Lewes council, BPW continue work on budgets

By Nick Roth

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

Lewes City Council and the Board of Public Works are readying budgets for the 2016-17 year.

While residents often fear tax and fee increases, neither group is eyeing increases this year. In fact, the BPW is engaged in a rate study that could result in a decrease in wastewater rates for its customers.

"We're strongly considering bringing down our rate surcharge on our sewer," said BPW General Manager Darrin Gordon. "Everyone in the industry tells us how crazy we are, but we don't have to listen to them. If we can hold our rates for another five or 10 years, I still think we have an opportunity to bring it down some. If that's what our rate study comes back with, we'll do it."

Gordon also recommended directors pay off two state revolving fund loans — $61,666 and $14,344. The BPW took out the loans about 10 years ago, one being used for engineering for the wastewater treatment plant, while the other went toward new electric power poles.

As far as upcoming projects, Gordon budgeted $30,000 in the capital improvement budget for engineering a solar field to be built at the city's well field property adjacent to Cape Henlopen High School. He estimates construction will occur in the 2017-18 fiscal year with a price tag of about $1.2 million.

Council continues work

City council held its second budget workshop for the 2016-17 fiscal year Feb. 17. Officials met with police Chief Jeffrey Horvath and Streets Department Foreman Fred Slater before discussing the city's annual municipal street aid funds.

City Manager Paul Eckrich said he planned to earmark municipal street aid money for a new bike corral at Gills Neck and Savannah roads. However, he said, indications from the state point toward the corral as not eligible for street aid funds. Though still in the early stages, he said, money — estimated to be $25,000 to $30,000 — could be found elsewhere in the budget. The city could also ask Sen. Ernie Lopez or Rep. Steve Smyk to contribute from their community transportation fund money.

The plan is to develop a 36-by-40-foot gravel area on the canal side of Gills Neck Road across from the Dogfish Inn. The corral would accommodate 92 bicycles and feature a bike fix-it station (donated by Dogfish) and an information kiosk. The idea, Mayor Ted Becker said, is to offer a place to safely store bicycles for those coming to town from the Junction and Breakwater Trail or the Lewes to Georgetown Trail-both trails will end at Gills Neck Road at the base of the Freeman Bridge.

Becker said the bike racks downtown, particularly on Second Street and at Mary Vessels Park, are at capacity during the summer season.

He said bicyclists often lock their bikes to parking meters or telephone poles when a rack is full.

Eckrich said the project is just an idea at this time and has not yet gained council approval.

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