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Editorial: Dewey wise to scrap surplus program

April 12, 2019

“Don’t ask what Dewey Beach can do for you. Ask what you can do for Dewey Beach.”
Paraphrasing from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech.

 

Many want to play the blame game in Dewey Beach regarding the acquisition over several years of millions of dollars worth of surplus federal items ranging from vacuum cleaners to Humvees.

What started out as a means for a cash-strapped town and police department to acquire needed items at a bargain rate - free - morphed into a means to generate cash for the police department by getting items from the program, holding onto them for the government-required amount of time, and then disposing of them for cash.

This happened over a number of administrations in Dewey Beach.

Accountability and oversight were scarce - still need work - and it turned into a big mess. Mayors, council members, town managers should have seen the problem emerging and addressed it much earlier.

For those wanting to connect all of the dots to find the source of this problem, they could likely worm their way back to the early 1980s when Dewey Beach first incorporated. The fateful decision - probably driven by concern that residents wouldn’t have voted for incorporation otherwise - was not to include a property tax as part of the incorporation plan. That led to far less reliable and predictable revenue sources - such as parking fees and real estate transfer taxes - for funding government services such as the town’s single-largest expense, its police department.

Consequently Dewey has had to scratch in every direction it could to find operating revenues. “Let’s sell it, scrap it or trash it, get to zero and start again to build trust within the town,” said Mayor TJ Redefer recently. Town Manager Scott Koenig said the more than 2,000 surplus items in the town’s possession have caused a stigma and agrees they all should be disposed of.

It’s time to stop the blame game and move ahead. Starting fresh will help. The mayor now needs to turn his attention to reunifying the town to focus on more pressing issues as the busier summer season begins to unfold.

 

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher emeritus, and Laura Ritter, news editor, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.