Council Workshop Discusses Ordinance Changes

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cityhallBy Terry Rogers 

On Monday, January 26, Milford City Council held a workshop to discuss proposed ordinance changes that dealt with taxation, solid waste and unpaid city fees. In addition, council discussed a possible need for a zoning change for property in Southeast Milford.

“There is one section in the city taxation code, section 204-6, that needs rewording,” City Solicitor, David Rutt, explained. “We need to make the ordinance clear that the city accessor has the same authority as the county executive. There are also some changes necessary regarding supplemental bills and appeals. We’re presenting the changes to council for discussion and review only.”

City Manager, Hans Medlarz, opened discussion about the solid waste ordinance. He explained that he met with Solid Waste Department management many times to discuss the best way to proceed with changes to the ordinance. One suggestion he made at the previous council meeting, however, would not be feasible, according to the Solid Waste manager.

“After many discussions, it is clear now that moving trash collection charges to the water and sewer bill would be difficult,” Mr. Medlarz explained. “The difficulty lies in collection and servicing those bills. Instead, we recommend adding an additional deposit that new customers must pay when they institute trash service. We would keep the trash bills on the electric bill, but would require a $100 deposit in addition to the electric deposit that is already paid.”

Mr. Medlarz said that a change to the ordinance that would require any customer whose trash exceeds one can more than two or three successive times would be issued a mandatory second can. Solid Waste agreed to track customers who regularly exceeded their trash limits and would handle the notification of customers that they would be required to pay for a second trash collection can.

In addition to addressing customers who generated additional trash on a regular basis, Mr. Medlarz said that the current method for handling bulk items needed adjustment.

“Right now, a customer is supposed to call in if they have a bulk item,” Mr. Medlarz said. “When they don’t call in, the solid waste employees must leave a tag on the door, instructing them to call for pick up. They leave the item at the curb. When the customer calls in, they go back and get the item and the customer is billed $10. The amount we are billing is not covering the cost of administering this process.” Mr. Medlarz suggested that the cost for bulk items be raised to $50 and that cost would allow a customer to have up to three bulk items removed. Each additional item would cost $10.

Councilman Skip Pikus presented Mr. Medlarz with several questions he had been asked by constituents regarding the trash collection changes that had been proposed in previous meetings. Mr. Medlarz addressed one question in particular.

“One of the questions asked is whether council was planning to eliminate trash collection for renters completely,” Mr. Medlarz said. “The answer is no. It would be almost impossible for us to track who was a renter and who was a homeowner. That would definitely not be feasible.” Council agreed to schedule a Public Hearing for the next council meeting which will be held February 9, 2015.

Another matter discussed during the workshop was whether the city could partner with other municipalities or the counties regarding competitive bids which could possibly save the city money. Mr. Medlarz explained that there were times when partnering with Kent County, for example, could benefit the city, especially for smaller projects. Mr. Rutt said he would review the possibility and contact other municipalities to see what their policy was.

“In 2011, council approved an overlay amendment to the Southeast Milford property where Bayhealth plans to build their new hospital as commercial,” Mr. Medlarz explained. “I believe this is the proper designation for that property. However, the Delaware State Office of Planning and Zoning is now saying that it should either be zoned as institutional or employment center.” Mr. Medlarz explained that the worst case scenario would be that the state agency decide not to approve the hospital at that location based on incorrect zoning, and that could set the project back several months.

Councilman Owen Brooks pointed out that the city was instructed to make that property commercial when the Comprehensive Plan was developed. Mr. Medlarz said that Councilman Brooks was right, but that now the state did not feel the zoning was appropriate.

“We are all aware of Bayhealth’s aggressive timeline,” Mr. Medlarz said. “We also all agree that the new hospital will be a good thing for Milford. I am requesting that the state allow the hospital to continue with their plans while we work in parallel to correct the issue. By working in parallel, we can adjust the zoning, which could take up to three months, while the state gives Bayhealth preliminary approval pending the zoning change.” Council instructed Mr. Medlarz to keep them informed on how the zoning issue was progressing.

Another issue that had come to light regarding city ordinances, according to Mr. Medlarz, was that the city code stated that if an individual or entity had outstanding bills with the city, additional permits, licenses or other necessary documents would be provided until the outstanding bills were paid.

“Today, city employees are only checking the property address where the permit is to be issued and not the individual who is requesting the permit to see if there are outstanding bills,” stated Medlarz. He explained that there may need to be an adjustment in city code that would allow employees to check the individual’s name against unpaid bills, however, when it came to legal entities like corporations, it may be difficult to track.

City Solicitor Mr. Rutt said that he would review the ordinance to see if wording should be changed and how the city could go about making sure new permits or licenses were not issued to individuals who had outstanding bills with the city.