Public Hearing for Ocean Outfall and City Hall Complex

May 5th, 2015

At a special meeting held on April 27, 2015 the Commissioners set the date of Friday, May 15, 2015, 7:00 p.m. to hold a public hearing on two extremely important issues relative to the future of our special city.

Ocean Outfall Project and Upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment Plant

The City’s current wastewater treatment plant was placed into operation in 1987. This plant replaced the City’s original plant constructed in the 1930’s. In 2002 the City began evaluating alternatives to meet state and federal mandates that required the City to remove its discharge from the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.

In late 2009, after exhaustive studies, presentations and public meetings, the Commissioners selected ocean outfall as the option to meet this obligation. The plan calls for the construction of a pipeline from the Deauville Beach parking lot to a point more than one mile offshore where the highly treated effluent will be disbursed into the ocean waters. The outfall project includes construction of a new pump station at the treatment plant and a pipeline from the plant to the outfall. Also, nearly $15 million of  treatment plant reliability and process improvements are a part of the plan.

Recently the Commissioners made a decision to pursue an additional project to dewater and dry bio-solids produced at the treatment plant. Currently bio-solids are transported as a liquid by tanker truck to a farm north of Milton where they are injected into a farm field. It is important to note that the addition of bio-solids drying increases total project costs from the $35 to $40 million range that you have heard during the past few years to $52.5 million now. Bio-solids drying will eliminate nearly 500 weather dependent trips to the farm resulting in operational cost savings and improved plant operations.

Nearly $35.5 million in funding commitments have been secured for this project through the State of Delaware at an interest rate of 2% for 20 and 25-year periods. It is anticipated that the additional funds will be secured in the same manner. In May 2009, anticipating this project, the Commissioners wisely instituted a user fee surcharge on wastewater billings. These funds have paid all costs related to this project to date and approximately $2.5 million has been accumulated to offset future project costs.

City Hall and Police Station Project

Planning for a new city hall complex has been in design and development since 2011. The City Hall Complex Master Plan Task Force composed of the Commissioners and four citizen volunteers, including two architects, has led the planning effort for this important project. The architectural and engineering firm of Davis, Bowen & Friedel, Inc. has worked with the task force to develop a plan that includes a new 44,000 square foot facility housing all administrative functions of the city and the police. This will replace the existing, dated building on the current site and provide the city with necessary additional space.

The current City Hall structure was built in 1964. The majority of the critical systems including plumbing, electrical and HVAC are at or nearing the end of their useful life expectancy. A very important consideration is the fact that neither city hall nor the police department meet even the basic accessibility standards for disabled persons. This alone causes a hardship for many who need to use the building including members of the public and staff. During evaluation of the existing building structural deficiencies were identified including areas of moisture penetration with visible mold, wood rot deterioration and masonry defects in brick walls and retaining walls.

The City is applying for an $18 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture, through its Community Facilities Program, to fund this project. This loan would have a maximum interest rate of 3.5%. Should other viable options with even lower rates become available, these will be pursued aggressively for the best outcome. The completion of the city hall project, in early 2017, will come at a critical time. The city’s largest current debt obligation will end at that time freeing up more than two-thirds of the money needed for annual payments. The City has many revenue sources able to fund the additional amounts needed for annual payments. Mayor Cooper has pledged that this project will move forward without a property tax increase to citizens.

Please visit the individual project pages devoted to the proposed city hall complex and ocean outfall project regularly and often for information on both important projects. Additional timely information will be posted on the website as it becomes available. Two very informative video presentations, each six minutes or less in duration, are viewable there.

The adoption of resolutions on April 27 setting the date for a public hearing was the first step under the city charter for the Commissioners to borrow money for these two projects. After the hearing the Commissioners will likely schedule a Special Election to be held during the latter part of June. At the Special Election, every property owner and resident will be able to vote for or against authorizing the borrowing for these two projects, individually. I would encourage you to attend the public hearing on Friday, May 15, at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioners Room at City Hall. Additional information will be sent to you closer to the date of the Special Election.