen-pumps, featuring sensors that will act as a brain for the pump. The sensors will essentially tell the machine how much oxygen is needed in the water at any time. Because the system will run less than the constantly-pumping current system, the town will save money on the facility’s operation, Burk said.

“By having a proper balance, you’re not paying a million dollars extra to have more oxygen put in than you need,” said Burk, who recently received a lifetime achievement award from Delaware Technical and Community College.

After the water at the facility passes through the lime- and microorganism-laden water in what is essentially a huge tub, it is chlorinated, then sent to Bethany Beach to mix with sewage water exiting that town’s facility.

Burk said about 90 percent of the waste in the sewage water is removed through the process at the Selbyville plant. After that water mixes with Bethany’s, it is dumped in the Atlantic Ocean.

New zoning district?

At their May meeting, Selbyville town officials will hold a public hearing to consider an ordinance that would establish an R-4 zone in the town. According to Taylor, the R-4 district would be almost identical to the R-3 district — which only allows 2.2 homes per acre — but would allow for the development of smaller lots, essentially creating more open space.

The town’s R-3 district features 20,000-square-foot lots, which has drawn complaints from developers who say that some buyers don’t want that big of a lot, Taylor said. The new district would allow developers to carve out smaller lots without increasing density.

“It creates a lot of open space, which is what Livable Delaware is looking for,” Taylor said, referring to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s growth plan. “We’re not going to have houses crammed on top of each other,” he added. “It’s a win-win for us.”

In other action:

• Selbyville councilmen voted an ordinance into law that disallows residents to park on the same side of the fire hydrant on parts of four streets in the town, for safety reasons. Parking is now prohibited on the south side of McCabe Street from Railroad Avenue to Main Street and on the same side from Main Street to Hall Street. On Dukes Street, people are not allowed to park their cars on the north side of the street from Railroad Avenue to Main Street. Parking is also now prohibited on the south side of Hoosier Street from DuPont Boulevard to Main Street. And, finally, parking is now prohibited on the east side of Williams Street north of Bethany Road and on the west side of Williams Street south of Bethany Road.

• Selbyville’s councilmen approved the 2007 fiscal-year budget, for the fiscal year that actually started on Feb. 1, 2006. The balanced budget calls for incomes and expenses of about $2.84 million. In the budget, Selbyville officials expect to bring in $1.25 million in total incomes through their sewage system, which totals to 44 percent of the income side of the 2007 plan. In the same plan, the officials expect to spend $1.37 million on its sewer system in the 2007 fiscal year, which only totals to about 37 percent of the expense side of the plan. More than $600,000 in expected incomes through property and transfer taxes this year help balance the 2007 budget.