A little less than a month ago, Gov. John Carney announced Delaware’s state of emergency related to COVID-19 would be lifted Tuesday, July 13.
During a commissioner workshop July 2, Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills signed an order terminating the city’s civil emergency on the same date. The city will have been operating under the state of emergency for nearly 18 months by the time it’s terminated, since former Mayor Paul Kuhns signed the order March 22, 2020.
As part of the termination order, there are two COVID-generated provisions that will stay in place for a bit longer – the Meterless Monday program, which offers free in-town parking from 4 to 10 p.m., Mondays, through Sunday, Sept. 19; and the city’s policy allowing outdoor dining and merchandise racks on public and private property, which will remain in place through Sunday, Oct. 31.
In an email July 3, Mills said he, with commissioner consensus, was pleased to sign the termination order. It is a welcome sign of a return to general normalcy, he said.
While businesses suffered from diminished visitation and patronage during the pandemic, many businesses were assisted by city programs and federal efforts, said Mills. The city is glad to have those efforts continue briefly beyond the emergency order’s termination, he said.
“I’m proud of how our city officials, staff, business community and residents came together to support one another through the pandemic,” said Mills.
During the meeting, City Manager Sharon Lynn added that businesses with cones designating customer pickup parking will be allowed to keep them through the season.
Discussion on possible uses of federal COVID relief funds
Commissioners and city staff also briefly discussed what should be done with the approximately $835,000 the city is set to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city will receive half the money this year and half next year.
According to Burt Dukes, Rehoboth’s chief financial officer, there are four areas the money can be applied to – economic impact, premium pay, lost revenue and infrastructure investment. Primarily because the city managed to have a balanced budget last year – $2 million lost in parking revenue was offset by $2 million in additional transfer taxes – Dukes recommended the city spend the money on infrastructure.
Kevin Williams, city public works director, said he had a long list of infrastructure projects that the money could be spent on quickly. However, he said, he would like to see if there’s a way for some of the city employees deemed essential – police, streets, trash pickup, wastewater treatment plant – could get some of that money.
While 90 percent of the population was home, these guys were out collecting trash and making sure the treatment plant was up and running, said Williams, recommending 25 percent of the money be divided among those city staffers.
As for infrastructure, Williams suggested $300,000 – $100,000 each – be put toward city paving, sewer rehabilitation and water meter replacement. He then suggested saving the rest of the money in case the rehabilitation of the Delaware Avenue restrooms costs more than expected, because construction costs have risen in the past year.