Voters should help resolve BPW, city standoff

April 23, 2021

Lewes’ lustrous array of parks, beaches, trails and thriving downtown continues to be stained by the less-visible but ongoing battle between the city’s utility provider – the Board of Public Works – and the Lewes Mayor and Council.

Legal fees for this senseless power struggle, at the expense of taxpayers and ratepayers, are now approaching $500,000, with no end in sight. If both entities were not sitting on healthy reserve accounts, it might not be so easy for elected officials of both bodies to simply pass their differences on to their lawyers and the state’s courts to resolve.

At a joint meeting of the two entities in December 2019 for the purpose of seeking resolution, there was general agreement BPW could resume honoring a long-standing policy and understanding with mayor and council to not provide utility services to properties outside city limits unless property owners signed an agreement to eventually annex into the town. BPW balked at that requirement in recent years, saying it was legally unenforceable.

That concern appeared to be adequately addressed when mayor and council approved a policy stating it would cover any legal fees associated with lawsuits brought against BPW by property owners denied services because they didn’t want to annex into the town. That scenario would allow a return to the cooperative relationship enjoyed by mayor and council and BPW for many decades. Despite that apparent path forward, the two entities still have not been able to seal the deal, and the mess continues.

The problems led, in part, to the ouster of two incumbent Lewes council members in the spring 2020 election. It might have also done the same for the 2020 BPW election had any residents challenged the two incumbents who, absent any opposition, received additional three-year terms. 

This year, voters have choices among candidates for city council and BPW seats. Before deciding, voters should determine which candidates will truly commit to ending this expensive, distressing debacle quickly and effectively, and then mark their ballots accordingly.      

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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