Fenwick Seeks State Funds For Sidewalk

FENWICK ISLAND – Officials in Fenwick Island are seeking state capital improvement funds to begin the first phase of a sidewalk construction project later this year.

On Tuesday, the Fenwick Island Pedestrian Safety Committee laid out its plans for moving forward with a sidewalk construction project along Coastal Highway.

Two months ago, the committee agreed to pursue a town-led construction project after receiving a cost estimate of nearly $10 million from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT).

While the town would be responsible for funding 20%, or $2 million, of the project, the committee at the time agreed to explore other options.

“I think DelDOT as a whole wanted to see this project happen,” Town Manager Terry Tieman said. “But the way in which it was to be funded and executed was the road block.”

Councilwoman Vicki Carmean, chair of the committee, agreed.

“We can’t afford what DelDOT proposed,” she said. “That’s the bottom line.”

To that end, the committee sought the help of The Kercher Group to gather preliminary cost estimates for adding sidewalks along six blocks of Coastal Highway from James to Essex streets. That report, which was presented to the committee this week, estimated construction to cost $496,266 for the first phase of the project.

“I think that is very conservative,” Mayor Gene Langan said.

However, officials maintained it was the state’s responsibility to fund the sidewalk construction project.

“We believe we can do it for less than ($2 million) on our own,” Tieman said. “But we also believe it is not our responsibility to fund that. That’s why we are asking for some of this to be funded in the bond bill this year.”

Tieman said she reached out to local lobbyists, Senator Gerald Hocker and Representative Ron Gray – a member of the state’s Joint Committee on Capital Improvement (Bond Committee) – for support. She noted, however, that the town will not know if it has received funding until July.

If funding for the first phase of the project isn’t approved through the bond bill, Tieman said the committee could hold a meeting with state officials to illustrate the need for sidewalks in Fenwick.

“All the coastal towns have gotten their sidewalks over the years and the state has pretty much funded them …,” Carmean said. “We don’t even have sidewalks.”

After further discussion, the committee made a favorable recommendation to potentially hire a lobbyist if state funding falls through this year. The committee also agreed to proceed with the project if funding is approved.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

Alternative Text

Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.