Lewes Mayor and City Council unanimously approved $450,000 toward new sleeping quarters for the Lewes Fire Department’s main station on Savannah Road. It was one of several approvals at the panel’s Aug. 14 meeting.
The fire department money will come from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation.
“Our project is totally dependent on the approval of ARPA funds,” said Lewes Fire Department Past Chief Gordon Davis, who presented the request to council.
That debt is on top of $1.6 million in mortgage payments for the Nassau fire station, $1.4 million for a new ladder truck and $550,000 for two new ambulances. Davis said all those items are paid for by a combination of state, county, city and private funding. He said about half the cost will have to be financed.
Davis said the sleeping quarters are desperately needed.
“The building was constructed in 1992 without any sleeping quarters. In 2001, we started allowing people around the clock to staff the fire station. We converted a weight room to a bunk room. Many years later, we converted our pool table room into another bunk room,” he said.
“I bet 90% of the citizens of Lewes don’t understand that when we get up at 3 a.m. to go to the refrigerator to grab a snack, there is somebody sleeping in the fire hall ready to protect us,” said Councilman Joe Elder.
Davis said the fire department received three bids for the project; two were over $1 million. He said the department’s committee is reviewing the bids and is expected to make a decision during the last week of August.
Council also unanimously gave a green light to the application of grant funding toward replacing the playground at Canalfront Park. Parks and Marina Manager Janet Reeves said the estimated price tag is $477,000. She is applying for a grant that would cover up to $125,000. Reeves said she would include the balance in her budget request for next fiscal year.
“The existing playground does not conform to where playgrounds are in 2023,” said Reeves.
She said a 2022 safety review found that overall, the park was safe. Details of the new equipment are still being fine-tuned, but Reeves said she is looking at multiple levels that people with mobility issues would be able to access with ramps, instead of the current steps. Reeves said the current mulch base would be replaced with a rubberized safety surface.
Reeves said the city is working with Cunningham Recreation on the new playground.
Council will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 25, at the Rollins Center, following up on an Aug. 24 public workshop. The city is working with Donovan-Smith residents to try to bring the recently annexed community up to code.
Council unanimously approved the Virden major subdivision, ending a years-long process. The new development will consist of five single-family homes to be built next to the Lewes Public Library, with access from Kings Highway.
Council also approved a motion 3-2 to commit to a process to develop a request for proposals for its legal services. That means the city’s legal counsel position would be put out to bid, which the city has not done in the past for its professional services.
As part of the motion, the RFP proposal is to be vetted by a third-party attorney, and reviewed by mayor and city council at its Monday, Sept. 11 meeting.
The vote followed a spirited discussion on the issue.
“Professional contracts do not belong on a yearly schedule. There’s a reason they’re called professional. They require a high level of expertise on very sensitive issues,” said Deputy Mayor Khalil Saliba, who voted against the measure, along with Councilwoman Carolyn Jones.
Resident Bob Heffernan spoke in favor of putting legal services out to bid, citing the Fisher’s Cove subdivision as an example of where the city could have received better legal advice.