Rehoboth Beach voters approve water treatment plant

Cape Gazette
Kevin Spence, October 24, 2006

Rehoboth Beach and surrounding residents can expect a new water treatment plant to come on-line in about two years. During the Saturday, Oct. 21 special election, voters overwhelmingly approved borrowing up to $5 million to build the new facility.

With 558 votes in favor and only 20 against the project, the city will take out a 20-year, low-interest loan to tear down its 1950s-vintage plant and replace it with a new one built to current standards.

The proposed $7.5 million plant will increase the city’s water supply by one-third.

“Now we’re going to advertise the bids and get the project started,” said Greg Ferrese, Rehoboth Beach City manager.

Construction is likely to begin in April and will continue for a year and a half,” said Bob Palmer, an engineer with Davis, Bowen & Friedel Inc. of Salisbury, Md.

“October 2008 - that’s a good target date for when the project should be complete,” said Palmer.

Contractors will work through the summer to complete the project with the least amount of disruptions, he said. Material deliveries over the summer are expected to occur midweek and early in morning to avoid snarling traffic, Palmer said.

Last year, the city raised water rates in anticipation of the new plant’s cost, and no further increases are anticipated in the near future, Ferrese said. “We already increased the water rates,” said Ferrese. “If it does go up, it won’t go up more than 10 percent.”

The new plant will allow the city to take proactive steps to improve water treatment – such as installing a carbon absorption system. While not required by law, Palmer said, the move will allow the city to eliminate contaminants such as lindane, a common pesticide. Trace amounts of lindane, below levels requiring remedial action, were detected in city water; a lindane report is listed on the city’s website.

The new Lynch Water Treatment Plant, which will rise on Route 1 next to the Outback Steakhouse, will include water stabilization, carbon absorption, fluoridation and disinfection.

It will include three new wells and a new 4,700-square-foot facility, built to withstand hurricane-force winds. For security purposes, palm authentication or card access will be added at the facility, which will be Rehoboth’s largest water supplier.

Because of the area’s growth, city officials took special precautions to increase water supply and protect it from possible future contaminants, said Palmer.

“Protecting it buys the city a lot of insurance against failures and unplanned outages. Nobody plans to find their water contaminated, certainly - lindane just came up,” said Palmer.

“But, the city is taking steps to insure that for future contaminants, treatment is available – not just the minimum, but the maximum,” said Palmer.

Ferrese said he was not surprised by voter support.

“It was overwhelming. The reason for the borrowing, you’re talking about upgrading the water system. I expected it to pass,” he said.

Of 558 voters, 277 voted by proxy, with only 4 voters against the measure.

Unlike a general election, the special election allows for greater participation through proxy voting. Every property owner or leaseholder, whether an individual, partnership or corporation, was entitled to cast one vote in the special election.

Almost 40 absentee ballots were not counted, because they had been improperly filled out, said Ferrese.

Rehoboth resident Walter Brittingham welcomed the unusually lopsided results. “That’s absolutely outstanding. It makes a difference when people are informed,” he said.

A special meeting is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 27, to accept the results of the special election, allowing the city to move forward with the project.