The Garden of the Navigators in Rehoboth Beach has one more hurdle to clear before construction can begin.
The city commissioners are expected to vote Friday, Jan. 18, on a memorandum of understanding between the city and Rehoboth Beach Sister Cities Association, which is paying for the garden and donating it as a gift. The city will retain ownership of the garden, and will maintain the garden off Lake Gerar at Olive Avenue.
However, an issue still at hand is the financing, and how much of it Sister Cities needs to have in place before starting.
The Sister Cities Association is paying for the garden, designed by Ray Zebrowski of RPZ Designs, who will act as the project manager. The site plan, design, budget and construction schedules of the garden must be mutually agreed up by Sister Cities and Rehoboth.
In Commissioner Patrick Gossett’s original draft of the memorandum, unveiled at the Jan. 7 commissioners' workshop, construction of the garden could not begin until the project is fully funded. The official cost is not yet known, but rough estimates have put the cost around $40,000.
Commissioner Bill Sargent supported the notion at first because he wanted the city to be protected from any financial liability. Commissioner Pat Coluzzi, the city’s liaison to Sister Cities, has said the money will come from grants and private fundraising.
“Forty-thousand bucks is a lot of bucks that are coming from individuals. I’m not confident that’s going to come in. If we are going to let it proceed and the budget is $40,000, they should have $40,000 in the bank,” he said.
Commissioner Mark Hunker disagreed, saying the project needs to be started soon so it can be built when representatives from sister city Greve in Chianti come in June.
Mayor Sam Cooper said there at least needs to be a reasonable expectation that the project will be funded and completed.
Coluzzi said she was confident the money will be there, adding that Sister Cities is awaiting a $21,000 grant from the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage, which the commission votes on later this month. Coluzzi said she believes Sister Cities will have all money needed to start by the second week in February.
“I would not want construction to begin until it is very clear that the funding is there,” Sargent said.
Hunker said it was impossible to base the construction start on having 100 percent of the money captured, but he agreed the organization should at least have the money committed or secured before starting.
City Manager Greg Ferrese said he and Cooper will be involved with the project, and that city will not begin construction with no money. Ferrese said he was also contacting Bryan Hall of Office of State Planning Coordination about possibly getting a grant for the trees. Hall worked with the city on last year’s citywide tree-planting efforts.
Ferrese said he wanted to have one contractor, preferably a Delaware-based firm, do the entire project, meaning construction will be put out for bid.
The Garden of the Navigators was approved Dec. 21 by a 4-3 vote, with Cooper casting the tie-breaking vote. The garden was proposed as a way to reciprocate a Rehoboth-themed garden constructed and unveiled in Greve in April. The navigator theme comes from Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Greve native who mapped the Delaware coast in 1524 and was honored by Rehoboth with a statue at the Boardwalk and Olive Avenue in 2008.