Selbyville residents want growth, safety
It was the first Selbyville Town Council meeting in the new municipal building at 1 W. Church Street. So it was fitting that much of the Oct. 7 discussion revolved around the future of Selbyville’s downtown and public safety.
Strategizing to get grants
With a family legacy in the downtown business life of Selbyville, Leigh Scott asked permission to continue pursuing Downtown Development District grants from the State.
“It’s a 20 percent reimbursement grant,” Scott explained of the grant from the Office of State Planning Coordination (OSPC) for projects that revitalize business or residential areas. Millions of private dollars have been leveraged because of the state grant. The application period is expected to reopen soon.
“I think Selbyville is certainly moving in the right direction, but we still have some downtown growth to do, to revitalize the downtown,” Scott said.
In addition to Next Step Learning Center, Scott is planning to open a coffee shop around New Year’s, between W. Church Street and Ellis Alley.
She found the 1970s illustrations that her grandfather and others commissioned from engineering firm GMB when they founded the former Selbyville Improvement Corporation with a similar mission.
“I think we need a vision and a plan,” Scott said. “I feel like it’s a win-win for everybody that decides to invest in the town.”
The town council and Chamber of Commerce offered to assist, and the OSPC likes to see a unified plan and partnership, officials noted.
There have been ripples of interest in helping Selbyville’s downtown re-blossom. With the new town hall as a centerpiece, the council could be even better positioned to assist or invest.
Police announce new hire
After the council meeting, the Selbyville Police Department announced that officer Tyler Bare will be coming to the SPD from the Dagsboro Police Department. Before becoming an award-winning police officer, Bare was a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant.
During the meeting, resident Beth Bruette pressed the town council on the issue of police hiring. Just as council members would expand infrastructure with rising use, she reminded them about public safety resource needs.
“Sometimes you guys have two on [duty], sometimes it’s just one. If they’re tied up, your town’s not covered,” she said.
Married to a town police officer, Bruette said she was equally concerned about public safety and officer safety. When an officer conducts a traffic stop, he could be at major risk if he’s the only officer on duty, she said. If something goes wrong, or the subject is violent, the police officer could be alone until state police or a neighboring jurisdiction provide aid.
“We’re pretty proud of them. We think they do a good job,” said Mayor Clifton Murray.
“I’m proud of them, too,” Bruette said, but she expressed concern that the population increase and opioid epidemic are straining resources. “As far as officer safety, it is a big problem, so I just wanted to shine some light on that.”
Small towns are limited by money and by the statewide shortage of officers. Trying to fill a longstanding vacancy in the department, Selbyville has sent recruits to the Delaware Police Academy. But more than once, the candidates did not complete the course. Because the Town pays admission fees for recruits sent to the academy, they will ask the withdrawn recruits to repay the fees.
“Academy is tough,” Bruette said. “You have to have a certain type of applicant to get through it.”
“We have been trying to get recruits in the academy. This is our third attempt. This is a year-and-a-half that it’s put us behind,” said Police Chief W. Scott Collins. “We’ve added, and we’ve been trying to add.”
“I think all police forces have this problem,” Councilman Jay Murray said.
Recruiting a new officer is a painstaking and thorough process. After background checks, mental and other evaluations — if the applicant isn’t already a Delaware-certified officer, he or she enrolls in police academy for six months, followed by several months of field training. Nearly a year could pass from the first employment ad to the officer’s first solo shift.
Selbyville typically has eight fulltime officers, plus five part-time ones.
“If nobody’s sick or out for training or vacations, then you’ve got two running from noon to midnight everyday. … You’ve had 24/7 [coverage] for 20 years,” Collins said.
“We’re a fan of the police and intend to keep it up, like any other department of the Town,” said Mayor Murray. “We have a good force.”
The Selbyville Police Department had had 237 calls for service in the previous month.
Mountaire talks roadwork and volunteerism
Mountaire’s Zach Evans said the company’s first Rock the Block event (in partnership with Habitat for Humanity) brought out 86 volunteers to help at 22 residences. Projects included power-washing, gutter cleaning, tree-cutting and collection of five small dumpsters of waste.
Evans said the company is aiming to perform quarterly service projects, alternating between Selbyville and Millsboro, where its local poultry processing plants are located.
“We appreciate the opportunity to give back,” Evans said. “It was just awesome to see that unity and be able to do something nice.”
Several road projects have occurred at Mountaire’s poultry processing plant. Paving was redone in front of the plant and scales. Mountaire was still waiting for some utility companies in order to remove an old utility pole and repair the pavement there.
Smith asked that Mountaire staff check the facilities on weekends to ensure the company is keeping its part of a user agreement, rather than Town personnel have to observe a violation and make complaint.
In other Selbyville news:
• The annual Halloween Parade will be Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m.
• The Selbyville Community Club will again collect winter coats, sweatshirts, sweatpants and socks for the men and women at the Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans. Town hall will be a collection point during December.
• The Southern Sussex Rotary will host the Selbyville Christmas Parade again this year.
• The annual Youth Art Month exhibition will expand in March of 2020 to include cooperative art projects, announced the event host, Selbyville Community Club.
The Selbyville Town Council’s next regular meeting will be Monday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m.
By Laura Walter