Editorial: Rehoboth residents know their wastewater
About 150 Rehoboth Beach residents crowded the commissioners’ room and two overflow spaces Jan. 5 to hear about a plan to turn over to the county the city’s recently completed ocean outfall.
They listened as the city engineer and county officials presented a proposal developed in response to a request from Mayor Paul Kuhns.
Residents clearly did not like what they heard.
They questioned the timing of the proposal, just months after the outfall went into service. They also questioned its possible environmental impacts, noting it would increase the amount of treated effluent flowing into the ocean off Deauville Beach.
Most of all, they disputed a consultant’s report and overwhelmingly opposed the county’s one-size-fits-all billing system. One resident pointed out the proposal means residents who use as little as 1,000 gallons per year will subsidize – to the tune of thousands of dollars – residents who use more than a million gallons of water a year.
Mayor Paul Kuhns sparked opposition to this plan by introducing it not in public but in an executive session – protested by the Cape Gazette – giving many the impression that the county takeover is a done deal. Kuhns did not help his cause when he allowed long presentations by the city engineer and county officials but imposed a three-minute time limit on residents, drawing hot protests from nearly everyone in attendance.
There’s no question that Rehoboth residents will see increases in their sewer bills, which have likely been too low for too long compared with Lewes and Georgetown.
But if this meeting showed anything, it’s that property owners have done their homework, and are ready to bring knowledge and insight to the table.
The question is how to best maintain the new pipe and pay for improvements going forward to ensure the plant can meet its permits and not pollute the ocean.
City officials should heed citizen requests to slow down. Officials should appoint a committee including property owners to look into the options and come back with solutions that everyone can live with.