Dewey Beach will not be getting portable detention units – at least not for this summer.
This was made loud and clear during the July 12 monthly commissioners meeting after reports earlier in the week that the town was thinking about purchasing or leasing a unit or two to detain people who are arrested.
Dewey Beach Chief Sam Mackert admitted there’s a lack of room at the police station on Rodney Avenue, but instead of jumping straight into something like a portable jail cell, he thought a better solution was improving the current building.
“I would look at our building. If we do anything, we need to do something to our facility,” he said.
He said that in addition to the bad picture it paints of Dewey Beach, nobody is going to want a portable cell next to their house.
Marc Appelbaum, Dewey town manager, agreed.
“This is not an image we want to have right now,” Appelbaum said for the town. He suggested the town get through the current summer season, make do with what they have for the time being and then re-address the issue in September.
Appelbaum said waiting until after the season would allow everyone involved to see what the problem really is before finding a solution to a problem they don't have a full grasp of.
Town commissioners agreed to this plan.
The idea of purchasing or leasing a portable jail cell didn’t materialize out of thin air. It was a recommendation from the town’s public safety committee made during its July 8 meeting.
In total, the committee made three recommendations – two that needed council approval before they could be instituted – to discourage unruly behavior by renters and visitors to the town.
First was for Appelbaum to mail the town's ordinance regarding disorderly houses to all property owners, rental agents and any others who facilitate rentals. Commissioners did approves this later during its July 12 meeting, and Appelbaum said he would have the letters out by the beginning of the following week.
Second, was for the committee to look into the code for areas to update or amend.
Third, was for Mackert to begin researching the costs associated with leasing or purchasing a mobile detention center.
That idea came after Mackert told the committee that the facility the town has to use is too small – the town currently has one jail cell that can hold six people – and this presents problems when males and females, or minors and adults, or if a particularly combative person needs to be separated.
Rich Hanewinckel, a resident who owns and rents properties with resident Marcia Schieck, first mentioned the idea of using the “drunk tanks” during the meeting. He said it should be put south of town on state land and able to hold hundreds of people.
“Property owners want a change,” Hanewinckel said.
Dewey has a reputation problem, because there seems to be a tolerance of these activities, Hanewinckel said. He said places in Florida, like Fort Lauderdale, with similar problems had taken to using some of these units with great success.