Lewes BPW, city not protecting environment

February 11, 2020

As the Cape Gazette reported Jan. 28, a lawsuit filed by the Lewes Board of Public Works against the City of Lewes was dismissed Jan. 27. The judge was so distraught by this internecine war that he described the current city/BPW setup as a multi-headed hydra. The lawsuit focused on pre-annexation agreements the city would like to obtain before BPW extends services to non-city properties.

The last time Lewes residents had heard of an annexation agreement was when this type of instrument was used by the city to annex the Waterfront Preserve, a property located on New Road, next to the infamous bridge used recently by a caravan of trucks to bring mountains of dirt to yet another construction site at the edge of the Great Marsh.

The Waterfront Preserve annexation was immediately followed by the city’s decision to approve a project to build 99 townhouses on the site!

Another bone of contention between BPW and the city became obvious Jan. 29, when the two entities held a joint information meeting to explain the Lewes sewer treatment plant debacle. Your readers will remember that the plant failed on Dec. 19, releasing partially treated wastewater into nearby marshes and the canal, in addition to unknown chemicals used in a frantic effort to clean filters that had not been properly maintained or replaced when they should have been.

Those who attended the meeting were stunned to hear BPW officials say, in substance, that BPW does not possess the technical expertise necessary to do what the public foolishly assumed was its job, i.e., to manage BPW facilities safely or, at the very minimum, to supervise outside contractors effectively. Participants were barely surprised to hear that city officials were not informed of the plant’s failure until four days after the harmful release!

The sewer plant mishap is just another chapter in the long saga of destruction of the Lewes environment and quality of life, made only worse by the current streak of overdevelopment: razing of the Fourth Street forest, upcoming construction of 99 townhouses on the Waterfront Preserve abutting Canary Creek, possible development of the Fishers Cove property adjacent to the Great Marsh, leading to all-but-certain flooding of Rodney Avenue residents, in addition to the taking of their gardens and front yards to widen the road, etc.

These various calamities and threats lead to two conclusions: First, the failed Lewes BPW must be folded into the city. A small town such as Lewes does not need a separate entity to manage its utility services, particularly when the entity rebels against those who feed it.

Lewes is not New York City or Los Angeles! Besides being ineffective as demonstrated by the treatment plant failure, this duplication is costly: Already charged $70 per month just for the privilege of having access to water and sewer, ratepayers/taxpayers will now have to absorb – in duplicate, no less – the cost of the lawsuit discussed earlier. 

Second and most important conclusion, now is the time for Lewes residents to take the matter into their own hands. Two Lewes City Council members are up for re-election on Saturday, May 9 (assuming they decide to run). As numerous meetings and hearings focused on out-of-proportion construction projects have demonstrated in the past few months, the city will not protect our environment and quality of life unless voters replace those at the top.

The first step in this process for city residents is to register to vote on May 9.

Thierry Poirey


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