Dewey officials seek federal funding for new facility

Zolper: Town hall, police department outdated, potentially hazardous
April 2, 2022

Dewey Beach officials continue to work toward replacing the aging town hall and police department, and they are now seeking federal funding toward the estimated $5 million to $6 million project.

Town Manager Bill Zolper and Ashleigh Sander, town clerk, said they are applying for funds via Sen. Chris Coons’ congressionally directed spending for the 2023 fiscal year.

According to the application instructions, only nonprofit organizations and government entities are eligible for a one-year funding request.

Zolper said three architectural firms were allotted 30 days to prepare a proposal including cost estimates for a new facility based on the square footage and specifications detailed at the Jan. 21 employee and commissioner workshop. Proposals will be presented at a future commissioners meeting, he said.

“We want the new building to have the look and feel of Dewey Beach, with the lifesaving station as inspiration,” Zolper said.

The town has outgrown the current 24-year-old, 6,000-square foot facility, which is cramped for space, and plagued by mold and moisture issues, Zolper said. Town employees have offices in attic eaves and conference rooms, and code enforcement employees must leave their work area when alderman court is in session, he said.

The proposed building would be almost double in size, with sufficient space for all town departments.

Police Chief Sam Mackert said one of his most important duties is to ensure the department and its personnel can deliver the best services possible to the community officers are sworn to protect and serve.

“Providing police personnel, both sworn and non-sworn, with the tools and equipment required of an effective, safe and modern-day police department is paramount to us fulfilling our mission,” Mackert said. “We have all known for many years now that the current Dewey Beach Police Station is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of our police department today.”

Law enforcement standards require physical space to meet technology, safety, security, and federal and state requirements regarding the storage of vast amounts of electronic data, including in-car video camera footage, Mackert said. 

“These items, not to mention ensuring that the visitors, and even suspects who come in contact with our personnel and thus our station, deserve to be met with a physical facility that meets or exceeds either national, or at least the state accreditation standards currently in force,” Mackert said. 

An outside organizational analysis of the department conducted in 2019 provided a number of observations, findings and recommendations for the station, Mackert said.

“We will be making every effort both now and in the future to provide as functional and modern a police station as is possible with the resources the town has available,” Mackert said.

The town owns two lots on Coastal Highway and one on Rodney Avenue. Plans call for the current town hall on Rodney Avenue to be demolished and the site used for parking and a sally port, which is a secured entry, while town hall could be located on Coastal Highway.

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