Rehoboth Beach commissioners voted Nov. 17 in favor of abandoning about 60 feet of the eastern end of Baltimore Avenue. The approval, which took six weeks longer than expected, paves the way for construction to begin on a new Rehoboth Beach Patrol headquarters and public bathroom.
The favorable 5-0-2 vote came after city staff and construction contractors presented commissioners with additional information on the project, and a public hearing was held on the abandonment. Commissioners Patrick Gossett and Don Preston abstained.
J.D. Bartlett, a professional engineer for the city’s design contractor EDiS, presented two timelines for moving forward. The first included approval of the abandonment, beginning the project in December and completing it by May 2025. If commissioners had instead decided to delay the project start until September 2024, work would’ve paused during summer 2025 and resumed in September with completion in May 2026.
Bartlett also presented a breakdown of financial risks. At this point, he said, there are limited extra costs; however, some materials could add to expenses. It’s not possible to produce a specific number, he said, because the contractor can’t start to procure supplies.
If the city had chosen to delay until next year, Bartlett said they could’ve expected to see a price escalation of at least 6%, plus any additional engineering costs and expenses associated with moving the beach patrol back to the current building. Beyond next year, the city could’ve expected an 8% to 10% increase, he said.
While an increase in material costs is expected to remain negligible, Bartlett said there’s at least one added cost that’s already known – about $100,000 for portable bathrooms that will be hooked to city sewer for the 2024 summer.
Moving to the public hearing, former Rehoboth Beach Mayor Sam Cooper, Planning Commissioner Susan Gay and board of adjustment member Jan Konesey agreed a new beach patrol station is needed, but expressed concern about coordination with future hotel projects.
Bruce Wright, a former lifeguard who owns property on Delaware and Baltimore avenues, urged commissioners to move ahead with the project. The current facility is a disgrace to the town, he said.
Following the public hearing, commissioners discussed the abandonment before voting.
Mayor Stan Mills said he was not particularly interested in waiting any longer.
Commissioner Toni Sharp said she had been uneasy about moving forward, but had come around on the project. At first, her thought was the city and hotels should coordinate construction, but those projects aren’t shovel-ready, and it could be a benefit to Rehoboth if the beach patrol project goes first.
Commissioner Francis “Bunky” Markert described the delay as “more than a hiccup,” but said the building is a long-awaited amenity that needs to get done.
Following the meeting, Public Works Director Kevin Williams said demolition work on the existing building is expected to take place the first full week of December.
During a meeting in August, commissioners awarded a $4.9 million contract for a new beach patrol/restroom facility to Delmarva Veteran Builders. The approved design keeps the same function for the new building, but turns it into a two-story structure with public restrooms and family changing stations on the first level, and the beach patrol headquarters on the second.
The city had expected to begin demolition of the existing building soon after Labor Day, but at the last minute it was brought to the attention of city officials they weren’t following procedures laid out in the city charter and state code on how the abandonment should be done. Following those procedures was the reason for the six-week delay.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to say Commissioner Patrick Gossett was one of two commissioners who abstained from the vote.