Another six annexations on the table to start 2005

By Ronald MacArthur

The past year was a busy one for Seaford staff and elected officials, and it looks like 2005 will be filled with even more projects and issues. Most of what happened in the City of Seaford in 2004 seemed to take place in the last half of the year:
  • The opening of the new city hall at 414 High St. on Sept. 13.
  • The start of construction of the second ball field in the Seaford Sports Complex.
  • Announcement of a new major business, FedEx, in the Ross Business Park, along with the sale of land to Falco, a distribution and warehousing company.
  • The approval of the 342-unit Stoney Brook housing project off US 13 near the Beaver Dam development.
  • The approval of the 213-home Mearfield housing project off Herring Run Road
  • Voters approving six annexations, the most ever at one time in the city’s history. One of the annexations was land for a proposed Lowe’s at the intersection of US 13 and Herring Run Road.
    But according to Dolores Slatcher, who has been Seaford’s city manager for 23 years, business will pick up in 2005 where it left off in 2004. She said that she has petitions for six more annexations sitting on her desk to be presented to the city council at their first meeting in January. Some of the proposed annexations are large parcels for new housing projects. “All of this means more growth and expansion for the city obviously,” she said. “But it will also require more services and funds to run the city and more for the city staff to maintain. With all of this proposed growth, in one or two years, you are going to see a need for an expansion of the work force and equipment to keep up. “And residential growth adds more costs for more services than commercial growth,” she added. Several major projects kept the city staff busy throughout the year. “The opening of the new city hall was one of our major accomplishments,” Slatcher said. “We made the real switch over the weekend, closing the office on King Street on Friday and we were open for business first thing on Monday morning on High Street. The move appeared to be seamless. The public didn’t even see all the work that went into the move.”
  • Slatcher said that the public reaction to the new city hall has been favorable. “They love the drive-in window and most people have told us that the building was really needed,” she said. The new hall cost $1.9 million and was paid from reserve accounts. Getting construction started on the second ball field in the Seaford Sports Complex was also another milestone in 2004, according to Slatcher. Under the direction of the parks and recreation staff with assistance from other staff members, the project finally got off the ground late in the year. Because no bids were received on the project, city staff undertook the task as general contractors of the project. Most of the cost of the ball field, estimated to be around $384,000, will be paid by grants. The men’s softball field is expected to be completed in the spring of 2005. According to Ron Breeding, who is director of parks and recreation, once the new field is finished more softball tournaments will be able to take place at the complex. A project that started in 2004 will be completed in 2005. The new utilities SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system will be operational in the new year. “The system will be more sophisticated and more user-friendly than the old system,” Slatcher said. It will also have fiber-optic connection which increases the speed of the system. The SCADA system is a computerized monitoring system for the city’s infrastructure including the water system, wells, power plant, lift stations, water towers, etc. The city’s electric department added new lines along Atlanta Road for the three proposed housing projects and the city’s parks and recreation department planted several new trees (using money from a grant) in the Seaford Sports Complex and Nutter Park. The police department was able to add new officers to the force. “But one of our challenges continues to be manning our dispatch center,” Slatcher said. She added that recruiting new employees for that department will be a priority in 2005. Slatcher has stated several times that the 2004-05 fiscal year budget ($16.3 million) was one of the toughest she has ever been involved with. “We had to cut out a lot of needs to balance the budget mostly because of the radical change in the way we do our electric business,” she said. Under a new electric contract, the city could no longer conduct its peak shaving program. “The electric business will continue to be an issue with the city in 2005,” she added. “We are trying to keep a balance in the rates with what our costs are. And we are looking for other revenue sources away from electric rates.” In 2005, Slatcher said the negotiations on the new police department contract will be completed as will the negotiations for a new electric contract. The Ross Lift Station for the sewer system in the park will be constructed in 2005 (the design work was done in 2004). In addition, the city will begin a new construction division in 2005. “We are not getting competitive bids,” Slatcher said. “And to get around those higher costs we are planning to do some of the construction on water and sewer projects ourselves.” Each year Seaford elected officials and management set aside a day to meet and discuss the previous year and set priorities for the coming year. Because of several pressing issues that meeting has been moved up and will take place on Thursday, Jan. 6, this year. She said that she is also curious about the elected officials’ and other directors’ priorities, which will be revealed at the city planning session. One of those priorities she is sure will be on most people’s list is the Ross Business Park. With the sale of land to FedEx and Falco (a warehousing-distribution company), city staff is working to get the needed infrastructure in place, including a new road. “This has to be funded and completed by July ‘05, so we are under the gun on this one,” she said. City officials are planning to ask local legislators for Suburban Street Funds to help pay for the new road. Funding for the water and sewer lines is still being worked out, according to Slatcher.

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