The following information was presented by Vice Mayor Cheryl Lahman at the City Council Organizational Meeting on June 3, 2013:
On behalf of the Council,
The 2013 Annual Report to the Electors of the City
It is my honor to give this year’s annual State of the City Speech to the Electors of the City of Harrington.
Tonight we swore in a new Mayor and two Council Members. Tony Moyer, a former Council Member returns as our newly elected Mayor along with incumbents Wayne Porter and Fonda Coleman. Being a Council Person requires much time and dedication so it is right that I start by thanking them and all who serve the City in this capacity. Also, a thank you is extended to Council families for allowing them to serve.
Lastly, our thanks and gratitude is extended to Mayor Robert E. (Gene) Price for his many years of service to the community. Mayor Price served 14 years in his Mayoral position. He guided Council and the City through many good and some trying times. He is wished all the best.
This year’s budget process has gone smoothly, and we will soon be presenting a balanced budget of $3.7 million, realizing another year with no tax increase and no rate increases. Harrington’s goal is to work at using our resources wisely so that the community does not bear the expense of unnecessary costs. I am also pleased to report that we will finish the current fiscal year under the projected budget.
The next few years will require careful planning as major projects need to be implemented.
Water Meter Installation Project: This project for residential customers is completed, and the commercial installation is progressing. Commercial installations require more maintenance work, and therefore, the process is slower. We are now reading all of our meters monthly. Rates will begin to be developed in July, and we are planning on implementing them with the December billing. Since December, we have been gathering readings to determine exactly what our city-wide consumption is. We have also been notifying customers that many have potential leaks so that corrections can be made before we start billing for usage. This is an important project, and we want to make sure we get it right.
Inflow and Infiltration (I & I): The force main project is completed, and we have been connected to Kent County since February of 2012. Since that time, we have paid approximately $522,912 to Kent County to treat our wastewater. This amount could be reduced if we corrected some of the I & I issues the City currently has. A very comprehensive study of the City in four quadrants was ordered, which presents a plan of action to attack this issue. Two quadrants have been completed.
Unfortunately, funding was rejected by the voters. Council will need to decide the best approach to deal with this issue in the next year.
Demolition of 45 Clark Street: Many positive responses have been received in regards to the demolition of 45 Clark Street. This has been a safety issue and an eyesore for the City for quite some time.
The City was able to claim ownership of the property when no other bids were received at the Sheriff’s sale. The City paid approximately $50,000 to properly demolish the building. It has been appraised at $49,000. The City’s goal is to sell the property and place it back on the tax roll. Once on the tax rolls, the property will generate revenue to pay for the demolition.
Settlement of DNREC Fine: This year the City reached a settlement with DNREC on the penalty and fine associated with the lagoon breach in 2010. The fine and penalties amounted to $137,700. The City received an offset of $100,000 because of the water meter installation project, and the amount was reduced to $37,700. This money is to be spent on the remediation and environmental improvement of the discharge area at Brown’s Branch. The project will require an additional $5,000 for engineering fees.
Lagoon Closure Plan: Council recently authorized a lagoon closure plan that will be sent to DNREC for approval this month. The plan is the last phase of the Force Main project to be completed. The plan is to leave the material in the lagoons and solidify them with super absorbent material. This plan was recommended by our engineers because the cost is lower and because of the technical feasibility. The material is not considered hazardous material and this is supported by recent soil samples taken at the lagoons. The estimated expense to the City for this project is $914,000. Thanks to the fiscal responsibility of Mayor, Council, and employees, the City currently has funds available for this project, so no borrowing is necessary.
Sanitary Sewer Master Plan: Our engineers, Remington, Vernick and Beach Engineers, are currently working on a sewer master plan. This plan will be completed soon. It will identify issues with our current system and assist us with future expansion plans. This project will provide an updated map of our sewer system and is funded by a matching grant and City monies.
The Police Department has actively been able to secure over $1 million worth of equipment at no cost to the City through the LESO program. Computers, cameras, office equipment, dump trucks, pickup trucks, backhoes, all geared toward serving the City. Officer Sean Hudson was named Officer of the Year. He, along with every member of our police force, from Chief Barlow on down the line, do an outstanding job for our citizens all year long.
Harrington is indebted to Chief Barlow and the Police Department for the funding of Freedom Park. This park took much community involvement and many volunteers to get it to this point. Chief Barlow allocated funds received from the DEA to create the park. To date, the park has cost the tax payers zero dollars. We have a beautiful gazebo, flag pole, fence, and irrigation. There is more to come. Harrington is applying for a DNREC grant to complete the project.
