Dagsboro OKs budget, pursues purchase of water meter registers

DAGSBORO — The town of Dagsboro’s fiscal year 2021 budget is locked in place, a spending plan that features a slight surplus and taps into the Water Department kitty to address a major issue with the meter registers that has plagued the town for more than a year.

Council voted 5-0 during Monday’s meeting to accept the FY 2021 budget, which totals $626,000, an increase of approximately $20,000 from FY 2020.

The town’s property tax remains unchanged at 56 cents per $100 of assessed value. The town’s FY 2021 budget runs from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021.

Council members William Chandler III, Patrick Miller, Theresa Ulrich and Norwood Truitt and Mayor Brian Baull also cast unanimous support in pursuing the purchase of new water meter registers to replace the approximately 462 registers that no longer are functioning. Nonfunctioning registers, separate from meters, must be read manually by one part-time maintenance employee, resulting in guesswork in some instances and a net result of a lost revenue to the town.

“We’ve had this ongoing problem for over a year now, where all the registers lived their life, and now, it is time to replace every single one of them,” sad Dagsboro town administrator Cindi Brought. “They all are basically dying. We replaced a few, like through warranties. …

“We have to manually read them, and then, it takes much longer for bills. Sometimes, they don’t even go out for a couple months. We’re losing money because we are guessing a lot of times. We had to estimate when we didn’t realize what was going on, and they were all dying on us,” said Ms. Brought. “It is a horrible process.”

The quote for the estimated cost of water meter register replacement is around $33,000. However, nearly a third of that was granted Tuesday by Sussex County Council, which backed Councilman John Rieley’s request to grant $10,000 from his councilmanic account to the town for new registers.

“We’ll take it, absolutely,” Ms. Brought said.

It also was discussed at council’s Monday teleconference meeting to use certificates of deposit and/or money from water impact fees in the purchase of the new registers. Council agreed to immediately pursue obtaining new registers.

“We, at some point, will need to cross the bridge on this and make a decision about whether to go ahead and commit,” said Councilman Chandler.

“And I, for one, am in favor of it. Commit some of the town’s resources that we’ve got in CDs to purchasing all the registers, use whatever we can from the county and the grant, but go ahead and get them because it seems to me like we’re making our people deal with a problem that is just interminable, and it is hurting our revenues in the water. The sooner we get this problem solved, and I think everyone agrees, it would be better for the town. That is a bullet we should just go ahead and bite in my opinion at some point soon.”

“I agree,” said Councilwoman Ulrich. “I would also be concerned if you don’t do it soon that you may not be able to get them because right now, everything is getting to be difficult. … ”

The town’s mayor concurred.

“I think we are probably all in agreement, the fact that this definitely is a problem that we need to get resolved sooner rather than later,” said Mayor Baull. “I don’t even think waiting until our next meeting (in) July (is needed), that we should get it going right away.”

Dagsboro Town Hall opens

With doors closed for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dagsboro Town Hall on Main Street reopened to the public, effective Wednesday. No appointment is necessary, but patrons are required to wear an acceptable mask or facial covering.