Rehoboth parking garage raises issues for city infrastructure

Temporary closure of 911 center, rerouting of stormwater lines running under lot
July 23, 2019

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

Temporary closure of the city’s 911 center and rerouting of stormwater drains were the two main concerns brought forward by Rehoboth staff during a meeting of the task force created to evaluate the need for a parking garage in downtown.

Max Hamby, city information technology director, said the city has two 4-inch conduits running from city hall east to the water tower off Second Street. Those conduits run directly underneath the municipal parking lot and the fibers running through those conduits represent the city’s communication lifeline to its satellite facilities – wastewater treatment plant, beach patrol, recycling center, public works – and the 911 center radio.

“Almost all the city’s communication goes through that fiber,” said Hamby, during the July 12 meeting. He added that during construction the city would have to relocate its 911 center to Sussex County’s facility, as occurred during construction of the new city hall.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Hamby described the importance of those conduits as a 10. He said it’s possible the fiber could be relocated during construction, but it would mean taking the lines off city property.

City Manager Sharon Lynn brought up the city’s infrastructure at the last task force meeting, but she didn’t have all the details. She brought Hamby and Kevin Williams, public works director, to the July 12 meeting to discuss specifics.

“This is a huge issue,” said Lynn.

Williams said there are two stormwater lines running from the parking lot – one that heads toward Second Street, draining into Lake Gerar, and one that heads toward Rehoboth Avenue, draining into the ocean. He said the drains would be reengineered, but it would cost money.

Williams also said the city would require access to the water tower for periodic cleaning; if the garage takes up the whole lot, it could mean closing a lane on Second Street for three to four weeks.

Hamby said if it were up to him, he wouldn’t go forward on the garage.

“Now that the building is just hitting its stride, my opinion is to just leave it alone and move forward,” he said. 

Neither Hamby or Williams knew what the projected costs would be to move the lines.

The task force was created to evaluate the need for a downtown garage in April, after Colonial Parking President Jed Hatfield presented commissioners a 300-space garage on the municipal lot abutting city hall to the east. The current parking lot next to city hall has 98 spaces, so the garage, to be known as a mobility center, would net 202 additional spaces.

Hatfield estimated the cost of a mobility center to be approximately $10 million and said it would be a public-private partnership; the city would lease the land, while EDiS and Colonial Parking would design, build, fund and manage the operation; the city and the joint venture team would share net operating income.

During a meeting June 10, the task force was given the go-ahead from city commissioners to begin the request for qualifications and request for bid process.

City staff weren’t the only ones with concerns at the most recent meeting. Former Rehoboth Volunteer Fire Department Chief Leonard Tylecki said the fire company wanted the city to consider what a garage would mean for fire fighters. The fire company’s downtown station neighbors city hall to the east and, Tylecki said, the building’s water service runs under the parking lot, its electric meter and oil tank would have to be moved, and its fire siren and antenna tower would only be accessible by crane for cleaning or maintenance.

Task force member Ed Chrzanowski said he would like to know how much revenue the city would lose during the two-year construction and into the future. The two private companies would presumably want to recoup their expenses before revenue sharing took place, he said.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the task force decided to put the new information down on paper for continued discussion at the next meeting, scheduled Friday, Aug. 16, with the goal of presenting information to commissioners soon after to see if the city’s governing body thinks it’s a good idea to continue to move forward on the proposed garage.

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