Crime Free Neighborhoods: We recently adopted a crime free leasing addendum which assists landlords with evictions of tenants that break our laws. The Harrington Police Department has been proactively educating landlords on good landlord-tenant practices by holding training sponsored by the Attorney General’s Office. This course has been well received by the community.
The City saw several new businesses during the year:
- Pizza King
- All About the Swing
- Amber Kay’s Thrift Shop
- Bowers Group
- Campbell’s LLC
- Seashell Painting and Carpentry
- 2nd Time Around Thrift Shop
The Comprehensive Plan Review Committee completed its work, and the Comprehensive Plan was submitted to the Office of State Planning. The City Manager and City Planner attended the PLUS review committee on April 24. The City received written comments on the plan at the end of May. We will be working on the recommendations and making necessary changes to our document. Harrington received special recognition for including a Healthy Community Chapter in our plan. We were the first in the State to do so. A thank you to all who worked on the plan.
Active Developments: Due to the economy, developments have been slow, but we have two development projects that can be considered active.
Harrington Meadows, located on East Street and Peck Avenue, is a residential redevelopment project that involves 14 multi-family units. This project is currently under review with the City Planner.
The Legacy, located off of Raughly Hill Road is a 369 mixed use residential development. The architect is currently working on elevations and preparing for a final submittal. The City is currently waiting on a formal submittal.
Volunteers: Our City relies on a variety of volunteers who serve on committees and boards like Planning and Zoning, Parks and Recreation, Library Board, Board of Adjustment, and others. We could not do it without these citizens. If you have an interest to serve your community on a committee or board, please let the City know, as we are always looking for people to serve. Please remember our local veterans and those who are presently serving in the military from our community.
Our Parks and Recreation Department continues to offer quality programming for both kids and adults alike, all this under the direction of Bill Falasco. The next big event that this department oversees for the City is Heritage Day in August. A day the whole town can come together for fun, food, and entertainment.
Our library, under the direction of librarian Chris Hayward, continues to offer services to adults and kids of all ages. This past year the Library ran a Library Jobs Center. This program assists patrons with resumes, job applications, and interviewing skills. Many have been successful in finding jobs.
Funding from the State of Delaware has been provided to complete a needs assessment for our library. This assessment will determine whether the existing library can meet our future needs.
Public Works: Our thanks are extended to Alan Moore, Public Works Supervisor, and his entire crew for keeping the City running. They are the backbone of the City, maintaining all City property and assisting our citizens with problems every day of the year.
CUP$$ (Check-up for Small Utilities Program): Our Public Works staff has been working closely with Delaware Rural Water on a CUP$$ Program. This program inventories all of the water fixed assets and evaluates them on condition. The program then establishes a replacement schedule. Public Works has nearly completed the project. Once the water side is complete, Public Works will do the same for the Wastewater side. This program will be instrumental in systematically maintaining our water and wastewater systems.
City Hall Staff: We have a great staff at City Hall. These staff members work hard to handle all the administrative work of the City. They account for our revenues and expenses, making sure we are insured, billed correctly, and recorded correctly. Staff at City Hall makes sure we comply with State and Federal regulations. They are often the face and voice of Harrington. They act as liaisons between Council and citizens. Thanks are extended to them for all they do.
Other City Improvements: In the past year we have made several small capital improvements to include:
- Replacing an aging phone system in City Hall
- The new carpet and tile in the upstairs of City Hall
- Replacing doors at the Library
- Fence at our well house
- Window repairs at the Price Community Center
In closing, there has been much done this past year, and there is much to do in the future. Our obligation is to identify issues and present solutions to them. This is a task none of the Council takes lightly. Council struggles with solving these issues in a tough economy.
We are fortunate in many ways. Some cities have cut services, laid off workers (which hampers the delivery of services), raised taxes, etcetera. Harrington has not done this because of our responsible fiscal practices.
We ask for your continued support and prayers for those who serve the City in any capacity; together we have always gotten through the rough times. We must continue to work together. We want to insure that in years to come, Harrington remains a good place to live. We want a strong economy while maintaining our community character.
Our community as a whole is blessed with people helping people whether it be the volunteer fire company, who do an excellent job serving our community, or the food pantry, church outreach groups, or one of many other groups.
God bless the United States, and God bless Harrington.