In Rehoboth, masks still required, playgrounds still closed

City officials voice concerns on how mandates will be enforced this summer
April 9, 2021

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach City Hall
229 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

The reintroduction of musical acts at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand this summer is an indication that life is slowly returning to normal. However, things are not fully back to normal, and city commissioners recently spent time discussing how masks are still required in all public spaces and that the city’s playgrounds are still closed.

Commissioner Richard Byrne brought up the subject during the commissioner comment portion of an April 5 workshop. He said he had received a number of constituent complaints about visitors who weren’t wearing masks, adding that he had seen the city’s playgrounds were being used frequently.

City Manager Sharon Lynn said the police are reporting high mask usage, but it has gone down, from a compliance rate in the high 90 percent to low 90 percent.

Many people are over wearing masks, but it’s not over, said Lynn, adding the city will be asking to borrow large electric message-board signs again this summer to remind people about the rules.

Byrne also asked what the city plans to do about opening the city’s playgrounds, because there are signs still up saying the playgrounds are closed, but they’re being used.

Lynn said playgrounds are still closed, but the city is working on a plan to reopen them. The problem is the state-recommended action calls for sterilization between uses by different groups, which isn’t realistic, she said.

The city’s attempt to keep people off the playgrounds has been futile, said Lynn. Barriers and signs have been put up, but people are going to do what they want to do, she said.

Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski, who is heavily involved with Rehoboth Beach Main Street, said he’s heard from downtown businesses that have been trying to enforce mask wearing, but are being met with confrontation.

Mayor Stan Mills said he and senior city staff are aware of the growing exhaustion with wearing, and enforcing the use of, masks. Some people aren’t wearing masks until they see police officers, and some don’t care about the police at all, he said.

Belligerent was the word Mills used to describe the reaction of some people who are asked to put a mask on.

Last summer and into the fall, the city handed out tens of thousands of masks to people on city streets and the Boardwalk. Commissioner Susan Gay asked if the city planned on doing the same thing this year.

Mills didn’t have specifics, but he assured commissioners he and city staff are aware of possible issues and that they are working on how to move forward. 

Commissioners have scheduled a special meeting for 3 p.m., Tuesday, April 13, to discuss COVID-related rules and enforcement for the coming season.

Votes on housekeeping code changes expected April 16

While there was an unplanned discussion on COVID-related issues, the bulk of the recent commissioners workshop was spent discussing possible changes to city code. City staff introduced the changes, describing them primarily as housekeeping measures. 

The first change is related to the collection of unpaid parking tickets. Currently, the city usages a collection agency. The change in code will allow the city to pass along the additional fees to the parking violators.

The second change is related to the length of time the city must hold onto unclaimed property before it can be sold. Currently, code says property must be held for one year. The proposed change would make it 90 days. 

The third change is related to a couple of parking meters on Third Street, near the intersection of Lake Avenue. The proposal is to change that section of street to a permit zone.

Commissioners all agreed the changes seemed reasonable. Mills said none of the changes require a public hearing and he plans on putting them on the agenda for the commissioners’ voting meeting Friday, April 16.

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