Resident leading fight to bring city cleanup back
By Tony E. Windsor
A local woman has taken to the streets to oppose a decision by Seaford officials to cancel spring cleanup day this year. Bea Roth, a Bradford Street resident, is going door to door to gather names on a petition that she hopes will convince Seaford City Council to reconsider its decision.
During the Tuesday, April 10, council meeting, city manager Dolores Slatcher presented a recommendation by the city's Public Works Department that the traditional citywide spring cleanup be canceled this year, mainly because of budget constraints. Slatcher said cleanup last September cost the city about $30,000. She said there is no money in the fiscal year 2000 budget to support what would be a second cleanup in the same budget year. The city's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
Councilwoman Grace Peterson, council liaison to the Public Works Department, said she met with staff and management and supports their recommendation. "Public Works suggests that we wait until spring of 2002 to have another cleanup," she said. "We had a good cleanup last September and did some extras. It cost us $30,000, so we should wait until 2002."
The city has traditionally held cleanup in May. However, last year's construction on High Street caused the cleanup to be postponed until September.
Councilman Ed Butler said he has had calls from constituents who feel Seaford needs to have
a cleanup this spring. "The residents look forward to the cleanup and many feel it is needed whether we have done one already or not," he said.
One of those residents is Roth, who says that the city-wide cleanup is one of the amenities of being tax-paying citizens of Seaford. "It is not the citizens' fault that cleanup was postponed last year. That was a decision made by the city council," she said. "We have come to expect the cleanup and start planning by pulling our household junk together to be hauled away. It has been over seven months since the last cleanup and I think it is unfair for the city to expect us to wait what could be another 13 months before we have another cleanup."
Roth said that residents pay $1 each month into a city streets account that was developed to help offset the costs associated with the annual cleanup effort. "I have been told by someone at the city that the cost of last year's cleanup was excessive and this is part of the reason it has been decided to hold off on this year's cleanup," she said. "When the city decided to postpone cleanup last year until September, that eliminated a cleanup in spring of 2000. It took place in the fall of 2000, after this year's budget had started. That means for the city's budget year of 2000 we did not have a cleanup at all. Now they are asking us to wait until next year to have a cleanup. Where is the money that taxpayers put in for a cleanup in 2000? I feel we are owed a cleanup."
During council discussions on April 10, Councilman Ron MacArthur expressed opposition to the recommendation not to have a spring cleanup. "In the good old days we talked about possibly having two cleanups a year," he said. "The need is there. I feel we should have the cleanup even if it is not until late spring. I believe our residents are really looking forward to it."
MacArthur said he understands that the cleanup is costly. But he hopes the city might entertain options that could help offset the costs. "I would like to see us get creative," he said. "Off the top of my head, I wonder if citizens would be willing to kick in another $1 on each month's utility bill so that instead of $1 they are paying $2 to help offset cleanup costs? The people really want the cleanup. Maybe as a city we don't see it as necessary, but I think our citizens do."
Peterson did not agree that the cleanup is "necessary" this budget year. "I know what was decided and what I have been told by the Public Works Department," she said. "The citizens will survive until next spring. They just need to hold off a little longer. I have held things for a year. If people really need to get rid of the things they know the way to Hardscrabble." The county landfill is located just east of Hardscrabble, on Delaware 24.
Councilman Larry Miller said that MacArthur's idea had merit. "Whether it is $1 or $2 a month, you can't haul it or bag it anywhere for that price," he said. "If we do not have cash on hand that's another thing. I realize that we have to be fiscally responsible. Perhaps we could see if there is a way to fund the project and then investigate Councilman MacArthurís idea."
As city manager, Slatcher was called on by the council to voice her position on the cleanup issue. She agreed with the Public Works Department to hold off on the cleanup. "As a manager I have asked department heads to tighten their belts in order to preserve our cash flow," she said. "We have used budget reserves to float projects before and I'm concerned about our cash flow status. I personally do not use the cleanup service every year because I have access to a truck. I think the cleanup is a good service to the community, but maybe is an area we need to hold off on this year."
Miller suggested that in budget preparations, the city look at funding a cleanup for fall of 2001 instead of waiting until the following spring. MacArthur expressed concerns that this would be another "fall cleanup" and the city may never get back to the traditional spring cleanup. It was then suggested that the city look at funding a second cleanup in fiscal year 2002, to be held in May 2002.
Miller also said that the costs of previous cleanups have escalated due to citizens not obeying the request that air conditioners and refrigerators, which cost extra to dispose of, not be put out. "If we had not suffered abuses for the previous two cleanups we would probably have the money to do a spring cleanup this year," he said.
Roth disagreed. "If the city set rules for cleanup, then the city should have stuck to them. The city should not have hauled off items that were not to be included in cleanup. Maybe the citizens would then learn the rules of cleanup and it would not cost the city so much," she said.
She said the annual cleanup should be viewed as an opportunity to help residents take pride in their properties. "I think the city has spent a lot of money to beautify the community, such as the work down on High Street. I see the annual spring cleanup as another opportunity to promote the beautification of Seaford. But people expect it in the spring. I know over the last eight years the majority of the items I have placed out for spring cleanup have been picked up by people in trucks and vans who have scoured the community prior to the city actually coming by to pick it up. That has to help. But, when the cleanup is moved from the traditional May time frame, it confuses everybody."
Roth plans to continue her petition campaign to support a 2001 spring cleanup and has asked to be put on the council agenda for the Tuesday, April 24, public meeting. The meeting is held at the new Seaford City Hall Annex located on High Street beginning at 7 p.m.
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