South Bethany considering farming out canal maintenance
South Bethany’s canals are a public resource, just like the roads or the parks, and Town Council Member Frank Weisgerber suggested recently that the town council consider a maintenance plan (and probably a budget) to actually take care of those 5 miles of canals.
In August, Weisgerber described debris accumulation in Peterson Canal: “All you can see is pine needles and trees and trash that has just accumulated at the end of the canal. It just sits there,” he said. “We’re a town that owns water on the west side, water on the east side, and we don’t own a boat, so we can’t get maintenance guys out there.”
Local company Envirotech will now visit the South Bethany canals to offer the Town a quote and plan of attack to remove dead widgeon grass that is already gumming up the works for some canal users. A “boom or bust” plant, the grass could appear thicker next year or disappear altogether. Although it’s considered environmentally beneficial, the thick tangle of weeds is not what South Bethany boaters want to navigate through.
Envirotech will also offer some price quotes for a long-term maintenance contract.
The Woods Hole Group will also soon be analyzing the canal sediment to offer a remediation plan for water quality.
Town drops International Property Maintenance Code integration
South Bethany has a building code, but they are reconsidering adding the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) to the town code.
The Charter & Code Committee had been instructed to research the IPMC in August after Town staff suggested it would strengthen the existing code and provide leverage to enforce safe building standards. But the IPMC integration effort stopped there.
“It’s too far-ranging, and we decided to have Code Enforcement Constable Joe Hinks instead write some code that would suit his purposes,” said John Fields, chair of the COC.
“We don’t have enough enforcement,” said Town Manager Maureen Hartman. “All we’ve been doing is sending fluffy letters to people, which they ignore most of the time. … You send a letter, there’s always a process… But IPMC has a little bit more teeth.”
“He’s looking for a tool to do his job. He came up with this,” so if the town council doesn’t like the IPMC, they should provide him another tool, concluded Council Member Carol Stevenson.
In other news from the South Bethany Town Council’s August meeting:
• During a recent visit to the town, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials were impressed with traffic-safety initiatives, including education, enforcement, road stenciling and rewarding of safe behaviors.
Police Chief Troy Crowson reminded drivers that pedestrians must wait for traffic to clear before they cross the roadway. In Delaware, pedestrians only have the right-of-way if they are actively using a crosswalk when a vehicle approaches.
• Beach bonfires are prohibited in South Bethany. But with the Town’s 50th anniversary next year, the town council may consider revising the rules to allow for Town-sponsored bonfire events.
• The town council has recently held several executive sessions to discuss personnel, which means the public are not privy to the discussion. Resident Christine Keefe reminded the council that the public do not like “secret sessions. … We like to know what you’re talking about.”
Although Mayor Tim Saxton said he wants transparency, he said he will follow Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidelines, which allow personnel matters, including hiring, to be discussed in closed session.
“They were personnel issues. I will be very strict to discuss personnel in executive, and not discuss issues and numbers in public,” Saxton said.
• Town council members lauded the Junior Lifeguard program, held bi-weekly all summer.
“Those kids look up to your lifeguards so much,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Sue Callaway. “I watched a little girl who was afraid to go out in the water with the other kids. … They helped her, and they stayed right with her. And it was so nice to see that personal interaction with the children.”
The South Bethany Town Council’s next regular meeting is Friday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m.
By Laura Walter