At the Sept. 24 meeting of the Seaford City Council, Councilman Dan Henderson asked for information about the history of the city’s borrowing limits. That was in response to a proposal put forth by city manager Charles Anderson that Seaford’s charter be changed to raise the amount that the city can borrow without the approval of the public from $2 million, the current limit, to $3 million.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Anderson presented a timeline showing how the borrowing limit has grown. Up until 1982, the city could borrow no more than $200,000 without getting the public’s OK through a referendum. That amount was hiked to $750,000, and the current limit of $2 million was put into effect in 2007.
Following Anderson’s presentation, the council voted to start the process of setting the city’s borrowing limit at $3 million. The proposal will go to the city’s attorney for checking, then will come back to the city council for another look. Finally, a bill to change the city’s charter will have to be passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor.
At the Sept. 24 meeting, Councilman James King had objected to upping the borrowing limit. “It is very important that the community has a voice,” he said then. “I am not willing to continue to push that amount up.”
But on Tuesday, King was among the four councilmen to vote for the proposal. (Councilman Dan Henderson was absent.) King said that he had talked with Anderson about costs and emergency repairs, and asked Anderson to convey to the council some of what they had talked about.
Anderson said that it’s not unusual for the total costs of capital projects in the city’s budget to approach the $2 million mark. “You don’t want to go to referendum for every budget,” he said. “It’s cumbersome, and it’s not really governing.”
And in cases of emergency — a transformer blows up, for example, or a water pipe ruptures — it’s difficult for the city to wait for the referendum process to play out.
To underscore the escalating costs of materials, Councilman Bill Mulvaney pointed to a broken transformer on one of the two electrical feeds through which Nanticoke Memorial Hospital gets power. Fortunately, he said, the city had a replacement transformer on hand. But buying a new one would have cost about $1 million.
Also approved by the council was a proposal that the amount of money the city can spend on purchases for public works projects without going out to bid be raised.
Currently, whenever the city buys something that costs more than $25,000, it has to ask for competitive bids. Anderson recommended that the city adopt the same language that the state has in its regulations, which would allow the city to spend up to $50,000 on purchases for public works projects without going out to bid. For such purchases costing from $50,000 to $99,999, the city would still not have to advertise for bids. But it would have to obtain three written proposals from contractors that would be selected based on past performance and experience.
That proposal also requires a change in the city’s charter.
Renovations will allow engineering firm to hire more employees
The city of Seaford will spend about $40,000 to renovate its building at 400 High St., which is rented by the engineering firm George, Miles and Buhr.
Money to pay for the renovations will come from the fund into which rental payments from the engineering firm are put. GMB, which does engineering work for the city, pays about $43,000 a year to rent the building. The firm has rented the building since 2000.
The city plans to fix up the building’s second floor to accommodate additional office space. The renovations will allow GMB to hire seven new employees.
“It is exciting news that the firm is growing,” Trisha Newcomer, the city’s economic director, said in a presentation to the city council. “That is a great thing to happen, especially in our downtown.”
Newcomer said that the city and GMB have also tentatively agreed to change their lease arrangement. Currently, a new lease is signed every year. Under the new agreement, leases would be for two years, with an automatic two-percent increase in rental cost in the second year.
Once completed, a final draft of the new lease will be presented to the city council for its OK.
Newcomer said that the rent that GMB pays falls in line with office space rental rates in the area. The engineering firm pays about $10.33 per square foot for the building. Average rates range from $8 to $12 per square foot.