The roof of the Dewey Beach Lifesaving Station is leaking and needs to be fully replaced, Town Manager Scott Koenig told commissioners July 24.
The current roof is covered in cedar shakes, Koenig said, which tend to blow off because of wind from the surf. Koenig said roofing options include cedar shakes, architectural shingles or a split-seam metal roof, which would be the most expensive.
Depending on the material chosen, replacement would cost between $35,000 and $60,000, Koenig said.
Although the station is a reproduction and not an historic building, Mayor Dale Cooke said, the replacement roof may have to be historically accurate, meaning cedar shingles would have to be used; he said the lease arrangement with the state would have to be checked.
Cooke said the replacement has been put off for years.
“It needs to be done soon, right away. It has not been looked after or taken care of,” Cooke said. “In the meantime, it may get to the point where we have to have somebody come out and put a temporary tarp over the building. I hate to say that, but it may come to that because we’re having water damage inside now.”
The real problem, Koenig said, is the cost would be an unbudgeted expense and would come from the general fund balance. Koenig said he personally believed it would qualify as an infrastructure budget item, but a public hearing would be needed to use those funds.
Commissioner Gary Persinger said replacing the roof does not fit within the town code definition of a streets and infrastructure expense; Koenig said code would need to be amended first, and then a hearing could be held.
In the future, Koenig said, commissioners could consider expanding the definition of the beach replenishment tax to a beach assessment, and use funds for safety and security on the beach, including maintenance of the lifeguard station.
Commissioner David Moskowitz said he believed that would be a backdoor property tax; he said the beach replenishment fund is critical and should be used for its intended purpose.
“The Lifesaving Station roof has been an issue for some time,” Moskowitz said. “It should have been planned for and budgeted.”
Commissioners tasked Koenig with determining whether or not cedar shakes would have to be used and securing competitive bids for the project.
The station overlooks the ocean at the end of Dagsworthy Avenue, and is a replica of the original building that was commissioned as the Rehoboth Beach Lifesaving Station in 1878.
According to the Town of Dewey Beach website, the station was decommissioned in 1947 by Captain Joseph Walker, who purchased the building and moved it to the Forgotten Mile, where it was converted into his family home. After Walker’s death, his wife lived in the station until 1971.
In 1987, town leaders hoped to purchase the station, move it to its original location on Dagsworthy Avenue and restore it, but costs were prohibitive. Through private donations, a grant and town funds, a replica was built and completed in 1988. Today, it is used by Dewey Beach Patrol and as a town meeting place.
The original station was moved to Shipcarpenter Square in Lewes, where it was restored as a home and still stands today.